Ukraine: Zelenskyy calls for Russia to be deemed a state sponsor of terrorism after attack

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for Russia to be recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism, citing the “deliberate mass murder” of Ukrainian war prisoners via shelling in the separatist eastern region of Donetsk.

“Russia has proven with numerous terrorist attacks that it is the biggest source of terrorism in today’s world,” Zelenskyy wrote on his official Telegram.

Though the Senate on Wednesday passed a non-binding resolution urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to label Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, he has not taken that step.

Asked about the matter this week, Blinken said sanctions against Russia were in line with what would follow from designating it as a sponsor of terrorism.

“So the practical effects of what we’re doing are the same,” Blinken said.

The Ukrainian president’s calls come after dozens of Ukrainians held as prisoners of war were reportedly killed in a missile strike Friday — an attack for which Russia and Ukraine blame each other. 

Russia and Ukraine each launched criminal investigations after accusing the other of the attack. Separatist authorities and Russian officials said at least 53 people were killed and 75 injured in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Donetsk People’s Republic. The prisoners were captured after Mariupol fell in May.

Neither country’s claims about the attack could be independently verified.

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Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank, on a road in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state-controlled RT television and the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia has expanded its "special military operation" to include the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and other captured territories.

Latest developments:

►Russia launched nighttime attacks on several cities in Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said Saturday as they and officials in Moscow blamed each other for the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in a separatist-controlled area of the country’s east. Separatist authorities and Russian officials said the attack killed 53 Ukrainian POWs and wounded another 75.

►The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has organized civilian evacuations in the war and worked to monitor the treatment of prisoners of war held by Russia and Ukraine, said it has requested access to the prison attacked overnight “to determine the health and condition of all the people present on-site at the time of the attack.”

U.S. ambassador: Russia wants to ‘dissolve’ Ukraine from world map

UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Friday there should no longer be any doubt that Russia intends to dismantle Ukraine “and dissolve it from the world map entirely.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the U.N. Security Council that the United States is seeing growing signs that Russia is laying the groundwork to attempt to annex all of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, including by installing “illegitimate proxy officials in Russian-held areas, with the goal of holding sham referenda or decree to join Russia.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “has even stated that this is Russia’s war aim,” she said.

Lavrov told an Arab summit in Cairo on Sunday that Moscow’s overarching goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptable regime.”

Spartz asks U.N. to halt Ukraine-Russia grain deal, citing security concerns

In a letter to the United Nations, U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., on Friday called for the grain deal negotiated by the group to be halted until “better security arrangements” can be put in place for Ukraine. 

“I am very disappointed with the lack of active U.N. leadership to stabilize the situation in Ukraine,” Spartz wrote in the letter, which she sent to all other members of Congress and several top U.S. officials. “The recent ‘grain deal’ is the latest failure.”

Spartz, who is the first and only Ukraine-born House member, cited a July 23 Russian attack on a Ukrainian grain port, which took place just hours after a deal had been struck with the nations to restart exports. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry denounced the strike as a “spit in the face” to Turkey and the United Nations, which brokered the agreements. 

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Russia ‘running out of steam,’ UK spy chief says

The head of Britain’s spy agency wrote in a brief post on social media Saturday that Russian forces are “running out of steam.”

Richard Moore, chief of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence agency, quote-tweeted a post by the U.K. Ministry of Defense which said that Russia has “lost tens of thousands of soldiers and is using Soviet-era weapons.” An attached video shows destruction in Ukraine and text describing Russia’s purported failures. 

“The Kremlin is growing desperate,” the defense ministry’s post reads.

Fact check: Trump, Putin didn’t have recent meeting in Washington, D.C.

Former President Donald Trump returned to Washington, D.C., in late July, making his first appearance in the nation’s capital since leaving office in 2021. A Facebook post claimed Trump had a high-profile meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his brief visit.

But that’s not true. 

Putin’s last known trip to the U.S. was in 2015, when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Treasury Department in February announced sanctions against Putin, including blocking any of his U.S. “property and interests in property.” 

According to the Kremlin’s website, Putin’s most recent foreign visit was to Iran on July 19. It was his first trip abroad since the invasion of Ukraine, CNN reported

Contributing: Associated Press