Ukraine War: U.S. Training Ukrainian Forces in Germany

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Shelling attacks in Zaporizhzhia
Residents and rescue workers secure homes the day after a shelling attack in a neighborhood in Zaporizhzhia on April 29, 2022, on the 65th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. ED JONES//AFP via Getty Images

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U.S. Training Ukrainian Forces in Germany

The United States has started training Ukrainian armed forces in Germany and other locations in Europe, the Pentagon announced Friday.

The training builds on the "initial artillery training" Ukraine's forces have previously received and includes training on radar systems and armored vehicles announced in recent U.S. security assistance packages, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a briefing Friday.

The training is being conducted in "roughly" three locations outside of Ukraine, but Kirby did not identify the locations aside from Germany. The Florida National Guard will conduct the "bulk" of this training, it is the same group who was training Ukrainians before being repositioned from the country in February.

"The recent reunion now of these Florida National Guard members with their Ukrainian colleagues, we are told, was an emotional meeting," Kirby said Friday. "Given the strong bonds that were formed as they were living and working together before temporarily parting ways in February."

Training has already occurred outside of Ukraine, particularly on the howitzers, which were part of the most recent security assistance packages. There are two tranches of about 50 currently undergoing training on the howitzers, one is in Germany, Kirby said. The Pentagon does not have plans to return to training inside Ukraine at this time. However, the Department is exploring the possibility of virtual training in the future, with outside trainers communicating with troops inside Ukraine.

Kirby explained the balance of pulling forces to train while the conflict rages on inside Ukraine. Kirby said a "relatively small" number of troops are undergoing training, but the numbers are set by Ukraine. The Department wants to make the process "as nimble and agile" as possible, so those troops can return to Ukraine and train their teammates. Kirby said the focus is on individuals who are already familiar with these types of capabilities.

"If we are going to give them new systems, we're trying to give them systems that are roughly akin to what they're used to," Kirby explained. "Because they're in such an active fight, we don't want to belabor them with long, complicated training that also requires a high number of personnel."

Kirby briefing
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, April 29, 2022. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

EU Reportedly Planning Russian Oil Embargo

The European Union is reportedly planning to implement a phased oil embargo on Russian next week.

According to the New York Times, EU ambassadors will meet next Wednesday to give their final approval on a proposal from the European Commission.

This embargo will likely impact Russian oil tankers and oil coming by pipeline in order to ease Europe off existing contract with Russian oil companies.

Europe has already announced a ban on Russian coal along with several other economic sanctions to punish the Kremlin for its invasion into Ukraine.

Germany will no longer oppose an embargo on Russian oil as long as Berlin would have time to find alternative energy supplies, Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said this week.

Biden launched a task force with European leaders last month to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

Other countries, like Japan, have already taken steps to provide additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply to the European in the case that Russia decided to weaponize energy.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the task force met Thursday to continue the discussion to "address these needs that we long anticipated."

Another Mass Grave Discovered in Kyiv, Zelensky Says

Another mass grave was discovered in the Kyiv region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday.

Zelensky told Polish media Russian forces buried 900 people in the grave. He added that about 500,000 Ukrainians have been unlawfully deported to Russia.

He also said Russian forces are trying to "cover their tracks" after committing atrocities in the area with mobile crematoria to burn civilians' dead bodies.

Several mass graves have been discovered as Russian forces move out of cities across Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say hundreds of civilians have been killed by Russian soldiers.

Correction, 4/29/2022, 5:45 p.m. ET:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "misspoke" when explaining that another mass grave with 900 bodies was found in the Kyiv region Friday.
Serhiy Nikiforov, a spokesperson for Zelensky, clarified that there was another mass grave found in the Kyiv region on Friday. However, Zelensky meant a total of 900 bodies have been found in various mass graves in the area, according to the Kyiv Independent

New Gas Pipeline to Open as E.U. Seeks Energy Independence

A new gas pipeline on the Greece-Bulgaria border is set to begin operation in June, as the European Union seeks to reduce its dependence on natural gas from Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

The pipeline, Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, was built during the COVID-19 pandemic in a remote border area, the Associated Press reports. The connection will ensure large volumes of gas for both countries, providing electricity and heating homes. The pipeline will provide access to liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from ports in Greece and deliver gas from Azerbaijan through another system that ends in Italy, AP adds.

