As Thursday draws to a close in Kyiv and Moscow, here are the main developments of the day:
European Union leaders approved the candidacy of Ukraine join the bloc of 27 nations. Ukraine applied shortly after Russia invaded the country on February 24. “Our future is together,” tweeted European Council President Charles Michel. This first formal step towards membership, agreed at a summit in Brussels, will be followed by a long process to reach a final decision on Ukraine’s EU membership. This process should take years. EU leaders also endorsed Moldova’s application for membership.
The Pentagon announced a new $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including four additional high mobility artillery rocket systems. Ukraine sees the long-range weapon system as key to repelling Russian forces. This latest round of security aid comes on top of $1 billion in armaments recently announced by the White House.
The Russian army continues to attack the Ukrainian defenses in the east, pushing towards the eastern city of Lysychansk, according the UK Ministry of Defence. Ukrainian regional authorities carry out daily evacuation and humanitarian aid missions in the besieged city. There has also been an upsurge in attacks in the north, with local military officials reporting around 100 incidents of Russian shelling in the Sumy and Kharkiv regions and cross-border shelling in the Chernihiv region. Russia first attacked all of these places at the start of its invasion, before retreating at the end of March.
Ukraine has opened the preliminary hearings of its first try of a Russian soldier accused of rape during the invasionbut does not have the suspect in custody. Mikhail Romanov will stand trial in absentia for repeatedly raping a Ukrainian woman after he and another Russian soldier killed her husband in a village outside Kyiv in March. Reuters reports that prosecutors are investigating another 50 sexual violence cases reported since the war began in February. Experts say there are signs Russian forces have used rape as a weapon of war.
Nike officially leaves Russia, joining other big-name companies for doing so, including McDonald’s, Starbucks and Ikea. Last March, Nike announced that it would suspend operations in Russia. Now its Russian website says so and the mobile app will no longer be accessible in Russia, and Nike stores will not reopen. Nike previously said that Russia and Ukraine together accounted for less than 1% of its revenue, but even symbolically its departure from Russia marks the exit of one of the world’s biggest brands.
In an updated assessment, UNESCO has increased the number of Ukrainian heritage sites damaged in the war in 152. Of this total, almost half are religious buildings. The rest includes historic buildings, monuments, cultural centers, museums and libraries. Most of the damaged sites are located in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions. Ukraine is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but none have been damaged so far, according to UNESCO. The destruction of heritage sites is considered a war crime.
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