The Russian military pounded pockets of resistance in parts of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday as two American veterans captured by Russian troops waited to hear whether they would face the death penalty.
The beleaguered eastern city of Sievierodonetsk is one of the last areas of the Luhansk region that Russia failed to completely submerge. About 568 civilians, including 38 children, remain locked up with Ukrainian fighters in the Azot chemical plant, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said. The civilians are mostly company employees and their families and refused to evacuate, Haidai said.
“Today, anything that can burn is on fire,” Haidai said.
The Russian military controls about 95% of Luhansk, which, along with Donetsk, includes the Donbass region that the Kremlin has coveted since it withdrew from a botched assault on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv at the start of the war of four months.
►A Moscow court has extended the arrest of a local MP accused of discrediting the army by criticizing the Russian invasion. Alexei Gorinov, in prison since April, said he was only expressing his political views. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
►Polish and Ukrainian government officials have announced plans to display burnt-out Russian tanks captured by Ukrainian forces in Warsaw. Polish Prime Minister Michal Dworczyk’s office said the idea was to highlight Russian “atrocities” and the Ukrainian response.
►The destruction of businesses, homes and infrastructure exceeded $100 billion, equivalent to 50% of Ukraine’s gross domestic product in 2021, the National Bank of Ukraine estimated.
►The Luxembourg government had earmarked 15% of its defense budget to support the Ukrainian army, President Volodymyr Zelensky said after his meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Kyiv on Tuesday.
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State Department reports 2nd known U.S. death: Stephen Zabielski
Stephen Zabielski, 52, is the second US citizen known to have died during the war in Ukraine, the State Department confirmed on Tuesday.
The State Department hasn’t said exactly when or how he died, but an obituary published in The Recorder newspaper of his hometown of Amsterdam, New York, says he died May 15 “while ‘he was fighting the war in the village of Dorozhniank, Ukraine’.
Zabielski is survived by his wife and five stepchildren, according to the obituary.
Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, was the first known American killed in Ukraine while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, his family said in early May. Cancel, who worked as a prison officer in Tennessee, had joined a private military contracting company to fight against Russian forces. He left behind a son and a young wife.
Americans captured in Ukraine could face death penalty, Russia says
Two American veterans who independently support the Ukrainian military face the death penalty, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov has warned. Peskov told NBC News that the fates of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, will be decided by a Russian court. They were “involved in illegal activities … (and) should be punished,” he said, adding that they were probably not protected by the Geneva Conventions granted to prisoners of war because they were not doing not part of the Ukrainian regular army.
Huynh and Drueke traveled to Ukraine in April to help the Ukrainians fend off Russian forces. The State Department issued a statement calling on “the Russian government – as well as its proxies – to uphold their international obligations in the treatment of any individual, including those captured fighting in Ukraine.”
Last week, two Britons and a Moroccan were sentenced to death by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. When asked if Americans would meet the same fate, Petrov said he “can’t guarantee anything. It depends on the investigation.”
“HOPENING FOR GOOD NEWS”:Family of two US Army veterans talk about missing men
Ben Stiller meets his “hero” in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Actor and director Ben Stiller, goodwill ambassador for the United Nations refugee program, met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday after touring crumbling residential areas of Irpin and talking to survivors of the occupation.
“It’s really wonderful, you’re my hero, you’re amazing,” Stiller said as he greeted Zelenskyy. “What you’ve done and how you’ve rallied the country and…the world is truly inspiring.”
Stiller expressed dismay at the devastation the war has wreaked on Irpin – a town not far from the capital of Kyiv that was hammered, then abandoned, by the Russians. The destruction looks much worse up close than on TV or social media, he said.
“What you saw in Irpin is truly appalling,” Zelenskyy replied. “But it’s even worse to imagine what is happening in the settlements that are still under temporary occupation in the east.”
Ukraine set to gain EU candidate status this week
European Union ministers on Tuesday provisionally approved a plan to grant Ukraine candidate status to join the bloc, the French Europe minister said. Clément Beaune, after a meeting with his counterparts, told France24 that there was “total consensus to move these files forward, and in particular for Ukraine the possibility of confirming candidate status as soon as possible”.
EU leaders are expected to formally endorse the Ukrainian nominee’s decision later this week, Beaune said. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s office said Orbán told President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that he advocated “removing bureaucratic obstacles to Ukraine’s EU membership”. Moldova and Georgia also hope to gain candidate status.
AG Merrick Garland travels to Ukraine to meet with prosecutor
Attorney General Merrick Garland paid an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Tuesday for a meeting with Attorney General Iryna Venediktova to discuss ongoing efforts to identify and apprehend suspected war criminals, according to a Justice Department official, who does not was unable to publicly discuss the details of the trip and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this year, the attorney general pledged U.S. support for an international campaign to hold war criminals accountable for atrocities documented by Ukrainian authorities.
“Every day we see the heartbreaking images and read the horrific tales of brutality…but there is no hiding place for war criminals.” Garland said during a virtual meeting last month with his Ukrainian counterpart and other allies.
– Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
Ukraine’s LGBTQ community struggles as war drags on
The official Pride parade in Kyiv was canceled this year after a decade of strenuous efforts for greater acceptance of LGBTQ people.
Prior to Russia’s invasion, Ukraine – a largely religious nation with a long history of oppression against sexual and gender expression – had increasingly become a rare bright spot for LGBTQ rights and a kind of sanctuary for Eastern Europe. Former Soviet LGBTQ people would travel to experience a gay nightclub scene, especially in big cities like Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odessa, where they might feel safer to be open.
Now what would have been the 10th anniversary of the Equality March in Kyiv this month has been moved to Poland due to the ongoing war.
“We had a lot of it and I hope we will rebuild it,” said Yuriy Dvizhon, Creative Director of UKRAINEPRIDE. Learn more here.
– Tami Abdollah, USA TODAY
Estonia blasts Russia over helicopter encroachment
A Russian military helicopter entered Estonian airspace without permission on Saturday, hovering over the Koidula region along the Russian border for about two minutes, the Estonian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
No flight plan was filed, the transponder was turned off and two-way radio communication was not established with Estonian air traffic control, the ministry said.
The Russian Ambassador to Estonia, Vladimir Lipajev, was summoned by the Estonian Foreign Ministry. “Estonia considers this an extremely serious and regrettable incident which undoubtedly causes further tension and is completely unacceptable,” the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
Estonia is a country of less than 3 million people that broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Contribute: The Associated Press