The mayor of Sloviansk, a city in Donetsk that has found itself on the front line as Russian forces advance, has urged civilians to evacuate as quickly as they can as Russian forces approach the city.
Russia has turned its attention to capturing more parts of the Donetsk region of the Donbas, having already seized the neighboring Luhansk province. Donetsk is now experiencing heavy shelling, the same strategy that Russian forces used in Luhansk. Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut are now Russia's key targets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday congratulated troops for "liberating" Ukraine's eastern Luhansk province after several weeks of brutal fighting. A huge proportion of the area's infrastructure, including residential buildings, has been destroyed, and numerous civilians have been killed, though the full death toll is not yet known.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last night that his forces have "no alternative" but to continue fighting as losses and destruction mount in the country.
White House press secretary says WNBA star Griner is 'a priority' for Biden
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said detained WNBA star Brittney Griner is "a priority" for President Joe Biden.
Jean-Pierre added that Griner spoke with national security advisor Jake Sullivan on Saturday for the second time in the past 10 days.
Griner was detained in Russia in February after being arrested at an airport near Moscow, allegedly with vape cartridges that contained hashish oil.
"We believe she is being wrongfully detained in Moscow," Jean-Pierre said. Biden "believes any U.S. national that is being held abroad – or is detained or held hostage abroad – needs to be brought back safely."
The arrest of the seven-time WNBA All Star has captivated U.S. officials, who view her incarceration by Russian forces as a bargaining chip in Moscow's standoff with NATO allies over the war in Ukraine.
It's unclear to what extent the White House and State Department wish to entertain a prisoner swap — Griner's release in exchange for releasing a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to people who said they planned to kill U.S. citizens.
— Thomas Franck
State Department says it has daily contact with WNBA star Brittney Griner's family and lawyers
The State Department confirmed that WNBA star Brittney Griner was able to speak to her wife last month following a logisitcal phone error at a U.S. Embassy that kept the two from communicating.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in close contact with Brittney Griner's family and loved ones.
"We remain in close contact I would say almost daily contact with her broader network that includes her legal representation that includes others who are working diligently day and night to see her release," Price said during a daily press briefing.
The 31-year-old Olympian, who is currently on trial in Russia, has been accused of smuggling hashish oil, a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison.
— Amanda Macias
Mounting evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, UN says
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that her office has mounting evidence of Russian forces carrying out unlawful killings and summary executions.
"Growing evidence gives my office reasonable grounds to believe that serious violations of international humanitarian law in this regard have been committed by Russian armed forces," Bachelet wrote in a statement.
Bachelet said that UN investigators have verified the recovery of more than 1,200 civilian bodies from Kyiv. She added that her office is working to corroborate more than 300 allegations of killings by Russian armed forces in situations that were not linked to active fighting.
"The arbitrary detention of civilians has also become widespread in territory controlled by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups. Despite restrictions on access, we have documented 270 cases of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance," she added.
The Kremlin has previously denied that its forces have committed crimes against civilians in Ukraine.
— Amanda Macias
UN says at least 4,889 killed in Ukraine since start of war
The United Nations has confirmed 4,889 civilian deaths and 6,263 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.
The international organization said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.
— Amanda Macias
U.S. and allies call for suspension of Russia and Belarus from international sports, ban on official state flags at athletic events
The State Department reiterated its calls for the international sports community to suspend Russian and Belarusian sports organizations and remove Russian and Belarusian individuals from positions of influence associated with the athletic community.
"National and international sports organizations should consider suspending the broadcasting of sports competitions into Russia and Belarus," the State Department wrote in a statement adding that "official state Russian and Belarusian flags, emblems and anthems should be prohibited."
"Furthermore, we reiterate our encouragement for the international sport community to continue to show its solidarity with the people of Ukraine, including through supporting the continuation and reconstruction of Ukrainian sport where possible," the State Department wrote in a joint statement with representatives from more than 30 countries.
— Amanda Macias
More than 40 countries pledge economic and recovery support to Ukraine
Representatives from more than 40 countries alongside nearly 20 international organizations have promised to support Ukraine on its path to recovery amid Russia's ongoing war.
The countries agreed to "fully commit to supporting Ukraine throughout its path from early to long-term recovery and linking this to Ukraine's European perspective and EU candidate country status," according to a joint statement dubbed the Lugano Declaration that was made at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, Switzerland.
Representatives of the Council of Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development also signed the pledge.
— Amanda Macias
'Historic day,' NATO chief says as all 30 NATO allies approve Finland and Sweden membership
All 30 NATO member countries approved accession protocols for Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance, a significant step in NATO enlargement.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the "historic day for Euro-Atlantic security."
"With 32 nations around the table, we will be stronger and safer, as we face a more dangerous world," Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to the NATO alliance.
