(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:
Jul 27, 2:51 PM EDT
Blinken and Lavrov to discuss US proposal to free Griner and Whelan
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he plans to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the coming days, marking the first time the two leaders will speak since the war began.
Blinken said a critical topic of discussion would be securing the freedom of detained Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, revealing that the U.S. has already put forward a plan to accomplish that.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal, and I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally and I hope move us toward a resolution,” Blinken said.
“I can’t and won’t get into any of the details of what we’ve proposed to the Russians over the course of some many weeks now,” Blinken said.
Blinken said President Joe Biden played an active role in crafting the proposal for Griner and Whelan.
Blinken also stressed, “My call with Foreign Minister Lavrov will not be a negotiation about Ukraine,” adding, “Any negotiation regarding Ukraine is for its government and people to determine.”
-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford
Jul 27, 9:32 AM EDT
Ukraine strikes key bridge in Russia-held Kherson
Ukrainian forces struck a strategic bridge in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson early Wednesday, according to local officials.
High-precision missile strikes by the Ukrainian military damaged the Antonivskiy bridge, forcing the occupied authorities to close the structure to civilian traffic. The mile-long bridge across the Dnieper River is an essential artery used by Moscow to supply its troops occupying southern Ukraine.
“Strikes were delivered on the bridge, on its road. The bridge is currently closed to the civilian population,” Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Moscow-appointed administration for the Kherson region, told local media on Wednesday.
The bridge’s pillars and spans were still intact as of Wednesday morning, according to Stremousov.
“It is simply that the number of holes on the road has increased. The strike on the bridge has affected only the civilian population,” he added.
According to Stremousov, Ukrainian forces hit the bridge with High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) supplied by the United States. He said ferry crossings across the Dnieper River will be organized during the bridge’s restoration, and that traffic will resume in the near future.
“We have prepared a pontoon bridge. We have a ferry link,” he told local media.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian military officials said the number of Russian soldiers killed in the war has surpassed 40,000, just more than five months after Russia launched its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in late February.
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