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armed conflict

Russia-Ukraine war: Key things to know about the conflict


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Russian forces expanded their offensive in Ukraine on Friday as they conducted airstrikes in new areas in the country’s west, while Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the recruitment of “volunteers” from Syria and elsewhere to join the fight.

The West ramped up economic pressure on Russia, as the U.S. and its allies downgraded Russian’s trade status — the latest in efforts to further isolate Russia for the invasion.

The war has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee Ukraine, while others seek refuge in basements, subway stations and underground shelters. More evacuations were expected, though repeated attempts to allow people to flee the besieged port city of Mariupol in the south have failed under continued Russian shelling.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said via video from Kyiv: “It’s impossible to say how many days we will still need to free our land, but it is possible to say that we will do it.”

Here are some key things to know about the war:


New areas in western Ukraine came under attack Friday, as Ukrainian authorities said Russian airstrikes hit in the western cities of Ivano-Frankiivsk and Lutsk — far from Russia’s main targets elsewhere in the country.

Russia said it used high-precision long-range weapons to put military airfields in the two cities “out of action.” Lutsk Mayor Ihor Polishchuk said four servicemen were killed and another six were wounded.

Russia’s Defense Ministry also said Friday that an offensive, led by fighters from the separatist-held Donetsk region, were further squeezing the southern port city of Mariupol. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said some 1,300 civilians have been killed in Mariupol throughout the siege, but it was not possible to independently verify the figure.

Satellite images show a huge Russian convoy that had been mired outside Kyiv has fanned out into towns and forests, but it wasn’t immediately clear if that posed an immediate threat to the capital city.

Three more Russian airstrikes hit the industrial city of Dnipro in eastern Ukraine on Friday, killing at least one person, according to the Ukrainian interior ministry.

Thousands of civilians and soldiers on both sides are believed to have been killed in the invasion.


More shelling and airstrikes pummeled Mariupol on Friday, leaving apartment complexes on fire as temperatures hovered around freezing. The city of 430,000 has been without food, running water and electricity for 10 days. Residents know little of the military situation, but know it’s not safe to go outside.

A newborn girl nestled against her mother after Russian airstrikes hit the Mariupol maternity hospital where the woman was to give birth. Mariana Vishegirskaya had her baby, Veronika, via cesarean section in another hospital on the city’s outskirts a day after the Wednesday attack at hospital shocked the world.

On the outskirts of Kyiv, AP reporters witnessed a teenage girl recovering at a hospital after her family was ambushed as they tried to flee.

In Baryshivka, a village east of Kyiv, people surveyed damage and boarded up windows after a Russian bombing reduced a restaurant and a cinema to hanging metal, dust, glass and other debris. Ivan Merzyk, a 62-year-old resident, said: “Putin created this mess, thinking he will be in charge here. Ukrainians are a free nation. We are not going away from here and we don’t want to see any Russian here.”


Putin approved bringing “volunteer” fighters from Syria and other countries to join Russia’s offensive. Russia’s defense minister said there had been “more than 16,000 applications” from the Middle East. He said many were from people who fought alongside Russia against the Islamic State group.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the recruits include fighters from Syria, where Russia intervened in the civil war in 2015 on the side of President Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government says about 20,000 foreigners have joined the so-called International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine to fight the Russians.

The pro-Ukrainian fighters are given weapons when they arrive. About 100 Americans are among the fighters. The U.K. has warned veterans not to travel to Ukraine to fight there, saying those who do will be court-martialed.


Ukrainian authorities said there are plans for several evacuation and humanitarian aid delivery routes. The top priority remains freeing people from the city of Mariupol and getting aid to its desperate population.

Buses were being sent Friday to multiple Kyiv suburbs to bring people to the capital, where authorities say half of the metropolitan area’s population, or around 2 million, has already fled.

There were also efforts to create new humanitarian corridors around the cities of Kherson in the south, Chernihiv in the north and Kharkiv in the east. Russian forces were blockading Kharkiv and pushing their offensive in the south around three cities and towns, including the hometown of Ukraine’s president, Kryvyi Rih.


Russia requested a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss its baseless claims that the U.S. was conducting “biological activities” in Ukraine — an allegation that has been denied by both Washington and Kyiv.

At Friday’s meeting, the United States accused Russia of “lying and spreading disinformation” as part of a potential false-flag operation — a scenario that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned last month could happen as Putin seeks to justify his violent attack on Ukraine. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Friday that the U.S. believes Russia could use chemical or biological agents.

The Pentagon said Friday it supports labs in Ukraine that are devoted to identifying and responding to biological threats. The labs are owned and operated by Ukraine. The work of the labs is not secret, and experts say they are not being used for bioweapons.

China, meanwhile, is amplifying the unsubstantiated and inflammatory claims.


Moscow is making more moves to restrict access to foreign social media platforms. On Friday, Russian’s communications and media regulator said it’s blocking access to Instagram because it’s being used to call for violence against Russian soldiers.

That comes after Facebook owner, Meta Platforms, which also owns Instagram, said it had “made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules on violent speech, such as ‘death to the Russian invaders’.” Meta’s statement stressed it would not allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.

Russia has already blocked access to Facebook and limited access to Twitter, but Twitter has launched a privacy-protected version of its site to bypass surveillance and censorship.

Meanwhile, YouTube started blocking global access to channels associated with Russian state-funded media, and said it is removing content about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that violates its policy about minimizing or trivializing “well-documented violent events.”

Meta has barred Russian state media from Instagram and Facebook.


