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Israel-Gaza live updates: Over 85,000 in Gaza could die in next 6 months if war escalates, report finds

Luis Diaz Devesa/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than four months since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli military continues its bombardment of the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The conflict, now the deadliest between the warring sides since Israel's founding in 1948, shows no signs of letting up soon and the brief cease-fire that allowed for over 100 hostages to be freed from Gaza remains a distant memory.

Here's how the news is developing:

Feb 23, 1:23 PM
Blinken calls Israeli settlement expansion 'inconsistent with international law'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is signaling a possible shift back to a long-standing U.S. policy rejecting Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, calling it "inconsistent with international law."

Asked at a press availability in Argentina for his response to Israel’s purported plans to build thousands of new settlement homes in the area, Blinken responded, "We’ve seen the reports, and I have to say we’re disappointed in the announcement."

"It's been long-standing U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic administration alike that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace. They're also inconsistent with international law," Blinken said. "Our administration maintains firm opposition to settlement expansion, and in our judgment, this only weakens -- doesn't strengthen -- Israel security."

The Biden administration has condemned Israeli expansion in the West Bank for years, but the State Department had not yet gone so far as to say they ran afoul of international law after Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, said in 2019 that the U.S. would no longer view Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as violations.

But before delivering his rebuke, Blinken made note of what he called a "horrific terrorist attack" on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank this week and said the U.S. would continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself and its people.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 22, 2:57 PM
Over 85,000 people in Gaza could die in next 6 months if war escalates, report finds

More than 85,000 people in Gaza could die over the next six months if the war between Israel and Hamas escalates, epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found.

The epidemiologists presented findings about death tolls in three potential scenarios: if a cease-fire is reached, if the war remains as it is, and if the war escalates.

If a cease-fire is reached, more than 11,000 people will die over the next six months, the findings estimate, based on current conditions inside Gaza.

If the status quo of the war is maintained, more than 66,000 people will die during the same period, the findings show.

And in the worst-case scenario, if the war escalates, more than 85,000 people could die, the report found.

These numbers are in addition to the more than 29,000 people who have already died in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman

Feb 22, 2:18 PM
Israeli war cabinet approves sending negotiators to Paris talks

The Israeli war cabinet on Friday approved sending Israeli negotiators to hostage and cease-fire talks in Paris. The war cabinet's decision will be brought to the Israeli security cabinet for approval later on Friday night.

Qatari, Egyptian and U.S. officials are also expected to be at Friday's talks in Paris, according to reports.

Feb 22, 12:18 PM
Israel concludes 1-week operation inside Nasser Hospital in Gaza

The Israeli Defense Forces said Thursday that its soldiers have concluded their one-week operation inside Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where the IDF said it arrested at least 200 suspected Hamas members.

The World Health Organization said earlier this week that it helped evacuate some of the critically ill patients from the hospital.

On Wednesday, the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said eight patients who died because of a lack of electricity at Nasser Hospital were still in their beds inside of the hospital among living patients. The IDF denied these claims.

Feb 22, 3:35 AM
One dead, several injured in shooting near Jerusalem, Israeli authorities say

At least one person was killed and several others were injured Thursday in a shooting on a main road just outside Jerusalem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to Israeli authorities.

Highway 1 was packed with cars when gunfire erupted Thursday morning near a checkpoint between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. Three "terrorists" armed with automatic weapons pulled up in a vehicle, got out and opened fire at cars that were standing still in the traffic jam, according to the Israel Police.

Israeli security forces who were already on scene "neutralized" two of the suspects, police said. A third suspect who had tried to escape was later found and also "neutralized," according to police.

Medics arrived and "ran from vehicle to vehicle" searching for victims, according to Israel's rescue service MDA. A man in his 20s was pronounced dead at the scene while several others were transported to area hospitals, including four people who were moderately injured with gunshot wounds, MDA said.

Feb 21, 2:59 PM
Israeli Minister Gantz expresses cautious optimism about new hostage deal

Israeli Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday expressed cautious optimism that a new outline for a possible hostage deal could move forward.

Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, said at Israel's Defense Headquarters Wednesday that there are "attempts" to "promote a new outline" for a hostage deal, and there are "initial signs that indicate the possibility of moving forward."

"We will not stop looking for the way, and we will not miss any opportunity to bring the girls and boys home," Gantz said.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman and Dana Savir

Feb 21, 1:02 PM
8 bodies remain in Nasser Medical Complex among living patients, Gaza Ministry of Health says

Eight patients who died because of a lack of electricity at Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza are still in their beds inside of the hospital among living patients, the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health said the bodies are still in the hospital because Israeli forces refuse to remove them.

The bodies "have begun to swell and show signs of decomposition, posing a danger to other patients," the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Israeli authorities denied these claims and said no bodies are still inside Nasser Hospital.

The Israel Defense Forces has been operating inside of Nasser Hospital for the last week. On Monday, the IDF announced its soldiers had arrested 200 suspected Hamas members at Nasser Hospital.

ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman and Camilla Alcini

Feb 21, 8:28 AM
Israel considering sending delegation to Egypt for new round of talks, source says

Israel is weighing the possibility of sending a delegation back to Egypt for continued negotiations over a potential cease-fire or hostage deal with Hamas, an Israeli political source told ABC News on Wednesday.

There is some cautious optimism over the latest round of talks in Cairo, the source said.

Egypt, along with Qatar and the United States, has been mediating talks between the warring sides.

Feb 21, 8:14 AM
Israel preparing to reopen Karni border crossing to facilitate aid to northern Gaza, source says

Israel is preparing to reopen the Karni border crossing to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into the northern Gaza Strip, an Israeli political source told ABC News on Wednesday.

Israel shuttered the Karni crossing, located on the border between southwestern Israel and northeastern Gaza, when Palestinian militant group Hamas came to power in the enclave in 2007 before permanently closing the crossing in 2011.

Northern Gaza has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, according to the United Nations.

Feb 21, 7:56 AM
UN food agency pauses deliveries to northern Gaza

The World Food Program, the food assistance arm of the United Nations, announced Tuesday that it is pausing deliveries of food aid to the northern Gaza Strip “until conditions are in place that allow for safe distribution.”

The decision came after a WFP convoy heading north from Gaza City was “surrounded by crowds of hungry people close to the Wadi Gaza checkpoint” on Sunday, the agency said. The same convoy faced “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order” when it tried to resume its journey north on Monday, according to the WFP.

“Several trucks were looted between Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah and a truck driver was beaten. The remaining flour was spontaneously distributed off the trucks in Gaza City, amidst high tension and explosive anger,” the WFP said in a statement Tuesday. “The decision to pause deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip has not been taken lightly, as we know it means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger.”

An analysis released Monday by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a humanitarian aid partnership led by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), found that 15.6% of children under the age of 2 are acutely malnourished in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, compared to 5% in southern Gaza, where most aid enters the war-torn enclave. The acute malnutrition rate across Gaza was less than 1% before the war began last October, according to the report.

Feb 20, 2:21 PM
Hostages held in Gaza have received medicine, Qatar says

Qatari officials said hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have received the medication that was part of a deal brokered last month.

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office said it has asked Qatar for evidence that the medicine was delivered.

"Israel will examine the credibility of the report and will continue to work for the peace of our abductees," the office said in a statement.

Feb 20, 12:21 PM
US draft resolution calls for temporary cease-fire

The U.S. voted against a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire at Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. was the only nation of the 15 permanent Security Council members to vote against the measure, according to the AP.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said "an unconditional cease-fire without any obligation for Hamas to release hostages" was irresponsible.

"While we cannot support a resolution that would put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy, we look forward to engaging on a text that we believe will address so many of the concerns we all share -- a text that can and should be adopted by the council, so that we can have a temporary cease-fire as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released," she said.

The U.S. has been circulating its own draft resolution on Gaza that calls for a temporary cease-fire conditioned on the release of all hostages, while also condemning Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war, according to senior administration officials familiar with the matter.

If the proposal were to be adopted by the U.N. Security Council, it would mark the first time the body has formally condemned Hamas’ actions.

