Allies' supply of F-16 jets is a signal that Russia will lose, Zelensky says
From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Hira Humayun
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the planned supply of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine is “one of the strongest signals from the world that Russia will only lose."
Speaking during his nightly address, Zelensky referenced an international coalition with the UK and the Netherlands. Both countries said in early May that they are working to help Ukraine procure US-made F-16 fighter jets.
President Joe Biden later said the US will support a joint effort with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation aircrafts, including F-16s.
On Wednesday, Norway said it would support the training and will consider different ways to do so.
“This will be a signal that Russian terror has lost, and our world, which is based on respect for independent nations and the right of peoples to choose their own path, has survived,” Zelensky said.
Ukraine will prepare all the necessary conditions to make sure the air transition takes place as quickly and efficiently as possible, the president added.
5 foreign fighters to be tried in absentia in Russia for involvement in Ukraine, state media says
From CNN’s Florence Davey-Attlee, Josh Pennington, Sugam Pokharel and Jessie Gretener
Five foreigners who fought for Ukraine are to stand trial in absentia in Russia, according to state media.
They will stand trial at a court in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on May 31 at 10 a.m. local time, according to RIA Novosti, citing the court’s press service.
The group all fought for Ukraine in the defense of the southern city of Mariupol.
Swedish citizen Matthias Gustavsson, Croatian citizen Vekoslav Prebeg, and British citizen John Harding have been charged with “forcible seizure or forcible retention of power” and “mercenary participation in an armed conflict or hostilities.”
Another two British citizens, Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy, were charged with "participating as a mercenary in armed conflict or hostilities" and "aiding and abetting in the recruitment of mercenaries for use in armed conflict,” respectively.
The three British citizens — Harding, Hill and Healy — were all released as part of a prisoner swap in September 2022, according to the UK government.
CNN has contacted the governments of the UK, Sweden and Croatia for a response.
CNN's Mick Krever, Arnaud Siad, Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych contributed to this report.
Biden administration approves $285 million sale of air defense system to Ukraine
From CNN's Oren Liebermann
The Biden administration approved the $285 million sale of a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System to Ukraine, the US State Department announced.
NASAMS is an advanced medium-range air defense system that Ukraine has used effectively to repel and intercept Russian aerial attacks. Ukraine already has two such systems, and the US has committed to providing another six under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
This latest purchase would give Ukraine a total of nine NASAMS when delivery is completed.
In November, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the NASAMS had a 100% success rate in intercepting Russian missiles.
State Department: US is "deeply concerned" over a UN official meeting with a wanted Russian official
From CNN's Michael Conte and Christian Sierra
The United States is “deeply concerned" that a senior UN diplomat met with Maria Lvova-Belova, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia,the State Department said Wednesday.
“We are deeply concerned that a senior UN diplomat met with a fugitive subject to an ICC arrest warrant for committing war crimes against children,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said, repeating the allegations that “Russia is forcibly deporting children from Ukraine.”
“They're denying parents and legal guardians access to those children… and giving children from Ukraine Russian passports and attempt to take away a part of their identity,” Miller said.
Some background: A report released in February by the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab, backed by the US State Department, found that Moscow attempted to relocate, re-educate, and sometimes militarily train or forcibly adopt out Ukrainian children. It also said the Russian government is operating an expansive network of dozens of camps where it has held thousands of Ukrainian children since the start of thewar against Ukrainelast year.
In March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for PresidentVladimir Putinand for Lvova-Belova, the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, for their roles in the alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
Anti-Putin Russian fighters who claim cross-border Belgorod raid say their operation is ongoing
From CNN’s Sam Kiley, Pierre Bairin and Florence Davey-Attlee
Fighters from the anti-Putin Russian groups that claim they made a cross-border attack into the southwestern Russian region of Belgorod on Monday heralded the raid, adding that their operation is "ongoing."
A member of the Freedom for Russia Legion who goes by the call sign "Caesar" told reporters Wednesday that the "effect of this raid was amazing."
The "whole internet [was] blowing up, boiling," Caesar told CNN while speaking to journalists who met with the fighters in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine.
Denis Nikitin, the commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps, said their operation continues. "Phase one, we consider it a successful phase. It's over now, but the operation is ongoing," he said.
Nikitin also commented on his group’s relationship with the Ukrainian military.
"Everything we do within the state borders of Ukraine, we obviously coordinate with Ukraine military," but "every decision we make behind beyond the border, behind the state border, is our own decision," he said.
"What we do, obviously, we can ask our, let's say, comrades, friends, for their assistance in planning," Nikitin said."They will say 'yes,' 'no,' 'this is a good idea,' 'this is a bad idea.' So this is a kind of encouragement and help and aid."
The Ukrainian government has distanced itself from the Russian fighters, saying they are operating independently in Russia.
Legion fighter Caesar told journalists that Russian forces were "too stupid and too slow" in their response to the cross-border attack. He claimed his fighters destroyed a Russian mechanized company.