Gas pipeline
AP

Earlier this week, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over refusals to pay in Russian rubles. The Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria is set to start commercial operation in June. The pipeline is the first of several aiming to provide the E.U. access to the worldwide gas market.

The E.U. presented a plan in March to cut gas imports from Russia by two-thirds this year and become completely independent from Russian fossil fuels "well before" 2030.

Gas pipeline
Heavy machines install a pipeline near Komotini town, northern Greece, Friday, March 5, 2021. AVAX via AP Photo

Russian Forces Lost Over 20,000 People, Ukraine Reports

Russian forces have lost over 20,000 personnel as of April 29, according to the Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since the invasion into Ukraine began, Russia has lost 23,000 people, 2,418 armed personnel vehicles, 189 aircrafts and 435 artillery systems, according to Ukraine.

U.S. Tells Americans to Avoid Ukraine After Report of Killed Marine

The U.S. State Department said it is aware of reports of a U.S. Marine killed in Ukraine, but could not provide further information.

During a press call Friday, Deputy Press Secretary Jalina Porter said the State Department is ready to provide assistance to the family but, out of respect to that family, does not have anything further to announce.

There was a report Friday that former U.S. Marine Willy Joseph Cancel was killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. His mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told CNN that he was there because he "believed in what Ukraine was fighting for" and he wanted to "be a part of it."

"It was something that he believed in his heart, that was the right thing," she said. "He was the type of man who always stepped up when everybody else stepped back and there were a lot of men who were like that that were with him."

Cancel was not contracted by the Defense Department, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters. Kirby added that the U.S. does not have contractors working in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Soldiers Eastern Ukraine
The U.S. State Department is aware of reports of a former Marine killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. Above, Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine, on April 29, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

Cancel, 22, and originally from Orange County, New York, was working as a corrections officer in Tennessee, according to his mother.

Not long after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Cancel signed up to work for a private military contracting company, according to his mother. The company was then looking for people to fight in Ukraine with the Ukrainian troops, and Cancel agreed to go, according to what his mother told CNN.

Cancel leaves behind a wife and a 7-month-old baby. Cabrera was told the body of her son had not been found, and that it had been a matter of life or death to try to retrieve it.

The State Department continues to advise U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Ukraine.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated this message, saying "Americans should not travel to Ukraine for any reason."

In Emotional Moment, Kirby Calls Putin's Actions 'Depravity'

In a rare emotional moment at the Pentagon, Press Secretary John Kirby condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin's "depravity" in Ukraine.

"It's difficult to look at the..." Kirby paused, appearing emotional. "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 made the comments during Friday's briefing when asked to speak to Putin's mental state. While he explained he's unable to do so, he pointed to the brutality that Putin's forces have carried out in Ukraine for more than two months.

"It's hard to square his, well let's just call it what it is, his bs that this is about Nazism in Ukraine and it's about protecting Russians in Ukraine and it's about defending Russian national interests," Kirby said. "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, pregnant women being killed, hospitals being bombed."

"There's not even an attempt by Russia to be precise in their targeting," he later said.

Fuel Shortages to be Solved in a Week, Ukraine Says

The fuel shortage in Ukraine will be solves within a week, officials said Friday.

The Ministry of Economy of the Ministry of Energy are in "constant consultation" with fuel companies to address this issue, Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a statement.

"Today we adopt changes to the state regulation of oil prices, which will allow for solving the issue of fuel shortage at gas stations within seven days, " Shmyhal said.

This energy shortage is mainly caused by the "devastating blows to Ukraine's fuel infrastructure" by Russian forces, according to Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko.

Pentagon Says Putin is Not Welcome at G20 Summit

The Pentagon said Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not welcomed at the G20 summit in Indonesia later this year.

During an interview on CNN, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Putin has "isolated Russia by his own actions and should continue to be isolated by the international community."

Kirby said he believes it is "inappropriate" for the international community to "keep treating Russia as if things are normal, because [they're] not," referring to Putin's decision on February 24 to invade Ukraine.

"Putin has isolated himself and he should still continue to suffer the consequences of his actions in Ukraine," he said.

Putin officially accepted his invitation to the summit from Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

This comes after U.S. President Joe Biden said the Kremlin should be removed from the G20 over his decision to invade Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he will also attend the summit in November.

Putin G20
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation to the G20 summit later this year. The U.S. said Putin's presence at the meeting would be "inappropriate." Above, Putin gives a speech at a meeting of advisory council of the Russian parliament in Saint Petersburg on April 27, 2022. ALEXEY DANICHEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Pentagon Press Briefing

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby will soon hold a news briefing and provide the latest updates on Russia's continued invasion of Ukraine.

The briefing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. EST, watch live on the Department of Defense website.

Over 6,000 Civilian Casualties Reported

Nearly 2,900 civilians have been killed in Ukraine, the United Nations estimates, warning the actual figures are "considerably higher."

"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, and missile and air strikes," the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said Friday.

OHCHR has recorded 6,134 civilian casualties in Ukraine, as of Thursday. Among the casualties, 2,899 civilians have been killed and 3,235 have been injured. Reports are still pending from areas of "intense hostilities," including Mariupol, Izium and Popasna where OHCHR suspects "numerous civilian casualties."

OHCHR released the following data:

  • 2,899 killed, including: 970 men, 646 women, 64 girls and 76 boys, as well as 70 children and 1,073 adults whose sex is unknown.
  • 3,235 injured, including: 380 men, 314 women, 67 girls and 76 boys, as well as 166 children and 2,232 adults whose sex is unknown.

Child Casualties:

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office has recorded 219 child deaths in Ukraine, as of Friday. Juvenile prosecutors say there have been more than 617 child casualties, including at least 398 children injured to "varying degrees." Its report is also not final.

Mariupol museum
A view of a hall of Mariupol's Museum of Local Lore that burned down after the shelling in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 28, 2022. AP Photo

U.N. Votes in May to Replace Russia on Human Rights Council

The United Nations General Assembly will vote to replace Russia on its Human Rights Council in less than two weeks.

U.N. General Assembly spokesperson Paulina Kubiak said Thursday that the Czech Republic is the only candidate for the seat, according to the Associated Press.

The Council consists of 47 Member States, elected upon by the majority of U.N. General Assembly members. Council membership is based upon "equitable geographical distribution," and six such seats are allocated to Eastern European States. Therefore, Russia's replacement must be another Eastern European country.

"The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States' contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard," according to OHCHR's website.

The U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to vote on the matter May 11.

Russia suspended from Human Rights Council:

The Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council on April 7, with 93 members voting in favor, 24 against and 58 abstaining. The vote followed the reported atrocities and horrific images released from Bucha.

Russia has been removed from multiple U.N. bodies since it began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. On Wednesday, Russia was suspended from the World Tourism Organization, "losing with immediate effect its rights and privileges as part of the United Nations specialized agency," the organization wrote.

UNGA April Vote
A completed resolution vote tally to affirm the suspension of the Russian Federation from the United Nations Human Rights Council is displayed during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, April 7, 2022, at U.N. headquarters. John Minchillo/AP Photo

Over 200 Crimes Committed Against Journalists, Ukraine Says

Russian forces have committed over 200 crimes against journalists since the invasion of Ukraine began in February, Ukraine officials report.

According to the State Committee for Television and Radiobroadcasting, Russian troops have committed 243 crimes against journalists and media in 16 Ukraine regions.

These crimes include murder, injury, abduction, threats and shelling T.V. towers.

Overall, seven journalists have been killed, 15 went missing, eight were abducted, nine were injured and 14 died as combatants or from shelling when they were not on duty.

This data was collected by the Institute for Mass Information, a Ukrainian media watchdog.

One of the journalists killed was Vira Gyrych, a producer for Radio Liberty's Ukrainian branch. She died Thursday as a result of a Russian missile strike on her apartment in Kyiv. Four other were hospitalized in that attack.

UK Intel Shows Russia Focusing on Donbas, Izium

Russian forces continue concentrating on the Donbas, but are facing "strong" Ukrainian resistance, according to the latest British intelligence.

"The Battle of Donbas remains Russia's main strategic focus, in order to achieve its stated aim of securing control over the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts," the U.K. Ministry of Defence said Friday. "In these oblasts fighting has been particularly heavy around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, with an attempted advance south from Izium towards Slovyansk."

The U.K. Ministry of Defence map released Friday shows areas under Russian control, beginning east of Kharkiv and extending south towards Crimea. British intelligence shows three likely axis of advance by Russian forces into the Donbas, with one towards Mariupol. As of Friday, the besieged city is still shown as an "assessed encirclement," according to the ministry. Also in the east, the map shows three likely axis of advance towards Izium. In the south, two likely axis of advance by Russian forces are depicted into Berdiansk and Zaporizhzhia.

Despite more than two months of attacks across their country, Ukrainians continue to push back against Russian forces and Russian President Vladimir Putin's new offensive into the Donbas.

"Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces," the U.K. Ministry of Defence said.

UK Ministry of Defence map
UK Ministry of Defence/Twitter

Hundred Injured at Field Hospital in Mariupol

More than 600 people were injured after an attack on a a field hospital near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, according to a local official.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said Russian forces have dropped bombs on the hospital, calling the action a "war crime."

"Before shelling the hospital, the number of wounded was 170, now it is over 600," he said. "Russian forces killed more than 20,000 people."

Hundred of civilians have been sheltering at the plant as Russian forces continue to encircle the city.

The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there is a plan to safely evacuate civilians Friday.

During his visit to Ukraine Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the U.N. is ready to help facilitate those evacuations out of Mariupol.

U.N. Chief in Kyiv
Ukrainian Preident Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres give a joint press conference following their talks in Kyiv on April 28, 2022. - The Security Council failed to go far enough in its efforts to "prevent and end" Russia's war in Ukraine, Guterres admitted while visiting Kyiv. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Over 25 Million Ukrainians Displaced, Stranded

U.N. Refugee Agency UNHCR and its partners are seeking $1.85 billion to address the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

The funding would support an estimated 8.3 million refugees who have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries and the host countries themselves, UNHCR says. In particular, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, Belarus, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

More than 5 million have fled Ukraine into other countries and another 7.7 million are displaced inside Ukraine, UNHCR data shows. Another 13 million are "stranded" or "unable to leave due to security risks."

"The human impact and the suffering already caused by this war are staggering," UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said. "Families have been torn apart, houses and infrastructure have been destroyed, while the trauma of war will have a lasting impact on many of those forced to flee their homes, including women and children who represent some 90 percent of those forced to flee."

The agency assists refugees with food, education, basic needs, water, cash assistance, etc. The updated plan UNHCR rolled out earlier this week will also ensure safety and international protection for those fleeing Ukraine.

"Neighboring host countries have existing mechanisms and capacities to respond," Mantoo said. "However, the scale of refugee arrivals and the breadth of their needs requires further support for national social protection systems and services."

Refugees
Refugees from Ukraine stay inside a vast accommodation center set up at the Global EXPO exhibition hall in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo