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U.S. says Putin ‘failing’ to reach war goals, looks for Moscow to be weakened militarily

The comments from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin came after their secretive trip to Kyiv, the highest-level U.S. visit since Russia invaded.

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The United States will deliver more military aid and return a diplomatic presence to Ukraine in a show of support as the war enters a new phase at the start of its third month.

The pledges, which came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a secretive trip to Kyiv, will seek to bolster faith in Ukraine’s defenses as Russia launches its new offensive in the country’s south and east.

Speaking after they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others in the country's capital, the U.S. officials offered robust support for Kyiv's cause. Blinken said "Russia is failing" to achieve its war aims, while Austin said Washington wants "to see Russia weakened" militarily so it can't do things like invade its democratic neighbor in the future.

Near Mariupol, the besieged city that has been devastated by fierce fighting over the past two months, officials on Monday said that a new mass grave has been identified north of the city.

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Ukraine apologizes for linking Japanese emperor to Hitler

69d ago / 5:06 AM UTC

The Ukrainian government has apologized for showing a picture of Emperor Hirohito, Japan’s ruler during World War II, alongside those of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in an online video about the fight against fascism.

“Our sincere apologies for making a mistake in the previous version of the video. We had no intention to offend the friendly people of Japan,” a government Twitter account said in a post Sunday.

It added that it had posted a new version of the video without a picture of the emperor, who has been referred to in Japan as Emperor Showa since his death in 1989.

Yoshihiko Isozaki, Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, said Tokyo had lodged a protest over the original video.

“Portraying Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Showa in the same context is completely inappropriate,” The Associated Press quoted Isozaki as saying. “It was extremely regrettable.”

He said the video would not affect Japan’s strong support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion, which has included extensive economic sanctions, the provision of nonlethal military aid and the acceptance of Ukrainian refugees.

New mass grave discovered near Mariupol, Ukraine officials say

69d ago / 3:54 AM UTC

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Officials in the embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol say a new mass grave has been identified north of the city.

Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities are trying to estimate the number of victims in the grave about 6 miles north of Mariupol.

Satellite photos released over the past several days have shown what appear to be images of other mass graves.

Mariupol has been devastated by fierce fighting over the past two months. The capture of the city would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

69d ago / 3:26 AM UTC

NATO forces are 'pouring oil on the fire' by providing weapons, Russian foreign minister warns

69d ago / 2:44 AM UTC

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said weapons supplied by Western countries “will be a legitimate target,” adding that Russian forces had already targeted weapons warehouses in western Ukraine.

“Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III,” Lavrov said in a wide-ranging interview on Russian television. He accused Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to become involved in the conflict.

By providing weapons, NATO forces are “pouring oil on the fire,” he said, according to a transcript on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

Regarding the possibility of a nuclear confrontation, Lavrov said: “I would not want to see these risks artificially inflated now, when the risks are rather significant.”

“The danger is serious,” he said. “It is real. It should not be underestimated.

15,000 Russian soldiers killed since start of invasion, Britain estimates

69d ago / 1:25 AM UTC

LONDON — The British government says it believes 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion two months ago.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25 percent of the Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have been rendered not combat effective” and that Russia had lost more than 2,000 armored vehicles and more than 60 helicopters and fighter planes.

Russia has acknowledged 1,351 military casualties.

Wallace said Russia had failed in most of its military objectives so far. He told British lawmakers that “we anticipate this next phase of the invasion will be an attempt by Russia to occupy further the Donbas in order to connect it via Mariupol” to Russian-controlled Crimea. He said international aid and weapons are crucial to help Ukraine withstand the expected onslaught.

Wallace said Britain had sent more than 5,000 antitank missiles, as well as air-defense systems and anti-air missiles, and would soon send “a small number” of Stormer armored vehicles equipped with missile launchers.

69d ago / 12:04 AM UTC

'If you go against the Ukrainians, you lose,' Zelenskyy says

69d ago / 11:20 PM UTC

As the war in Ukraine enters its third month, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday the country had shown the world its grit.