U.S. President Joe Biden announced an agreement Friday with other nations to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status, which would allow for higher tariffs to be imposed on Russian imports.

The U.S. also banned imports of Russian seafood, alcohol and diamonds.

Western nations have been largely united in punishing Russia economically.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday the European Union will continue applying pressure to Moscow and consider all options for more sanctions if Putin intensifies bombing and lays siege to Kyiv.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war between Russia and Ukraine:

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armed conflict

US to send ammunition, tanker trucks to Ukraine

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President Joe Biden welcomes Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. A year ago, with Russian forces bearing down on Ukraine’s capital, Western leaders feared for the life of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the U.S. offered him an escape route. Zelenskyy declined, declaring his intent to stay and defend Ukraine’s independence. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

By Lolita C. Baldor And Matthew Lee in Washington

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is poised to announce that it will send Ukraine $350 million in weapons and equipment, U.S. officials said Monday, as fierce battles with Russian forcescontinue for control of the city of Bakhmut, and troops prepare for an expected spring offensive.

The latest package of aid includes a large amount of various types of ammunition, such as rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, and an undisclosed number of fuel tanker trucks and riverine boats, according to the officials. Officials said it will be announced later Monday.

It comes as Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow on Monday, giving a political lift to Russian President Vladimir Putin against the West just days after an international arrest warrant was issued for the Kremlin leader on war crimes charges related to Ukraine.

Officials said the American aid will be taken from Pentagon stocks through the presidential drawdown authority, so it will be able to be delivered quickly to the warfront. The U.S. has provided more than $32.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the aid package has not yet been publicly announced.

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armed conflict

UK: Russian advance in Bakhmut could come with heavy losses

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Ukrainian paratroopers of 80 Air Assault brigade rest inside a dugout at the frontline near Bakhmut, Ukraine, Friday, March 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

By Karl Ritter in Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces have made progress in their campaign to capture the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, the focus of the war’s longest ground battle, but their assault will be difficult to sustain without more significant personnel losses, British military officials said Saturday.

The U.K. Defense Ministry said in its latest assessment that paramilitary units from the Kremlin-controlled Wagner Group have seized most of eastern Bakhmut, with a river flowing through the city now marking the front line of the fighting.

The mining city is located in Donetsk province, one of four regions of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last year. Russia’s military opened the campaign to take control of Bakhmut in August, and both sides have experienced staggering casualties.

Ukrainian troops and supply lines remain vulnerable to “continued Russian attempts to outflank the defenders from the north and south” as the Wagner Group’s forces try to close in on them in a pincer movement, the U.K. ministry said.

However, the ministry added, it will be “highly challenging” for Wagner’s soldiers to push ahead because Ukraine has destroyed key bridges over the river, while Ukrainian sniper fire from fortified buildings further west has made the thin strip of open ground in the city’s center “a killing zone.”

Russian military bloggers and other pro-Kremlin Telegram accounts claimed Friday that Russian forces had entered a metal processing plant in northwestern Bakhmut. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, also referenced geolocated footage showing Russian forces within 800 meters of the AZOM plant, a heavily built-up and fortified complex.

The institute reported in its Friday night assessment that Moscow’s apparent focus on capturing the plant, rather than opting for a “wider encirclement of western Bakhmut” by attempting to take nearby villages, was likely to bring a further wave of Russian casualties.

Ukraine’s ground forces on Saturday signaled their intention to hold out in Bakhmut, announcing on Facebook that their top officer was personally overseeing “the most important sectors of the front” to deny Moscow a long-awaited battlefield victory.

The post did not clarify whether Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi was in Bakhmut at the time of the Facebook post, although he has made several visits to the city and other front-line hot spots in eastern Ukraine in the past month.

Meanwhile, repair work continued Saturday across Ukraine following a massive Russian missile and drone strike two days earlier that killed six people and left hundreds of thousands without heat or electricity.

Ukraine’s state grid operator said power supply issues persisted across four provinces following the barrage, in which 80 Russian missiles and a smaller number of exploding drones hit residential buildings and critical infrastructure across the country.

In a Facebook post, Ukrenergo said scheduled blackouts remain in place in Kharkiv and Zhytomyr, as well as parts of the Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv regions. The company added that the situation in Zhytomyr was especially challenging, with some customers still without power.

Russian shelling on Saturday set a car driving through the southern city of Kherson on fire, killing one person inside and wounding two others, regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said in a Telegram post.

Earlier, authorities had reported that Russian shelling between Friday morning and Saturday morning killed at least five people and wounded another 19 across Ukraine’s Kherson and Donetsk provinces.

Donetsk, where Bakhmut is located, has been the epicenter of the fighting in recent months, while Ukrainian-held parts of the Kherson region have seen daily shelling from Russian troops stationed across the Dnieper River.

Ukrainian defense chief Oleksiy Reznikov welcomed his Norwegian counterpart to Kyiv on Saturday. Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram announced Norway’s decision to earmark $7.5 billion over the next five years for weapons and other aid for Ukraine.

According to a readout of the meeting published by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Gram said the arms Norway planned to send included missile launchers and ammunition for NASAMS anti-aircraft systems.

Reznikov said that Ukrainian troops successfully operated some of the same weapons to shoot down the drones and missiles that Russia rained on Ukraine on Thursday.

“We know for sure that every 10 uses of the NASAMS system (…) mean downing 10 of the aggressor’s missiles, saving 10 buildings and infrastructure facilities, as well as hundreds of human lives,” he said.


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