Russia–Ukraine War (May 18): Russia Uses New Laser Weapons in Ukraine

The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, May 18. Click here for updates from May 17.

Russia Uses New Laser Weapons in Ukraine

Russia on Wednesday said it was using a new generation of powerful laser weapons in Ukraine to burn up drones, deploying some of Moscow’s secret weapons to counter a flood of Western arms supplied to its former Soviet neighbor.

President Vladimir Putin in 2018 unveiled an array of new weapons including a new intercontinental ballistic missile, underwater nuclear drones, a supersonic weapon, and a new laser weapon.

Little is known about the specifics of the new laser weapons. Putin mentioned one called Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet who perished in mortal combat.

Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 km (930 miles) above Earth.

He said, though, that there were already more powerful Russian systems than Peresvet that could burn up drones and other equipment. Borisov cited a test on Tuesday which he said had burned up a drone 5 km (3 miles) away within five seconds.

“If Peresvet blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons lead to the physical destruction of the target—thermal destruction, they burn up,” Borisov told Russian state television.

Asked if such weapons were being used in Ukraine, Borisov said: “Yes. The first prototypes are already being used there.” He said the weapon was called “Zadira.”

Almost nothing is publicly known about Zadira but in 2017 Russian media said Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, helped develop it as part of a program to create weapons-based new physical principles, known by the Russian acronym ONFP.

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Official: US in Talks With Sweden, Finland

A senior defense official says U.S. Pentagon officials are having discussions with Sweden and Finland on their security needs to deter Russia as both move toward NATO membership.

The official said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist on Wednesday and spoke about the interim period between when the NATO application is formally made and when it is approved.

There have been concerns about threats from Russia during that period, in which Sweden and Finland would not formally be covered by NATO’s Article 5 which says that an attack against one member is an attack against all and calls for collective defense.

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Sullivan Says Biden Asked National Security About the Risks and Benefits of Finland and Sweden Joining NATO

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan says Biden asked his national security team and cabinet principals about the risks and benefits of Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

He said the team “emphatically supported the entry of Finland and Sweden.”

Sullivan said Finland and Sweden won’t be covered by NATO’s mutual defense agreement until all 30 members have ratified the accession, but U.S. and European allies are prepared to send the message “that we will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden during this process.”

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US Reopens Kyiv Embassy After 3-Month Closure

The U.S. embassy in Kyiv reopened on Wednesday after a 3-month closure due to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“We are officially reopening operations,” spokesperson Daniel Langenkamp told Reuters shortly before the U.S. flag was raised above the embassy.

He said a small number of diplomats would return initially to staff the mission.

Consular operations will not resume immediately and a no travel advisory from the State Department remains in place across Ukraine, Langenkamp said.

The U.S. embassy closed on Feb. 14, ten days before Russia launched a full-scale invasion. Embassy staff spent the first two months of the war in Poland, but Charge d’Affaires Kristina Kvien returned to the country on May 2, visiting the western city of Lviv.

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US Senate Committee Backs Biden Nominee to Be Ukraine Ambassador

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next ambassador to Ukraine, veteran diplomat Bridget Brink, and planned to push for her quick confirmation by the full Senate.

Brink is expected to easily win confirmation to a crucial position that has been vacant for three years.

The committee held Brink’s confirmation hearing on May 10, just two weeks after Biden sent her name to the Senate. The quick action underscored the desire from both Biden’s Democrats and Republicans to send an ambassador to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he faces Russia’s invasion.

The Senate is expected later this week to approve nearly $40 billion in military and humanitarian support for Kyiv.

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UN Chief in Talks on Restoring Ukraine Grain Exports Amid Global Food Crisis

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that he is in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States and the European Union in an effort to restore Ukrainian grain export as a global food crisis worsens.

“I am hopeful, but there is still a way to go,” said Guterres, who visited Moscow and Kyiv late last month. “The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides.”

Addressing a food security meeting at the United Nations hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Guterres appealed to Russia to allow “the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports” and for Russian food and fertilizers to “have full and unrestricted access to world markets.”

Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer to soar, and Guterres warned this will worsen food, energy and economic crises in poor countries.

“It threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity, followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine, in a crisis that could last for years,” Guterres said.

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Russian Armored Train Blown up in Occupied Ukraine: Territorial Defense

Ukrainian fighters blew up an armored train carrying Russian troops using an explosive device in the occupied southern city of Melitopol, the Ukrainian territorial defense force said on Wednesday.

NTD could not independently verify the claim. Russia’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a written request for comment.