"A month ago, we still had to convince different countries that betting on Ukraine means winning. And now ... now everyone knows it," Zelenskyy said.

He said Russian forces had used more than 1,000 missiles in its attack.

“In two months they used over 1,100 missiles on us, numerous bombs, artillery. They tortured, looted, fired, they put mines on our land, turned peaceful cities and villages into hell," he said. "A big part of Ukrainian cities they destroyed to the ground, but still did not achieve anything, and they won’t." 

Zelenskyy credited Ukrainian troops with being able to reclaim towns and communities that had been taken over by Russians.

“We were able to de-occupy 931 towns," he said. "Many more communities are currently under the temporary control of the Russian army. But I have no doubts that it is only a matter of time before we free our land.”

Zelenskyy said history is on Ukraine's side.

"The lessons of history are well known. If you are going to build a millennial Reich, you lose. If you are going to destroy the neighbors, you lose. If you want to restore the old empire, you lose. And if you go against the Ukrainians, you lose."

International Criminal Court joins multinational investigation into atrocities

69d ago / 10:44 PM UTC

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court’s prosecution office is joining a joint investigation team set up by Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland to probe atrocities committed during the war in Ukraine.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan signed an agreement Monday to participate in the multinational effort, which aims to facilitate investigations and cooperation.

Eurojust, the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency, said the agreement sends “a clear message that all efforts will be undertaken to effectively gather evidence on core international crimes committed in Ukraine and bring those responsible to justice.”

Khan said last month that he was opening an investigation in Ukraine and that he has sent investigators there and visited crime scenes himself.

Longer-range weapons will 'fundamentally change this war' Ukrainian minister says

69d ago / 8:53 PM UTC

In an interview on local TV, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov spoke about the impact more modern and longer-range weapons supplied by the U.S., France and others will have on the conflict.

“Today our artillerymen are already learning .... already studying in the respective places where they are taught to use this equipment," he said. "The same applies to our tank men and other specialists.”

Reznikov called the ability to use longer-range weapons a “paradigm shift.”

Asked why Ukrainian allies are only now supplying heavier weapons, he said, “I will be honest with you — our partners did not believe that Ukraine could win.”

Russia stripped of hosting figure skating Grand Prix event

69d ago / 7:12 PM UTC

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Russia will not host an event on figure skating’s Grand Prix circuit next season because of its war on Ukraine.

The International Skating Union said Monday it is looking for a replacement host for the Nov. 25-27 event after its ruling council took the Rostelecom Cup off the schedule because of Russia’s military invasion.

Last season, the Rostelecom Cup was held at Sochi, Russia. The women’s event was won by Kamila Valieva, 15, whose later doping case dominated the sport at the Beijing Olympics.

69d ago / 6:14 PM UTC

Biden’s ‘Uniting for Ukraine’ program to admit Ukrainian refugees begins

69d ago / 3:33 PM UTC

State Department approves potential sale of $165 million in nonstandard ammunition

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69d ago / 3:14 PM UTC

The State Department on Monday announced approval of a possible sale of around $165 million of nonstandard ammunition to Ukraine.

Certification for the sale was delivered to Congress on Sunday. The potential deal would include 120 mm mortar rounds, BM-21 GRAD rockets and VOG-25 grenades, among other forms of ammunition.

The secretary of state and the State Department determined through review that the sale is justified given the state of emergency in the region and that it would support U.S. foreign policy goals.

In addition, the State Department said the sale would not alter the region's basic military dynamic as it stands.

U.S. announces Ukrainian ambassador nominee

69d ago / 12:16 PM UTC
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and
Bridget Brink, then the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, at a news conference in Azerbaijan on Feb. 7, 2018.Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images file

President Joe Biden announced Monday his intention to nominate veteran U.S. diplomat Bridget Brink to be ambassador to Ukraine, a critical post amid the Russian invasion. 

Brink is currently the U.S. ambassador to the Slovak Republic. 

Brink has spent her 25-year career in the Foreign Service focused on advancing U.S. policy in Europe and Eurasia, the White House said in a statement to announce Biden’s intention to nominate Brink for the role. 

