Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
Anastasia Paraskevova recently returned to her home in Kharkiv for the first time since fleeing the city two months ago due to the war.
Paraskevova, who returned with her mother, said she was nervous about going back. Kharkiv, close to the Russian border in northeastern Ukraine, was one of the first cities to come under attack when Russia invaded in February.
It had been subjected to near-constant shelling until Russian forces began retreated in the region.
"I did not know for sure how I will feel when I see the city," she told CNN. "Most devastation was done when I was there, so I knew what to expect. I was seeing videos on my phone of pretty much everything that was destroyed. But seeing it live is entirely different."
Paraskevova said overall the experience was good. "The city was much more alive. People were walking the streets. And some shops were working. It felt like some life was back, much better than it was when I was here in March."
Paraskevova's father had left with the family but returned to Kharkiv before them. Video shows the family reuniting, with hugs and relieved smiles.
"It was really nice to see him after two months. We talked on the phone regularly, but it's the happiest I've heard his voice being in two months. And to see mom and dad reunite was also really special," she said.
I'm just glad to see everyone is okay and together again."
Although her home was spared from the shelling, Paraskevova said seeing her apartment for the first time was not the "feel-good moment" she expected.
"When I was leaving, it felt like a piece of me was left in that apartment. So, I was hoping that this piece will fit into place when I return, but for some reason, it didn't," she said.
"Maybe because I knew I will be going back to Moldova. Or maybe because it will not feel like home until the war ends. My fear is that this feeling of home and security will come back only when I truly know that the war is ended."
More than 1,000 cars carrying Ukrainians have been prevented from crossing into Ukrainian-held territory in Zaporizhzhia, according to the regional military administration there.
The administration said on Friday that cars full of people trying to evacuate were stuck at a Russian checkpoint in the city of Vasylivka.
"In Vasylivka, the occupiers have not allowed more than 1,000 cars to enter the territory controlled by Ukraine for the fourth day in a row," the Telegram post read, adding that there are women and children in the cars, and that most of them no longer have money for food and water.
Several cars managed to break through to the city of Zaporizhzhia, in southeastern Ukraine, on Thursday.
"Business owners of Berdyansk are forced to buy goods from Crimea, and it is necessary to sign up for an escort convoy. Such registration helps local collaborators to collect information about who returns with the goods and from whom you can later collect 'tribute'," the regional administration said.
A video posted to Telegram by the Ukrainian government's Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security shows a long line of cars on the side of a road.
In the Chernihiv region north of Kyiv, the village of Desna was hit with Russian missiles Thursday left many dead, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Thursday. Desna is 40 forty miles from the border with Belarus.
“Russian strikes on Chernihiv region, in particular the terrible blow on the Desna, there is an analysis of debris, many dead,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Thursday.
There are “constant strikes on the Odesa region, on the cities of central Ukraine, the Donbas is completely destroyed — all this has no and cannot have any military explanation for Russia,” he continued.
“This is a deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible,” he said.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to advance in the liberation of the Kharkiv region, Zelensky said.
“In the Donbas, the occupiers are trying to increase pressure. There's hell, and that's no exaggeration. The brutal and absolutely senseless bombing of Severodonetsk ... There were 12 dead and dozens wounded in just one day,” he continued.
“The bombing and shelling of other cities, the air and missile strikes of the Russian army — all this is not just fighting during the war.”
“This is a deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible. Destroy as many houses, social facilities and enterprises as possible. This is what will qualify the genocide of the Ukrainian people and for which the occupiers will definitely be brought to justice,” he added.
“The first trial in Ukraine against a Russian war criminal has already begun. And it will end with the full restoration of justice within the international tribunal. I'm sure of it. We will find and bring to justice all those who give and carry out criminal orders,” he concluded.
US President Joe Biden will sign the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine while he is in South Korea, an official says.
The bill has to be flown to Korea for the President’s signature.
Biden embarked on his trip to Seoul, South Korea on Thursday afternoon.
Ukraine's most senior military figure has met with his NATO counterparts and given an upbeat assessment of the conflict.
"Today, we are not just defending ourselves. We have conducted a series of successful counter-attacks," General Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian General Staff, said he had told the NATO Military Committee.
