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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russia fires top commanders over Ukraine war failures

(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, attempting to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol to secure a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

May 19, 8:29 am
ICRC registers hundreds of prisoners of war from Mariupol steel plant

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it has registered hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war from a besieged steel plant in war-ravaged Mariupol this week, after the Ukrainian city fell into Russian hands.

A team from the ICRC began on Tuesday to register combatants leaving the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant, including the wounded, at the request of the parties to the conflict. The operation continued Wednesday and was still ongoing Thursday. The ICRC is not transporting prisoners of war to the places where they are held, according to a press release from the organization.

“The registration process that the ICRC facilitated involves the individual filling out a form with personal details like name, date of birth and closest relative,” the organization said. “This information allows the ICRC to track those who have been captured and help them keep in touch with their families.”

The ICRC noted that it “maintains a confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict on their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

“In accordance with the mandate given to the ICRC by States under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the ICRC must have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held,” the organization added. “The ICRC must be allowed to interview prisoners of war without witnesses, and the duration and frequency of these visits should not be unduly restricted. Whenever circumstances permit, each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to search for and collect the dead.”

For weeks, Ukrainian fighters and civilians were holed up inside Mariupol’s vast Azovstal plant as the remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s relentless bombardment of the strategic southeastern port city. Russia claimed Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Mariupol over the previous three days, while Ukraine confirmed Tuesday that more than 250 had yielded in the initial hours after it ordered them to do so.

Mariupol is the largest city that Russian forces have seized since launching an invasion of neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24. Its complete capture gives Russia total control of the coast of the Sea of Azov as well as a continuous stretch of territory along eastern and southern Ukraine.

May 19, 7:30 am
Russia has fired top commanders over Ukraine war failures, UK says

Russia has fired senior military commanders in recent weeks “who are considered to have performed poorly during the opening stages of its invasion of Ukraine,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Thursday in an intelligence update.

According to the ministry, Lt. Gen. Serhiy Kisel, who commanded Russia’s elite 1st Guards Tank Army, has been suspended for his failure to capture Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv. Vice Adm. Igor Osipov, who commanded Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has also likely been suspended following the sinking of the fleet’s flagship, Moskva, in April. Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov, the Russian military’s chief of the general staff, likely remains in his post, but it was unclear whether he retains the confidence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the ministry.

“A culture of cover-ups and scape-goating is probably prevalent within the Russian military and security system,” the ministry said. “Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s operational set-backs.”

“This will likely place further strain on Russia’s centralised model of command and control, as officers increasingly seek to defer key decisions to their superiors,” the ministry added. “It will be difficult for Russia to regain the initiative under these conditions.”

May 19, 6:30 am
Russia puts two Ukrainian commanders on wanted list

Russia has placed two Ukrainian commanders on a wanted list.

Serhiy Velychko and Kostiantyn Nemychev, commanders of the Azov Regiment, a far-right group now part of the Ukrainian military, have been added to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ database of wanted fugitives in connection with a criminal case.

According to the Russian Investigative Committee, Velychko and Nemychev are accused of attempted murder of at least eight Russian servicemen who sustained multiple injuries in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. Criminal charges were brought against the pair in absentia, and Russian authorities are working to track down and apprehend them.

May 18, 10:41 pm
Senate confirms new US ambassador to Ukraine

The Senate on Wednesday night unanimously confirmed the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, a career foreign service officer.

The vote took place on the same day the U.S. officially resumed operations at its embassy in Kyiv.

May 18, 3:46 pm
Google’s Russian business to file for for bankruptcy

Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy, a spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.

“We previously announced that we paused the vast majority of our commercial operations in Russia. The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” a Google spokesperson said.

Adding, “People in Russia rely on our services to access quality information and we’ll continue to keep free services such as Search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Android and Play available.”

-ABC News’ Rashid Haddou-Riffi

May 18, 3:34 pm
US, European allies ‘will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden,’ Biden adviser warns

U.S. and European allies “will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden” as their applications to join NATO are being considered, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Wednesday.

President Joe Biden said the U.S. would “remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression.”

Sullivan was asked to clarify if that meant the U.S. was extending NATO security protections to Finland and Sweden during this time, and he said Article 5 only kicks in when all 30 allies ratify the accession.

“But the United States, is prepared to send a very clear message, as are all of our European allies, that we will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden during this process, and there are practical measures that we can take along those lines that Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin will coordinate with his counterparts about Finland and Sweden,” Sullivan told reporters.

With Turkey opposed to this move, Sullivan told ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks that the White House is “confident at the end of the day” that Finland and Sweden “will have an effective and efficient accession process” and that “Turkey’s concerns can be addressed.”

Biden will host the leaders of Sweden and Finland at the White House Thursday.

“Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world’s most powerful defensive alliance, and they will bring with them strong capabilities and a proven track record as security partners and President Biden will have the opportunity to mark just what a historic and watershed moment this is when he meets with them tomorrow,” Sullivan said.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and MaryAlice Parks

May 18, 3:15 pm
Blinken meets with Turkish counterpart at UN ahead of NATO summit

Ahead of a meeting at the United Nations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday.

Blinken told reporters he was grateful for the solidarity Turkey has shown against Russian aggression.

While Cavusoglu said he would work with Blinken to “overcome the differences through dialogue and diplomacy,” he signaled that Turkey still had significant reservations about Sweden and Finland joining NATO, complicating their path to membership.

“Turkey has been supporting the open door policy of NATO even before this war, but with regards to these possible candidates—already candidate countries—we have also legitimate security concerns that they have been supporting terrorist organizations, and there are also export restrictions on defense products,” Cavusoglu said.

Then adding, “We understand their security concerns, but Turkey’s security concerns should be also met.”

Turkey has expressed concerns about Finland and Sweden joining NATO over the countries’ support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

May 18, 2:21 pm
Russian offensive effort shrinking, incremental progress toward Black Sea: Pentagon

Russian offensive operations in Donbas are becoming more modest, shrinking both in size and scale, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

The Russians are making little progress so far in Donbas, with lots of back-and-fourth between both sides, according to the official.

“We see them hew very closely to their doctrine of artillery fire then a font of frontal attack by formations that are small, and in some cases, not fully resourced, fully manned, fully strong. And they get rebuffed by the Ukrainians,” the official said.

Russian forces are also still suffering from poor communication between commanders and are having other coordination issues, according to the official.

To the northeast of Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces continue to push Russian troops back toward their border, according to the official.

Russian forces are making some progress pushing closer toward the Black Sea from between Kherson and Mykolayiv, according to the official. The official said it is not clear what the intent is for this line of advance, but the U.S. sees no signs of an imminent naval assault at this time.

The U.S. believes Russia is “certainly trying” to disrupt to flow of military aid moving through Ukraine, but there have been no indications that it has had any success, according to the official.

Three of the eleven Mi-17 helicopters, more than 200 of the 300 Switchblade drones and nearly 10 Phoenix Ghost drones that the U.S. has promised Ukraine have been delivered, according to the official. The Ukrainians have told the Pentagon that 79 of the 90 U.S. howitzers that were delivered are now being used in combat.

-ABC News’ Matt Seyler

May 18, 9:53 am
Finland, Sweden formally submit applications to join NATO

Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications to join NATO to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday morning at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.

Stoltenberg welcomed the requests, saying, “This is a good day, at a critical moment for our security,” according to NATO.

“Every nation has the right to choose its own path. You have both made your choice, after thorough democratic processes. And I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

Adding, “You are our closest partners. And your membership in NATO would increase our shared security.”

May 18, 9:25 am
Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing civilian

Russian Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin pleaded guilty Wednesday to shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man on Feb. 28. The guilty plea carries a life sentence.

It’s the first trial Ukraine has conducted for an act that could be considered a war crime.

Asked by the presiding judge whether he accepted his guilt, Shyshimarin said: “Yes. Fully yes.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov dismissed the proceedings on Wednesday, telling reporters that accusations leveled against Russian soldiers by Ukraine were “simply fake or staged.”

May 17, 6:26 pm
State Department ‘confident’ in NATO expansion

As Turkey becomes more vocal about its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, the State Department said it is still assured of the alliance’s unified support for the two prospective members.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a briefing Tuesday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken came away from meetings with NATO allies with a “sense of confidence there was strong consensus for admitting Finland and Sweden into the alliance if they so choose to join, and we’re confident we’ll be able to preserve that consensus.”

Price said that assessment came from what Blinken heard in conversations behind closed doors.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has publicly said that both candidates are untrustworthy because he perceives them as being supportive of groups Ankara views as extremist.

There is speculation that Turkey’s opposition is an attempt to leverage the moment to achieve its own policy goals or concessions from the U.S. Price said Tuesday that Turkey has not made any specific requests.

Price confirmed that Blinken will meet with his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the U.N. on Wednesday, adding that “other conversations are ongoing between and among current NATO allies and potential aspirant countries.”

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

May 17, 2:22 pm
Finland, Sweden to jointly submit applications for NATO membership on Wednesday

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s office announced Sweden and Finland will jointly submit an application for NATO membership on Wednesday, after she met with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Stockholm.

“It is a message of strength and a clear signal that we stand united going into the future,” Andersson said in a joint press conference with the Finnish president.

The two leaders are set to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday.

The two countries have stepped away from nonalignment in the wake of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, and fears for their own security.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

May 17, 2:11 pm
ICC sends 42 investigators to Ukraine

The International Criminal Court deployed a team of 42 investigators forensic and support personnel to Ukraine to advance investigations into crimes falling under ICC jurisdiction and provide support to Ukrainian authorities.

“This represents the largest ever single field deployment by my office since its establishment,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said Tuesday.

Khan said 21 countries have offered to send national experts to his office and 20 states have committed to provide financial contributions.

“I look forward to working with all actors, including survivor groups, national authorities, civil society organisations and international partners, in order to accelerate this collective work moving forward,” Khan said.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

May 17, 1:33 pm
US commerce secretary says export controls on Russia are working

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters Tuesday that the export controls the U.S. and other countries have put on Russia are working, including compliance from China.

“These export controls are having a strong and significant effect,” Raimondo said Tuesday.

Raimondo returned from Paris where she co-chaired the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Ministerial Meeting. She said there was consensus and partnership amongst countries with respect to cutting off Russia’s access to “critical technologies.”

“We’ve had extensive discussions on export controls,” she said.

The Commerce Department and 37 other countries have limited semiconductor chips that can be exported to Russia, which help not only everyday Russian carmakers, but the Russian military build and use military equipment.

“You’ve all heard the anecdotal stories of Russia’s inability to continue to produce tanks and auto companies shutting down but overall U.S. exports to Russia have decreased over 80%, between February and a week ago,” she said. “So we essentially stopped sending high tech to Russia, which is what they need for their military.”

Even China, Raimondo said, stopped shipping tech products such as laptops to Russia by 40% compared to a year ago.

Asked whether she trusts the Chinese data, Raimondo said it is “consistent” with what the Ukrainians are seeing on the ground.

“We are not seeing systematic efforts by China to go around our export controls,” she said. “So yes, I think this is probably quite accurate.”

-ABC News’ Luke Barr

May 17, 9:20 am
Biden to meet with leaders of Sweden, Finland as they seek to join NATO

President Joe Biden will host Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at the White House on Thursday as the two countries seek to join NATO, the White House announced Tuesday.

The three leaders will “discuss Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications and European security,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

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