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Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin jointly wrote to congressional leaders urging them to pass supplemental appropriations for Ukraine by May 19 in order for the administration "to provide uninterrupted critical military support" to the Ukrainians.
"We are grateful for the robust support provided by Congress, but almost all of the $3.5 billion in drawdown authority Congress provided this year has been exhausted as we have surged security assistance to Ukraine, which they have used to great effect," the secretaries wrote in the letters, copies of which were obtained by CNN.
“And as of today, only $100 million remains in authority we can use for drawdown,” Blinken and Austin wrote. “We expect to exhaust that authority no later than May 19, 2022.”
“We will need additional appropriations by that date -- including authorizations for additional drawdowns -- if we are to continue our security assistance at the current pace,” they wrote.
“In short, we need your help,” the two cabinet secretaries wrote, explaining that “the ability to draw upon existing DoD stocks has been a critical tool in our efforts to support the Ukrainians in their fight against Russian aggression.”
Among those sent copies of the letter were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the heads of the Senate and House committees on appropriations and armed services.
Two Russian reporters appear to have posted at least 30 articles to a pro-Kremlin news site, lenta.ru, on Monday criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his government’s suppression of critics.
CNN reviewed the articles -- which were almost immediately taken down -- some pegged to the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany, others criticizing the Russian leader for using Victory Day to justify his bloody onslaught into Ukraine.
Reporters Egor Polyakov and Alexandra Miroshnikova made several claims in their articles, including that Russian defense officials were “lying to relatives” about those killed in the sinking of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva and accusing Putin of launching one of the "bloodiest wars of the 21st century."
"Putin and his circle are doomed to face a tribunal after the end of the war," Polyakov and Miroshnikova published on lenta.ru. "Putin and his associates won’t be able to justify themselves or flee after losing this war."
Polyakov and Miroshnikova are both business editors at lenta.ru, a major pro-Kremlin Russian news site. The outlet's parent company was recently bought by Russian Sberbank, which is subject to US sanctions for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
CNN reached out to the two reporters and lenta.ru for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
The Russian parliament passed a law in early March criminalizing what it considers to be falsehoods about Russia’s war in Ukraine. Breaking that law can result in a 1.5 million ruble (around $21,467) fine or up to 15 years in prison. Putin and state-owned media still refer to the full-scale ground war in Ukraine as a "special operation."
Independent Russian news site Mediazone published what it said was a statement from Polyakov and Miroshnikova after the articles appeared.
“Putin is a paranoid dictator,” they’re quoted as saying. “Putin must go. He started a senseless war and is leading Russia into a ditch.”
Polyakov and Miroshnikova not only publicly rejected the government line on the invasion but accused Putin of lying about his intentions in Ukraine from the outset.
Putin repeatedly lied about his plans for Russia in Ukraine, naming one goal at first then a completely different one."
They pointed to Putin’s call for a “liberation of Donbass,” “de-Nazification,” and the "demilitarization of Ukraine,” as examples of what they describe as hastily put together justifications for a needless war.
One of the articles in the duo’s Victory Day series focused on what they described as the Russian military lying to families of sailors who died on the Moskva flagship. CNN has previously reported on anxious Russian parents scrambling for information about the fate of sailors aboard the ship that was sunk by two Ukrainian missiles sunk last month.
The article claimed the Russian navy may have re-circulated old images of the Moskva’s crew to suggest more sailors made it off the ship unharmed than really did.
"The video of the Black Sea fleet leadership and crew members that the defense ministry circulated after the tragedy could’ve been archival since a relative of a missing crew member actually recognized him in the video itself."
CNN could not independently confirm these claims.
Each article on lenta.ru started with the same urgent plea under the headline.
Disclaimer: This material is not approved by the state, therefore the presidential administration will delete it... In other words: TAKE A SCREENSHOT URGENTLY before it’s deleted.”
The duo also appeared to sign off from lenta.ru saying, “We’re looking for work, lawyers and probably, political asylum!”
“Don’t be afraid, don’t be quiet," they continued in an apparent call to action. “Resist! You are not one, you are many! The future is yours!... Peace to Ukraine!"
Reporting critical of the government in Russian media is rare – especially since the war in Ukraine started in February. The last major journalistic show of dissent from state media was when long-time Russian TV editor Marina Ovsyannikova held up an anti-war sign during a live broadcast on Russia’s Channel 1 in March. She was arrested and fined 30,000 rubles.
Ovsyannikova is now reporting for a German-owned news outlet from Russia and Ukraine.
In the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson, nonstop shelling has reduced buildings to rubble. In nearby villages, the fields are covered in debris.
But many residents can't leave. Instead, they do their best to move forward, hiding in basement shelters when the shelling gets too close.
On the roads, men still sell cow's milk, and care for their livestock. But it's not so much that life goes on, said CNN's International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh — it's that life has nowhere else to go.
When asked about the possibility of leaving, one resident laughs. "I've got plans for tomorrow," she told Walsh. "Every day I go out, the goats are waiting for me. I'd sleep longer but there's shelling and the goats are asking for food."
Others feel they can't leave their homes while beloved children are on the front lines.
