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US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told CNN he opposes a resolution from Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz that expresses a desire to end military and financial aid to Ukraine.
McCarthy made the remarks during a visit to the US-Mexico border.
“No, I support Ukraine,” McCarthy said, when asked whether he backs Gaetz’s measure. “I don't support a blank check, though. We spent $100 billion here, we want to win. I think the actions that President Biden has taken are a bit too late.”
Gaetz introduced a "Ukraine Fatigue" resolution last week, demanding an end to aid for Ukraine, and for the US to demand all combatants “reach a peace agreement immediately.”
While Russian forces appear to be preparing a new offensive in Ukraine, Western officials are skeptical that Moscow has amassed the manpower and resources to make significant gains.
On Thursday, US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland suggested the offensive wasn't a cause for worry. “You see the war grinding in the east, in Bakhmut,” she said. “Russia has declared that it is launching a new offensive. Well, if this is it, it is very pathetic, I would say.”
She said Ukraine is planning its own counteroffensive "for later on."
If you're just now catching up, here's what you should know:
Russian attacks. Russian strikes around Bakhmut left three men and two women dead Thursday, according to a regional official, and nine other civilians also sustained various wounds from shrapnel. Missiles also struck critical infrastructure in the Lviv and Kirovohrad regions, Ukrainian officials said. European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano denounced Russian drone and missile attacks in Ukraine, saying that they "constitute war crimes" and "are unacceptable."
Prisoner exchange. One hundred soldiers and one civilian were returned to Ukraine in exchange for 101 captured Russian service members, officials from both countries said Thursday.
Support for Ukraine. Britain and Poland are “entirely aligned in their steadfast support” for Kyiv and agree that aid should be “accelerated in the coming weeks,” the United Kingdom said in a statement Thursday. After two days of meetings with NATO officials and members in Brussels, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov expressed optimism about the results. Discussions had included practical aspects of a "tank coalition" being put together. Additionally, spare parts for the first foreign self-propelled artillery are already being ordered, he said.
Zelensky interview: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would not agree to give up any Ukrainian territory in a potential future peace deal with Russia, he said in an interview with BBC News, warning it could lead Russia to "keep coming back."
Belarus' stance. At a rare news conference Thursday, Belarusian strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko insisted he will not send troops to Ukraine unless Belarus is attacked, but also defiantly maintained that Russia is a staunch ally of his country. Lukashenko is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Russian strikes around the fiercely embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut left three men and two women dead Thursday, according to a regional official, and nine other civilians also sustained various wounds from shrapnel.
The five civilians killed varied in age between 32 and 66, according to a statement published online by the Donetsk region prosecutor's office.
The statement said the shelling also damaged many residential buildings.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk appealed to the civilians who remain in Bakhmut to leave the city immediately.
"Frankly speaking, I am very surprised that there are still 6,000 civilians there (in Bakhmut)," she wrote on Telegram citing the latest data.
“Those who choose to stay in Bakhmut are endangering themselves and loved ones," creating additional risks for the military and police, and "preventing our defense and security forces from working properly in the city," Vereshchuk said.
The United States is not only looking at the weapons it will provide to Ukraine for the battlefield right now, but also what they will need for continued deterrence whenever the war ends, a top State Department official said Thursday.
“We're looking at not just what Ukraine is going to need for this immediate fight, but we're also thinking about — with the Ukrainians — the Ukrainian military of the future,” said Victoria Nuland, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.
She would not speak to specific capabilities that the US might provide in the near future or longer term when asked by CNN if the US would provide jets or Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) anytime soon.
However, Nuland suggested that such types of equipment could be provided to be used for deterrence.
“Some of the things that you were talking about, if you think about a military that we'll need whenever this stops and however it stops, to be able to deter Russia from coming back again, they're going to have to have the sophisticated enduring air defense. They're going to have to have much stronger border defenses and the ability to ensure Russia can't invade again. They're going to have to have better radars and early warning,” she said.