— Amanda Macias
Johnson updates Zelenskyy on latest U.K. weapons transfers to Ukraine
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this morning following discussions held on the sidelines of the G-7 and NATO meetings.
Zelenskyy updated Johnson on the current situation in Ukraine and recent Russian advances, according to a British readout of the call. Johnson updated Zelenskyy on the latest military equipment transfers, including 10 self-propelled artillery systems, which will be arriving in the region soon.
The leaders agreed on the importance of getting Ukrainian grains out of country as soon as possible and pledged to work closely together going forward.
— Amanda Macias
More than 12 million people in Ukraine are estimated to need health assistance
Approximately 12.1 million people in Ukraine are estimated to need health assistance by August, according to data compiled by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in a new report.
Since Russia's late February invasion of Ukraine, there have been more than 290 verified attacks on healthcare facilities, medical transport, warehouses, supplies, medical personnel and patients.
"The risk of disease outbreaks, such as cholera, measles, diphtheria or Covid-19, has grown due to the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene, crowded conditions in bomb shelters and collective centers and suboptimal coverage for routine and childhood immunizations," UN researchers wrote in the report.
Additionally, UN researchers wrote that WHO estimates found that at least every third adult in Ukraine has health problems caused by chronic non-communicable diseases and requires systematic health care coverage, including counseling and medical support.
— Amanda Macias
Pro-Russian forces are heading toward Donetsk, separatist leader says
Pro-Russian separatist forces from the self-styled Donetsk and Luhansk "People's Republics" (known as the DPR and LPR) are moving toward the Donetsk province, the head of the DPR Denis Pushilin said on Tuesday, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
"We can already say that our corps, the first corps that took part and helped our brothers [in the liberation of the LPR], is already moving to the Donetsk direction as well as the second corps [from] Luhansk," Pushilin said.
Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine call the capture of the Luhansk region, which happened last weekend, a "liberation" although Russia is widely seen as using a rationale of "protecting" the breakaway separatist areas, which were founded in 2014 as Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, as an excuse for invading Ukraine.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian parliament passes first vote on war economy measures
Russian lawmakers have given the first stamp of approval to two bills that would authorize the government to oblige businesses to supply the military with goods and their employees to work overtime to support Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told parliament the moves were driven by the need to support the military at a time when Russia's economy was under "colossal sanctions pressure" from the West, more than four months into what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
"The load on the defence industry has increased significantly. In order to guarantee the supply of weapons and ammunition, it is necessary to optimize the work of the military-industrial complex and enterprises that are part of cooperation chains," he said.
One of the bills — approved in a first reading by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament — said the state could impose "special economic measures" during military operations, requiring firms to supply goods and services to the military at the demand of the Russian government.
An explanatory note attached to the bill said the military needed new materials and weapons repairs to pursue its Ukraine campaign.
International community agrees principles to guide Ukraine's recovery
An international conference to support Ukraine after the devastating Russian invasion has outlined a series of principles to steer Kyiv's recovery and condemned Moscow's actions.
Representatives from more than 40 countries and international organizations like the European Investment Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development signed up to the Lugano Declaration at the two-day conference in Switzerland.
Signatories including the U.S., Britain, France and Japan condemned Russia's military aggression "in the strongest terms" and urged Moscow to withdraw its troops without delay.
The signatories welcomed commitments to provide political, financial and technical support and launched the Lugano Principles to guide the reconstruction effort, which Kyiv says could cost up to $750 billion.
The principles include partnership between Ukraine and its international supporters and a focus on domestic reforms.
Russia leveled cities to seize Luhansk — and Donetsk will get the same treatment, UK says
The battle for the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine has been characterized by slow rates of advance and Russia's "massed employment of artillery, leveling towns and cities in the process," Britain's Ministry of Defense has said.
"The fighting in Donetsk Oblast will almost certainly continue in this manner," the ministry said in its latest intelligence update on Twitter.
Russian forces have already captured one significant province in the Donbas — Luhansk — after Ukrainian forces retreated from the last Ukrainian-held city of Lysychansk over the weekend. Russian troops have now turned their attention to neighboring Donetsk, which is already coming under heavy shelling, showing little change in Russian strategy.
If Russia captures Donetsk, it will effectively control the Donbas, a heavily industrialized area of Ukraine in which two pro-Russian separatist "republics" are located.
"Russia's relatively rapid capture of Lysychansk extends its control across virtually all of the territory of Luhansk Oblast, allowing it to claim substantive progress against the policy objective it presented as the immediate purpose of the war, namely 'liberating' the Donbas," the U.K. noted.
"Ukrainian forces have likely largely withdrawn in good order, in line with existing plans ... There is a realistic possibility that Ukrainian forces will now be able to fall back to a more readily defendable, straightened front line," the ministry said.
