(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Jun 29, 9:15 am
Finland, Sweden invited to join NATO
The leaders of NATO countries have invited Sweden and Finland to join NATO, they announced at the Madrid summit.
NATO leaders in their declaration called Russia “the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.”
Jun 29, 8:28 am
NATO to identify Russia as its ‘main threat,’ Spanish PM says
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who is hosting a NATO summit in Madrid, said Russia will be identified as the alliance’s “main threat” in its new strategic concept unveiled during the summit.
“The strategic concept of Madrid will be naming Russia as the main threat of the allies,” Sánchez told Spanish media on Wednesday. NATO previously considered Russia a strategic partner.
Sánchez stressed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was the only person “responsible for this substantive change.”
During a speech at the NATO summit on Wednesday, the Spanish Prime Minister said the summit carried a clear signal for Putin.
“We are sending a strong message to Putin: ‘You will not win,’” Sánchez said.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Facebook on Tuesday that thousands of Ukrainian soldiers had mastered the use of weapons supplied by Western countries, while other troops are in ongoing training.
Reznikov said Ukrainian specialists were training on aviation and other types of high-tech weaponry, including artillery systems and means of reconnaissance.
“We are learning at a fast pace,” the defense minister added. “Any weapon in the hands of the [Ukrainian] Armed Forces becomes even more effective.”
In his speech at the NATO summit on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated his plea for more weapons supplies, highlighting Ukraine’s need for more modern artillery systems.
To break Russia’s artillery advantage, Ukraine needs “much more modern systems, modern artillery,” Zelenskyy said.
-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Max Uzol and Yuriy Zaliznyak
Jun 29, 7:39 am
Missile strike on mall may have been mistake
Russia’s recent missile strike on a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, which killed at least 20 people, may have been “intended to hit a nearby infrastructure target,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Wednesday in an intelligence update.
The ministry called it “a realistic possibility” and noted that “Russia’s inaccuracy in conducting long range strikes has previously resulted in mass civilian casualty incidents, including at Kramatorsk railway station” on April 9.
“Russian planners highly likely remain willing to accept a high level of collateral damage when they perceive military necessity in striking a target,” the ministry said. “It is almost certain that Russia will continue to conduct strikes in an effort to interdict the resupplying of Ukrainian frontline forces.”
“Russia’s shortage of more modern precision strike weapons and the professional shortcomings of their targeting planners will highly likely result in further civilian casualties,” the ministry warned.
Jun 28, 4:51 pm
20 dead, 40 still missing from mall strike
Twenty people are dead and 59 are wounded from Russia’s missile strike on Monday at a mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, according to Kyrilo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.
Forty people remain missing, Tymoshenko said.
“Several fragments of bodies have been found ripped off limbs and feet of the people,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the United Nations Security Council.
He said if Russia denies the devastation was wrought by one of its missiles, he asked the U.N. send an independent representative to the site of the attack to verify for itself.
First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the U.N., Dmitry Polyanskiy, flatly denied carrying out strikes against any civilian target.
-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford, Oleksii Pshemysko and Fidel Pavlenko
Jun 28, 12:58 pm
Sean Penn meets with Zelenskyy
Sean Penn met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Tuesday after the actor arrived in Ukraine to shoot a documentary, according to Zelenskyy’s office.
Penn, who first came to Ukraine on the day Russia invaded in February, wants to “visit settlements in Ukraine affected by Russian aggression,” according to Zelenskyy’s office.
Jun 28, 4:13 pm
Biden: Ukraine ‘standing up’ to Putin ‘in ways that I don’t think anyone anticipated’
President Joe Biden and Spanish President Pedro Sanchez delivered remarks Tuesday on new areas of cooperation between the two countries and efforts to keep supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
Biden did not mention Monday’s strike on the Ukraine mall that killed 18, but said the invasion has “shattered peace in Europe and every norm since WWII.”
Biden said he and Sanchez discussed the need to continue to provide weapons to Ukraine.
The Ukrainians “are standing up in ways that I don’t think anyone anticipated, showing enormous bravery, enormous resolve,” Biden said.
He said he believes Putin’s objective is to “wipe out the culture of Ukraine.”
Biden said NATO allies will be “standing as one” to support Ukraine and teased more military posture commitments in Europe. Biden said the U.S. and Spain are working on an agreement to increase the number of Navy destroyers stationed at Rota Naval Base in Spain.
-ABC News’ Justin Ryan Gomez
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