Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia is leaving a treacherous landscape in its wake as the invading forces retreat from around Kyiv, boobytrapping streets and civilian homes.
“They are mining the whole territory, they are mining homes, mining equipment, even the bodies of people who were killed,” Zelenskyy said in a video address late Friday.
Zelenskyy urged residents to wait to resume their normal lives until landmines could be cleared and the danger of more shelling has passed.
As talks between the nations resumed Friday, some Russian forces continued pulling away from the Ukraine capital, though Ukrainian and Western officials have warned the move is likely not a signal that the war will wind down. Rather, Russian forces are likely resupplying, they have said.
The peace talks were complicated Friday when the Russians accused Ukraine of a helicopter attack on a Russian fuel depot, which Kyiv denied but would mark the first airstrike from Ukraine on Russian soil.
As the Russian forces exercise their scorched earth policy, the U.S. is pledging to help keep Ukraine supplied. The Department of Defense announced an additional $300 million in military equipment for Ukraine.
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► Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 3,071 people were able to leave Mariupol on Friday.
► Russian military troops departed the heavily contaminated Chernobyl nuclear power plant Friday, handing control back to Ukrainians.
► A Ukrainian official said there were casualties after at least three Russian ballistic missiles were fired late Friday at the Odesa region on the Black Sea.
► After it was unable to reach the ravaged city of Mariupol Friday, a Red Cross team is planning to attempt another evacuation of thousands of citizens Saturday.
► UNESCO reports 53 Ukrainian landmarks have already been damaged or destroyed due to Russia’s invasion. That number could grow as there are no reports yet from war-ravaged Mariupol and Kherson.
► Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office is opening an investigation into his death of a well-known Ukrainian photojournalist who went missing last month and now has been found dead.
President Joe Biden did not bring up Russia’s war in Ukraine during brief remarks Saturday morning at the Port of Wilmington during a commissioning ceremony for the USS Delaware.
Biden, who is spending the weekend at his Wilmington home, took the podium for just three minutes to introduce first lady Jill Biden as the official sponsor of the nuclear-powered, fast attack submarine.
“I just want to say thank you for everyone involved in bringing this submarine into service,” Biden said.
After the event, Biden ignored a question from a reporter on whether the U.S. will provide security guarantees for Ukraine.
The president’s remarks came one week after Biden, in a speech in Warsaw, Poland, declared Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” drawing backlash at home for comments that seemed inconsistent with U.S. policy.
Pressed about the remark throughout the week, Biden responded that he was expressing his “moral outrage” toward Putin, not a policy change supporting regime change, and that he stands by his words.
The USS Delaware, a Virginia-class submarine replacing an older Los Angeles-class submarine, was administratively commissioned underwater due to COVID-19 complications in April 2020. Saturday’s event marked the ceremonial inauguration of the 7,800-ton vessel. It’s the first time in nearly a century that Delaware has been used for the name of a U.S. Navy vessel and the first time it’s been used for a submarine.
– Joey Garrison
If sanctions imposed by Western countries are not lifted, Russia said it will look to end mutual cooperation on the International Space Station, according to the head of the country’s space agency.
In a Twitter thread Saturday, Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos, demanded the removal of sanctions against corporations connected to the Russian aerospace industry.
The thread included responses from European Union, Canada and U.S. space agencies to Rogozin’s letter. In his response, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote “sustaining safe and successful ISS operations remains a priority for the United States.”
But Rogozin said proposals for termination of cooperation would be presented shortly, “From our perspective it is clear that sanctions will not be lifted,” he wrote in a Tweet.
This comes days after U.S. astronaut Mark Vande Hei rode back to earth with two Russian cosmonauts, after a record-setting mission. Vande Hei’s 355-day stay on the space station marked the longest single spaceflight by an American.
– Ana Faguy
Maksim Levin, a prominent Ukrainian photojournalist who went missing last month, has been found dead.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said Saturday on Telegram he was “killed by servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces with two shots from small arms.” That could not be independently verified by USA TODAY. His body was found in the village of Huta Mezhyhirska in the Vyshgorod district, about 24 miles from the nation’s capital, Kyiv, the prosecutor general’s office said.
Levin, 40, was a photojournalist and videographer at the Ukrainian news outlet LB.ua and frequently contributed to international media like Reuters, the BBC and the Associated Press.
“Every Ukrainian photographer dreams of taking a photo that will stop the war,” he once said, according to his obituary in LB.ua.
John Pullman, Reuters’ global managing editor for visuals, said in a statement to the Guardian that Levin’s death is a “huge loss to the world of journalism,” adding that he had contributed “compelling photos and video” to Reuters since 2013. The NGO Reporters Without Borders wrote on Twitter that Levin’s death could constitute a war crime, noting that he was unarmed and wearing a press jacket.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office is opening an investigation into his death.
– Ella Lee
Serhiy Haida, governor of the Luhansk region in Ukraine, said Saturday that Russian forces shelled people evacuating besieged cities, according to CNN.
“It is impossible to negotiate with the ‘Orcs,'” Haidai told the network, referring to the mythical monsters from J. R. R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings.” “The Russians are deliberately hitting during the evacuations. There were incoming shells near the meeting places. Fortunately, everybody is alive.”
The Luhansk region governor added that several tons of humanitarian aid was delivered for civilians who could not be evacuated and is being transferred to bomb shelters. About 2,700 civilians were still evacuated from the region Saturday.
– Ella Lee
The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has called for an international arrest warrant to be issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin is a war criminal,” Carla Del Ponte told Swiss newspaper Le Temps in an interview published Saturday.
The Swiss lawyer who oversaw ICC war crimes investigations in Rwanda, Syria and the former Yugoslavia, said there were clear war crimes being committed in Ukraine. She said attacks on civilians, the destruction of civilian buildings and even that of entire towns, were other war crimes.
“I hoped never to see mass graves again,” she told the newspaper Blick, referring to the wars in former Yugoslavia. “These dead people have loved ones who don’t even know what’s become of them. That is unacceptable.”
– Associated Press
Dozens of Ukrainian historical sites, religious buildings and museums have sustained damage since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, the United Nation’s cultural agency told AFP Friday.
Using satellite images and witness reports to verify information provided by Ukrainian officials, UNESCO confirmed 53 damaged sites – 29 religious sites, 16 historic buildings, four museums and four monuments.
That toll is expected to grow since Information from the besieged port city Mariupol and the captured city of Kherson are not included on the list. So far, none of the confirmed sites are on UNESCO’s World Heritage sites list, according to AFP.
– Ella Lee
Ukraine’s Ministry of Economy on Friday said the nation’s GDP dropped 16% in the first quarter of 2022 and could fall as much as 40% by year’s end.
“Russian aggression against Ukraine has completely changed our economy,” Denis Kudin, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of economy, said in a Facebook post.
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The most affected industries were ones whose work can’t be done remotely, like air and sea transportation and services where businesses work directly with consumers, he said.
Still, the economy started to revitalize over the last week when businesses in “safe regions” began to reopen, Kudin said, noting that farmers have already started sowing seeds. The state economy ministry is focusing on strengthening utility and energy businesses and manufacturing companies that assist Ukraine’s military.
– Ella Lee
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said seven humanitarian corridors are set up to evacuate people from regions under attack, Saturday, according to news reports.
One corridor has been set up to evacuate people from the city of Mariupol by private transportation. Buses are set to ferry Mariupol residents out of Berdyansk on another route.
Mariupol currently lacks water, gas, power, internet and cell service. At least 150,000 are believed to be stranded in the southern Ukrainian city.
Humanitarian corridors will also open in Severodonetsk and Popasna, the reports said.
– Ana Faguy
After failing to reach the war-battered city of Mariupol Friday, an International Committee of the Red Cross team said it plans to try again Saturday to evacuate civilians Friday.
Three vehicles and nine personnel could not reach Mariupol to assist in the safe passage of civilians. The ICRC said the team had to return to Zaporizhzhia after they couldn’t proceed with arrangements as planned.
The organization had previously said tens of thousands of people were depending on the Mariupol operation.
ICRC described their role as a neutral intermediary to accompany individuals out of Mariupol and into another Ukrainian city.
– Ana Faguy
Pope Francis said Saturday he was considering a visit to the capital city of Ukraine, Kyiv.
While on a flight from Rome to Malta, a reporter asked the pope if he was considering invitations made by Ukrainian authorities.
His response? “Yes it is on the table.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Ukraine’s Byzantine-rite Catholic Church, and Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican Andirv Yurash are among those who have invited Francis. The pope has spoken with Zelenskyy and Shevchuk by phone.
Last Friday, Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine before an estimated crowd of 3,500 at St. Peter’s Basilica. “Free us from war, protect our word from the menace of nuclear weapons,” he said.
– Ana Faguy
The U.S. Department of Defense announced Friday evening it will provide an additional $300 million in military equipment to Ukraine.
“This decision underscores the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in support of its heroic efforts to repel Russia’s war of choice,” said John Kirby, Defense Department press secretary.
Kirby said the equipment will include laser-guided rocket systems, unmanned aircraft, armored vehicles, weapons, ammunition, night vision gear and medical supplies.
The equipment adds to the $1.6 billion in U.S. aid money to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began, he said.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, regional governor of Belgorod, wrote on Telegram on Friday that two Ukrainian helicopters conducted an airstrike late Thursday on the oil facility in Belgorod, about 21 miles from Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Gladkov first wrote that two oil workers were injured but later said there were no victims. And Rosneft, the Russian oil firm that owns the fuel depot, said in a separate statement that no one was hurt in the fire, according to Reuters.
Kyiv has denied any involvement in the attack.
“For some reason they say that we did it, but according to our information this does not correspond to reality,” Ukraine’s Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said on Ukrainian television.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declined to comment on whether he ordered the alleged attack during an interview on Fox News. Zelenskyy said he does not discuss any orders he issues as commander in chief.
Contributing: The Associated Press