War in Ukraine live updates: The U.N. opens talks on the global response to Russian actions in Ukraine

Published April 28, 2022 at 8:12 AM EDT
A man with a shopping bag rides a bicycle past a heavily damaged house.
Dimitar Dilkoff
/
AFP via Getty Images
A man rides past a destroyed house in the village of Derhachi north of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, on Wednesday.

The U.S. ambassador for global criminal justice cited credible reports of sexual violence, torture and executions in Ukraine. "The world is watching," she said.

Here's what else we're following:

The EU called Gazprom's gas cutoff a failed attempt to blackmail Europe: The Russian oil giant halted exports to Poland and Bulgaria.

Attack in Zaporizhzhia: A Russian missile injured three people, including a child, in a safe haven city in southeast Ukraine

Music to support Ukraine: The indie rock band Dispatch recorded a version of their anti-war anthem "The General" in Russian.

Military

The battle for eastern Ukraine is becoming a slog for Russia, a defense official says

Posted April 28, 2022 at 12:42 PM EDT
Members of the Ukrainian military guard a forward position Wednesday in a frontline village in Hulyaipole District, Zaporizhia Region, Ukraine. Russia has stepped up its attacks in southeast Ukraine as it tries to advance further into Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
/
Getty Images Europe
Members of the Ukrainian military guard a forward position Wednesday in a frontline village in Hulyaipole District, Zaporizhia Region, Ukraine. Russia has stepped up its attacks in southeast Ukraine as it tries to advance further into Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts.

A senior U.S. defense official said today that Russian troops are making “slow, uneven and incremental” progress in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. The Russians are meeting strong resistance from the Ukrainian forces, and there’s lots of “back and forth” in the daily fighting, but no “huge changes,” the official said.

As Russia addresses the logistical problems its forces had in the early days of the war, it's operating in a relatively cautious manner to avoid overextending its supply lines, the official said. He noted that the Russians “sprinted” toward Kyiv in the first days of the fighting, and then found themselves stuck because they couldn’t be resupplied in a timely manner.

Russia also has begun pulling some of its forces away from the besieged coastal city of Mariupol, presumably so those troops can take part in fighting further inland, the U.S. official said. But many Russian troops remain in Mariupol, the official added, and Russia continues to carry out airstrikes.

“You don’t do that if you think you’ve already won the battle of Mariupol,” the official said.

Politics

Biden says that backing Ukraine is expensive, but that 'caving to aggression' will cost more

Posted April 28, 2022 at 12:13 PM EDT
President Biden stands behind a presidential podium in front of an oil painting and row of books.
Anna Moneymaker
/
Getty Images
President Joe Biden gives remarks on providing additional support to Ukraine’s war efforts against Russia from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday.

President Biden urged Congress to approve his $33 billion funding request as for Ukraine quickly as possible, saying the security assistance was coming at a “pivotal time” for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion.

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said. “The costs of this fight, it’s not cheap. But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen."

He said he would visit a Lockheed Martin plant in Alabama next week that produces Javelin anti-tank missiles.

Biden also said the aid package would help with economic and humanitarian issues, and noted that Ukraine had been one of the world’s largest agricultural producers before the war.

Biden said the United States was working with Korea, Japan, Qatar and others to help fill the energy import needs of Poland and Bulgaria after Russia threatened to cut natural gas exports to those countries. He said that Poland has significant reserves, and that there are plans to divert U.S. exports of natural gas to Japan and other countries to Bulgaria, if needed.

Biden said he was concerned about recent Russian comments that paint the conflict as being between NATO, the United States and Russia.

“They’re not true — they do concern me — because it shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure,” he said. “No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons, or the possibility that they’d use that.”

“We are prepared for whatever they do,” he added.

Asked about Ukrainian refugees at the southern U.S. border, Biden said the U.S. was trying to work through the backlog of people there, and urged other Ukrainian refugees to follow the new process laid out last week.

Moving to COVID-19, Biden said he wanted Congress to approve his request for $22.5 billion in emergency funding for treatments and potential new vaccines, as well as vaccine shipments to other parts of the world that need them.

“Let’s get both of these critical tasks done,” he said. “No delays, no excuses, just action, now. Now.”

Asked whether the two requests should be tied together, Biden said: “I don’t care how they do it — I’m sending them both up. They can do it separately or together, but we need them both.”

On student loan debt, Biden said he was considered dealing with “some debt reduction” but not $50,000 per person, as some have reported. He said he expected to have an answer on his plans for debt forgiveness in the next couple of weeks.

Western aid

The White House is asking Congress for $33 billion more to help Ukraine

Posted April 28, 2022 at 10:41 AM EDT
US President Joe Biden provides updates on the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 21, 2022. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Jim Watson
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden spoke on the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Roosevelt Room of the White House earlier this month.

The Biden administration is asking Congress for $33 billion in funding to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than double the $14 billion in support authorized so far, senior administration officials told reporters in a briefing Thursday morning.

The money is intended to last until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, and to provide Ukraine with a more sustained guarantee of support as the war drags on.

“This fight could well last months or more. This conflict will continue to test our unity and our collective resolve to provide Ukraine what it needs to succeed,” a senior administration official said, adding that “we have every expectation that our partners and allies, particularly those of the G7 as well as many other countries, will continue to provide comparable levels of assistance going forward.”

The bulk of the request is for military and security assistance, including a total of $20 billion to provide weapons to Ukraine, replenish U.S. arms stockpiles and help other countries shift away from a dependence on Russian weapons, the officials said.

An additional $8.5 billion is being requested in economic assistance to the Ukrainian government, and another $3 billion for humanitarian and food security funding, including supporting refugees from Ukraine and the countries that are taking them in.

The officials said they are also requesting funds to address global economic stress due to the war, in part to increase U.S. production of wheat and soybeans, as well as using the Defense Production Act to expand reserves of critical minerals needed in the manufacture of defense machinery, automobiles and more.

Congress will not be able to act immediately to pass the funding, as the House is about to leave on a weeklong recess.

There have been deliberations about whether to attach the Ukraine funding to previous COVID-19 aid the White House requested that has been stalled in Congress.

“It certainly makes sense for them to move together,” an official said, adding that Biden will address the need for both pools of funding in remarks scheduled for 10:45 a.m. ET this morning.

Pentagon leaders in recent days have urged Congress to move without delay on the Ukraine funding, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., indicated to reporters yesterday that he would support moving the Ukraine aid independent of the COVID-19 package if it meant avoiding a delay.

The COVID-19 aid has been caught up in disagreements between the parties, including overextending the Title 42 pandemic border controls.

In his remarks, Biden will also address an earlier White House announcement calling on Congress to pass legislation making it easier to seize assets of Russian oligarchs.

Politics

Canada's House unanimously backs a motion calling Russia's actions in Ukraine 'genocide'

Posted April 28, 2022 at 10:30 AM EDT
A person wearing all black stands in front of three crosses marking graves while holding red flowers.
Sergei Supinsky
/
AFP via Getty Images
A mourner attends the funeral of a family of three in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Friday.

Lawmakers in Canada's House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion on Wednesday recognizing that Russia is committing acts of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

The declaration is non-binding, and doesn't require the Canadian government to take any action. But Heather McPherson, the member of parliament who proposed it, says she hopes the motion will push the government to do more to hold Russia accountable.

Those steps could include implementing sanctions against oligarchs more quickly and directing more federal funding to the International Criminal Court for its investigations into possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine, as McPherson told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

"From my perspective as a parliamentarian in the House of Commons, this is a tool to urge our government to do more," she said. "This is a tool to say that the conflict in Ukraine is not over, that the support we've been providing has not been enough and we need to do more for the people of Ukraine."

McPherson — who serves as the New Democratic Party's leader on foreign affairs in the House — shared the text of the motion on social media.

It says that "there is clear and ample evidence of systematic and massive war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed against the people of Ukraine by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, directed by President Vladimir Putin and others within the Russian Parliament."

The motion goes on to list alleged Russian war crimes, including willful killing of Ukrainian civilians and the desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Russian territory and widespread instances of physical harm, mental harm and rape.

CPAC, Canada's version of CSPAN, tweeted a video of McPherson reading the motion out loud. The chambers were silent when the deputy speaker asked whether anyone was opposed, and filled with applause after he said it had passed.

The world has seen evidence of alleged Russian atrocities committed in Ukraine — including photographs of civilian bodies lying in the streets in Bucha after the withdrawal of Russian troops — though Russia has denied comitting war crimes.

President Biden described Russia's actions as "genocide" earlier this month (as did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau).

Still, terms like "genocide" and "war crimes" carry specific legal definitions that must be proven before an international criminal court. As one expert toldMorning Edition, proving genocide in Ukraine may be hard, but not impossible.

Human Rights

What a U.N. team has seen while documenting possible war crimes in Ukraine

Posted April 28, 2022 at 10:01 AM EDT
Bright red blood can be seen on the ground on a sidewalk near a puddle of water. The area is green and muddy and a person rides a bike nearby.
Sergey Bobok
/
AFP via Getty Images
Blood is seen on a sidewalk in a residential area following shelling in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, on Wednesday.

