Russian attacks in Donbas are 'hell,' Zelenskyy says, as fighting remains intense in eastern Ukraine: Live updates

  • In Politics
  • 2022-05-20 11:23:38Z

Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine have intensified with the bombing of houses and other civilian building, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Thursday, calling the situation in the Donbas region "hell."

"This is a deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible," Zelenskyy said. He also warned of "constant strikes" in the Odesa region and central Ukrainian cities and added, "Donbas is completely destroyed."

In Severodonetsk, 12 people were killed and dozens were wounded in attacks Zelenskyy said were "pointless."

"All this doesn't and cannot have any military explanation for Russia," he added.

Meanwhile, British defense intelligence update said an unknown number of Ukrainian troops remain in the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol. Once Russians have fully seized the city, their troops are likely to redeploy to reinforce the fighting in the Donbas, which can be a "lengthy process," the British Defense Ministry said.

Latest developments:

The Group of Seven countries are set to agree to more than $18 billion in aid for Ukrainian defense, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said Friday.

►The Senate approved more than $40 billion of additional humanitarian and military assistance for Ukraine on Thursday, sending the bill to President Joe Biden's desk.

War in Ukraine is driving sex trafficking of women and children

Human trafficking, often in the form of commercially exploiting women and children for sex, is one of the largely hidden tragedies of Russia's war in Ukraine, authorities and experts told USA TODAY.

The scope of the problem is unknown, in part due to the clandestine nature of sex trafficking and the unprecedented flow of people from Ukraine to as far away as Asia and the United States. But there has been a skyrocketing increase in all forms of illegal trafficking of women and girls in the region - and also boys - including forced sex and labor, prostitution, pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation, authorities and experts said.

"Collectively, the international community is starting to see indications that traffickers are preying on or attempting to prey on Ukrainians, and others that are fleeing Russia's war on Ukraine," Kari Johnstone, the State Department's top anti-human trafficking official, said in an exclusive interview. Read more here.

- Josh Meyer

Humanitarian organizations fear retribution against Ukrainian POWs

More than 1,700 Ukrainian troops have surrendered in recent days after weeks of defending the port city of Mariupol, Russian authorities said, with some taken to areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Now, some are voicing fears that Russians may inflict retribution on the troops.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is trying to register the Ukrainian troops as prisoners of war, gathering personal information from hundreds of soldiers, as part of its role in ensuring the humane treatment of POWs under the Geneva Conventions.

Amnesty International said in a tweet that the Ukrainian soldiers are now prisoners of war and as such "must not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment."

Ukrainian officials have expressed hope for a prisoner exchange, but Russian authorities have threatened to investigate and put on trial some of the soldiers for war crimes, calling them Nazis and criminals.

US accuses Russia of weaponizing food; holding grain hostage from millions

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that Russia is weaponizing food "to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people."

Blinken told the U.N. Security Council that the war has halted maritime trade in large areas of the Black Sea, creating dangerous navigation and trapping Ukrainian agricultural exports.

Ukraine and Russia provide about 30% of the world's wheat and barley, one-fifth of its maize, and more than half of its sunflower oil.

Russian naval operations have attempted to block Ukrainian ports which the United States assesses to be "a deliberate effort" to block safe passage and shut down shipping, he said.

The executive director of the U.N.'s World Food Program, David Beasley, said the growing worldwide hunger as a result of the war will add at least 47 million people to the 276 million "marching to starvation" even before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine live updates: US accuses Russia of weaponizing food during war


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