The officials say the draft also makes clear "that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah should not proceed" and that there can be no reduction in territory in the Gaza Strip or any forced displacement of Palestinians, while also calling on Israel "to lift all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance, open additional humanitarian routes, and to keep current crossings open."

The senior officials signaled that American diplomats wouldn’t rush the text to a vote and that they intended on "allowing time for negotiations."

While hostage talks have sputtered over the past couple of weeks, senior administration officials said they were making some progress.

"The differences between the parties, they have been narrowed. They haven’t been sufficiently narrowed to get us to a deal, but we are still hopeful and we are confident that there is the basis for an agreement between the parties," one official said.

ABC News' Shannon Crawford

Feb 20, 11:34 AM
US votes against immediate cease-fire

The U.S. voted against a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire at Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. was the only nation of the 15 permanent Security Council members to vote against the measure, according to the AP.

The U.S. has said an immediate cease-fire could impede the negotiations looking to free hostages and agree to a pause in fighting, the AP said.

Feb 20, 11:07 AM
IDF operating inside Al-Amal Hospital

Israeli forces, which already entered Gaza’s Nasser Hospital, are also now operating inside the nearby Al-Amal Hospital, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to ABC News.

"Al-Amal Hospital is currently under multiple attacks, as Israeli forces have directly targeted the third floor of the hospital, resulting in the burning of two rooms," and "the hospital’s water lines were targeted," the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.

Over 8,000 patients were evacuated from the hospital earlier this month, but almost 100 patients still remain inside, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.

Feb 20, 7:13 AM
WHO helps transfer 32 critical patients out of Gaza's besieged Nasser Hospital

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that it has helped to successfully transfer 32 critically ill patients, including two children, from besieged Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip.

The WHO said its staff led two "life-saving," "high-risk" missions at the medical complex in Khan Younis on Sunday and Monday, in close partnership with the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "amid ongoing hostilities and access restrictions." Staff at Nasser Hospital had requested the transfer of patients after the facility became "non-functional" following an Israeli military raid on Feb. 14 after a weeklong siege, according to the WHO.

"Weak and frail patients were transferred amidst active conflict near the aid convoy," the WHO said in a statement. "Road conditions hindered the swift movement of ambulances, placing the health of patients at further risk."

"Nasser Hospital has no electricity or running water, and medical waste and garbage are creating a breeding ground for disease," the organization added. "WHO staff said the destruction around the hospital was 'indescribable.' The area was surrounded by burnt and destroyed buildings, heavy layers of debris, with no stretch of intact road."

The WHO estimates that 130 sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain inside Nasser Hospital. As the facility's intensive care unit was no longer functioning, the only remaining ICU patient was transferred to a different part of the complex where other patients are receiving basic care, according to the WHO.

"WHO fears for the safety and well-being of the patients and health workers remaining in the hospital and warns that further disruption to lifesaving care for the sick and injured would lead to more deaths," the organization said. "Efforts to facilitate further patient referrals amidst the ongoing hostilities are in process."

Prior to the missions on Sunday and Monday, the WHO said it "received two consecutive denials to access the hospital for medical assessment, causing delays in urgently needed patient referral." At least five patients reportedly died in Nasser Hospital's ICU before any missions or transfers were possible, according to the WHO.

Nasser Hospital is the main medical center serving southern Gaza. Ground troops from the Israel Defense Forces stormed the facility last week, looking for members of Hamas who the IDF alleges have been conducting military operations out of the hospital. Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza and is at war with neighboring Israel, denies the claims.

"The dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex is a massive blow to Gaza's health system," the WHO said. "Facilities in the south are already operating well beyond maximum capacity and are barely able to receive more patients."

Feb 20, 5:26 AM
Aid groups warn of potential 'explosion in preventable child deaths' in Gaza

A new analysis by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a humanitarian aid partnership led by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, found that 90% of children under the age of 2 in the war-torn Gaza Strip face severe food poverty, meaning they eat two or fewer food groups a day.

The same was true for 95% of pregnant and breastfeeding women in Gaza, according to the report released Monday. And at least 90% of children under 5 are affected by one or more infectious disease, with 70% experiencing diarrhea in the past two weeks, the report said.

In Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where most humanitarian aid enters, 5% of children under 2 are acutely malnourished, compared to more than 15% in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, the report said. Before war broke out last October between Israel and Gaza's militant rulers, Hamas, the acute malnutrition rate across the coastal enclave was less than 1%, according to the report.

The report also found that more than 80% of homes in Gaza lack clean and safe water, with the average household having one liter per person per day.

"The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza," Ted Chaiban, deputy executive director for humanitarian action and supply operations at UNICEF, said in a statement. "We've been warning for weeks that the Gaza Strip is on the brink of a nutrition crisis. If the conflict doesn't end now, children’s nutrition will continue to plummet, leading to preventable deaths or health issues which will affect the children of Gaza for the rest of their lives and have potential intergenerational consequences."

Feb 19, 12:31 PM
Gaza's health ministry accuses IDF of turning Nasser Hospital into 'military barracks'

Israeli troops have turned Nasser Hospital, the main medical center serving the southern Gaza Strip, into a "military barracks" and are "endangering the lives of patients and medical staff," according to Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

The health ministry said Monday that patients and medical staff inside Nasser Hospital are now without electricity, water, food, oxygen and treatment capabilities for difficult cases since Israeli ground troops raided the facility in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis last week.

The World Health Organization, which warned on Sunday that Nasser Hospital "is not functional anymore," said more than 180 patients and 15 doctors and nurses remain inside the hospital.

The WHO said it has evacuated 14 critical patients from the hospital to receive treatment elsewhere.

The Israel Defense Forces alleges that Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza, has been conducting military operations out of Nasser Hospital and other medical centers in the war-torn enclave -- claims which Hamas denies.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

US imposes 'crushing' sanctions on Russia 2 years after Ukraine invasion

President Joe Biden meets with Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya on Feb. 22, 2022. -- @POTUS/X

(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration on Friday announced more than 500 sanctions on Russia, its "enablers," and its "war machine" as the world marks two years since Russia attacked Ukraine.

This is the largest single tranche since the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion, administration officials said.

"Today, I am announcing more than 500 new sanctions against Russia for its ongoing war of conquest on Ukraine and for the death of Aleksey Navalny, who was a courageous anti-corruption activist and Putin's fiercest opposition leader," President Joe Biden said in the statement released by the White House. "These sanctions will target individuals connected to Navalny's imprisonment as well as Russia's financial sector, defense industrial base, procurement networks and sanctions evaders across multiple continents. They will ensure Putin pays an even steeper price for his aggression abroad and repression at home."

"We are also imposing new export restrictions on nearly 100 entities for providing backdoor support for Russia's war machine," Biden continued. "We are taking action to further reduce Russia's energy revenues. And I've directed my team to strengthen support for civil society, independent media, and those who fight for democracy around the world."

Later Friday, Biden gave brief remarks on the two-year anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war as he welcomed governors to the White House.

"Putin believed he could easily bend the will and break the resolve of free people of Ukraine," Biden said. "That he could roll into Ukraine, and he would roll over them. Two years later, he remains wrong."

"The people of Ukraine remain unbowed and unbroken in the face of Putin's vigorous onslaught. This is due to their sheer bravery and sacrifice, but it's also due to us," Biden continued as he highlighted the U.S. role in building an international coalition to support Ukraine.

But Biden said Congress must do its part by passing additional aid and criticized Speaker Mike Johnson for not taking up a Senate-passed foreign aid bill before the House left for a two-week recess.

"The clock is ticking," Biden said. "Brave Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are dying. Russia has taken Ukraine territory for the first time in many months. But here in America, the speaker gave the House a two-week week vacation. They have to come back. They have to come back get this done."

The sanctions, to be rolled out by the Treasury Department and State Department, include additional measures intended to punish the Kremlin for its role in the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, officials said.

Following a meeting on Thursday with Navalny's widow and daughter in San Francisco, Biden previewed the action, saying his administration would be "announcing sanctions against Putin, who is responsible for his death, tomorrow."