The city of Melitopol in the region of Zaporizhzhia lies in a belt of southern Ukrainian land that was occupied by Russian forces after they invaded on Feb. 24.

The Ukrainian territorial defense, the reservist branch of the armed forces, said an explosive device detonated directly under a carriage carrying servicemen.

Their statement, published on Facebook, did not elaborate on the extent of the damage.

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Russia Says Its Response to Sweden Joining NATO Will Be Based on How the Alliance Deploys Its Military Strength in the Future

Russia says it told Sweden on Wednesday that its response to the Nordic nation joining NATO will be based on how the alliance deploys its military strength in the future.

In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said officials met with Swedish Ambassador Malena Mard at her request and that she notified Moscow about Sweden’s NATO ambitions.

The Foreign Ministry said it responded that “the choice of ways to ensure national security is the sovereign right of each state, but together with that, it should not create threats to the security of other countries.”

The ministry added that Moscow’s reaction would depend on NATO weapons deployments to Sweden.

Russia’s “specific reaction and possible responsive measures, including the military-technical side, will to a large extent depend on the real consequences of the integration of Sweden into the North Atlantic Alliance, including the deployment on Swedish territory of foreign military bases and offensive weapons systems,” the ministry said.

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Biden Calls Finland and Sweden’s Decision to Seek Membership in NATO ‘Historic,’ Says He Would ‘Strongly Support’ the Applications

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Finland and Sweden’s decision to seek membership in NATO “historic” and said he would “strongly support” the applications.

Biden is set to meet Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Washington on Thursday to discuss their NATO memberships bids and the situation in Ukraine.

“Finland and Sweden are longtime, stalwart partners of the United States,” Biden said in a statement. “By joining NATO, they will further strengthen our defense cooperation and benefit the entire Transatlantic Alliance.”

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Croatian President Wants to Block NATO Members

President Zoran Milanovic of Croatia wants his country to follow Turkey’s example by trying to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO.

Milanovic is in a bitter verbal dispute with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic over a number of issues, including whether to support the NATO applications Sweden and Finland submitted on Wednesday.

Before Croatia’s parliament ratifies NATO membership for the two Nordic nations, Milanovic wants a change of neighboring Bosnia’s electoral law that would make it easier for Bosnian Croats to get their representatives elected to leadership positions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Wednesday that NATO’s enlargement would depend on Finland and Sweden showing respect to Turkish sensitivities concerning terrorism.

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Ukraine Dismisses Talk of Nuclear Plant Supplying Electricity to Russia

Ukraine’s state-owned grid operator Ukrenergo on Wednesday dismissed as “physically impossible” the suggestion by a Russian official that a Ukrainian nuclear power plant would supply Russia with electricity.

Russian troops have seized the Zaporizhzhia plant, the biggest in Europe by capacity. The state-run RIA news agency earlier quoted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin as saying the facility would provide energy to Russia and to Ukraine if the latter paid for it.

Ukrenergo said the plant was in the Ukrainian grid and remained under the control of Ukrainian specialists.

“Ukraine’s power system currently has no physical connections with Russia’s power system. Therefore, the supply of electricity from Ukrainian power plants to Russia is currently physically impossible,” it said in a statement.

Ukrenergo said Moscow was clearly trying to destabilize talks with the European Union about the possibility of boosting electricity exports.

The EU and Ukraine linked Europe’s electricity system to the Ukrainian grid on March 16 in response to Russia’s invasion. The move means Ukraine can receive emergency power from Europe if military attacks caused power outages.

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Russia and Ukraine Blame Each Other After Peace Talks Stall

The Kremlin said on Wednesday Ukraine was showing no willingness to continue peace talks, but officials in Kyiv blamed Russia for the lack of progress Russia.

“Negotiations are not progressing and we note the complete unwillingness of Ukrainian negotiators to continue this process”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko as saying on Tuesday that Russia and Ukraine were not holding talks “in any form”, and that Kyiv had “practically withdrawn from the negotiation process.”

Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the situation.

“Putin is not ready to hold talks,” he said on the Telegram messaging app. “The only chance (for peace) is the destruction of the Russian occupiers. As for when they will be ready to accept defeat, I think it’s a matter of months.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated an offer to hold direct talks with Putin last week but Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian leader, said on Tuesday that talks were “on hold.”

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Russian Soldier Pleads Guilty at Ukraine War Crimes Trial

A 21-year-old Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since Moscow invaded Ukraine pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing an unarmed civilian.

Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin could get life in prison for shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern Sumy region on Feb. 28, four days into the invasion.

