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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Two US veterans who joined Ukrainian forces missing

russia-ukraine-live-updates:-two-us-veterans-who-joined-ukrainian-forces-missing
Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(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 has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jun 15, 6:22 pm
Alabama lawmakers say they’re helping locate 2 former US service members missing in Ukraine

Two U.S. lawmakers said Wednesday they have been asked by the families of two former U.S. service members who volunteered to assist the Ukrainian forces for their help in locating them.

Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell said in a statement her office is helping a family locate Alexander Drueke, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

“Earlier this week, the mother of Alexander Drueke, a Tuscaloosa Army Veteran who volunteered to assist the Ukrainian Army in combating Russia, reached out to my office after losing contact with her son. According to his family, they have not heard from Drueke in several days,” she said in a statement.

She said her office has been in contact with the State Department, the FBI and other members of the Alabama Congressional Delegation.

Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt said his office is helping in the search for Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity, Alabama, after his family reached out to the congressman’s office this week.

“According to Huynh’s family, they have not been in contact with him since June 8, 2022, when he was in the Kharkiv area of Ukraine,” he said in a statement.

Aderholt said his office has reached out to the State Department and FBI to “get any information possible.”

Huynh, a former Marine, spoke to Huntsville, Alabama, ABC affiliate WAAY in April about his decision to help defend Ukraine.

“I’ve made peace with the decision. I know there’s a potential of me dying. I’m willing to give my life for what I believe is right,” he told the station.

White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he “can’t confirm the reports” of two Americans captured in Ukraine.

“We’ll do the best we can to monitor this and see what we can learn about it,” he said. “Obviously, if it’s true, we’ll do everything we can to get them safely back home.”

The State Department also is aware of the “unconfirmed” reports, a spokesperson said.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with Ukrainian authorities,” the spokesperson said. “Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”

The State Department has warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Ukraine during the war and that Russian security officials could be “singling out” U.S. citizens.

-ABC News’ Benjamin Stein, Ben Gittleson and Shannon Crawford

Jun 15, 4:20 pm
100 Ukrainian military deaths per day in line with US estimates: Milley

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said Ukrainian officials’ estimate of 100 Ukrainian military deaths per day is “in the ballpark” with U.S. estimates.

Milley would not disclose exactly how many more artillery pieces the Russians have than the Ukrainians, saying that was classified, but he confirmed that they do outnumber the Ukrainians.

Milley noted that while the Russians are using large numbers of artillery to target civilian and urban areas, Ukrainians are using “much better artillery techniques” on the battlefield. Milley explained how the mortars, howitzers and HIMARS systems will give the Ukrainians a more effective combined layered system to strike at the Russians from short, medium and long distances.

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez

Jun 15, 4:07 pm
More Ukraine aid to come on ‘fairly routine basis’: Kirby

John Kirby, joining Wednesday’s White House press briefing in his new role as National Security Council coordinator, said the $1 billion in military aid announced Wednesday is the first to come from the $40 billion aid package that was passed by Congress in May.

Looking ahead, Kirby said, “you will see additional packages” coming on a “fairly routine basis.”

“We want to meter it out so that we’re in lockstep with the Ukrainians and where they are on the battlefield and what they need in real time,” he said.

-ABC News’ Justin Ryan Gomez

Jun 15, 1:08 pm
Biden announces additional $1B in military, $225M in humanitarian assistance

President Joe Biden has announced $1 billion more in U.S. military aid for Ukraine.

Biden said he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Wednesday morning and that the aid will include “additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems.”

Biden also announced $225 million in humanitarian assistance “to help people inside Ukraine, including by supplying safe drinking water, critical medical supplies and health care, food, shelter, and cash for families to purchase essential items,” according to a statement.

-ABC News’ Justin Ryan Gomez

Jun 15, 6:49 am
Biden promises to free blocked Ukrainian grain

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday the United States is working with European allies to remove blocked Ukrainian grain by rail.

Speaking at the 29th AFL-CIO Quadrennial Constitutional Convention, Biden said 20 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine and need to be exported to reduce global food prices.

As the grain cannot be exported via the Black Sea due to the constant threat of Russian attacks and explosions, the U.S. and its partners are planning to build granaries on the Ukrainian border, Biden said.

The railways present an alternative to Ukrainian coastal waters of the Azov and Black seas that are in need of demining. The area of their contamination with explosives can be up to 19,000 square kilometers, Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson Alyona Matveeva said on Tuesday.

The full demining of Ukraine can take from five to 10 years with the help of international experts, Matveeva added. To date, about 80% of explosive devices have been removed and neutralized in the Kyiv region, she said.

Jun 15, 6:31 am
Russia turns to outdated missiles

As Russia’s stock of modern high-precision missiles depletes, its invading forces are turning to obsolete Soviet models to strike targets in Ukraine, Yuriy Ignat, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“Recently, there has been a tendency for Russia to save high-precision, expensive missiles. And now the enemy is increasingly using Soviet types of missiles,” Ignat said.