Regarding Navalny, the State Department said it is sanctioning three individuals tied to Russian Penal Colony IK-3: the prison warden, regional prison head and deputy director of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia.

On Thursday, a high-level State Department official described the pending sanctions as "crushing."

"Some of them will be targeted at folks directly involved in Navalany's death. The vast majority of them though are designed to further attrite Putin's war machine -- to close the gaps in the sanctions regime that he has been able to evade," Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said speaking at an event in Washington.

Many of the measures will take aim at Russia's defense sector, including a number of entities already sanctioned by the U.S.

Those imposed as punishment for Navalny's death in a remote Russian prisoner target individuals thought to have played a part in his detention and demise, officials added.

Throughout Russia's war on Ukraine, the U.S. has sought to weaken Moscow's military by targeting its economy -- limiting its ability to import key technology to fuel its defense-industrial complex, reduce the value of its exports, and cut Russia off from the international banking system.

Despite the historic effort, Russia's economy has grown over the last two years due in part to the country's steady trade with partners like China and India. The Kremlin has also managed to keep its arsenals stocked, resorting to sourcing some weapons from Iran and North Korea -- two countries that are also heavily sanctioned by the West.

"[Vladimir Putin] and his tricksters have found a lot of ways to evade sanctions," Nuland conceded. "That is why when you see this package that we're going to launch in a couple days, it is very heavily focused on evasion, on nodes and networks and countries that help evade -- willingly or otherwise -- and on the banks that support and allow that kind of evasion."

Nuland also predicted the administration would also impose additional penalties tied to Navalny's death in the future.

"I anticipate as time goes on we will be able to put forward more and more sanctions on folks directly responsible for Navalny's death," she said.

The U.K. announced its own sanctions against six Russian officials on Wednesday.

"History is watching. The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will not be forgotten," said Biden on Friday. "Now is the time for us to stand strong with Ukraine and stand united with our Allies and partners. Now is the time to prove that the United States stands up for freedom and bows down to no one."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Two years into war, Russian forces make offensive gains as Ukrainian weapons dwindle

belterz/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- Instead of sending a deluge of troops into Avdiivka to overpower the Ukrainians holding the frontline city, Russian forces earlier this month instead began sending in just a few soldiers at a time.

Two or three Russians would storm Ukrainian positions within city, followed about a half-hour later by two or three others. In those increments, they began to overpower the Ukrainian positions "step by step," according to Andrii Teren, a Ukrainian commander.

"We had the impression that these groups have no end, every 20 or 30 minutes we faced assaults," Teren told Reuters earlier this week. "That's why it became so difficult for our infantry."

The difficulties Teren described echoed those described by other Ukrainian frontline commanders. He said he didn't have enough personnel. Nor did he have enough shells if the Russians kept up their slow-rolling attack. He said they simply "exhausted" his troops.

As Russia's war in Ukraine hits the two-year mark on Saturday, Russia is again on the attack, striking cities along the frontline. Those attacks are coming as international aid for Kyiv has slowed, meaning Ukrainian weapons stockpiles are growing ever smaller.

"Russian forces have intensified attacks across several points of the front line within the last week, likely intended to stretch Ukrainian forces," The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense said Wednesday.

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian forces had taken complete control of Avdiivka, touting it as a strategic breakthrough. While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged his forces had withdrawn, he said the move had been a tactical one.

"Saving our lives is also, in my opinion, the right decision," he said of the withdrawal on Feb. 17 in Munich. "Then there will be recovery, they will wait for the proper weapons, which were simply insufficient."

The loss of Avdiivka came after months of Ukrainian officials raising alarms about the military's dwindling stockpile. The U.S. has supplied at least $44.9 billion to Kyiv, but if Congress doesn't pass a new aid package by late spring or early summer, the situation in Ukraine could become dire, U.S. officials told ABC News.

As of Dec. 2023, the United Kingdom had pledged some £7.1 billion, or about $9 billion, for military assistance, according to a government report. The European Union had also pledged about €5.6 billion, or about $6.1 billion, which included funding for weapons.

But funding pledges for ammunition and weapons have become scarcer as the war has worn on. The European Council earlier this month approved €50 million in aid for the besieged nation, although that money was earmarked not for munitions but for funding the Ukrainian government, allowing it to pay for salaries and services.

The critical situation now described by Zelenskyy and other Kyiv leaders is a far cry from the way the country's military began the second year of the war. Ukrainian forces last spring launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive, in which they attempted to push back into Crimea, the southern peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

The counteroffensive initially had a slowly building momentum. It led to some gains near Donetsk, although it brought heavy Ukrainian casualties and it wasn't successful in cutting off Russia's land bridge to southern Ukraine.

What followed was a fall and winter of intense frontline fighting that further cut into Ukrainian stockpiles.

Russia also continued its long-range missile and drone strikes on residential areas. It launched early-morning assaults on Kyiv and Kharkiv, striking malls, apartment buildings and infrastructure.

But another year of hard fighting hasn't seemed to soften the resolve of either Zelenskyy or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As with last year, Zelenskyy is still vowing to fight until "every inch of Ukrainian land" is returned from Russian control.

Putin and other Kremlin officials also continued to appear unwavering, although there was at least one high-profile instance of a challenge from Putin's inner circle in the war's second year.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the paramilitary Wagner Group and a longtime Putin ally, led a chaotic one-day armed rebellion. He sent his forces toward Moscow in June, but later ordered them to turn back. Two months later, Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash.

Earlier this month, longtime opposition politician Alexei Navalny became the latest Kremlin critic to die suddenly. He had been transferred to an Arctic prison, where he died of unknown causes, according to prison officials. The Kremlin rejected international calls for an independent postmortem exam.

The U.S. will impose "crushing" new sanctions on Russia, including measures to punish the Kremlin for Navalny's death, officials said.

"Make no mistake," U.S. President Joe Biden said last week. "Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death."

"This tragedy reminds us of the stakes of this moment," he added. "We have to provide the funding so Ukraine can keep defending itself against Putin’s vicious onslaughts and war crimes."

ABC News' Will Gretsky, Patrick Reevell, Tom Soufi-Burridge, Joe Simonetti, Edward Szekeres, Anne Flaherty, Luis Martinez, Shannon K. Crawford, Justin Gomez and Yulia Drozd contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ukrainian chat helps Russian families find soldiers who were captured or killed

omersukrugoksu/Getty Images

(KYIV, Ukraine) -- Almost two years into Russia's invasion, with Moscow's losses estimated by Kyiv at more than 300,000 soldiers, the Ukrainian authorities launched a project called "Want To Find" to help Russian citizens find information about their relatives who went to fight in Ukraine.

The launch came as a followup to the "Want to Live" project, a hotline offering the Russian soldiers a way to surrender.

Since that launch in September 2022, operators of the project received more than 32,000 and 260 Russian soldiers were admitted as prisoners of war, according to the organization. Some even joined the so-called Russian Volunteer corps, which is fighting against Russian forces alongside the Ukrainian army.

The number of requests soared in autumn 2022, during the announcement of a mobilization in Russia and successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region and Kherson, and in spring last year when the Ukrainian authorities were announcing the much-anticipated counteroffensive.

That's when many Russians started to reach out to the Want To Live project in search of their relatives who went to war and never returned, according to Vitaliy Matvienko, the spokesperson of the I Want To Live project.

"People, mostly women, called and asked whether we knew something about their husbands or sons, whether they were captured or killed. Because the Russian authorities didn't provide them any information," Matvienko told ABC News.

Since last summer, they've got more than 3,000 such requests and decided to launch a separate Telegram bot for processing them.

Through it, the customers provide all the data they have -- names, photos, any distinguishing features the person has like tattoos or scars. The operators on the Ukrainian side run this data through several databases and tell them whether the person is killed, captured or there's no information at all.

Irina Krynina, 37, is one of those who managed to not only find her husband via the bot, but also help others to do the same.

Her husband Yevgeniy, 34, had been running a successful funeral business in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. In September 2022, during the massive mobilization announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yevgeniy was summoned to the military recruitment center.

"I was against it. I was against the war. I told him not to go," Irina told ABC. "I had a suspicion he will be sent to Ukraine. But he didn't believe me because of the propaganda he watched on TV and decided to join the army."

After a month spent in a training camp in Omsk, Yevgeniy and other Russian troops were sent to the occupied Crimea and then to Kherson as it was liberated by the Ukrainian forces.

"He called me and told me to stop watching Russian TV," Irina recalled. "He said, 'Everything they show is completely untrue.'"

The last time Irina heard from her husband was June 9, 2023.

"I knew he was sent to Bakhmut, Donetsk region, and I freaked out. I knew it was hell there," Irina recalled.

When after a while communication didn't resume she started looking for information about Yevgeniy's whereabouts. "I came to the recruitment center, but they told me -- who are you? we're not going to tell you anything."

Then Irina decided to do online research and discovered a video on social media showing her husband being captured by Ukrainian troops. But even that wasn't enough evidence for the Russian authorities to confirm him as a prisoner of war.

"The Russian ministry of defense told me that doesn't mean anything and they are still consider him missing," she said.

So Irina contacted the Want To Live project. In three days the Ukrainian side confirmed Yevgeniy was in captivity, so Irina took on a challenge and went to Ukraine to meet her husband.

"To hide from the Russian authorities I designed a whole legend," she told ABC News. With her two little kids, Irina went to Antalya, Turkey, a popular holiday destination for many Russians. Then they flew to Istanbul and Chisinau, Moldova, where Ukrainian representatives met her and escorted to Kyiv.

"When I finally met Yevgeniy he was shocked," Irina said. "He didn't expect me to look for him and moreover come this far to meet him."

While Yevgeniy remains in captivity and is weighing whether he wants to go back to Russia, Irina settled down in Kyiv with her kids and set up her own nongovernmental organization, called Step In, to help other Russians search and bring back home their relatives who invaded Ukraine. The NGO is basically helping the Ukrainian Want To Find project to process the requests, organize calls between the POWs and their relatives or even receive parcels for them, according to the Geneva Conventions.

"It's a very useful humanitarian project. Firstly, people in Russia find out at least something about their relatives," Matvienko explained. "Once we received a request about a soldier and found out that his body was actually repatriated to Russia half a year before that. That is, he was killed, Russia got his body, but never notified the family."

Secondly, Matvienko said, the project prompts the Russian citizens to pressure their own authorities and demand social protection. Wives of Russian soldiers often stage protests demanding exchange of prisoners.

Finally, both projects, I Want To Live and I Want To Find, are aimed at preventing more Russians from joining the army and also facilitating the exchange of prisoners of war, Matvienko added.

"According to the Geneva Conventions, the swaps should take place after the fighting ends. So the very fact they take place now is a huge achievement," he said.

More than 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers have already been returned in exchange for nearly the same amount of Russians.

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Scientists announce discovery of 'very strange' 240 million-year-old 'Chinese dragon' fossil

Dinocephalosaurus orientalis. -- National Museums Scotland

(LONDON) -- Scientists in Scotland have revealed a remarkable discovery of a "very strange" 240 million-year-old "Chinese dragon" fossil.

The international team from National Museums Scotland revealed their discovery -- found in Guizhou Province in southern China -- of the Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, a 5-meter-long aquatic reptile from the Triassic period dating back an estimated 240 million years.

"With 32 separate neck vertebrae Dinocephalosaurus orientalis had an extraordinarily long neck that draws comparison with that of Tanystropheus hydroides, another strange marine reptile from the Middle Triassic of both Europe and China," scientists said announcing the discovery.

"Both reptiles were of similar size and have several features of the skull in common, including a fish-trap type of dentition," officials continued. "However, Dinocephalosaurus is unique in possessing many more vertebrae both in the neck and in the torso, giving the animal a much more snake-like appearance."

Scientists say the reptile was "clearly very well adapted to an oceanic lifestyle," as indicated by the flippered limbs and "exquisitely preserved" fishes in its stomach region.

"Despite superficial similarities, Dinocephalosaurus was not closely related to the famous long-necked plesiosaurs that only evolved around 40 million years later and which inspired the myth of the Loch Ness Monster."

The reptile was originally identified in 2003, but this most recent discovery of additional, more complete specimens has allowed scientists to depict the bizarre long-necked creature in full for the very first time.

"It is yet one more example of the weird and wonderful world of the Triassic that continues to baffle palaeontologists, said Dr. Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland in the statement announcing the discovery. "We are certain that it will capture imaginations across the globe due to its striking appearance, reminiscent of the long and snake-like, mythical Chinese Dragon."

Researchers from Scotland, Germany, the United States and China studied the fossil over the course of ten years at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing but made their announcement public on Friday.

"This has been an international effort. Working together with colleagues from the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Europe, we used newly discovered specimens housed at the Chinese Academy of Sciences to build on our existing knowledge of this animal," Professor Li Chun from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology said. "Among all of the extraordinary finds we have made in the Triassic of Guizhou Province, Dinocephalosaurus probably stands out as the most remarkable."

The paper describing the animal has been published in full in the academic journal Earth and Environmental Science: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

"As an early-career researcher, it has been an incredible experience to contribute to these significant findings," said Dr. Stephan Spiekman, a postdoctoral researcher based at the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History. "We hope that our future research will help us understand more about the evolution of this group of animals, and particularly how the elongate neck functioned."

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Alexei Navalny's death listed as 'natural,' mother says, accusing Russia of blackmail

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(LONDON) -- Alexei Navalny's cause of death has been listed as "natural" on his medical report, according to Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh, who was relayed the information on the death certificate by the Russian opposition leader's mother.

"The medical report on death shown to the mother of Alexei Navalny stated that the causes of death were natural," Yarmysh wrote in Russian on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Navalny's team has accused Russia of killing the Vladimir Putin critic, who was previously poisoned and nearly died in an assassination attempt blamed on the Russian president.

Alexei Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, said she was "secretly" taken to the morgue to see her son's body in a video message posted to YouTube on Thursday. She also said the Russian government is blackmailing her and trying to force her to have a secret funeral for her son.

"I just left the building of the Investigative Committee of the city of Salekhard. I spent almost a day there alone, alone with investigators and criminologists. They only let the lawyer in this afternoon. Yesterday evening they secretly took me to the morgue, where they showed Alexei," Navalnaya said in the video.

Navalny's body was taken to the Russian city of Salekhard, located on the Arctic Circle, after he died in a nearby penal colony on Feb. 16.

Investigators "claim they know the cause of death," Navalnaya said. She also said she signed Navalny's death certificate.

"They have all the medical and legal documents ready, which I saw, and I signed the medical death certificate," Navalnaya said.

Navalnaya said the Russian government is "blackmailing" her, trying to convince her to have a secret funeral for her son.

"I'm recording this video because they started threatening me. Looking into my eyes they say that if I don't agree to a secret funeral, they will do something with my son's body," Navalnaya said. "I don't want any special conditions. I just want everything to be done according to the law. I demand that his son be given to me immediately."

White House spokesperson John Kirby hammered Russia on the reporting that they were making demands of Navalny's mother in order for her to receive his body.

Kirby said he could not confirm that she was being "blackmailed," but, "nevertheless, this is the man's mother."

"It's not enough that she gets to see the body of her son," Kirby said. "She should be able to collect the body of her son so that she can properly memorialize her son and her son's bravery and courage and service and do all the things that any mother would want to do for a son lost in such a tragic way. The Russians need to give her back her son and they need to answer for what specifically befell Mr. Navalny and acknowledge that they, in fact, are responsible for his demise."

President Joe Biden addressed the U.S. following news of Navalny's death last week, saying he was both "not surprised and outraged" while placing the blame directly on Putin.

"We don't know exactly what happened but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was the result of something that Putin and his friends did," Biden said.

Biden met with Navalny's wife and daughter in San Francisco Thursday, according to a readout from the White House and photos the president posted to X.

"Today, I met with Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya – Aleksey Navalny's loved ones – to express my condolences for their devastating loss," Biden wrote on X. "Aleksey's legacy of courage will live on in Yulia and Dasha, and the countless people across Russia fighting for democracy and human rights."

ABC News' Rashid Haddou, Molly Nagle and Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

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Sudan faces 'perfect storm' as civil war sparks humanitarian crisis, aid groups warn

Belongings at Malakal transit site in South Sudan's Upper Nile State. CREDIT: Jadwiga Figula/Getty Images

(LONDON AND NEW YORK) -- After a missile struck her home in Khartoum, Sudan, last April, Dallia Mohamed Abdelmoniem said she was forced to flee and has not been back since.

"I literally packed for a week thinking I'll come back, you know, we'll be coming back home," Abdelmoniem, a journalist-turned-activist who is currently based in Egypt, told ABC News.

She added, "I have no idea if my house is still standing or not." Her century-deep roots in Sudan were ripped from the ground last year during the outbreak of the civil war, she said, scattering her family across the globe. "We have no family in Sudan anymore," Abdelmoniem said.

A humanitarian "perfect storm" is brewing in Sudan as hunger looms, health systems collapse and millions are displaced, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned last week in a briefing.

Just over 10 months since the start of the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces Paramilitary group (RSF), aid organizations say Sudan is being plunged into a "humanitarian crisis of epic proportions."

"Sudan is now one of the largest displacement crises globally, with nearly 8 million people displaced due to the ongoing conflict," Peter Graaf, the WHO's representative to Sudan, said in last week's briefing. "About 25 million people in Sudan need humanitarian assistance, 18 million of whom are facing acute hunger – 5 million at emergency levels of hunger."

The conflict, which erupted on April 15, 2023, between the Rapid Support Forces Paramilitary group (RSF) and the Sudanese Army (SAF) after weeks of tensions linked to a plan for returning the country to civilian rule after the dissolution of Sudan's government, has killed at least 12,000 people according to the U.N.

Local groups, however, say the true toll is likely much higher.

Speaking to ABC News over the phone, Dr. Arif Noor, Save the Children's country director for Sudan, says the impact of the war on Sudan has been "devastating." Noor said, "Almost 50 percent if not more of the nation is witnessing active conflict. There have been indiscriminate attacks on hospitals, schools, and public services, irregular water and electricity access, and large-scale internet blackouts."

Niemat Amhadi, a Sudanese activist based in Washington, D.C., told ABC News during she did not speak to her family in Sudan for six months during the country's first communicate blockade.

Since the conflict broke out, the two warring factions have utilized internet shutdowns to block communication in areas controlled by the opposing side, activists say. A major communication blockade has currently been in place for the past two weeks, sources told ABC News.

Ahmadi, who survived the early-2000s Darfuri genocide, said the current conflict in comparison "is the worst in our lifetime," citing not only these communication blockades, but also aid blockades.

Ahmadi told ABC News that "both sides are using humanitarian aid as a tool also to control people's survival," by preventing necessary aid from reaching those it is intended for.

"The health system is on the brink of collapse if not already collapsed in some areas," added Noor. "And women and children especially are facing the brunt."

The outbreak of the conflict has led to the displacement of nearly 3 million children, in addition to 2 million displaced in previous crises in Sudan, leading to the 'world's largest internal displacement crisis for children,' UNICEF said.

While the needs of the ravaged nation continue to mount and organizations persist in sounding alarms calling to address them, funding for the crisis is not adequately flowing, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said in a February press briefing.

"Despite the magnitude of needs, last year, the funding UNICEF sought for nearly three-quarters of children was not forthcoming," Elder stated.

UNICEF has been appealing for $840 million to provide multi-intervention humanitarian assistance to Sudanese families since last year.

Abdelmoniem also lamented the lack of funding. "It's not even a trickle, I wouldn't even call it a trickle. It's bread crumbs. I don't know what it is, but no, there's no money coming in whatsoever," she told ABC News.

Elder, in his briefing, also urged the public to consider the generational repercussions of the crisis.

"The true cost of war isn't just measured in casualties but also in the loss of intellectual capital, and this war risks condemning Sudan to a future bereft of learning, innovation, progress, and hope," he advised.

Abdelmoniem agreed, telling ABC News, "A lot of the youth, those who are under the age of 30, in their life they've seen nothing but war and destruction. How can you guarantee for them that, you know what, there's a future here?"

The Sudanese Armed Forces last week announced it had regained control of the city of Omdurman from the Rapid Support Forces following intense fighting in its first major advance since the onset of the war.

But fighting between the RSF and SAF continues, with clashes between the two sides in Sudan's capital Khartoum, West, North and Central Darfur, Kordofan as well as Sudan's breadbasket state, Al Jazirah.

As the war approaches its one-year anniversary, Noor tells ABC the nation is in "dire need for peace" as the State Department calls on parties to abide by their responsibility to protect civilians and humanitarian staff.

In a statement, a State Department spokesperson told ABC News: "We urge SAF General Burhan and RSF General Hemedti to hold those responsible for attacks on civilians to account, and to abide by their IGAD summit commitments of an unconditional ceasefire and a face-to-face meeting between them."

The spokesperson added, "All parties to the conflict have a responsibility to protect civilians and humanitarian staff, who are risking their lives to help people in need. Any interference or theft of humanitarian goods is unacceptable and keeps lifesaving aid from reaching those that need it most."

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Alexei Navalny's death listed as 'natural,' mother says, accusing Russia of blackmail

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(NEW YORK) -- Alexei Navalny's cause of death has been listed as "natural" on his medical report, according to Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh, who was relayed the information on the death certificate by the Russian opposition leader's mother.

"The medical report on death shown to the mother of Alexei Navalny stated that the causes of death were natural," Yarmysh wrote in Russian on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Navalny's team has accused Russia of killing the Vladimir Putin critic, who was previously poisoned and nearly died in an assassination attempt blamed on the Russian president.

Alexei Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, said she was "secretly" taken to the morgue to see her son's body in a video message posted to YouTube on Thursday. She also said the Russian government is blackmailing her and trying to force her to have a secret funeral for her son.

"I just left the building of the Investigative Committee of the city of Salekhard. I spent almost a day there alone, alone with investigators and criminologists. They only let the lawyer in this afternoon. Yesterday evening they secretly took me to the morgue, where they showed Alexei," Navalnaya said in the video.

Navalny's body was taken to the Russian city of Salekhard, located on the Arctic Circle, after he died in a nearby penal colony on Feb. 16.

Investigators "claim they know the cause of death," Navalnaya said. She also said she signed Navalny's death certificate.

"They have all the medical and legal documents ready, which I saw, and I signed the medical death certificate," Navalnaya said.

Navalnaya said the Russian government is "blackmailing" her, trying to convince her to have a secret funeral for her son.

"I'm recording this video because they started threatening me. Looking into my eyes they say that if I don’t agree to a secret funeral, they will do something with my son’s body," Navalnaya said. "I don't want any special conditions. I just want everything to be done according to the law. I demand that his son be given to me immediately."

President Joe Biden addressed the U.S. following news of Navalny's death last week, saying he was both "not surprised and outraged" while placing the blame directly on Putin.

"We don't know exactly what happened but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was the result of something that Putin and his friends did," Biden said.

ABC News' Rashid Haddou contributed to this report.

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US estimates Ukraine military shortages could grow catastrophic by late March

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(NEW YORK) -- By spring, Ukraine faces a potentially catastrophic shortage of ammunition and air defenses that could effectively turn the tide of the war and lend Russian President Vladimir Putin a significant advantage, according to an internal U.S. estimate.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two U.S. officials described "late March" as being a particularly crucial time for the fate of Ukrainian troops if Congress doesn't pass a new aid bill. A third official said it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly when the situation for Ukrainian troops could worsen but noted that the shortages were expected to grow more dire through spring.

"The juncture starts now and it just keeps getting worse progressively through the spring and into summer. So, this time period that we are entering is a critical time period," said a senior U.S. defense official.

The U.S. assessment comes nearly two years after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and as support for Ukraine in Congress and in the American public is fading. The once-steady flow of cash and weapons from the U.S. -- totaling some $44 billion since the invasion -- has mostly dried up. A separate $60 billion aid package requested by President Joe Biden and passed by the Senate is in limbo in the House as some Republicans loyal to Donald Trump question America's commitment to another far-away conflict entering its third year.

The White House this week directly blamed the hold up for Russia's victory in the eastern city of Avdiivka. The town fell last weekend after Ukrainian troops there were forced to ration ammunition, handing the Kremlin its first major military victory since last May.

"It was because of congressional inaction," said White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby on Ukraine's loss. "And we've been warning Congress that if they didn't act, Ukraine would suffer losses on the battlefield and here you go. That's what happened this weekend."

U.S. officials predict similar scenarios will play out elsewhere in Ukraine as the government there is forced to make tough choices on where to put its remaining air defenses -- and as Russia makes greater use of its airpower, including lobbing satellite-guided glide-bombs much as it was in Avdiivka.

"The things that are protected today -- they will not be able to protect all of these locations in the future if they don't maintain supplies of interceptors," the senior defense official said. And if Russia gains control of the skies, "it completely changes the nature of this fight."

Added one Ukrainian official: "Our primary goal is to deter Russian aviation. If we can't do that, it's time to pack our things."

The $44 billion in U.S. security assistance for Ukraine has supplied Kyiv with a long list of sophisticated weaponry including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles, a Patriot air defense battery, advanced rocket launchers known as "HIMARS," and 31 M1 Abrams tanks. The U.S. also is helping to train the first batch of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets donated by Denmark and the Netherlands.

But officials say Ukraine urgently needs both small and large munitions, including the GPS-guided rockets that make the HIMARS launchers effective.

Another concern is Ukraine's air defense capability, including supplies to protect the donated F-16 jets slated for deployment later this year. Officials say the country also still needs money to build the infrastructure to support the fighters -- including runways and hangers to store the jets. And while the U.S. is helping to train some pilots -- described by one U.S. official as "fewer than 10" -- there wouldn't be enough money to bring on more in the future without additional U.S. aid.

Behind much of the GOP hesitation to support Ukraine is Trump, who has said it would be "stupid" to provide foreign aid to countries instead of loans. He also has encouraged Russia to attack NATO allies if they don't contribute enough to their defense spending -- a provocation quickly decried by U.S. allies in Europe as dangerous.

Complicating matters in the U.S. is that the Pentagon itself is set to run out of money on March 8 if Congress is unable to agree on annual spending legislation. House Republicans have insisted upon unspecified border policy provisions and deep cuts in domestic spending opposed by the Senate and White House.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is trying to make the case to lawmakers that Ukraine isn't a lost cause.

The U.S. estimates Russian has spent up to $211 billion on military operations in the war and losing $10 billion in arms sales. That's in addition to the heavy casualties: Of the 360,000 Russian fighters available before the war began, some 315,000 Russian fighters have been killed or wounded.

A separate Dec. 8 estimate by the Defense Intelligence Agency, provided to Congress and described by a person familiar with the findings, concluded that Russia has lost some 2,200 tanks out of the 3,500 it had in stock before the war began.

Analysts say those losses haven't crippled Russian forces though because Moscow has been able to pull Soviet-era vehicles out of storage while also manufacturing new ones. At the same time, Russia's economic alliance with China has been able to help the country to shrug off many international sanctions, keeping its economy and military industrial base afloat.

In one recent analysis, the International Institute for Strategic Studies didn't see any sign Russia was buckling under the weight of such hefty losses on the battlefield.

"Russia will be able to sustain its assault on Ukraine at current attrition rates for another 2–3 years, and maybe even longer," the institute wrote.

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Russia denies US access to American-Russian former ballerina accused of treason

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(NEW YORK) -- Moscow's arrest of a Los Angeles woman on charges of high treason has cast a new spotlight on the steep challenges imposed by Russia's refusal to recognize almost all dual citizenships -- sharply limiting diplomats' ability to oversee the cases and intervene if warranted.

Ksenia Karelina, a 33-year-old former ballerina who holds both U.S. and Russian citizenship, was arrested Jan. 27 in the city of Yekaterinburg in central Russia and then jailed in early February for allegedly organizing fundraisers for Ukraine's military, attending pro-Ukraine rallies, and posting messages against Russia's war in Ukraine, according to Russian state media.

But even though a longstanding agreement between the U.S. and Russia requires both countries to immediately notify the other if one of their nationals is detained, officials in Washington had virtually no information about her case when she was publicly identified by the FSB -- Russia's Federal Security Service -- earlier this week.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow were working to learn more and gain access to Karelina -- a provision stipulated by the same agreement that requires notification.

However, Miller set low expectations, saying that in recent history, Russia has not recognized any dual U.S.-Russian national's American citizenship.

"We have pressed it at a number of levels," he said on Wednesday. "We don't have a lot of regular engagements with the Russian government now, but our embassy continues to raise it on a regular basis."

While cutting off U.S. officials' access to the detainee obscures information about specific cases, it also inhibits diplomats' ability to assess the well-being of prisoners who often must endure weeks or months of harsh conditions behind bars between public court appearances.

Russian authorities have released a video purportedly of Karelina following her arrest -- a clip showing a woman with a white hat pulled over her eyes being escorted through a hallway and handcuffed by a masked security guard, put in a car, and then placed in a cell.

Karelina's former employer and Russian media outlets have said that the treason charges levied against her stem from a $51.80 donation she made to a Ukrainian charity. If convicted, she could face a life sentence.

Miller said Karelina's arrest was a reminder for all American citizens about the dangers of traveling to Russia, especially given current tensions.

"Russia continues to detain its own citizens and continues to detain American citizens, and it's why we have tried to make clear just as plainly as we possibly can that no American citizens should consider traveling to Russia for any reason, period, because they are at risk of detention, imprisonment by the Russian regime," Miller said.

"If you are considering travel to Russia for any reason, do not do it. I don't think we can say it any more clearly than that," he continued.

Karelina is not the only U.S.-Russian dual national jailed by Moscow in recent months. Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was arrested in October for failing to register as a foreign agent and later charged her with spreading false information about the Russian army, an offense that carries up to 15 years in jail.

American diplomats also have not been able to access Kurmasheva, and a court recently extended her pretrial detention through April.

Despite the State Department's blunt warnings against visiting Russia, its travel alert does not explicitly warn dual citizens about the treatment they will almost certainly face if they are detained.

In a clause regarding Moscow's 2022 decree on military conscription, the U.S. alert warns that Russia "may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals' U.S. citizenship."

However, the British government's warning includes a specific section for dual citizens, advising "dual British-Russian nationals are treated as Russian nationals by local authorities" and "if you are arrested or detained, Russian authorities are unlikely to allow us consular access."

Even in cases that don't involve dual nationals, Russia has been increasingly reluctant to allow diplomats to access jailed foreign nationals in recent years and regularly restricts access to Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, two Americans the U.S. says are being wrongfully detained on espionage charges.

The Russian government has dual citizenship agreements with two countries -- Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

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Uncertain future for Ukrainian refugees as war enters third year

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- When Mariya Grigoryeva found out she was pregnant with her second child days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, she prepared to flee.

She and her young daughter left for Moldova in March 2022 while her husband stayed behind in Odesa to continue work as a seaman, she said. Two months later, they landed in Philadelphia, where her grandmother and other family members live and they have been ever since.

As the Ukraine-Russia war enters its third year with no end in sight, Grigoryeva doesn't know when they might be able to return to Ukraine, where she said their life had been "perfect" before the war -- and what they might return to.

"I had to leave because I had to survive and to give a new life," Grigoryeva told ABC News. "It was a very hard decision to [leave] your home, your country, your relatives."