Shishimarin, a captured member of a Russian tank unit, was prosecuted under a section of the Ukrainian criminal code that addresses the laws and customs of war.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape, and looting.

It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects are in Ukrainian hands and how many would be tried in absentia.

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Report: Turkey Lists Sweden, Finland Demands

A pro-government Turkish newspaper says Turkey has drawn up a list of 10 demands it will reportedly ask Sweden and Finland to meet before it can approve their NATO membership.

The list published by Sabah newspaper on Wednesday calls on the two countries to stop any financial support to groups linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as well as to Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Ankara views as extensions of the banned group. There are also demands that these countries halt contacts with members of the Syrian Kurdish group.

Sabah said Turkey furthermore wants the two countries to “expedite” extradition proceedings for suspects wanted by Turkey on terror charges.

The list also includes a demand that Sweden clamps down on what Sabah called a “disinformation” campaign against Turkey led by followers of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara claims was behind a coup attempt in 2016. Many followers of the Gulen movement have fled to Sweden.

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Czech Republic’s Government Unanimously Approved NATO Membership for Finland and Sweden

The Czech Republic’s government has unanimously approved NATO membership for Finland and Sweden—just hours after the two countries submitted their requests.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said Wednesday he welcomes the nations’ decisions to join the alliance. He added that their militaries fully meet all necessary accession criteria.

The accession protocol still needs to be ratified by both chambers of the Czech Parliament, which is expected to happen soon. Fiala said he doesn’t anticipate any obstacles, as governing parties hold the majority in both chambers of parliament.

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Ukrainian Fighters Surrendered at Azovstal Sent to Hospital in Novoazovsk: Russian Ministry

Ukrainian fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol were taken to a hospital at Novoazovsk in the breakaway Donetsk republic, the Russian defense ministry said in a video on Wednesday.

Nearly 1,000 Ukrainian fighters who barricaded themselves into tunnels on the site have so far given themselves up to Russian and pro-Russian forces since Monday.

NTD could not independently verify the contents of the video. Ukrainian officials have halted all public discussion of the fate of fighters who had made their last stand at Azovstal.

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US Unlikely to Extend Russian Debt Payment License, Treasury’s Yellen Says

The United States is unlikely to extend a soon-to-expire license that allows Russia to pay U.S. bondholders, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Wednesday, which could put Moscow closer to defaulting on its debt.

Russia has so far managed to make its international bond payments even though Western sanctions ban transactions with Russia’s finance ministry, central bank, or national wealth fund.

The country has $40 billion of international bonds and last month made what appeared to be a late U-turn by making payments to avoid a default.

But Moscow now faces a May 25 deadline when the U.S. license allowing it to make payments to U.S. bondholders is due to expire.

Yellen, asked by reporters ahead of a G7 finance ministers meeting in Bonn if the United States would allow the license to expire, said: “There’s not been a final decision on that, but I think it’s unlikely that it would continue.”

Yellen said: “If Russia is unable to find a way to make these payments, and they technically default on their debt, I don’t think that really represents a significant change in Russia’s situation. They’re already cut off from global capital markets.”

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Top Ukrainian Commanders Not Surrendered From Azovstal, Pro-Russian Rebel Says

Top-ranking Ukrainian commanders have not yet surrendered from the labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels below the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, the leader of the Russian-backed separatist region of Donetsk said on Wednesday.

As the most devastating siege in Russia’s invasion moves towards a finale, nearly 1,000 Ukrainian fighters who barricaded themselves into the tunnels have so far given themselves up to Russian and pro-Russian forces since Monday.

Russia’s defense ministry said that in the past day 694 Ukrainian fighters—including members of the Azov regiment—had surrendered, including 29 wounded.

It was unclear if the top commanders would leave the plant, or possibly even fight a last mortal battle with the Russian forces they regard as occupiers of their motherland.

“There are no commanders of the highest level (among those who surrendered)—they have not left,” said Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic which was officially recognized by President Vladimir Putin just three days before the invasion of Ukraine.

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EU Plans 9 Billion Euros Joint Borrowing for Ukraine, More for Reconstruction

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday an extra 9 billion euros ($9.5 billion) in EU loans to Ukraine in 2022 to keep the country running and to set up a ‘RebuildUkraine’ Facility of grants and loans, modeled on the EU’s own recovery fund.

The money would be borrowed by the Commission on the market against guarantees from EU governments under its macro-financial assistance program to keep Ukraine going until the end of June as it struggles to fight off Russia’s invasion.

The International Monetary Fund estimates Ukraine needs around $5 billion a month for basic operations and the EU expects the United States and other G7 countries Britain, Japan, and Canada to chip in. The G7 will discuss it at a meeting in Bonn on Thursday and Friday.