The announcement comes as U.S. diplomats prepare to return to Ukraine this week.

Russia promises cease-fire to allow civilians to escape from Mariupol steelworks plant 

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69d ago / 11:24 AM UTC

The Russian military said Monday it will open a corridor to allow civilians to evacuate from the steel plant harboring the last of Ukraine’s resistance in besieged Mariupol.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that starting 2 p.m. Moscow time Monday (7 a.m. ET) its forces will cease fire and withdraw “to a safe distance” to allow civilians, including women and children, to safely leave the Azovstal plant. 

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk contradicted Russia's claim, saying a humanitarian corridor can function only if both sides agree to it.

"The corridor, announced unilaterally, does not provide security and therefore, in fact, is not a humanitarian corridor," Vereshchuk said in a statement on Facebook. "So, I declare officially and publicly: Unfortunately, there are no agreements on humanitarian corridors from Azovstal today."

Ukraine had accused Moscow of forcibly transferring Mariupol residents into Russia without providing them with an option to escape into Ukrainian-controlled territory. Kyiv authorities also blame Russia for blocking evacuation buses from getting into the city. 

The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed, without evidence, that the civilians at Azovstal were being held by Ukrainian forces as “human shields” and that there were “no obstacles to the exit of civilians from Azovstal.”

It is estimated that 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with about 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in the steelworks, a massive Soviet-era complex with a warren of underground facilities built to withstand airstrikes.

From Ukraine to Japan

69d ago / 10:49 AM UTC

Maria, 68, whose husband passed away from radiation poisoning after he was exposed while he was working at the Chernobyl nuclear power station during the 1986 disaster, fled her home in Kyiv shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Fleeing War, A Ukrainian Mother Reunites With Her Daughter In Japan
Maria with her daughter Kateryna on a train Thursday in Yokohama, Japan. Maria is one of many Ukrainians who have settled in other countries.Carl Court / Getty Images

After having sheltered at a refugee facility in Poland, she arrived in Japan this month under the evacuee assistance scheme with her Japanese son-in-law, who traveled to Poland to help her. She joins her daughter Kateryna, a professional musician who has lived in the country for 16 years.

Russia investigates large fires at oil facilities in Bryansk

69d ago / 10:46 AM UTC

Two large fires have broken out at multiple oil facilities in the Russian city of Bryansk overnight, according to emergency services.

NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team verified videos that circulated online early Monday that showed two large fireballs coming from the location of an oil depot and refinery in the Russian city to the north of Ukraine.

Satellite data available from NASA’s fire monitoring service, FIRMS, also detected fires at the oil facilities in Bryansk.

The ministry of emergency situations for the Bryansk region said no one was injured when the facility, owned by the pipeline company Transneft, caught fire around 2 a.m. Moscow time (7 p.m. ET).

It is not clear how the fires initially began. Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, ordered an investigation.

Stations in central, western Ukraine come under Russian attack, rail chief says

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69d ago / 10:40 AM UTC

Several railway stations in central and western Ukraine were targeted by Russian forces, the head of the country’s national rail company has said. 

“Russian troops continue to systematically destroy railway infrastructure,” Ukrzaliznytsia chief Oleksandr Kamyshin said in a Telegram post.

He said at least five railway stations in central and western Ukraine came under fire Monday morning, causing many delays. Kamyshin said there were victims, but did not provide more details. 

Russia trying to hide scale of losses, British intelligence reports

69d ago / 10:16 AM UTC

Russia has made small advances after beginning to focus on the full occupation of the Donbas region, but the lack of resources and combat support are making it hard for the Russian troops to occupy the region, British Defence Intelligence said in a report.

The report also said that Ukraine’s defense of Mariupol has consumed many Russian units and successfully reduced Russian warfare effectiveness. Many Russian units remain fixed in the city without redeployment. 

A proposal by Russia’s defense ministry that the military handle payments to the families of deceased soldiers suggests that Russia is trying to hide the extensive war losses from its own population, the report added. 