Another resident, Svetlana, said she was waiting for her son to return from the war in Mariupol.
Our children are all at war," she said. "My son is a prisoner. If he comes back and I have gone, it's like I have abandoned him."
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A shopping mall and two hotels were hit by Russian military strikes on Monday in the southern port city of Odesa.
Three Kinzhal missiles — Russia's new hypersonic missiles — were fired from a plane and hit a "tourist infrastructure target", said Sergey Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the Odesa regional military administration.
Two people were hospitalized from the missile strike, Bratchuk said. CNN could not confirm the injuries.
Bratchuk did not identify the target, but CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of two videos circulating on social media, which show significant damage at a hotel in the village of Zatoka. One of the videos was first published by the Odesa City Council.
This is the second hotel in the Odesa region that was targeted Monday. It’s unclear why the two hotels, or who may have been staying at them, were targeted.
A shopping mall was also hit by seven missiles, according to Ukraine's Armed Forces Southern Operational Command. Five people were wounded, and one person died in the strike, it said.
The House of Representatives will consider an additional $40 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine on Tuesday, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
On Monday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to "immediately" pass the Ukraine aid bill, warning for the first time that existing aid will run out in "approximately ten days."
"Get it to my desk in the next few days," Biden said in a statement.
Biden initially requested $33 billion, but Congress has proposed billions more for food aid and military equipment.
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It is “highly likely” that Finland will apply for membership in NATO, said the Finnish minister for European affairs.
Speaking to CNN on Monday, Tytti Tuppurainen said the decision has not yet been made, but called the nation’s likely membership “a very natural response” to Russia’s war in Ukraine. She added that if her country does indeed apply, she hopes “the ratification process would be as brief as possible.”
“We would, of course, prefer to have a neighborhood that would have been founded on friendship and cooperation,” she said. “But it is Russia that has distanced itself from the security order and it is Russia that has started war in Europe. It is Russia that has invaded in Ukraine. Now, people see this new reality and the time has come to join NATO.”
On Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is expected to give his personal opinion about whether to pursue NATO membership, which is expected to be followed by a statement by Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
Impending decision: Tuppurainen told CNN that most of the country’s political parties have already discussed the issue. The Social Democrats — Marin and Tuppurainen's party — will gather on Saturday to make their decision, which will be guided by Marin’s announcement.
“Now that the leader of the country is about to make the decision regarding the NATO application, we can say with good arguments that the whole country is ready for this,” Tuppurainen said, noting the strong public support in Finland for joining the defensive alliance.
Message to Moscow: Russia has warned it will respond if Finland – with which it shares a more than 800 mile border – joins NATO.
The Kremlin does not dictate our decisions,” Tuppurainen told CNN, adding it would be “in the best interest of Russia to behave like an adult in this situation.”
“We've seen now what kind of a country Russia is and what kind of a regime it has. It has a ruthless dictator as leader,” she said. “We are no longer under any kind of illusions what he's up to ... and we know now that he can wage a war that is as despicable and ruthless and brutal as one can imagine.”
Finland has been a longtime partner of NATO, something that US and NATO officials have pointed to in voicing support for the nation’s membership if it chooses to apply.
At a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Potomac, Maryland Monday, President Joe Biden told supporters Russian President Vladimir Putin thought he could break up NATO and the EU.
“I’m confident that Putin believed that he could break up NATO, that he believed he could break the European Union,” Biden said, according to a pool report from the event.
Biden also called the Russian president “very calculating” and expressed concern that Putin can’t find out a way out of the Ukraine war, according to the pool reporter — Biden’s remarks are off camera.
Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki hit Putin for his remarks at a Victory Day address from Moscow, telling reporters at the White House Putin’s claims NATO was “creating threats next to our border,” are “patently false and absurd.”
The Ukrainian military struck at least Russian one air defense system on Snake Island over the weekend, according to three US defense officials and a Ukrainian official.
The strike on the SA-15 short-range air defense system is in addition to strikes on a Russian helicopter and landing boat, a senior US defense official said.
"We think that there were at least three targets hit from airstrikes on Snake island," said the official in a briefing on Monday, "but as for overarching effect, I think we're still trying to figure all that out."
A satellite image from Sunday morning showed two columns of smoke rising from the island.
Another US official said it's unclear what strategic value the strikes had while noting that the island has a tremendous amount of symbolic importance for Ukraine. Shortly after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, Snake Island was where a Ukrainian soldier defiantly said over the radio, "Russian warship, go f*** yourself."
A Ukrainian source official said that two SA-15 systems had been hit, not one. It remains to be seen whether the air defense system was a target of opportunity or a concerted effort to go after Russian air defenses, which have limited the ability of Ukrainian's air force to fly.
Over the weekend, both Ukraine and Russia reported more combat in the Black Sea.
A Ukrainian official said Sunday that Ukrainian forces had destroyed a helicopter and several small ships.
The Russian Ministry of Defense Sunday gave a very different version of events. Major General Igor Konashenkov said that during Saturday night, two more Ukrainian Su-24 bombers and one Mi-24 helicopter of the Ukrainian Air Force were destroyed by Russian air defense systems over the island.