Russia-Ukraine war live updates: Biden to host leaders of Finland and Sweden after NATO offers

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Russian soldier on trial for war crimes apologizes to victim’s wife, says he was ordered to shoot

A Russian soldier on trial for war crimes in kyiv spoke out in court on Thursday, calling his actions “unacceptable” and saying he was forced to shoot an unarmed civilian by a superior.

sergeant. Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, pleaded guilty to killing the civilian in the first war crimes trial since the conflict began. He told court on Thursday from his glass booth that he knew when he entered Ukraine with his unit he was invading another country, but said he was unaware of international customs laws of the war.

He apologized to the victim’s wife, who also spoke in court. “I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he said.

She told the court the Russian soldier deserved life imprisonment for killing her husband, but said she wouldn’t mind if he was swapped for one of the Ukrainian soldiers who went to the steel plant from Azovstal to Mariupol this week.

Kremlin says Ukrainians have a say in future of occupied territories

The Kremlin said it would be up to residents of Ukrainian areas controlled by Russian troops to determine their future status.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that people living in such places must “decide how and with whom they want to live.”

Peskov made the statement during a conference call with reporters after being asked about some Russian officials saying Russia might take steps to incorporate the captured Kherson region into southern Ukraine.

The Kremlin spokesman responded by saying authorities needed to focus on providing basic services to residents of areas under Russian control.

Dance with Putin: Is Europe finally tired of politicians making big money from Russia?

A former German leader and Austrian foreign minister faces censorship for his continued ties to the Kremlin.

The European Parliament adopted a package of measures on Thursday that urges the European Union to sanction politicians who still receive huge sums of money from Russian companies.

Although the motion is not binding, its passage is an important step towards the sanctions introduced and sends a clear signal that the European community will no longer tolerate tacit support for President Vladimir Putin’s regime that has characterized much of the continent’s approach to the Kremlin for decades.

Read the full story here.

Seniors suffer in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces withdraw from towns around Kharkiv
Olexiy Pshenychnykh, 85, lies in his war-damaged home east of Kharkiv.John Moore/Getty Images

Portugal accuses Russia of expelling its diplomats

The Portuguese government said Russia was expelling five diplomats from its embassy in Moscow, a day after the Kremlin also expelled diplomats from Spain, France and Italy.

Portugal‘s foreign ministry said on Thursday Russia’s decision was “unjustified” and a step for nothing after Portugal expelled Russian diplomats from the Lisbon embassy last month .

“Unlike the Russian personnel expelled from Portugal, these Portuguese personnel were involved in strictly diplomatic tasks,” a statement from the Portuguese Foreign Ministry said.

Zoo animals remain in Mariupol after months of devastation

Russian soldiers play with a bear at the Mariupol zoo, in territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Russian soldiers play with a bear at the Mariupol zoo, in territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists.PA

Returnees to Kyiv suburbs face new challenges: homelessness

IRPIN, Ukraine — Since Russian forces were driven out of the suburbs around kyiv last month, Ukraine has worked remarkably quickly to repair damaged infrastructure.

But rebuilding houses and apartment buildings destroyed while the country is still at war is proving to be a much more difficult task, leaving thousands displaced and in desperate need of help.

The crisis is driving a wedge among Ukrainians: those with the means are starting to pay for their repairs themselves, while those without the money are relying on charity and aid groups for housing.

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Galina Kovalenko's house in Irpin was destroyed when Russian forces set it on fire.
Galina Kovalenko’s house in Irpin was destroyed when Russian forces set it on fire.Lauren Egan/NBC News

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After delay, Senate set to send $40 billion in Ukrainian aid to Biden

WASHINGTON — After a week’s delay, the Senate appeared ready Thursday to pass a $40 billion military, economic and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine.

Democratic and Republican leaders had hoped to quickly retake the package passed by the House last week, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposed and dragged out the process due to a dispute over oversight of expenses.

Thursday’s big bipartisan vote, which will send the aid package to President Joe Biden’s office for signing, is an unmistakable signal to Kyiv that the United States is staying firmly in its corner. Paul’s stall tactics have upset many colleagues who had warned that Ukraine was dangerously close to running out of weapons, food and other supplies.

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Fate of Azov fighters unknown in Mariupol

Members of the Azov Battalion go to Mariupol
Returned servicemen of the Ukrainian “Azov” battalion are transferred to Yelenovka in Mariupol.Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Erdogan voices opposition to Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid

The Turkish president underlined his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, saying Ankara would say “no” to their candidacy.

Addressing a group of young Turks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the two countries – and in particular Sweden – of being “a hotbed of terror, the hotbed of terror”. The video of their conversation was released on Thursday.

Erdogan’s objection to Sweden and Finland stems from Turkey’s grievances over perceived support from Stockholm – and to a lesser extent with Helsinki – for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and an armed group in Syria which Turkey sees as an extension of the PKK. Turkey also accuses them of harboring supporters of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says was behind a failed military coup attempt in 2016.

Turkey’s approval is crucial as the military alliance makes its decisions by consensus. Each of its 30 member countries can veto those who can join.

Russian forces control Mariupol

A Russian soldier patrols a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works in Mariupol.
A Russian soldier patrols a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works in Mariupol.PA

Red Cross says it has registered hundreds of POWs from Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant

The Red Cross said it had registered hundreds of prisoners of war from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where the last Ukrainian defenders stopped fighting earlier this week.

Registration of fighters leaving the factory, including the wounded, began on Tuesday as part of an agreement between Moscow and Kyiv, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement. “The operation continued on Wednesday and was still ongoing on Thursday,” he added.

The Geneva-based humanitarian agency noted that it had not transported the POWs to “places where they are being held”.

He did not say where it was, but buses transported hundreds of fighters to Russian-held territory. Ukraine says it wants to swap its fighters for Russian prisoners, but Russia has given no indication that it will.

Russian military beset by ‘culture of cover-up and scapegoating’, says UK

The Russian military is likely plagued by a ‘culture of cover-up and scapegoating’ that is hampering its war in Ukraine, according to the British Ministry of Defense mentioned Thusday.

Russia has suspended one commander and likely suspended another due to failures, she said, adding that “many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to to avoid personal guilt for Russia’s operational setbacks”.

The British Army said in a daily intelligence update that Lieutenant General Serhiy Kisel, who commanded the Russian 1st Guards Tank Army, had been suspended for failing to take the city of Kharkiv. The UK also said the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, was likely suspended after the sinking of the cruiser Moskva – the fleet’s flagship – in April. Ukrainian and US officials said it was hit by Ukrainian missiles.

NBC News has not independently verified the information. Russia has not announced any such measures.

Senate confirms new US ambassador to Ukraine

The Senate on Wednesday night confirmed Bridget Brink as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, filling the post as officials plan to return U.S. diplomats to kyiv during the country’s ongoing battle against the Russian invasion.

The veteran foreign service officer, who has spent most of his career in the shadow of the former Soviet Union, was named to the post last month by President Joe Biden. It was confirmed by the Senate unanimously without a formal roll-call vote.

Image: Brigitte Brink
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images File

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