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Russian forces are advancing within the fiercely contested eastern city of Bakhmut as Ukrainian forces try to repel ongoing attacks in nearby areas in the Donetsk region, according to the Ukrainian military's General Staff. Russian forces have also launched rocket attacks in the cities Chasiv Yar and Zaporizhzhia over the last 24 hours.
If you're just now catching up, here's what you should know:
Alleged Bryansk raid: Russian security officials claimed Thursday that a small Ukrainian armed group had crossed the Russian border into the southern Bryansk region, an accusation dismissed by a top Ukrainian official as a "classic deliberate provocation." President Vladimir Putin called the alleged raid a "terrorist act," blaming it on “neo-Nazis.” Russia's Federal Security Service said the situation in the settlements of the Klimovsky district of Russia's western Bryansk region is now under the control of law enforcement agencies, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
Support for Ukraine: The US announced three new partnerships Thursday in an effort to boost Ukraine's agricultural sector and help supply the country's grain to the world, USAID officials told CNN. And on Friday, the White House is set to announce another round of military assistance, which will "include mostly ammunitions and munitions that the Ukrainians will need for the systems that they already have, like the HIMARs and the artillery," according to National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby.
US-Russia meeting: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that he met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday and that he "urged Russia to reverse its irresponsible decision and return to implementing the New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.]"
Whelan update: Blinken said the US “put forward a serious proposal” to Moscow regarding jailed American citizen Paul Whelan. The former marine was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who alleged he was involved in an intelligence operation. He was convicted and sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years in prison in a trial US officials denounced as unfair.
There have been no signs of an explosion found at sites in the Russian city of Kolomna, according to Russian state-run media outlets.
"According to preliminary data, no signs of explosions were found in the Kolomna area," a representative of the region's emergency services told the state news agency RIA Novosti on Thursday.
Earlier, local authorities told RIA Novosti that an explosion had occurred in Kolomna Thursday evening, but could not provide further details.
The city of Kolomna is about 114 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Moscow.
The gas and electricity supply "in the urban district of Kolomna are working in normal mode, and there were no disruptions at energy and gas infrastructure facilities,” the Ministry of Energy of the Moscow region said, as cited by Russia state news agency TASS.
The White House will announce another round of military assistance for Ukraine on Friday, which is the same day that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet with President Joe Biden, according to National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby.
"The US will have another round of assistance for Ukraine coming tomorrow. And it will include mostly ammunitions and munitions that the Ukrainians will need for the systems that they already have, like the HIMARs and the artillery," Kirby told reporters at the White House.
Kirby declined to provide a dollar figure for Friday's announcement. He added that Biden and Scholz will discuss "additional support for Ukraine going forward."
The announcement comes just one week after the Biden administration announced another $2 billion in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds. That funding was for purchases and new contracts for equipment for Ukraine, including:
- HIMARS rockets
- 155m artillery ammunition
- multiple types of drones (UAVS)
- Counter UAV equipment
- Mine clearing equipment
- Secure communications equipment
- Funding for training and maintenance
Russian forces continue to press their offensive in the Bakhmut area as Ukrainian forces try to repel ongoing attacks near the key eastern town and nearby areas in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military's General Staff said in an evening update on Thursday.
"They are assaulting the town of Bakhmut," the General Staff said, echoing an earlier update suggesting Russian presence within the city and not just on the outskirts. CNN reported earlier Thursday that an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) also says Russian forces “advanced within Bakhmut and continued ground attacks around the city.”
Over the last 24 hours, Russian forces launched rocket attacks on the cities of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, located just five kilometers (about three miles) west of Bakhmut, and Zaporizhzhia, the General Staff said.
"The threat of further missile strikes remains high throughout Ukraine," the Ukrainian military said.
There were unsuccessful Russian offensive attempts in the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, it added.
In the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, Russian forces continue "to try to create conditions for an offensive" and have fired artillery at more than 40 settlement areas, it said.
Ukraine also responded with 13 strikes over the past day in areas where Russia has personnel and military equipment, the General Staff said, adding that the missile and artillery units hit one Russian ammunition depot.
“I was kept here for 11 days and throughout that time I heard screaming from the basement,” Ihor, who asked CNN not to reveal his last name for his protection, said. “I was stabbed in the legs with a taser, they use it as a welcome. One of them asked what I’d been brought in for and another two of them started hitting me in the ribs.
“People were tortured, they were beaten with sticks in the arms and legs, cattle prods, even hooked up to batteries and electrocuted or waterboarded with water,” he added.
Kherson was the first large city and only regional capital Russian troops were able to occupy since the start of the invasion. Moscow’s armies took over the city on March 2, 2022, and occupied it for several months before being forced to withdraw in early November, after a months-long offensive by Ukrainian forces.