Blinken and Austin return from Kyiv

69d ago / 9:27 AM UTC
Image: POLAND-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speak with reporters Monday in Poland after returning from Kyiv. Alex Brandon / AFP - Getty Images

U.S. wants Russia ‘weakened,' U.S. defense secretary says

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69d ago / 9:27 AM UTC

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Monday the U.S. wants to see Russia militarily weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.

“We want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory,” Austin said, asked about what the U.S. sees as success in Ukraine the day after an extraordinary wartime meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

Austin also said that he believed Ukraine could win the war, if it had the “right equipment” and “right support.” The U.S. has committed around $3.7 billion in security assistance to the country since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to the State Department. 

The U.S. will coordinate the shipment of additional heavy weaponry, ammunition and spare parts from other nations to Ukraine, Austin was cited as saying by the State Department after the visit to Kyiv. It will also expand military training for Ukrainian servicemen in the region on certain weapons systems being provided. 

Blinken, Austin tell Zelenskyy his courage is inspirational during Kyiv visit

69d ago / 9:19 AM UTC

April 25, 202202:08

Emergency workers on the front line in Kharkiv

69d ago / 9:18 AM UTC
War in Ukraine
A firefighter takes a breath as he extinguishes a blaze in Saltivka, Kharkiv City, Ukraine on Sunday. Narcisco Contreras / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Putin congratulates Macron on election victory

69d ago / 9:18 AM UTC

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Emmanuel Macron a message congratulating him for his re-election as France's president, the Kremlin’s press service reported.

“I sincerely wish you success in your state activities, as well as good health and well—being," Putin said.

Macron continued to negotiate with Putin persistently even after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

'Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,' Blinken says after visit to Kyiv

69d ago / 8:54 AM UTC

Russia is failing in its war aims while Ukraine is succeeding, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday after he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an extraordinary wartime meeting Sunday. 

“When it comes to Russian war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” Blinken told reporters in Poland the day after meeting with Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials. “Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine to take away its sovereignty, its independence. That has failed.”

Russia, which has called its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation,” has met more military resistance than expected in Ukraine since it invaded the country, western officials have said. In recent weeks, it has tried to refocus its military efforts on Ukraine’s strategic region of Donbas after retreating from near capital Kyiv. 

"The bottom line is this: We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene," Blinken said.

Damage seen at besieged steelworks in Mariupol

69d ago / 8:10 AM UTC
Image:
This satellite image from Planet Labs shows damage at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 25.AP

'We see it. We feel it': Ukraine's Zelenskyy on U.S. support after Blinken, Austin visit

69d ago / 8:10 AM UTC

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. for its "unprecedented assistance" Monday after a visit from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, a wartime first for top U.S. officials.

In a statement released after the Sunday meeting, Zelenskyy emphasized the importance of the visit to Kyiv at a critical moment for his nation. He also thanked President Joe Biden personally for his leadership in supporting Ukraine and "for his personal clear position."

"We see it. We feel it,” Zelenskyy said in the statement.

Among the topics discussed with the U.S. delegation were defense assistance, strengthening sanctions on Russia, financial support for Ukraine and security guarantees, his office said.

Secretaries Blinken, Austin speak after meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv

69d ago / 7:13 AM UTC

April 25, 202202:32

Blinken, Austin meet with Zelenskyy in Kyiv

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69d ago / 6:47 AM UTC

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin slipped into Ukraine on Sunday for an extraordinary wartime meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, bringing new promises of military and diplomatic support and defying grave concerns about whether it was safe to make the journey.

The trip, the highest-level U.S. visit since Russia invaded two months ago, was designed to show steadfast U.S. support for Ukraine and its defense as the war enters a new, worrying phase expected to be marked by a major Russian offensive in Ukraine’s south and east.

Blinken came bearing news that the Biden administration will finally nominate an ambassador to Ukraine, will return a diplomatic presence to the country as soon as this week and that the U.S. will provide another $713 million in military financing for Ukraine and other regional partners. 

Read the full story here.