— Holly Ellyatt
'We have no alternative' but to fight, Zelenskyy says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that his forces have no option but to fight to keep the country independent as he warned that the costs of rebuilding Ukraine would be "colossal."
Speaking during his nightly video address yesterday evening, Zelenskyy reflected on Russia's advance in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine now that they have seized Luhansk and have turned their attention to Donetsk. He said "the armed forces of Ukraine respond, push and destroy the offensive potential of the occupiers day after day."
"We have no alternative. It is about our independence, about our future, about the fate of the entire Ukrainian people," he said.
Towns and cities retaken by Ukrainian forces would require "colossal funds" for reconstruction, Zelenskyy said, reiterating comments he had made via videolink to international leaders in Switzerland who were gathered for the Ukraine Recovery Conference.
"Ukrainian forces have liberated more than a thousand settlements from the occupiers ... All of them suffered significant destruction. And this also implies the need for colossal funds for the restoration of infrastructure, for the return of medicine and social services, for the restoration of normal economic life," he said.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Monday that the country will need a massive $750 billion for its recovery and that Russia's invasion has so far resulted in more than $100 billion in damage to Ukrainian infrastructure.
— Holly Ellyatt
Sloviansk's mayor urges civilians to flee as Russians approach
The mayor of Sloviansk, a key target of Russian forces, who are looking to push southwest into the Donetsk region of the Donbas), has urged residents to evacuate the city.
"Sloviansk has already become a frontline, the nearest Russian positions are 7-10 km from the city," Vadym Liakh said.
Donetsk's police department posted images and videos on its Facebook page on Monday showing destruction from shelling in Sloviansk, with firefighters trying to put out fires in buildings and civilians rescuing belongings from severely damaged residential buildings.
"There are victims, including children. 94 civilian objects - homes and infrastructure - were destroyed and damaged," the Donetsk police said.
The police said Russian forces had shelled 11 settlements. "Russian forces hit the cities of Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, the town of Gostre, Oleksievo-Druzhkivka, Severny, the villages of Malinivka, Lastochkine, Novopoltavka, and Tarasivka," the police added.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine needs $750 billion for its recovery plan, prime minister says
Ukraine will need a massive $750 billion for its recovery following Russia's invasion, the county's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said while speaking to international leaders in Switzerland gathered for the Ukraine Recovery Conference.
Shmyhal also said that Russia's invasion has so far resulted in more than $100 billion in damage to Ukrainian infrastructure.
Country leaders, private sector and NGO representatives attended the conference to discuss a sort of "Marshall Plan" to rebuild Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy, who spoke to the conference attendees via video call, warned that there was "really colossal" work needed to reconstruct the areas that have already been taken back from Russian troops. In addition to that, "we will have to free over 2,000 villages and towns in the east and south of Ukraine," he said.
Sloviansk, in Donetsk, prepares for Russian onslaught
The eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk in Donetsk is readying for a major battle after Russian forces captured neighboring Luhansk province.
"Everyone knows that there will be a huge battle in Sloviansk," one Ukrainian soldier told the Associated Press. Soldiers defending the city told the AP that they are severely outgunned by the Russians.
The city, home to roughly 100,000 people before the war, was captured by pro-Russian fighters in 2014 and held for three months before being retaken by Ukrainian forces. For many in the city, the war has been going on since then. Roughly three-quarters of Sloviansk's population has fled since late February, and city officials are urging remaining civilians to evacuate.
— Natasha Turak
Russia will now shift focus to Donetsk, Luhansk governor says
Russia has captured Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region and will now turn its focus to neighboring Donetsk, Luhansk's regional governor Serhiy Haidai said.
The governor expects Russian forces to concentrate their attacks on Sloviansk, a city with a pre-war population of roughly 100,000 that was the first to be seized by Russian-backed forces in 2014. It was then retaken by Ukrainian troops.
Haidai also named the town of Bakhmut as a key target for Russia.
Luhansk and Donetsk, known collectively as the Donbas, has been the site of sporadic fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russian troops for many years. Moscow has called capturing the Donbas an "unconditional priority."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed that Ukraine will take back its land seized by Russia.
— Natasha Turak
Putin congratulates Russian troops for 'liberating' Luhansk region
President Vladimir Putin congratulated Russian troops on "liberating" Ukraine's eastern Luhansk province after several weeks of brutal fighting. A huge proportion of the area's infrastructure, including residential buildings, has been destroyed.
Speaking on television with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin said that the troops who fought in Luhansk should rest but that other troops should keep fighting, according to a Reuters translation.
Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from the majority of the area, although President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pledged to win back the lost territory. Russian forces are now expected to turn their focus to neighboring Donetsk, which together with Luhansk makes up the Donbas region, Moscow's top territorial priority.
— Natasha Turak