Ukrainian forces had unblocked sieges of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv, and were fighting in the Kherson direction, he said.
Zaluzhny said he had stressed that Ukrainians are paying an extremely high price for freedom and European choice, and Europe is experiencing the greatest security crisis since the Second World War.
Ever since 2014, "we were aware that the full-scale aggression would eventually begin, and we were getting ready for it," he added.
Ukraine's military had "acknowledged that the first month would be the turning point. We managed to take away the enemy's strategic initiative, cause critical losses, and force them to abandon the main objective — the capture of the city of Kyiv," he continued.
However, despite Ukrainian successes, he said, "the Russians are maintaining missile fire of high intensity, on average 10-14 ballistic and cruise missiles per day. This is a threat not only to Ukraine, but also to NATO member states," and it was crucial to strengthen missile defenses.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin thanked Spain for supporting Ukraine as Russia’s invasion of the country continues, noting their “important military contributions to deterrence along NATO’s eastern flank” and “direct security assistance and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine,” during opening remarks ahead of a bilateral meeting with Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Austin also said he is looking forward to the NATO summit Spain is hosting in Madrid next month. The summit will be a “turning point for the alliance” as NATO leaders “endorse a new strategic concept, one that must look both east and south,” Austin said.
Robles spoke first in English and then in Spanish. She thanked Austin for hosting her at the Pentagon, calling it “the best expression of our close relationship between United States and Spain.”
In Spanish, Robles said that Putin’s attack on Ukraine is not only an attack on Ukraine itself, but an attack on the entire democratic community and democratic values.
“We are living in a very difficult moment. The situation in Ukraine shows to the world we are, with a lot of threats, we have to stand together, the unity is our strength,” Robles said in English.
The Biden administration announced another $100 million security package for Ukraine Thursday as the President is set to sign a bill authorizing billions more in assistance.
The additional security assistance that will “provide additional artillery, radars, and other equipment to Ukraine, which they are already using so effectively on the battlefield," Biden said in a statement. “These weapons and equipment will go directly to the front lines of freedom in Ukraine, and reiterate our strong support for the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their country against Russia’s ongoing aggression."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also released a statement.
“I am authorizing our tenth drawdown of additional arms and equipment for Ukraine’s defense from US Department of Defense inventories, valued at up to $100 million,” he said in a statement.
The latest package brings the total US military assistance to Ukraine to approximately $3.9 billion in arms and equipment since the beginning of the Russian invasion.
“The United States, as well as more than 40 Allies and partner countries, are working around the clock to expedite shipments of arms and equipment essential to Ukraine’s defense,” Blinken said.
It comes as the White House warned any further delay in authorizing additional funding to Ukraine could lead to interruptions in the shipments of weapons and equipment.
The Biden administration has made it a top priority to get shipments into Ukraine as quickly as possible, cutting down the approval and delivery process from weeks to days. But officials had warned that money was running out from the last supplemental funding package and that Congress had to act quickly to keep the critical weapons shipments flowing.
The announcement of the latest security package comes as Biden is set to sign a new $40 billion aid bill into law. It includes $11 billion in presidential drawdown authority in which the US pulls directly from American inventories to send weapons to Ukraine, as well as another $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, where the Pentagon contracts with weapons manufacturers for Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he discussed ways to "unblock" Ukrainian food exports with his UK counterpart, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
In a tweet Thursday, Kuleba said he spoke with Truss about "ways to hold Russia accountable for its aggression and unblock Ukraine’s food exports."
"Russia bears full responsibility not only for killing, torturing, and raping Ukrainians, but also for starving people across the world, including in Africa," Kuleba continued.
The blockade on Ukrainian exports was also discussed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a call Thursday.
In a tweet, Zelensky said the two leaders had discussed “ways to export agricultural products from Ukraine and import fuel to Ukraine.”
Earlier on Thursday, World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley said the failure to open ports in Ukraine would "be a declaration of war on global food security, resulting in famine destabilization of nations, as well as mass migration by necessity."
Beasley called it "absolutely essential" that ports are allowed open, stressing "this is not just about Ukraine" but also "about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak."