The European Union announced plans to sanction Russian oil imports on Wednesday, as the bloc tries to ramp up pressure on Moscow's economy. U.S. President Joe Biden separately said he would speak to leaders of the G-7 advanced economies about more potential sanctions on Russia.
The moves come as Russian forces launch more attacks on eastern Ukraine and the blockaded Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. A group of civilians who were evacuated earlier this week from the complex, which is a last stronghold for Ukrainian fighters in the besieged port city, reached relative safety on Tuesday after arriving in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia. Ukraine's deputy prime minister said a few hundred civilians are still in the steel plant, however.
Elsewhere, Russia has announced an entry ban on a large group of Japanese officials and other prominent individuals.
In addition, Biden on Tuesday pressed Congress to pass his massive $33 billion Ukraine aid package during a visit to a Lockheed Martin plant in Alabama that manufactures Javelin anti-tank missiles.
"We built the weapons and equipment that helped defend freedom and sovereignty in Europe years ago," Biden said, referring to America's industrial effort during World War II. "That's true again today."
More than 340 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol, Zelenskyy says
Another 344 civilians were evacuated from the city and suburbs of Mariupol and are on the way to Zaporizhzhia, a city in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
This is the second batch of people rescued from the besieged Ukrainian city following the evacuation of 156 women and children from the Azovstal steel plant who arrived in Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday.
"All of them will receive the most caring treatment from our state," Zelenskyy said.
Russia's attempt to take over Mariupol has led to grim conditions in the city where thousands are running out of food, water and medical aid, as civilians and soldiers are holed up in the Azovstal steel plant – the last stronghold for fighters in the heavily bombarded city.
— Chelsea Ong
Russia is striking civilian targets to 'weaken Ukrainian resolve,' British government says
Moscow is trying to "weaken Ukrainian resolve" by striking civilian targets in Ukraine, the British government said on Wednesday night.
"As Russian operations have faltered, non-military targets including schools, hospitals, residential properties and transport hubs have continued to be hit, indicating Russia's willingness to target civilian infrastructure in an attempt to weaken Ukrainian resolve," the U.K. Ministry of Defence said.
The U.K. ministry said in an intelligence update that Russian ground operations are focusing on the eastern part of Ukraine, but missile strikes continue across the country because Moscow wants to disrupt the Ukrainians' ability to resupply their troops in the east.
The press office of the Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moscow has repeatedly denied that it strikes civilian targets, though such attacks have been widely documented. Russian instead accuses Ukraine of attacking civilian targets.
The British ministry said Russia is attacking cities including Odesa, Kherson and Mariupol in order to take over Ukraine's Black Sea coastline and cut off its sea line of communication and maritime trade.
— Ted Kemp
Swedish foreign minister says U.S. is willing to give 'security assurances' if Sweden, Finland seek NATO membership
Sweden's foreign minister says the United States is willing to provide "security assurances" during the application period if Sweden and neighboring Finland seek membership in NATO.
Ann Linde spoke to Swedish public broadcaster SVT from Washington after meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Linde said there is great interest from the U.S. in Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
Jolted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland appear ready to revoke their long-standing policy of military non-alignment and apply for NATO membership.
Russia has warned of unspecified consequences if that happens and both countries have been looking for some form of NATO protection from the moment they apply to when they become members, a process that can take months.
— Associated Press
Russian forces largely stalled in eastern and southern Ukraine, Pentagon says
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Russians have made uneven progress in the Donbas region of Ukraine, following weeks of resupply and reposition efforts.
"Russians have not made the kind of progress in the Donbas and in the south that we believe they wanted to make," Kirby said during a daily Pentagon press briefing. "We do believe they're behind schedule. We do believe it has been slow at every turn and they have met a stiff Ukrainian resistance," he added.
Kirby's comments come as the U.S. and its allies rush to send additional security assistance ahead of what was believed to be an intensifed Russia surge in eastern and southern Ukraine. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to quickly pass $33 billion in additional U.S. security assistance to Ukraine.
Biden's latest military aid package of $800 million announced on April 21, the eighth such installment of security assistance, brings U.S. commitment to $3.4 billion since Russia's late February invasion.
— Amanda Macias
Russian Orthodox Church scolds Pope Francis after 'Putin's altar boy' remark
The Russian Orthodox Church scolded Pope Francis for using the wrong tone after he urged Patriarch Kirill not to become the Kremlin's "altar boy," cautioning the Vatican that such remarks would hurt dialogue between the churches.
Francis told Italy's Corriere Della Sera newspaper that Kirill, who has given the Ukraine war his backing, "cannot become [President Vladimir] Putin's altar boy." The Russian Orthodox Church said it was regrettable that a month and a half after Francis and Kirill, the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, had spoken directly, the pope had adopted such a tone.
