(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military earlier this month launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, as it attempts to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol and secure a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Apr 30, 3:02 pm
Angelina Jolie visits refugees in Ukraine
Actress Angelina Jolie visited Lviv, Ukraine, on Saturday, meeting with officials and posing for photos with children at a railway station.
Jolie is a special envoy for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. More than 12 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine and more than 5 million have fled to neighboring countries, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday.
The Lviv Regional State Administration shared photos of Jolie being informed about the situation in the area as did several residents of the city, including those at a bakery, Lviv Croissants, where the actress stopped.
Apr 30, 8:26 am
7,000 disappearances reported since the war began, Ukraine says
In just two months, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have received over 7,000 reports of disappearances. About half of them were found, according to Mary Akopyan, Ukraine’s deputy minister of internal affairs.
The number of people in Ukraine who have disappeared due to the war is unprecedented in modern world history, Hakobyan claimed in a meeting with a delegation of the International Commission on Missing Persons, an intergovernmental organization that addresses the issue of missing persons as a result of armed conflict, human rights violations and natural disasters.
The government received 2,000 unrecognizable bodies, 1,282 of which were later identified, according to the ministry.
An ICMP group of specialists will be arriving in Kyiv in a few weeks to provide help in identifying victims, according to the ministry.
Apr 29, 4:03 pm
Russian troops behind schedule by ‘at least several days’: U.S.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday that Russia’s military has weakened since invading Ukraine.
“They have suffered thousands of casualties. They have lost airplanes. They have lost tanks. They have certainly lost battles,” he said.
Russian forces are now trying to avoid mistakes they made around Kyiv earlier in the invasion, but stiff Ukrainian resistance and a more cautious approach seem to be slowing their advance, a senior U.S. defense official said.
The Russians, who were plagued by fuel and food shortages during earlier fighting in the north, are now wary of getting too far ahead of their supply lines, the official said.
Another factor slowing their progress is that their tactic of launching artillery and airstrikes to soften areas before moving ground troops forward is not working well.
“Their ground movements are fairly plodding because the artillery and airstrikes that they’re launching against Ukrainian positions are not having the effect that they want them to have,” the official said. “Ukrainians are still able to resist.”
The Pentagon believes Russian forces are behind schedule by “at least several days” on their various lines of approach, the official said.
“We believe they meant to be much further along in terms of the total encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the east, and they have not been able to link north with south. In fact, they’re nowhere close to linking north and south as the Ukrainians continue to fight back,” the official said.
But Russia retains certain advantages in the eastern Donbas region, where its forces have high numbers and benefit from shorter lines of communication because they’re fighting closer to their own border.
And while there is already fighting in Donbas, the Pentagon believes Russia is still setting conditions “for a sustained and larger and longer offensive” in the region, the defense official said.
“It could go on for some time. We’ve described it as a potential knife fight, and I think it’s beginning to shape up to be exactly that,” the official said.
Almost 20 shipment flights have arrived from seven different nations in the last 24 hours carrying mines, small arms ammunition, rockets and body armor, according to the official.
Over the next 24 hours, more than 12 flights carrying U.S. military aid for Ukraine are expected to arrive in the region, including howitzers, 155mm artillery rounds and the first shipment of Phoenix Ghost drones, the official said.
Apr 29, 3:39 pm
American killed while fighting in Ukraine
U.S. citizen Willy Joseph Cancel was killed in Ukraine while fighting alongside Ukrainian troops against invading Russian forces, his family confirmed to ABC News early Friday. The news was first reported by CNN.
Cancel, a 22-year-old former U.S. Marine, “was eager to volunteer” when he learned about the war in Ukraine, according to his wife, Brittany Cancel.
“He went there wanting to help people, he had always felt that that was his main mission in life,” Brittany Cancel told ABC News in a statement. “My husband was very brave and a hero.”
Before going to Ukraine, Cancel was working as a detention officer in Kentucky. He also had dreams of becoming a police officer or firefighter, according to his wife.
“I did not expect to be a widow at 23 years old or for our son to be without a father,” she said. “All I want is for him to come home, and to give him the proper burial he deserves.”
An official with the U.S. Department of State told ABC News on Friday morning that they “are aware of these reports and are closely monitoring the situation,” but declined to comment further “due to privacy considerations.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told MSNBC later on Friday that the department is “in the process of reaching out to the family … to learn more details, to ascertain how we might be in a position to best support the family.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed her condolences to Cancel’s family at Friday’s briefing, saying he “certainly sounded like a very passionate young man.”
“A wife is mourning and our hearts are with them,” she said.
Psaki also urged Americans not to travel to Ukraine.
“We know people want to help, but we do encourage Americans to find other ways to do so rather than traveling” to Ukraine, she said.
Apr 29, 2:36 pm
Pentagon spokesman emotional while speaking about Putin’s ‘depravity’
When Pentagon press secretary John Kirby was asked at Friday’s briefing whether he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is a rational actor, he first responded by saying he couldn’t speak to his psyche, adding, “It’s hard to look at what he’s doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine, and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that.”
Kirby then appeared to get choked up and paused for several seconds. He said, “Sorry, it’s difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well-thinking, serious, mature leader would do that. So I can’t talk to his psychology, but I think we can all speak to his depravity.”
Kirby later apologized, saying, “I didn’t mean to get emotional. I apologize for that. I don’t want to make this about me. But I’ve been around the military a long, long time and I’ve known friends who didn’t make it back. It’s just hard.”
He went on, “It’s difficult to look at that and it’s hard to square his — let’s just call it what it is, his BS: This is about Nazism in Ukraine, and it’s about protecting Russians in Ukraine, and it’s about defending Russian national interests when none of them, none of them were threatened by Ukraine. It’s hard to square that rhetoric by what he’s actually doing inside Ukraine to innocent people. Shot in the back of the head, hands tied behind their backs. Women, pregnant women being killed. Hospitals being bombed. I mean, it’s just unconscionable.”
Kirby announced at Friday’s briefing that the U.S. has started “training with Ukrainian armed forces on key systems at U.S. military installations in Germany.”
“These efforts build on the initial artillery training that Ukraine’s forces have already received elsewhere, and also includes training on radar systems and armored vehicles that have been recently announced as part of security assistance packages,” Kirby said.
Apr 29, 9:14 am
Pentagon spokesman: Putin ‘absolutely shouldn’t be’ welcome at G-20
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told CNN Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “absolutely shouldn’t be” at the G-20 summit, set for November in Bali.
“He has isolated Russia by his own actions and he should continue to be isolated by the international community,” Kirby said.
“I can’t speak for President Biden or what the schedule might offer for the president, for United States attendance. But it’s inappropriate, I think, for the entire international community to keep treating Russia as if things were normal, because it’s not,” Kirby said.
-ABC News’ Matt Seyler
Apr 29, 5:53 am
Journalist killed by Russian bombardment in Kyiv
At least one person — a journalist — was killed in a rocket attack on a residential building in Kyiv on Thursday evening, ABC News has learned.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Kilitschko said Friday that rescuers had found the body of a victim amid the rubble.
Radio Liberty, a service of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, reported that one of its employees, Vira Gyrych, was killed when a Russian missile hit her apartment in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday. Her body was found beneath the wreckage Friday morning, according to the report.
Gyrych had worked as a journalist and producer for Radio Liberty’s Kyiv bureau since 2018. Prior to that, she worked for leading Ukrainian television channels, according to Radio Liberty.
“The editorial staff of Radio Liberty expresses its condolences to the family of Vira Gyrych and will remember her as a bright and kind person, a true professional,” Radio Liberty said in its report.
Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky also confirmed Gyrych’s death in a Twitter post, saying she was a former employee of the Israeli embassy in Kyiv.
Thursday’s rocket attack came as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Kyiv. Five Russian missiles flew into the city, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. At least 10 people were injured, including four who were hospitalized, according to the Kyiv City Council.
Apr 29, 5:02 am
UN chief pledges to ‘fight with the use of force’
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres admitted Thursday that “the U.N. Security Council has not been able to do everything in its power” to resolve the war in Ukraine, as he pledged to “fight with the use of force.”
“We will not give up,” Guterres said during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
According to Guterres, U.N. staff are already providing on-site assistance in 30 locations across Ukraine. The U.N. chief called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “a violation of the U.N. Charter.” One of the organization’s values, he said, “is the need that territorial integrity of the countries must be respected.”
“This is fundamental,” Guterres added.
Guterres visited Kyiv as the Ukrainian capital was hit by two missile strikes on Thursday evening. Five missiles flew into the city, according to Zelenskyy. At least 10 people were injured, including four who were hospitalized, according to the Kyiv City Council.
“This says a lot about Russia’s true attitude to global institutions. About the efforts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the U.N. and everything that the organization represents,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly broadcast.
Earlier on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused Western countries of openly calling on Ukraine to attack Russian territory with the weapons they supply to Kyiv.
“We have already commented the other day on statements by British Deputy Defense Minister [James] Heappey about okaying Ukraine’s strikes on Russian military targets,” Zakharova told reporters in Moscow, according to Russian state media. “In other words, the West is openly calling on Kiev to attack Russia, even with weapons received from NATO countries.”
According to Zakharova, Kyiv has taken this as a guide to action, evidenced by the Ukrainian military’s shelling of Russian border territories over the past few weeks that resulted in casualties and destruction. Zakharova said the Ukrainian strikes were “further evidence that Zelenskyy’s regime is not independent in its decisions and is completely dependent on external handlers.”
Zakharova also stressed that such “criminal activity” of the Ukrainian military against Russian territory cannot go unanswered.
“I would like Kyiv and Western capitals to take seriously the statements of our country’s defense ministry that further Ukrainian provocations to strike Russian targets will definitely lead to a harsh response from Russia,” she said.
At a press conference in Vienna on Thursday, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi warned that Russian missiles over Ukrainian power plants could cause a nuclear accident. Grossi, who recently visited Ukraine and its Chernobyl nuclear power plant, said the Ukrainian government officially informed his agency, the nuclear watchdog of the U.N., of a video surveillance camera recording the flight of a missile directly over the South Ukraine nuclear power plant near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk on April 16.
“The IAEA is studying the evidence and if it is confirmed, the incident will have extremely serious consequences,” Grossi said. “If such a missile changed its trajectory, it could seriously affect the physical integrity of the nuclear power plant, which could lead to a nuclear accident.”
-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Yuriy Zaliznyak, Uliana Lototska and Nataliia Kushnir
Apr 28, 6:41 pm
Russia could be ‘intensifying’ forced displacement of civilians: US official
The U.S. has “credible information” that Russia could be “intensifying” the forced displacement of civilians as it plans to overthrow local governments in southern and eastern Ukraine, a senior U.S. diplomat said Thursday.
Michael Carpenter, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told reporters there is “credible reporting” that after failing to topple the central government in Kyiv, Russian forces are forcibly removing Ukrainian civilians from areas in the south and east — and could be “intensifying” those efforts as they seek to set up proxy local governments.
Carpenter said he has also now deemed “credible” the reports that Russian forces are forcibly displacing Ukrainian civilians, often through “filtration camps” where many are “brutally” interrogated, to tamp down on Ukrainian support in these parts of the war-torn country.
Carpenter repeatedly declined to provide more details to back up these claims, saying only, “We have very credible information from a variety of different sources that point to Russia’s plans.”
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
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