The United States and top allies will ban the import of Russian oil and impose a new round of sanctions, world leaders said Sunday.
The moves, announced after a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are meant to further pressure Russia to end its war with Ukraine, which started Feb. 24. Only the U.S. had committed previously to a ban on importing Russian oil.
Following the G-7’s virtual meeting with Zelenskyy, the leaders’ released a statement condemning Russia’s actions and underscoring their commitment to helping Ukraine.
“Today, we, the G-7, reassured President Zelenskyy of our continued readiness to undertake further commitments to help Ukraine secure its free and democratic future, such that Ukraine can defend itself now and deter future acts of aggression,” the leaders said.
The announcement comes hours after first lady Jill Biden traveled to Ukraine to meet with Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine.
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►Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an unexpected visit to Ukraine on Sunday, stopping by the town of Irpin — which was heavily damaged by Russia’s attempt to take Kyiv at the start of the war — before meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
►Acting ambassador Kristina Kvien, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, has temporarily returned to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
►Almost 7,000 civilians have been killed or injured since the war in Ukraine started in February, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
►Ukrainian forces have been making gains against Russian troops and may be able to push them out of artillery range of Kharkiv in the coming days, the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment
The Russian airstrike that may have killed as many as 60 people sheltering in the basement of a school in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bilohorivka — one of the deadliest assaults against civilians in the war — is drawing widespread condemnation.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “appalled” by Saturday’s attack, which flattened much of the school and also ignited a fire.
Luhansk province Gov. Serhiy Haidai said emergency crews found two bodies and rescued 30 people. “Most likely, all 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
The act is part of a long list of war crimes Russia has committed, said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“We have called out the Russians very early on for committing war crimes, and this contributes to that,” she said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said the organization “strongly condemns yet another attack on a school in Ukraine” and reminded that “targeting civilians and civilian objects, including schools, is a violation of international humanitarian law.”
— Jorge L. Ortiz, Rebecca Morin
The new round of sanctions on Russia imposed by the G-7 nations – a group that comprises the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom – came on the eve of Russia’s celebration of Victory Day.
The May 9 holiday commemorates the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the Victory Day celebration to announce either a triumph in Ukraine or an escalation of the war.
Besides a commitment by the G-7 nations to boycott Russian oil – only the U.S. had taken that step on one of Russia’s top exports – the Biden administration will sanction three Russian TV stations.
A senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told reporters that U.S. advertising dollars, broadcast technology and equipment will no longer be available to those stations.
The U.S. will also impose new export controls and sanctions that will make it difficult for Russia to access wood products, industrial engines, boilers, motors, fans, ventilation equipment, bulldozers and many other items with industrial and commercial applications.
The White House will also prohibit individuals in the U.S. from providing accounting, trust and corporate formation and management consulting services to any person in Russia. The White House said those services are key to Russian companies and elites building wealth. Officials from several top banks in Russia will also be sanctioned.
— Rebecca Morin
First lady Jill Biden made an unannounced trip into Ukraine on Sunday, entering an active war zone where she met with her Ukrainian counterpart.
Biden met Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, during a visit to a public school in Uzhhorod, which is being used as temporary housing and shelter for 163 displaced Ukrainians, including 47 children.
This is the first time Zelenska has appeared in public since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24.
Zelenska thanked Biden for visiting “because we understand what it takes for the US first lady to come here during a war when the military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day, even today.”
“We all feel your support and we all feel the leadership of the U.S. president, but we would like to note that the Mother’s Day is a very symbolic day for us because we also feel your love and support during such an important day,” the Ukrainian first lady said.
Biden and Zelenska met privately for an hour. Biden spent a little less than two hours in Ukraine before crossing the border back into Slovakia.
— Rebecca Morin
Bono and The Edge of U2 performed Sunday in a Kyiv subway station at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the band said on Twitter.
Zelenskyy “invited us to perform in Kyiv as a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people and so that’s what we’ve come to do,” Bono and The Edge tweeted.
Video clips on social media show the Irish band members singing “With or Without You” and performing a twist on “Stand by Me” with Taras Topola, the frontman of a popular Ukrainian band, Antibody.
Later in the day, Bono visited the church grounds in Bucha – site of multiple alleged Russian atrocities – where a mass grave was discovered in March.
— Katie Wadington
Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., said Sunday that her country “will do everything possible on the battlefield, but also diplomatically, to restore our territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
Asked on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” about moves Russia has made to annex parts of eastern Ukraine, Markarova said she was “positive” the world would not recognize the Kremlin’s efforts to assert control there.
“We will never recognize it, the whole world will never recognize it,” she said.
The interview came the day before Russian President Vladimir Putin may officially announce his country is at war with Ukraine, allowing for the conscription of more troops.
“Well, that would be the first time when Putin will say the truth, that it is war and that he is in dire need of conscripting soldiers,” the ambassador said. “I hope that then it will be evident to all Russians what they are doing in Ukraine. That it’s an aggressive war. They attacked a neighboring country, a peaceful country. And the question is, are they prepared to have more tens of thousands dying in Ukraine for no reason at all?”
– Katie Wadington
In its invasion, Russia is invoking World War II and Nazism in an effort to smear Ukrainian leaders, including attacks on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently fanned those flames when he raised the unproven claim that Adolf Hitler had Jewish ancestry. Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, accused Russia of spreading anti-Semitic tropes.
“Right now, at times, Russian propaganda even equates Nazis and Western civilization,” said Anton Shirikov, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in propaganda and misinformation.
Russia’s propaganda machine is a “firehose of falsehood” whose primary target audience is the Russian public, said Christopher Paul, senior social scientist at the RAND Corp., a global policy think tank based in Santa Monica, California.
Read more here about the propaganda being used in war.
Now that evacuations have successfully removed all women, children and elderly people from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said another mission will attempt to rescue injured people and medics.
Zelenskyy added in his nightly video address to the nation late Saturday that an effort to also evacuate the Ukrainian soldiers still there, the “heroes who defended Mariupol,” would be “difficult.”
Iryna Vereshchuk, a deputy prime minister for Ukraine, announced Saturday that the evacuations of vulnerable citizens had taken place from the steel mill, where civilians and Ukrainian troops were the last holdouts from Russian forces. More than 300 people were evacuated in recent days, Zelenskyy said, after conditions in the underground bunkers increasingly worsened and Russia ramped up its shelling.
Russia held a dress rehearsal Saturday for the military parade to commemorate Victory Day on May 9, when the country marks the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II.
In Moscow on Saturday, an RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile rolled through Red Square as part of the rehearsal, warplanes and helicopters flew overhead, troops marched in formation and self-propelled artillery vehicles rumbled past.
Contributing: The Associated Press