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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his wife’s address Wednesday to the US Congress is an honor for Ukraine.
“It was the first time in history that the First Lady made such an address to the Congress, and it is certainly an honor for Ukraine, for all our people,” Zelensky said in his nightly address to Ukrainians.
“The speech was as practical and sincere as possible — actually on behalf of all our families,” the Ukrainian president added. “Olena spoke about the victims of Russian terror and about the real opportunity for our American friends to help us stop this terror. This can be our joint victory — of the Ukrainian and American nations.”
Zelensky concluded by saying he hoped the speech would heed results, referencing the requests he and the first lady made for the United States and NATO to provide Ukraine with air defense systems.
“A completely different speed and scale of protection is required. But everything depends, unfortunately, not on us, but on political decisions that can be made in key capitals,” he explained. “And that is why this topic of air defense became key today in the speech of the first lady of Ukraine in the Congress of the United States of America.”
“I am hopeful that the answers to our requests will be provided shortly. Russian terror must lose,” he added.
Zelensky went on to address the current crisis in European energy markets, saying that to reduce the burden on European families, Ukraine must be able to defeat Russia.
“Russia is testing in Ukraine everything that can be used against other European countries. It started with gas wars and ended with a full-scale invasion, missile terror and burned cities of Ukraine,” he said. “And so that this does not happen to anyone else, we must ensure a tangible joint victory over Russia in Ukraine.”
The US House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would require the intelligence community to establish a central coordinator responsible for tracking and cataloging Russian war crimes in Ukraine, among other provisions related to the ongoing war.
The annual intelligence authorization bill — large portions of which are classified — would also require the intelligence community to submit a report every 180 days documenting any Chinese support for Russia’s war effort, including any efforts to help Russia evade western sanctions. It would also require the intelligence community to assess the impact of American sanctions.
“The world we live in today is vastly different than the one we knew just a year ago,” committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat of California, said in a statement. “Russia is waging a bloody and unprovoked war on Ukraine. China's malign global influence is rising. And human rights across the globe continue to come under attack."
The legislation passed out of committee on a bipartisan basis. It must still pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by US President Joe Biden before becoming law. The Senate Intelligence Committee advanced its version of the legislation last week.
The bill also homes in on US national security concerns beyond the war in Ukraine. It would demand the creation of a coordinator to lead intelligence community efforts to track and counter the development and proliferation of Iranian-made drones, among other provisions.
It would require the Defense Intelligence Agency to produce a report on the impact and utility of drone strikes outside of war zones over the last five years — in part to understand whether or not the policy of taking out senior leaders of terror organizations has the strategic impact of undermining the group itself, according to a committee aide. The provision was also “designed to determine whether or not sufficient intelligence was produced before and after such strikes to inform policy and operational decisions,” according to a release.
And it would direct the General Administration Office to study historical classified information to help unravel the mystery surrounding so-called “UAPs” — unidentified aerial phenomena.
The Donbas region of Ukraine has not been “lost yet” to Russian forces, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said during a press conference at the Pentagon after a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group.
“The bottom line is the cost is very high, the gains are very low, there is a grinding war of attrition that is occurring in the Luhansk, Donbas region,” Milley said. “To answer your question about 'is the Donbas lost?' No, it's not lost yet. The Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain,” he said Wednesday.
The change in territory between Ukrainian forces and Russian forces in the Donbas region “are measured in literally hundreds of meters. Some days you might get a kilometer or two out of the Russians but not much more than that,” Milley added.
After the 90-day campaign Russia has made to focus on conquering the Donbas region, Russian forces have gained "very, very little" ground, he told reporters. However, he noted that the war is very intense.
“It’s very intense, a lot of violence — tens of thousands of artillery rounds every 24 hour period, lots of casualties on both sides, lots of destruction of villages, and so on," he said.
As the war in Ukraine approaches its fifth month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state media that the "geography is different."
"It is far from being only DPR (Donetsk People's Republic) and LPR (Luhansk People's Republic) — it is also Kherson Region, Zaporizhzhia Region and a number of other territories. And this process continues, it continues steadily and persistently," Lavrov said during an interview with RIA Novosti, published Wednesday.
Lavrov's remarks signal the Kremlin's refocused approach to the war in Ukraine.
Just three months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted military efforts onto the country's east after failing to capture Kyiv.
Earlier this month, Russian forces followed through with Putin's order and captured Lysychansk, the last city in Luhansk region still in Ukrainian hands. Their next move was anticipated to be in the neighboring region of Donetsk.
If Donetsk were to fall, Moscow would overrun the entire Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which has harbored Russian-backed separatist factions since 2014.
However, recently supplied US weapons systems worth $400 million have bolstered the Ukrainian military's ability to strike down Russian targets — a significant factor that has caused fresh problems for Moscow.
Lavrov pointed out that as the West continues to supply Ukraine with more long-range weaponry, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Russia's geographical objectives in Ukraine would move further away from the current line.
"We cannot allow any weapons in the part of Ukraine controlled by Zelensky — or whoever will replace him — that pose a direct threat to our territory or the territory of the republics that declared independence or those that wish to determine their future independently," Lavrov said.