The detention center Ihor was held in was part of a network of at least 20 facilities that Ukrainian and international lawyers said was part of a calculated Russian strategy to extinguish Ukrainian identity.
“These detention centers are linked, they follow a very similar, if not identical way of behaving,” Wayne Jordash, head of the Mobile Justice Team, a collective of international investigators supporting Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General, told CNN.
The investigation found that Russian forces followed a very specific blueprint in several occupied areas, with clear patterns that point to the overarching plan of Moscow’s occupation of Ukraine.
“The first stage, essentially, is to detain and, in many instances, kill a category of people labeled as ‘leaders,’ i.e. those who could physically resist the occupation, but also those who could culturally resist it,” Jordash said.
“The second stage is a sort of filtration process where the population that remains outside of the detention centers is subject to constant monitoring and filtration so that anyone who’s suspected of being involved with ‘leaders’ or been involved with organizing any type of resistance is also then identified and either deported to Russia or detained in the detention centers and tortured.”
Jordash said these methods were employed not just in Kherson but in other areas occupied by Russian forces, such as the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Borodianka. However, he added, the lengthy occupation of Kherson allowed Russian forces to go even further.
Ukrainian and International investigators also said they discovered financial links connecting these detention centers to the Russian state.
“Those detention centers have financial links to the Russian state,” Jordash said, citing documents uncovered by the investigators. “These financial documents, they show that the civilian administration is being financed from Russia and the civilian administration is financing the detention centers, so you have very clear patterns and very clear links.”
CNN has not been able to independently review the documents cited by the investigation.
Read more here.
The US is announcing three new partnerships Thursday in an effort to boost Ukraine's agricultural sector and help supply the country's grain to the world, USAID officials told CNN.
The announcement is part of a deliberate effort by the Biden administration to build up Ukraine's economy and alleviate the global food security crisis which has been exacerbated following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine is regarded as a key bread-basket for much of the world, and the country relies on agriculture to generates more than 40% of total export revenues. The country's economy shrank by more than 30% in 2022 after Russia's brutal invasion destroyed infrastructure, hurt businesses and disrupted daily life, according to Kyiv's economic ministry.
USAID's new partnerships with Grain Alliance, Kernel, and Nibulon are projected to increase Ukraine's grain shipping capacity by more than 3 million tons annually, the officials said. Each company has a long history of working in Ukraine.
Working together USAID and these organizations are planning to invest $44 million to support storage and infrastructure expansion in Ukraine's agriculture sector.
This comes after USAID has announced multiple different initiatives to support Ukraine's agriculture sector, including programs to specifically target Ukrainian farmers.
A Black Sea Grain deal has also enabled the passage of Ukrainian ships carrying the agriculture products to depart the country, which was a challenge in the early days of the war with Russia preventing the ships from leaving.
The new investments that USAID and its partners are announcing this week will target multiple terminals — Izmail and Reni in Ukraine, both on the Danube, and Čierna nad Tisou in Slovakia— where they expect to see an increase in grain exports. The operations will involve construction to renovate the areas where vessels are loaded.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, shared a video on Thursday, which he said shows Wagner fighters in the city of Bakhmut.
In the video, geolocated by CNN to the east of Bakhmut, uniformed men can be seen lifting a Wagner banner on the top of a heavily damaged building, with one of the men holding a guitar, presumably in reference to the private military group’s nickname, "the musicians."
In the caption of the video posted on Telegram, Prigozhin is quoted as saying the video was brought this morning "from Bakhmut, practically the center of the city.”
Despite Prigozhin’s claim that his fighters had advanced to the city center, CNN geolocated the video to around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the center of Bakhmut — Wagner fighters have been there for a while.
The town in the eastern Donetsk region has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in recent weeks.
Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of Ukraine’s Armed forces, told CNN on Wednesday that Russian forces were employing the more experienced fighters from Wagner’s ranks as they continued their assault on Bakhmut.
The situation in the settlements of the Klimovsky district of Russia's western Bryansk region is under the control of law enforcement agencies, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Wednesday, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
"The area is being checked and inspected, a large number of explosive devices of various types have been found, mine clearance is underway," claims an FSB statement, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
The governor of the Bryansk region, Alexander Bogomaz, said Wednesday on his Telegram channel that in the village of Lyubechan, two civilians were killed and a child was injured.
In the village of Sushany, also located in the Klimovsky district, Bogomaz said a residential building caught fire from a shell dropped from what he claimed was a Ukrainian drone, according to RIA Novosti.
CNN cannot independently verify those claims, and local media have not carried any images of the supposed incidents, any type of confrontation, or an alleged raid reported by Russian authorities.
Earlier today, Russian security officials alleged that a small Ukrainian armed group crossed the border into Russia's southern Bryansk region. Kyiv dismissed the claim as a "classic" Russian provocation. Then, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the developments, calling it a "terrorist act," but didn't specify if the group crossed the border from Ukraine.