Grigoryeva is one of nearly 6.5 million Ukrainian refugees recorded worldwide as of December 2023, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nearly half a million Ukrainian refugees have come to the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security. More than 178,000 individuals have arrived at U.S. ports of entry and been processed as part of Uniting for Ukraine since the program launched in April 2022, according to DHS. Additionally, more than 319,000 Ukrainians have been processed into the U.S. outside of Uniting for Ukraine since March 24, 2022, DHS said.

Since coming to the U.S., Grigoryeva said she has found a "second home" at KleinLife, a Jewish community center founded in 1975 that is run by Ukrainian and Russian refugees. There, her 7-year-old daughter, Yeva, participates in programs including theater and art therapy.

"When we came here, she said it is like a small part of Ukraine, it is my like second home," Grigoryeva said of her daughter.

"It is great because it is a safe place where your child is happy," Grigoryeva said.

After seeing an influx of Ukrainian refugees in the wake of the invasion, KleinLife began offering a free summer camp for Ukrainian refugee children in 2022. As more refugees arrived, the program grew to help families year-round with employment paperwork, after-school care, ESL classes and more.

"I wanted to see kids behaving like kids. Because when they came in, they were really in the rough shape," Andre Krug, the CEO of KleinLife who came to the U.S. from Ukraine in 1989, told ABC News.

Krug said that while playing outside, some children would cover their ears and hit the ground when planes would depart a nearby airport.

"We wanted to make them kids again," he said.

When Grigoryeva first started coming to the center, pregnant with her second child, they helped collect baby clothes and a crib for her, Victoria Faykin, a Russian refugee who is KleinLife's vice president, told ABC News.

"For mothers, it's most important for children to be safe while they come to America. And they left husbands, have left everything in Ukraine," Faykin said. "For them, it's most important to bring children and make them happy and safe."

Grigoryeva came to the U.S. on an active tourist visa, which provided a quick pathway to enter the country. But it also has meant she could not work or get a driver's license, she said. She is currently a full-time student and has applied for Temporary Protected Status under Ukraine's designation, which has been extended through April 19, 2025, and allows refugees to apply for employment authorization documents.

Refugees who came to the U.S. through the Uniting for Ukraine program are able to temporarily stay in a two-year parole period and are likely able to seek employment authorization, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

No matter which scenario refugees fall under, there is a lot of uncertainty, Ricky Palladino, an immigration attorney in Philadelphia, told ABC News.

"As of now, there really aren't any clear permanent pathways to legalization for Ukrainians," Palladino said. "That causes a lot of stress, especially for the people that really want to find a permanent home in the United States, because they're not sure or certain that they will be able to have a safe life if they returned to Ukraine."

If Grigoryeva is unable to get Temporary Protected Status, she thinks they will have to leave.

"Life is too hard and a lot of money for rent, for student payments," she said.

The family has found a second home in Philadelphia during the war, though they would also like to return to Ukraine one day, she said.

"Here life is perfect I think for child," she said. "But she still want to go home. Every year she makes a wish to Santa to go home. Every birthday."

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Decrease in aid trucks entering Gaza as access to food dwindles, agencies say

Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images

(TEL-AVIV, Israel) -- The number of humanitarian aid trucks entering the war-torn Gaza Strip has decreased over the past few weeks, with the delivery of food aid to the north almost completely stopped, according to the United Nations and the Israeli government.

The causes were not immediately clear but were likely due to a combination of factors. The entry and distribution of aid in Gaza have been disrupted since war broke out after Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the coastal enclave, launched a surprise attack on neighboring Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel has said it is conducting this war to dismantle Hamas and says they are doing everything in their power to protect civilian lives throughout the war.

Now, after five months of war, amidst an ever-growing outcry for aid to help the Palestinian people trapped in a warzone, the United Nations has warned that people are starving.

The Kerem Shalom crossing on the border of Egypt, Israel, and Gaza, one of two locations where aid trucks can enter Gaza after being inspected by authorities, has been impacted by Israeli protesters in recent days. Protesters stood in the way to stop trucks from entering Kerem Shalom, causing the crossing to be closed from Feb. 8-10 and again from Feb. 15-17, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) told ABC News in a statement on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Rafah crossing on the border of Egypt and Gaza, the second location where aid can enter Gaza, has seen a significant decrease in the number of aid trucks crossing into the territory over the past week, according to data compiled by UNRWA, which is the main U.N. agency operating in Gaza.

No food in the north

UNRWA said it has not been able to deliver food aid to northern Gaza since Jan. 23, almost a month ago. The U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) announced Tuesday that it was pausing deliveries of food aid to the north of Gaza "until conditions are in place that allow for safe distribution."

Nutrition screenings conducted at shelters and health centers in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, found that 15.6% of children under the age of 2 -- or 1 in 6 children under 2 years of age -- are acutely malnourished, compared to 5% in Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where most aid enters, according to a report released Monday by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a humanitarian aid partnership led by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The acute malnutrition rate across Gaza was less than 1% before the war began.

"Of these, almost 3% suffer from severe wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, which puts young children at highest risk of medical complications and death unless they receive urgent treatment," multiple U.N. agencies said in a joint statement alongside the release of the report. "As the data were collected in January, the situation is likely to be even graver today."

Desperation and lawlessness are also hindering the transportation of aid inside the war-ravaged enclave, according to the agencies.

A WFP convoy heading north from Gaza City was "surrounded by crowds of hungry people close to the Wadi Gaza checkpoint," on Feb. 18, the agency said in a statement Tuesday announcing that it would halt aid deliveries to the region. The same convoy faced "complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order," when it tried to resume its journey north on Feb. 19, according to WFP.

"Several trucks were looted between Khan Yunis and Deir al Balah and a truck driver was beaten. The remaining flour was spontaneously distributed off the trucks in Gaza City, amidst high tension and explosive anger," WFP said in a statement. "The decision to pause deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip has not been taken lightly, as we know it means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger."

Decrease in aid trucks entering Gaza

COGAT, the Israeli agency that oversees Palestinian affairs, also confirmed Tuesday that there has been a drop in aid trucks entering Gaza.

More than 450 trucks are waiting on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, according to Col. Moshe Tetro, an official with COGAT. Part of the problem is that U.N. staff in Gaza have not come to distribute the aid in the trucks, Tetro said during a press conference.

Several countries, including the United States, paused funding to UNRWA at the end of January after the Israeli government alleged several of the agency's workers were involved in the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel. UNRWA has said it is investigating the allegations and took swift action against the accused.

Tetro told reporters that politics are playing into why aid trucks are not entering Gaza and why aid is not being distributed in the way it was a few weeks ago. The U.N. also needs to hire more staff to distribute the aid, he added.

Meanwhile, more than 50 trucks entered via Rafah four out of seven days during the first week of February, while 87 trucks entered on Feb. 8, during the second week.

By the end of the week, no trucks had entered through Rafah for three consecutive days and no aid trucks entered on four different days from Feb. 12 through Feb. 18, according to the data. Israel conducted an intense military operation in Rafah during this time to rescue two hostages.

"Without more humanitarian assistance, the nutritional situation is likely to continue to deteriorate rapidly and at scale across the Gaza Strip," multiple U.N. agencies said in a joint statement Monday alongside the release of the Global Nutrition Cluster report. "With the majority of health, water, and sanitation services severely degraded, it is essential that those that remain functional are protected and reinforced to stem the spread of diseases and stop malnutrition from worsening."

ABC News' Jordana Miller contributed to this report.

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Scientists discover how whales can sing under water and how shipping noise can disrupt communication

George Karbus Photography/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A discovery on how baleen whales are able to sing under water is giving scientists a better understanding on how noise pollution from shipping activity can alter marine mammal's ability to communicate -- and therefore thrive as a species.

When the ancient ancestors of whales returned to the ocean from land, they developed major adaptations to make vocal communication feasible under water, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

A study into how whales produce their vocals beneath the ocean's surface found that baleen whales -- including the sei, common minke and humpback species -- use specialized larynxes to communicate with each other under water.

The larynxes of three baleen whales that were examined were found to have adaptations that allow the animals to create massive air flows back and forth when they breathe in, Coen Elemans, a professor of sound communication and barrier at the University of Southern Denmark and author of the paper, told ABC News. While toothed whales evolved a nasal vocal organ, baleen whales were found to have a specialized structures to allow the production of sound and recycling of air while preventing inhalation of water, the paper found.

Because the frequency in which the whales sing would likely be low -- with a maximum frequency of 300 hertz -- the communication between baleen whales are likely severely impacted by human activity, as shipping vessels typically create noise between 30 hertz and 300 hertz, according to the paper.

When the noise from the shipping activity is present, it reduces the range in which the whales can communicate, which could then produce stress on the animals, Joy Reidenberg, a professor of anatomy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told ABC News.

"We think that this mechanism is an ancestral mechanism that these animals have used to make very low frequency sounds in an environment where sound is the only way of communication and the only find animals that are very far apart," Elemans said.

Unlike humans, who mainly rely on sight, whales live in a "completely acoustic world," Sharon Livermore, director of marine conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told ABC News.

Vessel noise pollution and shipping intensity poses a real threat to large whales, Bekah Lane, a cetacean field research specialist at The Marine Mammal Center, a California-based nonprofit marine animal rescue center, told ABC News.

Research has shown that constant shipping noise can dominate the ocean soundscape and cause stress levels to rise in some species -- especially the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, Livermore said.

"under water noise is a pollutant, and it's an invisible pollutant to the human eye," she said.

Singing is only one of the sounds that whales make, said Reidenberg, who peer-reviewed the study. It is typically the males that sing, and the performances take place in tropical waters, where they look for mates.

Other forms of communications that whales made are calls -- which are different from "singing" -- and are especially used by mothers and other whales attempting to communicate with other individual whales, Reidenberg said.

"Their ability to hear and be heard is key to their survival," Livermore said.

The deaths of five North Atlantic right whales since December has renewed calls for federal shipping regulations. Last week, a coalition of environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit to finalize shipping speed rules proposed in 2022 that would require mariners off the East Coast to slow down in order to reduce the risk of injury or death to the endangered whales.

However, consumer demand to have goods flow across oceans via large ships as quickly as possible adds another layer of complexity to the issue, Lane said.

"We need to think critically about how our consumer choices and purchasing power can have real consequences for marine wildlife," Lane said.

The day after the lawsuit was filed, another North Atlantic right whale -- a juvenile female -- was found dead off the coast of Georgia, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ongoing research efforts coupled with working directly with local harbor safety committees, the maritime industry and government agencies are necessary to find solutions to better protect whales, Lane said.

The researchers hope that technology in the future will allow them to study live whales -- a feat nearly impossible at the moment considering how large the animals are. Technology such as a remote operated vehicle that could get close to a whale while it is singing and get ultrasounds would be ideal, Reidenberg said.

"I mean, we can't put a whale in a CAT scan or an MRI," she said.

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'My son is not a doll': The story of Gaza's baby Muhammad as his family grieves amid misinformation

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- An image of a mother holding her dead infant in her arms outside a hospital in Gaza went viral last year but it was denied in online posts viewed millions of times online.

The baby's name was Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar. He was just shy of 5 months old when a bomb hit a neighboring home, killing him on Dec. 1, 2023, in Al-Mughraqa. Muhammad was just three months old when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, and the Israeli military declared war on the neighboring Gaza Strip.

ABC News' Samy Zyara found the baby's family sheltering in a tent in southern Gaza, and they shared part of his story that hasn't yet been told.

"When the bombing happened, my son screamed loudly," his mother Asmahan Attia Al-Zahar said in an interview with ABC News. "After the sound, I don't know what happened. I got up and took my son, my mother, and my sister. She said 'Let's run away.'"

Al-Zahar, 29, told ABC News they had lost everything when their own home was bombarded in November 2023, and had been displaced multiple times since then.

Al-Zahar said that she had woken up hopeful last December that a week-long humanitarian pause between Israel and Hamas would be extended by a few days.

The truce was not prolonged and instead, a bombardment hit a neighboring home while Al-Zahar was visiting her family and collecting clothes for her six children.

"I got up and took my son in my arms, and we were running from under the dust and the bombing, and I didn't know that my son was dead," Al-Zahar said.

She told ABC News that they tried to revive him, but said he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. He was then brought to Al-Alqsa Martyrs Hospital in Dei al-Balah for burial.

Images of baby Muhammad, wrapped in a white shroud with mouth and eyes open and being held by his mother and his grandfather outside the hospital, went viral.

Those photographs were taken by local photojournalist Ali Jadallah who published them on his Instagram account. He wasn't alone in documenting the scene. Several other local photojournalists documented the scene and published videos of the final goodbye. The images were also published by Getty.

Yet, several users online denied the existence of baby Muhammad in claims and posts that were viewed millions of times.

"I was breastfeeding him. How is he a doll? How do they say he's a doll? He is not a doll. He is my son," said Al-Zahar about her infant son.

Misinformation, disinformation and propaganda have been widespread throughout this conflict with both sides using social media to drum up support, according to experts.

"I think the intensity of online discourse around Israel and Palestine is really kind of much worse than I've seen in any of the conflicts," said Elliot Higgins, founder of an independent investigative group called Bellingcat.

"People are not looking to establish the truth in many cases, but basically just look for things to bash each other over the head online. It's really just about people arguing their positions, their opinions, and not really establishing the exact truth around what's happening," Higgins added.

Meanwhile, baby Muhammad is one of the more than 12,300 Palestinian children killed in Gaza in just over four months, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 29,195 people have been killed and 69,170 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

As for Al-Zahar and her remaining children, most of them are now displaced and living in tents.

"Our homes are gone. Our children are gone. Enough. Have mercy on us. I swear, we are tired. Our psychology has been destroyed. Our children's psychology has been destroyed. We can no longer provide anything for them," Al-Zahar said.

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Eleven lions rescued from conflict-hit Sudan arrive in South Africa

Hristo Vladev/Four Paws

(LONDON) -- Eleven lions rescued from conflict-hit Sudan have found a new home in South Africa, animal welfare organization Four Paws has announced.

The lions -- rescued among a total of 48 animals from Sudan's capital, Khartoum, the heart of the conflict -- have been transferred to the LionsRock Big Cat Sanctuary in Bethlehem, South Africa.

"The lions spent nine months surrounded by the tragedies of war. They are traumatised, weak, emaciated, and prone to injury," said Four Paws in a statement sent to ABC News. "Getting them out of the conflict zone in Sudan was an emotional rollercoaster and a challenge beyond anything we have done before."

The lions were initially rescued from Sudan's capital Khartoum in November 2023 and evacuated to a designated safe area in Wad Madani, capital of Sudan's Al Jazirah state.

However, as fighting reached Wad Madani following the advance of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group amid intense clashes with the Sudanese Armed Forces, the lions were evacuated in an "emergency rescue" in January.

Once out of Sudan, the lions were taken to the Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife reserve in Souf, Jordan where they received initial treatment. Four Paws told ABC a total of 15 lions, four hyenas and one serval cat were transported to Jordan. One of the lions died there, the group said.

"Due to their critical health condition and urgent need for treatment and monitoring, the other rescued animals -- three lions, four hyenas and a serval -- found a long-term home there," said Four Paws.

Other animals, including deer and birds, that were evacuated alongside the lions in November 2023 could be released back into the wild, Four Paws says.

Four Paws says it is glad "tireless efforts" in conjunction with the Sudanese authorities and a global network of organizations paid off.

"These eleven lions are ambassadors for hope," the group said.

It added, "Sadly, more and more conflicts arise all around the world, causing humanitarian crises but also posing a threat to captive animals dependent on human care."

Decades of conflict in Sudan have severely impacted the Northeast African nation's wildlife, and wildlife habitats. Researchers have found that "armed conflict has a largely detrimental effect on wildlife habitat populations through tactical military strategies and effects on institutions, movement of people and economies."

Dr. Amir Khalil, a Four Paws veterinarian, said the lions can finally get some "rest, peace and proper care."

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