"We bring them heavy casualties," Caesar said.
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed in a daily briefing on Tuesday that its forces repelled attackers back into Ukrainian territory using air strikes, artillery fire and military units.
When asked if Monday’s operation was part of the much-touted Ukrainian counteroffensive, Caesar said, "I think it is kind of, yes." He said the Ukrainian military provides the Freedom for Russia Legion with "small arms, artillery weapons, heavy vehicles, everything."
Asked about the overall goals of their mission, Caesar said: "We want to free our country ... live in, prosper in freedom, and have a capability to self-realization."
Norway will support training of Ukrainian personnel on F-16s, defense ministry says
From CNN’s Alex Hardie
Norway will support the training of Ukrainian personnel on US-made F-16 fighter jets, officials said Wednesday.
The Norwegian Defense Ministry said that while the country has not decided whether to donate any of its F-16s to Ukraine, it will consider different ways to contribute to training.
Push for fighter jets: Over the weekend, US President Joe Biden gave his backingfor Kyiv’s pilots to be trained to fly the US-made planes. Biden’s comments at a summit with G7 leaders in Japan came days after Britain and the Netherlands said they were buildingan “international coalition”to help Ukraine procure F-16s as it seeks to improve its defenses against Russian air attacks.
The Biden administration has also signaled to European allies in recent weeks that the US would allow them toexport F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine if there are formal requests, sources familiar with the discussions said. The US would have to approve any third-party transfers because of the jets’ sensitive US technology.
F-16s are single-engine, multi-role jet aircraft, meaning they can be used in air-to-air or ground-attack missions. The jets for Ukraine are expected to be older versions that have been in the fleets of US allies, especially those in Western Europe.
Lawyers for accused Russian money launderer lobby for him to be included in potential US-Russia prisoner swap
From CNN's Sean Lyngaas
Lawyers for anaccused Russian money launderer in US custody are lobbying for their client to be included in any potential US-Russia prisoner swap for detained Wall Street Journal reporterEvan Gershkovich, according to new court filing.
The Russian man, Alexander Vinnik, is accused of running a multibillion-dollar cryptocurrency exchange that allegedly did business with drug dealers and identity thieves. He was extradited from France to California last year.
The effort to free Vinnik in a swap for Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia in March on what US officials say are bogus espionage charges, shows how lawyers for detained Russians and Americans are making a full-court press to get their clients included in any potential exchange involving Gershkovich andPaul Whelan, another American detained in Russia.
Vinnik, who has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges, should be “allowed to advocate publicly for his inclusion in a prisoner swap,” Vinnik’s lawyers argued in a May 19 court filing in a federal court in San Francisco. The motion asks a judge to reverse an order that forbids Vinnik from discussing his case publicly.
“Numerous” people with knowledge of the US-Russia prisoner swap negotiations have told Vinnik’s lawyers that they should lobby publicly for his inclusion in a prisoner swap “in order to maximize the chances of such an exchange,” Vinnik’s lawyers, Jodi Linker and David Rizk, wrote in the filing.
The Wall Street Journalreported earlieron the filing from Vinnik’s lawyer.
A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the motion.
Ukraine’s NATO membership "not on the agenda" during war, alliance's chief says
From CNN’s Alex Hardie
Ukraine’s bid to become a member of NATO while there is a war with Russia is “not on the agenda,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during an interview at the Brussels Forum event on Wednesday.
Asked whether the war in Ukraine makes it “easier” for the country to join the alliance, Stoltenberg said:
“Yes and no. I think that everyone realized that to become a member in the midst of war is not on the agenda, and that is not the issue.”
“The issue is more of what happens when the war ends, in one way or another. And then of course, the war ensures that Ukraine is becoming even closer to NATO,” Stoltenberg continued.
The NATO chief acknowledged that there are some "different views in the alliance" on the issue of NATO membership for Ukraine, but he added that all members are in agreement that Ukraine will become a member.
"We all agree that NATO’s door is open for new members and that it is for NATO allies and Ukraine to decide when they should join, not Moscow," he said.
Russia claims Ukraine made unsuccessful drone attack on its Black Sea reconnaissance ship
From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova and Yulia Kasaieva
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine launched an unsuccessful drone attack on one of its Black Sea reconnaissance ships Wednesday.
“This morning, the Ukrainian Armed Forces unsuccessfully tried to attack with three unmanned boats the Black Sea Fleet's 'Ivan Khurs' ship, which performs the tasks of ensuring the safety of the 'Turkish Stream' and 'Blue Stream' gas pipelines in the economic zone of Turkey,” Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing on Wednesday.
“All the enemy's boats were destroyed by fire from the Russian ship's regular weapons 140 kilometers (about 87 miles) northeast of the Bosporus,” he added.
The Russian ministry said the reconnaissance ship had returned to its normal tasks Wednesday.