Nuland said that the US is also thinking about ensuring that even if the conflict stops, there isn't a repeat, referencing Putin's invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
“We must never trust as long as Vladimir Putin is in power or somebody like him, that this is truly over,” she said. “So even if there is a just peace, there has to be a long-term plan and a building of the Ukrainian military of the future so that they can be deterring of any future appetite that Putin might have."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would not agree to give up any Ukrainian territory in a potential future peace deal with Russia, he said in an interview with BBC News, warning it could lead Russia to "keep coming back."
"Any territorial compromises would make us weaker as a state," Zelensky told BBC News. "It's not about compromise itself. Why would we fear that? There are millions of compromises in life. The question is with whom? Compromise with Putin? No. Because there's no trust."
Zelensky also told BBC News a spring offensive, warned of by Kyiv officials, had already begun.
"Russian attacks are already happening from several directions," Zelensky said.
He also responded to comments made at a Thursday news conference by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in which Lukashenko insisted he would not send troops into Ukraine unless Belarus itself is attacked.
"I hope [Belarus] won't join [the war]," Zelensky told BBC News. "If it does, we will fight and we will survive."
Zelensky added it would be a "huge mistake" to allow Russia to use Belarus as a staging area for an attack.
Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's European director, hailed Ukraine’s health system Thursday for not succumbing to collapse and disease outbreak as predicted when Russia invaded the country one year ago.
Kluge recalled “a lot of pessimistic” projections last year, including that “the health system will collapse” and there would be “an explosion of Covid-19, Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS”.
“All of that did not happen,” he said, speaking on his fifth visit to Ukraine over the past year.
He credits healthcare workers and international support for the reason why the system is so resilient and still standing.
The mental health toll of the war is huge, he said, and international efforts “need to be doubled” to facilitate community-based training of primary healthcare doctors to treat mental health at a local level.
Kluge’s visit to Ukraine was focused on delivering the health organization's “largest humanitarian donation in its history,” which included 59 immunization buses mobilized to deliver vaccinations to children.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that a priority is moving forward with the liberation of Ukrainian land.
"Holding the situation at the front and preparing for any escalation steps of the enemy is a priority for the near future," Zelensky said in his daily address where he detailed his meeting with the supreme commander-in-chief's staff and regional commanders. "Moving forward with the further liberation of our land is a priority that we are carefully preparing," he added.
Zelensky also thanked the Ukrainian Air Force, which he said downed half of the missiles and drones that Russia used in its attack on Thursday.
Artillerymen from the private military contractor Wagner released a video on Thursday appealing to the Russian defense ministry for more ammunition to fight in Ukraine.
"Every day we fulfill complex combat tasks and provide cover for our assault groups. At the moment we are completely cut off from ammunition supplies," one mercenary said in the video posted on Telegram, noting a shortage of howitzer ammunition, anti-tank gun ammunition, and mortars.
The Telegram video and caption did not give any details about the location of the Wagner fighters.
"We are appealing to our colleagues and friends from the Ministry of Defense. We are sure that you’ve got ammunition somewhere in warehouses," the Wagner fighter said. "But we need them urgently."
"We would be hugely grateful if you provide assistance to us — if you help us and supply these types of ammunition,. A huge amount of people will survive and be able to continue taking part in the fighting, and this will have an impact on the whole course of the war," the fighter said. "We'll slave away this labor for you, we'll do the job. Help us with ammunition!"
The mercenary group has emerged as a key player in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has been using the shadowy private company to supply thousands of Wagner forces — many recruited from prisons – to wage war in eastern Ukraine.
In response to the video, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin called the artillerymen "wonderful fighters" and heroes and urged the defense ministry to deliver.
"Pay attention to the fact that these wonderful fighters are heroes who die for our Motherland, they did not call anyone indecent words, and in no way discredited the Ministry of Defense," Prigozhin said, responding to questions from the pro-Wagner Telegram channel Grey Zone. "They simply asked their colleagues for ammunition and gave a detailed list of what was needed. I can say that it has already brought some results."
The defense ministry has not yet publicly responded to the demand.
Prigozhin has routinely leveled scathing public criticism at Russian military officials in recent months for their failures in Ukraine.
CNN's Mick Krever contributed to this report.