U.N. investigators say they've recorded nearly 3,000 civilian deaths in Ukraine.

Russia has been accused of committing war crimes there and some world leaders, including President Biden and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have accused Russia of genocide. Since the war began, international groups have been working to document the carnage.

"Unfortunately, the longer this conflict goes on, the more violations we're finding," says Matilda Bogner, the head of a U.N. team of investigators documenting possible human rights abuses in Ukraine.

Morning Edition spoke with Bogner about what her team has seen in Ukraine. Listen here.

Bogner reports her team has investigated Russia's indiscriminate use of weapons with wide explosive impact in civilian-populated areas, cases where civilians have been unlawfully killed in summary executions and the use of sexual violence, as well as other possible violations of human rights.

"There are high numbers of allegations of sexual violence," in the areas around Kyiv that Russian forces controlled, reports Bogner. "But there are allegations in other parts of the country too, and by both sides in the conflict."

It can be difficult to prosecute genocide and other war crimesin international courts and it is unclear yet where war crimes committed in Ukraine could ultimately be prosecuted. Neither Ukraine nor Russia is a party to the International Criminal Court, which has prosecuted war crimes in other regions and conflicts.

"But at this stage, what is important is to ensure that the crimes are being documented," says Bogner. "So when opportunities arise in the future, then they can be prosecuted."

Continue below for more of their conversation, which was edited lightly for length and clarity.

On what her team has seen thus far in Ukraine:

In the beginning, the main violations were related to the indiscriminate use of weapons, in particular those that are used in populated civilian areas with wide explosive impact. We have documented over 5,900 civilian casualties, which includes more than 2,780 killed and over 3,000 injured. And many of those have been in cases where the evidence leads us to believe that weapons were being used indiscriminately. We've also seen the destruction and damage to a lot of civilian objects, including, in particular, medical facilities. So we have civilians who have been unlawfully killed, sometimes in summary executions. We're currently investigating over 300 cases in more than 34 settlements across the country. We're also looking at arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. We have documented more than 150 cases of those. So there's a range of different violations going on.

On the use of sexual violence during the war:

We have also been looking at sexual violence. We have dozens of allegations. We have been able to confirm some of them. It is difficult to fully confirm sexual violence because it's often the type of case where victims don't want to speak publicly, and they're often not in safe areas where it feels safe for them to speak out, or where they have received the services that they need. So it's difficult, but we are particularly concerned [with] the areas around Kyiv where Russian forces were and then left. There are high numbers of allegations of sexual violence in those areas, but there are allegations in other parts of the country too, and by both sides in the conflict, unfortunately.

On the nature of the crimes her team is investigating:

We've been speaking to people who have been able to evacuate from Mariupol, and we've been hearing a lot of awful stories from them. One story was from a medical doctor who remained to work in the hospital, and he said that more than 90 percent of the patients that he was so-called treating, it was by telephone, because they could not reach him. It was too dangerous for them to get to him. People have been stuck in basements, without food, without water.

If what her team is seeing could be evidence of genocide:

So far, what we've been documenting is individual violations of international human rights law, as well as violations of international humanitarian law, which may constitute war crimes. So far, we have not looked into the question of genocide in Ukraine. We have enough to try to document these individual cases. I think it will be something for the courts to look at at a later stage.

On how war crimes are prosecuted under international law:

Well, there are different levels at which people can be prosecuted. Certainly, the government of Ukraine has already opened cases. Other countries can also look at that. Some of these crimes have universal jurisdiction, so different countries could also prosecute. But then there are regional courts. There's the European Court of Human Rights and the international courts, such as the International Criminal Court. It's a pity neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the ICC. However, Ukraine has given permission for the ICC to look into conflict-related issues within its territory that happened before the 24th of February, when this international armed conflict started. But it can apply to this also, so the ICC is looking into what is happening in Ukraine at the moment. But at this stage, what is important is to ensure that the crimes are being documented. So when opportunities arise in the future, then they can be prosecuted.

On the ground

The head of the U.N. is touring the damage outside Kyiv, fresh off a visit to Moscow

Posted April 28, 2022 at 9:20 AM EDT
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres walks surrounded by officials and people in military uniforms, near damaged buildings in Ukraine.
John Moore
/
Getty Images
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres views war destruction at the Irpinsky Lipky residential complex, which was destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops, during a visit to Irpin and other Ukrainian towns on Thursday.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited Moscow earlier this week, where he implored Russian leaders to call a cease-fire and establish humanitarian corridors.

Today he's touring the areas around Kyiv, getting a glimpse of the civilian suffering firsthand.

"War is evil," he wrote on Twitter, alongside a photo of himself surveying the damage.

Guterres toured areas outside of the capital, including the towns of Borodyanka and Bucha, where photos of civilian corpses lying in the streets and other atrocities emerged after Russian forces withdrew last month.

The Associated Press reports that speaking to journalists at several points, Guterres urged Russia to cooperate with the International Criminal Court's investigation into potential war crimes committed in Ukraine.

He had previously tweeted that the U.N. would continue its work expanding humanitarian support and helping civilians evacuate from conflict zones. He said the sooner the war ends, the better — for Ukraine, Russia and the entire world.

On Thursday, he told reporters that for all of the discussion about war crimes, "we cannot forget that the worst of crimes is war itself."

“When I see those destroyed buildings, I must say what I feel. I imagined my family in one of those houses that is now destroyed and black. I see my granddaughters running away in panic, part of the family eventually killed,” Guterres said. “So, the war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil. And when one sees these situations our heart, of course, stays with the victims.”

Music

Dispatch releases anti-war hit 'The General' to support Ukraine — and it's in Russian

Posted April 28, 2022 at 8:45 AM EDT

Indie rock band Dispatch has re-recorded a version of their song "The General" in Russian to spread a message of peace and solidarity with Ukraine.

"The hope is that this will reach the ears of those participating in this invasion and realize that this fight is not worth fighting," they wrote on YouTube, referencing lyrics from the song. "To force someone to act against humanity is to destroy their own humanity."

The anti-war song originally appeared on the band's 1997 album Bang Bang and has become one of its defining hits. It tells the story of a decorated yet disillusioned general who realizes the futility of war in a dream and tells his troops to go home.

"I have seen the others and I have discovered that this fight is not worth fighting," the chorus goes. "I have seen their mothers and I will no other to follow me where I'm going."

The lyrics don't reference any particular conflict, though Rolling Stone says the main character is a Civil War veteran. But the song took on renewed meaning to the band's fans and members in light of Russia's war in Ukraine.

In the updated version, which dropped on Tuesday, frontman Chadwick Stokes plays guitar and sings in Russian. The band says all proceeds from streams will benefit the Leleka Foundation, which is providing equipment for basic emergency treatment of the wounded in Ukraine.

The project was inspired by comments on Dispatch's social media posts asking the band to record a version of the song in Russian, The New York Times reports.

Stokes worked with language coach Olga Berg — a Ukrainian native affiliated with several nonprofit organizations and a friend of a friend — to translate the lyrics, which took several weeks and required some reworking.

“I would say, ‘There’s too many syllables in this line; I just can’t fit it in,’ ” Stokes told The Times. “And in other places, I’d say, ‘I need more syllables for it to work.’ It was a lot of jigsaw puzzling.”

One adjustment, for example, turned "I've seen their mothers" in English into "I've seen the eyes of their mothers" in Russian.

Ryan D'Agostino, the editorial director of projects at Hearst who spent time as the band's manager in its early years, wrote in Esquire about the experience of hearing the song for the first time in Stokes' parents' living room in 1996 — and then in Russian more than two decades later.

He said that up until that moment, he thought he had understood the song.

"We all did, because it’s a well-told story. Even the college kids who shouted along at parties and music festivals, on some level, probably got it," D'Agostino wrote. "But re-hearing it now, and seeing Chad’s fingers flicker up and down the fretboard 26 years later, and hearing him sing his song in a language that sounds foreign but also as natural as his own, I got chills."

Military

The U.S. isn't just sending howitzers to Ukraine. It's also training troops to use them

Posted April 28, 2022 at 8:44 AM EDT
A tank with a howitzer on it is driven by a truck.
Gregor Fischer
/
AFP via Getty Images
Tanks with mounted howitzers of the German armed forces Bundeswehr are loaded onto heavy-duty transporters in the Hindenburg barracks in Munster on February 14, 2022, before Russia invaded Ukraine. The U.S. is sending 90 howitzers to Ukraine.

The Pentagon says more than half of the 90 howitzers the U.S. recently promised Ukraine have reached the country. The long-range artillery is seen as critical for Ukraine as it prepares for what are expected to be more major battles with Russia.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in addition to sending the howitzers, the U.S. trained more than 50 Ukrainian troops on how to use them. Another 50 troops are about to undergo the same crash course.

With heavy fighting expected in eastern Ukraine, Kirby said that the training is urgent, and that Ukraine's military will have to be resupplied often.

"They're expending rounds every single day of all different types and calibers," he said. "And we're doing everything we can. The flow continues to make sure that they can stay in the fight."

The U.S. has pledged more than $3 billion in military aid since the war began, most of which already has been delivered.

Just In
Russia sanctions

Biden will propose new legislation for seizing the assets of Russian oligarchs

Posted April 28, 2022 at 8:35 AM EDT

President Biden will ask Congress to pass new legislation to make it easier to seize property in the United States linked to Russian oligarchs and use the proceeds to support Ukraine, the White House said on Thursday.

The proposal would streamline the process for seizure and forfeiture — including for property used by oligarchs to facilitate sanctions evasion.

The proposal also would add evading sanctions as a crime under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and would extend the statute of limitations to 10 years from the current five-year limit.

International Dispatch
From Ukraine

EU calls the actions of Russia's energy giant a failed attempt to blackmail Europe

Posted April 28, 2022 at 8:26 AM EDT
Signs advertise gas cylinders for sale in Polish.
Omar Marques
/
Getty Images
Gas cylinders for sale are pictured at a gas station on Wednesday in Krakow, Poland.

The European Union says it’s planning a response to Russian energy giant Gazprom after it abruptly halted gas shipments to two EU countries.

Gazprom shut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, ostensibly for refusing to pay for the imports in rubles. Polish and Bulgarian authorities view the stoppage as retaliation for the EU’s support of Ukraine.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the move a failed attempt to blackmail Europe.

"The era of Russian fossil fuel in Europe is coming to an end," she said. "Europe is moving forward on energy issues."

Gazprom targeted Poland and Bulgaria because, unlike some other EU countries, they refused to use a “trick” to pay in rubles by setting up accounts at Gazprom’s bank, says Polish energy policy expert Agata Loskot-Strachota.

She says the bank, which is not under sanctions, exchanges other countries' currency into rubles.

"There are plenty of European companies doing this," she adds.

Poland’s climate minister said today that the EU should penalize countries that use rubles to pay for Russian gas.

Julian Popov, a former environment minister in Bulgaria, says such loopholes create an "endless game of cat and mouse and a high level of uncertainty."

He added that the EU must prepare to rapidly cut consumption, because it’s in an energy war with Russia and Russian gas meets about 40% of Europe’s needs.

"Shortages," he said. "We have to learn to live with them or be prepared to impose them quickly."

Read more about the impact of Gazprom's cutoff of Bulgaria and Poland here.

From Ukraine

A Russian missile injures three, including a child, in a safe haven city in southeast Ukraine

Posted April 28, 2022 at 8:15 AM EDT

Some Ukrainians fleeing Russia's military offensive in eastern Ukraine have found their way to Zaporizhzhia, a city in southeast Ukraine that has provided aid to evacuees. But even this city, 20-30 miles away from the immediate front lines, hasn't been entirely safe.

The local government announced today that another Russian missile had hit the city, this time injuring three, including a child.

It takes a toll on evacuees who are already dealing with a lot, said mental health professional Natalia Atusheva, who works at an aid point for those arriving in the city.

"Stress, shock, fear, loss are all common emotions among evacuees," she said, though she added that many arrivals were more focused on shelter, food and water than getting help with their mental health.

The Associated Press reports that the missile struck in a residential area, away from military facilities, and that several homes were damaged or destroyed.

Accountability

U.N. meeting discusses the global response to Russia's atrocities in Ukraine

Posted April 28, 2022 at 8:11 AM EDT
A group of people, including Amal Clooney, sit at a wooden table in front of microphones and stacks of paper.
Timothy A. Clary
/
AFP via Getty Images
Amal Clooney of the Clooney Foundation for Justice attends an informal meeting of U.N. Security Council members on Wednesday in New York.

Diplomats and activists discussed ways to hold Russia to account for atrocities in Ukraine at an informal meeting at the United Nations yesterday.

Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, said there are credible reports of sexual violence and torture in Ukraine and of individuals being killed execution-style, with their hands bound.

"Our simple message for Russia’s military and political leadership and to the rank and file who commit war crimes or other atrocities is this: the world is watching, and you will be held accountable," she added.

Van Schaack also said in her remarks that the U.S. now has credible information that a Russian military unit operating near Donetsk executed Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender, rather than take them into custody. If true, she said, such actions would violate a core principle of the law of war.

The State Department said it will support the investigation by the International Criminal Court.

The ICC's lead prosecutor told the U.N. meeting that "this is the time to mobilize the law and send it into battle."