Russia-Ukraine recap: Shaky peace talks, Russia accused of war crimes, US gives more aid to Ukraine

Michael Crimmins, Investigative Reporter

There is no shortage of newsworthy topics here in the United States. At times it is easy to get lost in it all, but equally crucial things happen all over the world.

Currently, the big foreign affair is the Russian-Ukraine crisis. This issue of the Herald’s Global Recap column is devoted solely to the several developments that have occurred this week.

These developments are complex, and it is highly encouraged to follow the links and read referenced stories in full.

Here’s a look at some of the headlines from this past week about the Russian-Ukrainian crisis:

UN, US say Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine

In Russia’s month-long war with Ukraine, there have been numerous bombings and airstrikes on civilian and military targets alike.

As of now, the war has caused roughly 5,000 civilian deaths, NPR reports.

The United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said in her Wednesday briefing that Russian actions may constitute war crimes, The Guardian reports.

“Homes and administrative buildings, hospitals and schools, water stations and electricity systems have not been spared,” Bachelet said. She also called for Russian troops to withdraw from Ukraine.

The United States, in a statement by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, has also officially stated that Russia has committed war crimes due to the civilian damages it has caused, NPR reports. 

“Last week, I echoed President Biden’s statement, based on the countless accounts and images of destruction and suffering we have all seen, that war crimes had been committed by Putin’s forces in Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement. “Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.” 

The U.S. statement also said the Russian military has targeted areas where civilians are present “including apartment buildings, schools and hospitals.”

Russia denies targeting civilians during their “special military operation” to “denazify” their neighbor.

Bachelet said the UN has sent roughly 60 monitors to Ukraine and have so far verified 77 incidents where medical and civilian centers were damaged.

The UN Human Rights Council tweeted a link of a separate inquiry into Russia’s use of weaponry during the war.

“‘For more than one month now, the entire population of #Ukraine has been enduring a living nightmare,’ @mbachelet told #HRC49,” The tweet states. “The @UN_HRC announced the names of the three investigators who are to carry out the work of the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.”

Erik Møse of Norway, Jasminka Džumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Pablo de Greiff of Colombia were part of the UN’s investigation into human rights violations in Ukraine, a UN article states.

“The panel’s mandate includes investigating all alleged…abuses committed during Russia’s military attack on Ukraine, along with related crimes,” the article states. 

Russian forces pulling back from Kyiv

According to the Pentagon, Russian forces are pulling away from Kyiv while “less than 20%” of forces are repositioning away from the capital.

In his Wednesday briefing, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby didn’t give any specific troop numbers, but did say that those military forces are moving to Hostomel airport, northwest of Kyiv, according to the Associated Press.

Kirby stressed that it’s likely Russian troops are pulling back to “resupply and reorganize” in other parts of Ukraine, and that they’re not returning to Russia, AP reports.

This moving of troops occurred after Russia announced it would “dial back” military operations due to potential peace talks, according to USA Today. However, U.S. and Ukrainian officials are skeptical of Russian intentions.

According to USA Today, Ukrainian officials say Kyiv is still being bombarded with artillery.

Russian military leaders said they will focus on “liberating” the pro-Russian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in the eastern part of Ukraine, according to the article.

“I do not know if we can still believe the Russians,” Nikolay Nazarov, a refugee from Ukraine, told AP News. “I think more escalation will occur in eastern Ukraine. That is why we cannot go back to Kharkiv.”

Biden promises US will provide $500 million to Ukraine

The United States will give roughly $500 million to Ukraine to support the country’s defense against Russia, according to an article in the Independent

U.S. President Joe Biden informed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of his intent to provide Ukraine with $1 billion for defense and humanitarian efforts during the leader’s phone call.

“Just finished an hour-long conversation with @POTUS,” Zelenskyy tweeted Wednesday. “Shared assessment of the situation on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. Talked about specific defensive support, a new package of enhanced sanctions, macro-financial and humanitarian aid.”

The additional U.S. assistance comes as Ukraine and Russia enter negotiations to end the war, USA Today reports.

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba tweeted the importance of global support in their efforts.

“While negotiations continue, Russia has not ceased hostilities. It is crucial that partners continue to provide Ukraine with more arms and apply more sanctions on Russia. The stronger Ukraine is, the better agreement we can achieve for the sake of Ukraine’s and Europe’s security,” Kuleba’s tweet reads.

‘I think he should release it. I think we should know that answer’: Trump urges Putin to disclose info on Biden family

In an exclusive televised interview on Tuesday with Just the News, Former U.S. President Donald Trump said that Vladimir Putin should disclose any “dirt” he may have on the Biden family.

In the interview, Trump pushed the claim that Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, had shady business dealings while in Russia, according to CNN.

“She [the mayor of Moscow’s wife] gave him $3.5 million, so now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it,” Trump said. “I think we should know that answer.”

It is a fact that Hunter Biden was paid large sums of money for his consultant work in foreign countries such as Ukraine and China, CNN reports. 

The Department of Justice is conducting an ongoing investigation of the matter to determine if any financial crimes occured, CNN states.

“In time, Russia may be willing to give that information,” Trump said, concerning what he implied were Hunter Biden’s corrupt dealings.

Hunter Biden says he is “absolutely certain” he will not be implicated of any wrongdoings once the investigation concludes, according to another CNN article.

Trump’s interview garnered attention from prominent political figures, who took to Twitter to state their displeasure.

“As Putin bombs civilians in Ukraine and the world condemns him as a war criminal, Trump is… once again asking him for help besting his political opponents,” Hillary Clinton tweeted Wednesday. “What is wrong with him?”

Mark Warner, senator from Virginia and chair of the Senate Intel Committee, tweeted “It shouldn’t need to be said, but Putin is not our friend.”

Investigative Reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michael_crimm.