"Pope Francis chose an incorrect tone to convey the content of this conversation," the Moscow Patriarchy said, though it did not explicitly mention the "altar boy" comment. "Such statements are unlikely to contribute to the establishment of a constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, which is especially necessary at the present time."
Kirill, 75, a close ally of Putin, sees the war as a bulwark against a West he considers decadent, particularly over the acceptance of homosexuality.
Federal Reserve says Ukraine invasion, Chinese Covid lockdowns likely to aggravate inflation
The Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, said that Russia's invasion of Ukraine and China's Covid-related lockdowns are both expected to fuel rising prices.
The Fed said in a statement that war in Ukraine is "creating additional upward pressure on inflation" and will likely "weigh on economic activity." It also suspects Beijing's latest pandemic restrictions will continue to disrupt key global supply chains.
The central bank is tasked by U.S. lawmakers to keep inflation tame and maximize employment through adjustments to interest rates. It opted to raise the overnight lending rate by half a percentage point at its May meeting to cool inflation, in the largest such increase since 2000.
— Thomas Franck
Germany's Scholz says sanctions could set Russia's economy back by decades
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the sanctions imposed by his country and others against Moscow over its war in Ukraine will set back Russia's economic development by decades if they remain in place.
Scholz told reporters in Berlin that Russia cannot hope to win a peace with Ukraine unless Kyiv supports it.
"A peace by diktat will not work," he said.
— Associated Press
Russian strikes targeting critical infrastructure in Mariupol and Donbas region, U.S. Defense official says
Russian forces are carrying out about 40 to 50 missile strikes a day against Ukraine, with a high focus on the Donbas region and north of Mariupol, a senior U.S. Defense official said.
The U.S. has observed Russian aircraft fly nearly 250 sorties over Ukraine, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share updates on the ongoing war in Ukraine.
"They are still hitting Mariupol and they are still wary of flying in Ukrainian airspace so they're largely launching these things from outside Ukrainian airspace to the degree that they can," the official said.
The airstrikes are largely targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure, including electricity and railroads, according to evolving U.S. military intelligence. The official said that so far the strikes have not had an appreciable impact on Ukraine's ability to continue the fight.
— Amanda Macias
Photos show mass destruction in Chernihiv as Russia pulls out
Russia's withdrawal from Chernihiv after a month-long assault left behind a devastated city that Ukraine will need massive foreign aid, and many years of work, to restore.
— Getty Images
Nearly all U.S. howitzers have arrived for the fight in Ukraine, U.S. Defense official says
About 90% of the howitzers pledged in the last two U.S. security assistance packages have arrived for the fight in Ukraine, a senior Defense official confirmed.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share updates on the ongoing war in Ukraine, declined to say where and how many howitzers have been used in battle.
"We're not consistently trying to draw out every detail of every munition that goes in and where it is and how they're using it. Our focus is on getting it to them, their focus is on getting it into the fight and using it and that's happening," the official said.
The last two U.S. weapons packages for Ukraine have included a total of 90 howitzer artillery systems. These are the first-known heavy artillery platforms to be transferred from U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps stockpiles to Ukrainian forces. The Pentagon has previously confirmed that Ukrainian forces will train alongside U.S. troops before operating the howitzers.
Along with the howitzers, the U.S. has sent approximately 184,000 artillery rounds. Here's a look at the other weapons the U.S. has committed to the fight.
— Amanda Macias
Biden to speak to G-7 leaders about potential sanctions on Russia
U.S. President Joe Biden said he would speak with other leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies this week about potential additional sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine.
UNICEF says dozens of schools in Ukraine have been destroyed
The United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, said dozens of schools and other educational facilities have been destroyed in Ukraine, as it called for the protection of schools and children under humanitarian law.
The humanitarian organization said that at least one in six UNICEF-supported schools in eastern Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.
"The start of the academic year in Ukraine was one of hope and promise for children following COVID-19 disruptions," said Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative to Ukraine, in a statement. "Instead, hundreds of children have been killed, and the school year ends amid the closure of classrooms due to war and the decimation of educational facilities.
"Ensuring access to education can be the difference between a sense of hope or despair for millions of children," Sahin said, adding that two schools in Ukraine were destroyed in the past week. "This is crucial for their future and that of all Ukraine."
The humanitarian organization wrote that it has set up makeshift schools in dozens of metro stations, where children and their families have been forced to shelter for safety.
— Amanda Macias
People from Mariupol evacuate to Zaporizhzhia
A U.N. convoy carrying people from Mariupol arrives in Kamianske, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine as Russian attacks continue.
— Getty Images