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The eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk was occupied by pro-Russian separatists for months in 2014. Now, its people are preparing to defend the city again as the fighting draws closer and invites a major battle. Slovyansk is a city of splintered loyalties, with some residents antagonistic toward Kyiv or nostalgic for Ukraine's Soviet past. But many fear the return of the Russians and what they could do to their now-flourishing town. Slovyansk may become the next major target in Russia’s campaign to take the Donbas region, Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland.

AP
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As the war grinds on in Ukraine, communities that were badly damaged early in the invasion are starting to rebuild. Villages such as Yahidne in the northern Chernihiv region are gradually returning to life a few months after Russian troops retreated. Now people are repairing homes, and the sound of construction tools fills the air. Volunteers from all over Ukraine, and from other countries, are coming to help because there is so much to do before another winter approaches. One volunteer rebuilding group is called Dobrobat. The name combines “dobro,” or kindness, with “bat” for battalion.

AP
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Russian forces are battling to surround the Ukrainian military’s last stronghold in a long-contested eastern province, as shock still reverberates from a Russian airstrike on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 people. Moscow’s battle to wrest the entire Donbas region from Ukraine saw Russian forces pushing toward two villages south of Lysychansk while Ukrainian troops fought to prevent their encirclement. The U.S. director of national intelligence said Wednesday the most likely scenario is a “grinding struggle” in which Russia consolidates its hold over southern Ukraine by the fall. Meanwhile, search teams and relatives raced to find people missing in the wreckage of the Amstor shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk.

AP
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France’s president has denounced Russia’s fiery airstrike on a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine as a “new war crime” and vowed the West’s support for Kyiv would not waver. Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Moscow “cannot and should not win” the war. The strike killed at least 18 people in the central city of Kremenchuk. It came during an unusually intense barrage of Russian strikes across Ukraine that drew new attention to a war that some fear could fade from focus as it drags on. Also Tuesday, Turkey lifted its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. And in a virtual address to the U.N. Security Council, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for Russia to be expelled from the United Nations.

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Russia has shattered weeks of relative calm in Ukraine's capital with a missile attack as Western leaders meeting in Europe prepared to reaffirm their support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia. President Volodymr Zelenskyy said a 37-year-old man was killed and his daughter and wife injured when missiles hit an apartment building. A railroad worker was also reported killed. Kyiv's mayor speculated the airstrikes were “a symbolic attack” before a NATO summit starting Tuesday. A former U.S. commander in Europe said they also were a signal to Group of Seven leaders meeting Sunday. The Ukrainian air force says planes launched the missiles from over the Caspian Sea, more than 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away.

AP
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The European Union’s decision to make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership has offered war-weary Ukrainians a morale boost even as the country’s military ordered its fighters to retreat from a key city in the eastern Donbas region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the decision of EU leaders as vindication for his nation’s fight against Russia’s aggression. Others recalled the 2014 revolution that ousted Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president, sparked in part by his decision not to complete an EU association agreement. Russian President Vladimir Putin opposed the agreement, just as he demanded before the current war that Ukraine is kept out of NATO. Ukraine applied for EU membership less than a week after Russia invaded.

AP
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The European Union’s leaders have agreed to make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, setting in motion a potentially yearslong process that could draw the embattled country further away from Russia’s influence and bind it more closely to the West. Ukraine applied for membership less than a week after Moscow invaded on Feb. 24. The decision by the 27-nation bloc to grant Ukraine candidate status Thursday was uncharacteristically rapid. But the war and Ukraine’s request for fast-track consideration lent urgency to its cause. The EU also granted candidate status to Moldova, which borders Ukraine. Gaining membership could take years or even decades. Countries must meet a host of economic and political conditions, including the embrace of certain democratic principles.

AP
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A Ukrainian deputy prime minister overseeing the country’s push to join the European Union says she’s “100%” certain all 27 EU nations will approve making Ukraine a candidate for membership in the bloc. In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna said the decision could come as soon as Thursday. She says countries that had been skeptical about starting accession talks while Ukraine is fighting Russia’s invasion are now supportive. Granting a country EU candidate status requires unanimous approval from existing member nations. Candidacy is the first step toward membership. It doesn't provide security guarantees or an automatic right to join the bloc.

AP
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Despite the heavy influx of weapons from the West, Ukrainian forces are outgunned by the Russians in the battle for the eastern Donbas region, where the fighting is largely being carried out by way of artillery exchanges. While the Russians can keep up heavy, continuous fire for hours at a time, the defenders can’t match the enemy in either weapons or ammunition and must use their ammo more judiciously. One problem is that Western defense industries can't turn out weapons fast enough. Another is that the Ukrainians need training on Western-supplied hardware.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has posted an uplifting Father’s Day message with 10 photos of parents and children set against the backdrop of war. He praised his nation's fighters who "protect and defend the most precious.” Zelenskyy wrote in English that followed the Ukrainian on Instagram: “Being a father is a great responsibility and a great happiness. It is strength, wisdom, motivation to go forward and not to give up.” One photograph shows a kneeling soldier kissing a child. In another, a couple look toward a swaddled baby. His message Sunday came as four months of war appear to be straining troop morale on both sides.