"The President was very clear, as you quoted: denazification and demilitarization in the sense that there should be no threat to our security, no military threat from Ukraine's territory, and this objective remains," Lavrov added.
CNN's Rob Picheta, Tim Lister and Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.
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Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska asked the United States to send air defense systems to her country in an address to lawmakers in the US Congress on Wednesday in Washington, DC.
“Unfortunately the war is not over, the terror continues and I appeal to all of you, on behalf of those who were killed, on behalf of those people who lost their arms and legs, on behalf of those who are still alive and well, and those who wait for their families to come back from the front. I’m asking for something I would never want to ask, I am asking for weapons,” she told lawmakers.
“Weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land but to protect one’s home and the right to wake up alive in that home. I’m asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill children in their strollers,” Zelenska continued.
The Ukrainian first lady went on to say that she, like many Ukrainian mothers, craves a sense of normality and wishes they could give their children hope in the future.
“Will my son be able to return to his school in the fall, I don’t know, like millions of mothers in Ukraine. Will my daughter be able to go to university at the beginning of the academic year and experience normal student life? I cannot answer,” she said.
“We would have answers if we had air defense systems,” Zelenska added.
Zelenska also thanked the United States for all the aid the country had already sent to Ukraine.
“The American people and American families, Congress and President Biden have already done a lot to help us to stand up to the enemy and protect millions of Ukrainians. We are grateful – really grateful – that the United States stands with us in this fight for our shared values of human life and independence,” she said.
“While Russia kills, America saves and you should know about it, we thank you for that,” Zelenska added.
The Ukrainian first lady met privately with US first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Tuesday. According to the White House, the first ladies were set to "discuss the United States’ continued support for the government of Ukraine and its people as they defend their democracy and cope with the significant human impacts of Russia’s war, which will be felt for years to come.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he told his Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that he does not support Brasília’s “position of neutrality” on the war in Ukraine.
Zelensky told Bolsonaro that he wanted "support" from Brazil, according to a clip of his interview with Brazil’s GloboNews news channel, which Zelensky posted on his Telegram channel.
The Ukrainian president had previously tweeted about his call with Bolsonaro on Monday, although it is unclear when the conversation took place.
“You can't be somewhere in the middle… I do not support such position. I told the President about it,” he added.
Since the start of the invasion, Bolsonaro has avoided condemning or sanctioning Russia.
“The President of Brazil told me that he supports Ukraine, its sovereignty, but Brazil takes a position of neutrality," Zelensky added.
The United States will send four more high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine in the next package of security assistance, which will be officially announced later this week, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Wednesday.
“Later this week, we’ll roll out our next presidential drawdown package of weapons, ammunition and equipment for Ukraine. It will be our 16th drawdown of equipment from DoD inventory since August 2021. It will include four more HIMARS, advanced rocket systems, which the Ukrainians have been using so effectively and which have made such a difference on the battlefield,” Austin said during opening remarks ahead of the fourth meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group held virtually Wednesday.
The next security assistance package will also include “more rounds of MLRS and artillery ammunition,” Austin said in his remarks at the Pentagon.
He reflected on how the Ukraine Contact Group — made up of more than 40 participating countries — has sent security assistance to Ukraine since their in-person meeting last month in Brussels, Belgium, on June 15, saying the US has “committed more than $2.6 billion dollars in security assistance to Ukraine."
“More than 30 countries have now sent lethal military assistance to Ukraine in its hour of crisis, and we continue to make important headway,” he added.
The European Commission on Wednesday laid out its plan to reduce gas use in Europe by 15%, as it attempts to strengthen the EU’s energy resilience amid tensions with key supplier Russia.
Announcing the “Save Gas for a Safe Winter” package, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said 12 member states had been hit by either a partial or total cut off from Russian gas supply.
Von der Leyen warned that a total shut off of Russian gas was a "likely scenario."
“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon” she said.
The package proposes a target for all member states to reduce gas demand by 15% between August 2022 and March 2023. Member states have until September to show how they will be able to meet that target.
In a statement on the package, the Commission said there will be measures to help EU member countries meet the necessary reductions, including a “focus on substitution of gas with other fuels, and overall energy savings in all sectors.”
The Commission also urged member states to launch public awareness campaigns “to promote the reduction of heating and cooling on a broad scale.”
The measures come just one day before officials worry Gazprom, Russia's state gas company, may refuse to re-start deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Nord Stream 1 has been shut over the past 10 days for routine maintenance.
The pipeline is a vital artery linking Russia's vast gas reserves to the continent via Germany. It delivers 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year, or nearly 40% of the bloc's total pipeline imports from Russia.
Last month, Gazprom cut flows through the pipeline by 60%, blaming the West's decision to withhold vital turbines because of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Those turbines have since been allowed to travel to Germany from Canada, where they were being repaired, under a sanctions waiver, the Canadian government said last week.
But Russia could still decide to keep the taps turned off. It stopped delivering gas to several European countries and energy companies because they refused Moscow's demands for payments in rubles -- a move that would have put them in breach of European sanctions.
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