Some of these missiles are extremely powerful, the spokesman added, and their destructive parts can weigh up to 900 kilograms.

“Their main drawback is that they do not always fly at their intended target and very often destroy civilian objects with human casualties,” Ignat said.

According to Ignat, Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile forces have shot down more than 500 enemy air targets since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion. These include Russian cruise missiles, UAVs, planes and helicopters.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, weighed in on the question of Russian missiles on Tuesday when he said that Europe is partly to blame for financing Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Addressing a climate conference in Vienna via a livestream, Schwarzenegger said the about 1,300 missiles Russia fired into Ukrainian cities during the first two months of the war cost 7.7 billion euros.

“Now that’s a lot. But during the same time, Europe sent to Russia 44 billion euros for fuel,” the former governor told attendees of the Austrian World Summit. “We have blood on our hands, because we are financing the war. We have to stop lying to ourselves.”

On the other end of the frontline, Ukraine is also grappling with a pressing lack of weapons. The Ukrainian forces received only 10% of the weapons “we said we needed,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told local media on Tuesday.

“Now matter how much effort Ukraine makes, we will not be able to win the war without the help of the West,” Malyar added.

The deputy minister said Ukrainian fighters can afford to spend only about 6,000 shells a day, while the Russians use about 10 times more. The limited number of available weapons and ammunition is crippling Ukraine’s ability to launch a counteroffensive at the front, military expert Oleh Zhdanov said, according to local outlets.

Speaking at an online press conference for Danish media on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated his plea for Western weapons that he said are vital for the liberation of occupied territories.

The speed of de-occupation “depends on the supply of weapons to Ukraine, and any delays in this matter threaten stagnation on the front,” Zelenskyy said.

Jun 14, 1:20 pm
Russian, Belarusian tennis players can compete at US Open under neutral flag

Russian and Belarusian tennis players, who are banned from Wimbledon, will be allowed to compete in this year’s U.S. Open, but only under a neutral flag, the U.S. Tennis Association said.

The USTA said it “previously condemned, and continues to condemn, the unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia.”

Russian player Daniil Medvedev, the current No. 1 player in the world, won last year’s U.S. Open.

Jun 14, 6:37 am
Ukraine pleads for heavy weapons ahead of NATO meeting

The only way to end the war in Ukraine, either on the battlefield or behind the negotiation table, is a parity of weapons, Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office, said on Monday.

“Being straightforward — to end the war we need heavy weapons parity,” Podoliak said on Twitter.

According to the presidential adviser, Ukraine’s military wish list includes 1,000 howitzers, 300 multiple launch rocket systems, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones.

“Negotiations are possible from a strong position, which requires parity of weapons,” Podoliak said. “There is simply no other way.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba echoed Podoliak’s plea for weapons on Monday in a tweet that recounted Ukraine’s recent military triumphs achieved with limited resources.

“Ukraine has proven it can punch well above its weight and win important battles against all odds,” Kuleba said, pointing at victories in the battles of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Kharkiv. “Imagine what Ukraine can do with sufficient tools,” the Foreign Minister added. Kuleba urged Ukraine’s partners “to set a clear goal of Ukrainian victory and speed up deliveries of heavy weapons.”

Podoliak said a meeting of NATO defense ministers will be held in Brussels on June 15.

“We are waiting for a decision” on the weapons, Podoliak said.

The group, known as the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, will convene a meeting for the third time in a bid “to ensure that we’re providing Ukraine what Ukraine needs right now,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said at a press briefing in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday.

Austin, who will be in attendance in Brussels, said that Ukraine needs support “in order to defend against Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked assault.” The secretary of Defense noted that looking ahead, Ukraine will require help “to build and sustain robust defenses so that it will be able to defend itself in the coming months and years.”

In his Monday evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to tell people in the occupied territories “that the Ukrainian army will definitely come.”

“Tell them about Ukraine. Tell them the truth. Say that there will be liberation,” the president said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials played down threats of possible food shortages in the country due to the ongoing conflict. While Ukraine lost 25% of its sown area as a result of Russia’ full-scale invasion, the country’s food security was “in no way” threatened, Taras Vysotsky, the first deputy minister of Agrarian Policy, said at a press briefing for Ukrainian media on Monday.

“Despite the loss of 25% of sown areas, the structure of crops this year as a whole is more than sufficient to ensure consumption, which in turn also decreased due to mass displacement and external migration,” Vysotsky said.

The deputy minister added that Ukraine has “already imported about 70% of essential fertilizers, 60% of plant protection products and about a third of the required amount of fuel” before the war erupted in late February. According to Vysotsky, current sowing volumes are enough to ensure domestic consumption and even exports.

Jun 13, 9:26 am
Bodies of tortured men exhumed in Bucha

Another mass grave has been dug up in Bucha, uncovering the bodies of seven men who authorities believe were tortured and killed during the bloody occupation of the city in March.

Police told ABC News their hands were tied with ropes behind their backs and they were shot in the knees and head.

“They were killed in a cruel way,” police spokesperson Iryna Pryanyshnykova said. “These were civilian victims. The people here were killed by Russian soldiers and later they were just put into a grave to try to hide this war crime.”

It’s not clear why the men were killed, Pryanyshnykova said.

She said experts will analyze DNA to identify the victims.

-ABC News’ Britt Clennett

Jun 13, 6:24 am
Zelenskyy: Ukraine fighting for ‘every meter’ of Severodonetsk

Russian forces have pushed the Armed Forces of Ukraine out of the center of Severodonetsk, Ukrainian officials said.

“They are pressing in Severodonetsk, where very fierce fighting is going on — literally for every meter,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address on Sunday evening.

Russian forces now control about 70% of the city, as intense shelling makes mass evacuation and the transportation of goods impossible, Sergiy Haidai, another Ukrainian official, said.

Around 500 people, including 40 children, are sheltering in the city’s Azot chemical plant, Haidai said.

While the Ukrainians try to organize their evacuation, authorities of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic have given an ultimatum to Ukrainian troops in the city.

“They have two options: either follow the example of their colleagues and give up, or die. They have no other option,” said Eduard Basurin, deputy head of the People’s Militia Department of the DPR.

-ABC News’ Yulia Drozd and Tanya Stukalova

Jun 12, 5:33 pm
Zelenskyy sends virtual message to Sean Penn’s CORE benefit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the annual Hollywood fundraiser for actor Sean Penn’s nonprofit Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) Saturday night with a powerful video message urging people to continue to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.

“All of you have heard about the horrors that Ukraine is going through. Tens of thousands of explosions and shots, hundreds of thousands wounded and killed, millions who have lost their homes,” Zelenskyy said in his virtual speech. “All of this is not a logline for a horror film. All of this is our reality.”

Zelenskyy’s video message included footage showing missiles striking homes and apartment complexes in Ukraine, civilians dead in the streets of Ukrainian cities and children playing in parks amid the backdrop of bombed buildings.

Among those attending the CORE fundraiser, held at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angles, were Penn and CORE co-founder Ann Lee, former President Bill Clinton, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, singer John Legend, and actors Patrick Stewart and Sharon Stone.

The group said the event raised more than $2.5 million for CORE’s disaster relief and preparedness work, including its urgent humanitarian response in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy noted that Penn traveled to Ukraine at the start of the Russian invasion and witnessed the atrocities firsthand. He thanked Penn and his group for the continued support for Ukraine.

“We have been resisting it for 107 days in a row,” Zelenskyy said of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. “We can stop it together. Support Ukraine, because Ukraine is fighting for the whole world, for democracy, for freedom, for life.”

Jun 12, 4:17 pm
Russia’s firepower superiority 10 times that of Ukraine’s in Luhansk: Military chief

Ukraine’s Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhny said Sunday that he told his American counterpart, Gen. Mark Milley, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Russian firepower superiority in the Luhansk region is far greater than that of Ukrainian forces.

Zaluzhny said that during a briefing he told Milley that Russian forces are concentrating their efforts in the north of the Luhansk region, where they are using artillery “en masse” and their firepower superiority is 10 times that of Ukraine’s.

“Despite everything, we keep holding our positions,” Zaluzhny said.

Zaluzhny also said Russia has deployed up to seven battalion tactical groups in Severdonetsk, a city in the Luhansk region. He said Russian shelling of residential areas in Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine has resumed.

Russian forces destroyed a second bridge leading into Severodonetsk and are now targeting a third bridge in an effort to completely cut off the city, Luhansk region Gov. Sergiy Haidai said Sunday. Ukraine’s army still controls around one third of the city, he said.

Haidai said that Ukrainian forces are still holding onto the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where around 500 civilians are taking shelter.

If Severodonetsk falls, Lysychansk will be the only city in the Luhansk region that remains under Ukraine’s control.

Zaluzhny said that as of Sunday, the front line of the war stretched 1,522 miles and that active combat was taking place on at least 686 miles of the front line.

Zaluzhny said that during his briefing with Milley, he reiterated Ukraine’s urgent request for more 155 mm caliber artillery systems.

Jun 12, 12:48 pm
Russian cruise missile attack confirmed in western Ukraine

Russia claims a cruise missile strike destroyed a large warehouse in western Ukraine storing weapons supplied to the Ukrainians by the United States and European allies.

While police in the Ternopil region of Ukraine, where at least one cruise missile hit, told ABC News that no weapons were destroyed, the region’s governor said part of a military facility was damaged.

Ternopil’s governor Volodymyr Trush posted a video showing widespread damage from what he said were four Russian missiles launched Saturday from the Black Sea. Trush said 22 people were wounded, including a 12-year-old child, in the missile strikes.

In addition to the military facility, Trush said four five-story residential apartment buildings were damaged. One of the missiles hit a gas pipeline, he said.

Russia’s defense ministry said Kalibr high presicion sea-based, long-range missiles struck near Chortkiv in the Ternopil province and destroyed a large warehouse full of anti-tank missile systems, portable anti-aircraft missile systems and artillery shells supplied by the United States and European countries.

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