The number of Russian troops deployed in occupied Crimea near Ukraine’s border has steadily increased over the past two weeks and has surpassed the size of the force that annexed the peninsula in 2014, the Pentagon said on Monday. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 using troops in unmarked uniforms and also began supporting separatists in Ukraine’s east.
A top Russian official has warned that Moscow could intervene to help Russian-speaking residents in eastern Ukraine if Ukraine launches an all-out assault on separatists there. Russian-backed separatist rebels and Ukrainian troops have been clashing in the east of the country. Russia has also been building up troops on the border with Ukraine. The official, Dmitry Kozak, said that Russian forces could intervene to “defend” Russian citizens.
Ukrainian authorities have closed a criminal probe into Joe Biden, who was accused of improperly forcing the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2016, a police spokesperson said. The investigation was launched in February after the ousted prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, appealed to a court. President Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a probe of this kind last year.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office on Monday and immediately announced plans to dissolve parliament, setting up a clash between the country’s entrenched political class and its new leader. Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won a landslide victory in elections last month, amid anger over corruption and a grinding war with Russian-backed separatists in the country’s south-east. By calling snap elections, Zelenskiy hopes to quickly extend his political momentum to the legislature and sweep out loyalists to the former president Petro Poroshenko.
Results from nearly all polling stations show that TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy has won the Ukrainian presidential runoff vote in a landslide. The Central Election Commission says Monday that Zelenskiy has won 73% of the vote while the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko got just 24% support with more than 95% of the ballots counted. Unlike in most of the elections in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history, Zelenskiy appears to have won both in Ukraine’s west and east, areas that have been traditionally polarized.
All 13 people taken hostage on a bus in western Ukraine were freed unharmed on Tuesday after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke by phone with the hostage-taker and agreed to his demand to endorse a 2005 animal rights documentary. Police arrested the suspect, whom the state security service (SBU) identified as 44-year-old Maksym Kryvosh, who seized the bus in the city of Lutsk.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he discussed Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son in a call with Ukraine’s president, Zelensky. Trump’s call with Zelensky has been at the center of an escalating battle in Washington since Friday, when news outlets reported that Trump repeatedly asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate whether Biden, the Democratic front-runner to take on Trump in next year’s election, misused his position when he was vice president.
After a naval confrontation off Crimea with Russia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov. At least 11 Russian vessels surrounded Ukraine’s two ships opening fire on Sunday. Russia announced on Wednesday it will send another advanced anti-aircraft system to the area. NATO expressed ‘full support’ for Ukraine.
More than 12,000 people were evacuated following an explosion on Tuesday at a depot in northern Ukraine caused by ammunition. Security services said ‘possible sabotage’ was being investigated at the depot near the village of Druzhba. More than 60 people needed medical attention after the explosion, though no deaths were reported.
A man who said he was armed with weapons and explosives seized control of a bus in the western Ukrainian city of Lutsk on Tuesday and took about 20 people on board hostage, police said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Facebook that “shots were heard, the bus was damaged.” The man’s demands were unknown, police said in a statement.