“The EU will continue to provide short-term financial support to Ukraine to meet its needs and keep basic services running,” Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said.

“We stand ready to take a leading role in the international reconstruction efforts to help rebuild a democratic and prosperous Ukraine. This means investments will go hand-in-hand with reforms that will support Ukraine in pursuing its European path,” she said.

The EU has already provided 4.1 billion euros to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb 24, including military aid.

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Russia Closes Moscow Bureau of Canadian Broadcaster CBC

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it was closing the Moscow bureau of Canada’s CBC and withdrawing visas and accreditation from the public broadcaster’s journalists after Ottawa banned Russian state TV station Russia Today.

“With regret we continue to notice open attacks on the Russian media from the countries of the so-called collective West who call themselves civilized,” Maria Zakharova, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, told reporters.

“A decision has been taken to make retaliatory, I underscore retaliatory, measures in relation to the actions of Canada: the closure of the Moscow bureau of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, including the annulation of the accreditations and visas of their journalists.”

CBC’s Moscow bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Zakharova said Ottawa had chosen what she cast as a “Russophobic” path including censorship of the media.

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French Foreign Ministry Condemned Moscow’s Decision to Expel French Diplomats

The French Foreign Ministry has condemned Moscow’s decision to expel 34 French diplomats in retaliation for the April expulsion of Russians who Paris claims were secret agents “working against (French) security interests.”

The Foreign Ministry says that the French ordered expelled by Moscow are real diplomats. It said the Russian decision Wednesday “has no legitimate basis” and “we can only deplore it.”

Russia said it was responding to “the provocative and utterly baseless decision of French authorities” last month to expel 41 Russians, part of a wave of expulsions by EU nations.

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Russia Says 959 Ukrainian Fighters Surrendered From Azovstal so Far

Russia said on Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian fighters, including 80 wounded, had surrendered from the bunkers and tunnels below Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks since Monday.

The defense ministry said 694 Ukrainian fighters—including members of the Azov regiment—had surrendered in the past 24 hours, including 29 wounded.

In the latest update on what Moscow calls its special military operation, the ministry said Russia also struck eastern Ukraine with missiles in the Soledar area of the Donetsk region.

Russia also hit foreign mercenaries, destroyed Ukrainian Su-24 aircraft, Ukrainian arsenals, and S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, the ministry said.

Russia struck 76 control points and 421 troop and artillery points, including 147 artillery and mortar, with missiles and artillery, the ministry said.

It hit a Ukrainian battery of 155-mm M777 howitzers manufactured by the United States, the ministry said.

It was not possible to independently confirm the claims.

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Finland, Sweden Apply to Join NATO Amid Turkish Objections

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday, a decision spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but face objections from Turkey to an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks.

Neutral throughout the Cold War, Sweden’s and Finland’s decision to join NATO is one of the most significant changes in Europe’s security architecture in decades, not least because Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia.

It also reflects a shift in public opinion in the Nordic region since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“This is a historic moment which we must seize,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a short ceremony at NATO headquarters in which the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to the alliance handed over their application letters, each in a white folder embossed with their national flag.

“I warmly welcome requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners, and your membership in NATO will increase our shared security,” Stoltenberg said. The alliance believes the accession of Finland and Sweden will hugely strengthen it in the Baltic Sea.

With the applications formally submitted, the Nordic countries and their many backers now face uncertain months where any resistance to their bids must be overcome, with all 30 of NATO’s members needing to approve the enlargement.

Ratification by all allied parliaments could take up to a year, diplomats say.

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Austria’s Government Says No Intention to Follow Sweden and Finland Into NATO

Austria’s government says it has no intention of following Sweden and Finland into NATO.

Austria joined the European Union at the same time as the two Nordic nations in 1995. The Swedish and Finnish applications to join NATO will likely leave Austria as one of very few EU countries that aren’t also a member of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday that “we decided on neutrality in 1955 and is still the case that a very, very large majority of the population views this positively.”

He said that hasn’t prevented Austria from backing EU sanctions against Russia and giving Ukraine non-lethal support.

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Russia Says There Is No Movement in Peace Talks With Ukraine

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that there was no movement in peace talks with Ukraine, and that Kyiv was showing a total unwillingness to continue them.

“Negotiations are not progressing and we note the complete unwillingness of Ukrainian negotiators to continue this process,” Peskov said.

On Tuesday Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko as saying that Russia and Ukraine were not holding talks “in any form”, and that Kyiv had “practically withdrawn from the negotiation process.”

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Separatist Leader Says Court to Decide Fate of Azovstal Fighters Who Surrendered: Local Media

Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin said that a court would decide the fate of the Ukrainian fighters who had surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, a local media outlet reported.

Russia said earlier on Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian fighters, including 80 wounded, had surrendered from the bunkers and tunnels below the Azovstal steelworks since Monday.

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Russia Expels 85 Diplomats From France, Spain, and Italy

Russia said on Wednesday it was expelling a total of 85 embassy staff from France, Spain, and Italy in response to similar moves by those countries, highlighting the damage to relations with leading EU members since it launched its war on Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministry said it was ordering out 34 diplomatic staff from France, 27 from Spain, and 24 from Italy.

The three countries are among European nations that have collectively thrown out more than 300 Russians since the Feb. 24 invasion. In many cases, they accused Russian diplomats of spying, which Moscow has denied.

Russia’s response has included sending home 45 Polish staff and 40 Germans last month. It has also announced tit-for-tat moves against Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Japan, among others.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Wednesday’s announcement by Moscow a “hostile act” and said diplomatic channels must not be interrupted.

France said it deplored the Russian move as an unjustified response to what it said was its own decision in April to expel “several dozen Russian agents acting on our territory under diplomatic status and working against our security interests.”

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UN Chief Expected to Disclose Talks on Ukraine Grain Exports: UN Officials

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres is expected to publicly disclose on Wednesday that he is in talks with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States and the European Union aimed at restoring Ukraine grain shipments and reviving fertilizer exports from Russia and Belarus, U.N. officials said.

The war in Ukraine has fueled soaring global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel, and fertilizer, and Guterres has warned it will worsen food, energy and economic crises in poor countries.

Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, used to export most of its goods through seaports but since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion it has been forced to export by train via its western border or via its small Danube river ports.

After visiting Moscow and Kyiv late last month, Guterres pledged to help bring back to world markets the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus despite the war.

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German Cabinet Approves Finnish, Swedish NATO Request, Says Minister

The German cabinet has approved Finland and Sweden’s request to join the NATO defense alliance, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said on Twitter.

“We are committed to a fast accession process,” added the politician from the Free Democrats, one of the ruling coalition parties.

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Several Russian Generals Have Reportedly Been Killed, Ukrainian Regional Admin Says

Ukrainian guerrilla fighters reportedly have killed several high-ranking Russian officers in the southern city of Melitopol, the regional administration said on Telegram.

Russian forces have occupied the city since early in the war.

According to the regional administration, the occupiers are trying to conceal the situation but Russian troops were more actively checking private cars in the city Tuesday, most likely looking for the guerrillas.

No details of the killings were given and the report could not immediately be confirmed.

Throughout the war, the Ukrainians have claimed to have killed many Russian generals and other officers. A few of the deaths have been confirmed by the Russians.

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US Launches Program to Capture, Analyze Evidence of Russian War Crimes in Ukraine

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced the launch of a new program to capture and analyze evidence of war crimes and other atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine, as Washington seeks to ensure Moscow is held accountable for its actions.

The State Department in a statement said the so-called Conflict Observatory will encompass documentation, verification, and dissemination of open-source evidence of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Reports and analyses will be made available through the Conflict Observatory’s website.

U.S. President Joe Biden has hammered Russia over what he calls “major war crimes” committed in Ukraine, and has underscored his resolve to hold Moscow accountable for launching the largest land war in Europe since World War II.

The Kyiv government has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Russia denies targeting civilians and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities were staged.

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McConnell Urges Biden Administration to Ensure Sustained Aid to Ukraine

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell urged the Biden administration on Tuesday to lead an effort to ensure broad, sustained international support for Ukraine and said Washington should remain a reliable supplier of advanced weaponry for the besieged country.

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Canada Introduces Bill to Ban Russia’s Putin and Others From Entering Country

Canada on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Senate that will ban Russian President Vladimir Putin and some 1,000 other members of his government and military from entering the country as it continues to ratchet up sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine.

“Banning close associates and key supporters of Putin’s regime, including those responsible for this unprovoked aggression, from entering our country is one of the many ways in which we’re holding Russia accountable for its crimes,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement.

Canada has imposed a number of sanctions against Russia, along with other Western allies, since Russia began what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine in February.

Canada has sanctioned the Russian defense sector and hundreds of individuals and entities while at the same time sending weapons to Ukraine. Earlier this month during a trip to Kyiv, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised more weapons and equipment.

In response to sanctions, Russia has banned Trudeau, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, and almost 600 other Canadians from entering the country.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.