World News

Top Islamic State leader killed in U.S. raid in Somalia, officials say

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(WASHINGTON) -- A risky military ground raid by U.S. special operations forces on a cave complex in northern Somalia on Wednesday night killed Bilal al-Sudani, a top leader and organizer with the Islamic State, U.S. officials said.

Al-Sudani was killed in a firefight along with 10 other fighters, according to the officials. There were no U.S. casualties in the raid, the officials said, emphasizing that there were also no civilian casualties -- though officials later clarified that one of the U.S. service members had suffered a dog bite from a dog serving with U.S. forces.

The officials said President Joe Biden had authorized the raid earlier this week after conferring with his national security team. The U.S. forces that conducted the raid had rehearsed it many times at a mock-up facility that simulated the target area -- a technique similar to what U.S. special operations forces did prior to the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan.

U.S. forces had prepared for the possibility of capturing al-Sudani, the officials said, “but the hostile forces response to the operation resulted in his death.” The officials refused to say whether the timing of the operation indicated that there was an imminent attack threat to the U.S.

“On January 25, on orders from the President, the U.S. military conducted an assault operation in northern Somalia that resulted in the death of a number of ISIS members, including Bilal-al-Sudani, an ISIS leader in Somalia and a key facilitator for ISIS’s global network,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering the growing presence of ISIS in Africa and for funding the group’s operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan,” Austin continued.

“This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad,” he said, praising "our extraordinary service members as well as our intelligence community and other interagency partners for their support to this successful counterterrorism operation.”

U.S. officials who briefed reporters on the raid described al-Sudani as a notorious extremist.

“[He] has a long history as a terrorist in Somalia. Before he joined ISIS, he was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2012 for his role in [the group] Shabaab, helping foreign fighters to travel to an Al Shabaab training camp, facilitating financing for foreign violent extremists in Somalia,” one of the two U.S. officials told reporters.

“This operation was the result of extraordinary coordination and careful planning across all elements of the U.S. government for many months,” one of the officials said, noting having first seen the first intelligence on al-Sudani’s whereabouts months ago.

“An intended capture operation was ultimately determined to be the best option to maximize the intelligence value of the operation and increase its precision in challenging terrain," an official said. "At the same time, and based on extensive past experience, we recognize that even an intended capture operation might well result in al Sudani’s death -- as ultimately it did.”

The officials indicated that targeting terrorists remained among the government's top priorities.

“Through this operation and others, President Biden has made it very clear: We are committed to finding and eliminating terrorist threats to the United States and to the American people, wherever they are hiding, no matter how remote. That's the context for understanding yesterday's operation,” one of the officials said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Sister of American on trial in Russia: ‘Please bring my brother home’

ABC News

(HUNTSVILLE, Ala.) -- With her older brother now on trial in Moscow after being held in a Russian detention center for more than a year, each day is a struggle for Margaret Aaron of Huntsville, Ala.

“It’s been very, very tough on our whole family,” Aaron told ABC News anchor Linsey Davis during an interview on ABC News Live Prime on Tuesday. “It’s just something that’s on your mind every day and [it] weighs on you very heavily.”

Aaron’s brother, David Barnes, was taken into custody in Russia’s capital at the beginning of 2022, accused by law enforcement there of abusing his two sons in Harris and Montgomery counties in Texas years earlier, even though Barnes is not facing charges in either Houston-area county.

Although Aaron and her relatives have been able to exchange letters with Barnes, she says she has not been able to speak with her brother since his arrest.

Barnes could now face a lengthy sentence in a Russian penal colony if convicted by a Moscow judge at the conclusion of his ongoing bench trial.

“We would appreciate any help that we could get to get him back home,” Aaron said, adding that she hopes her brother could be classified by the U.S. as being “wrongfully detained” and that he could be brought back through a prisoner exchange.

Barnes has pleaded not guilty and is being represented in court by Gleb Glinka, an attorney who practices in both the United States and Russia.

A 65-year-old resident of The Woodlands in suburban Montgomery County, Barnes traveled to Moscow around a month before his arrest. After his wife left for Russia, Barnes was designated the sole managing conservator by a court in Texas, making him the primary guardian of the children. However, because the kids weren’t in the country anymore, he says he went to Russia to see them, but was not intending to try to bring them back to the U.S. at that time.

“He wanted to make an effort to try to see his children,” Aaron told Davis. “He had not seen them in three years.”

The children were allegedly taken out of the U.S. on March 26, 2019 by Barnes’ Russian ex-wife, Svetlana Koptyaeva. As ABC News has previously reported, Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, considers the children to have been missing since that date.

This followed a contentious child custody and divorce process that lasted for years, along with reports in which Koptyaeva accused Barnes of abusing the children. Barnes was investigated for child abuse in Montgomery County after the concerns were raised, but prosecutors found no basis to file charges against him.

However, after Koptyaeva allegedly fled the U.S. with the boys, Montgomery County law enforcement did open an interference with child custody case against her and she remains wanted in Texas on a felony warrant. Although currently jailed, Barnes still is considered to have custody of the children based on a Texas judge’s 2020 order.

Koptyaeva continues to say that the children were abused, telling ABC News in part in an email on Tuesday, "there was enough evidence, including several psych evaluations, to take the case to court. The boys and I passed several separate psych evaluations and results were the same — the boys are not lying."

"I was protecting the boys when the U.S. system failed to keep them safe," Koptyaeva added. "We had to [run] away from the U.S. so that the boys didn't have to suffer from sexual abuse anymore, leaving everything behind. The charges for child custody interference against me were filed after we ran away."

Meanwhile, Barnes’ family maintains that he is innocent of the allegations against him.

"There was no evidence, no proof to support these claims," Aaron said. "He loved those children."

While Americans Brittney Griner, Sarah Krivanek, Taylor Dudley, and Trevor Reed were all released from Russia over the last year, Barnes remains incarcerated in the country, along with other U.S. citizens such as Marc Fogel and Paul Whelan. However, Barnes is the only one of these Americans who was accused by Russian prosecutors of wrongdoing on U.S. soil, despite a lack of charges in a U.S. court.

Barnes’ trial began in November and testimony began last week, with Koptyaeva and her mother taking the stand in a Moscow courtroom. Since the trial is occurring on occasional days over a period of several months, Barnes is not scheduled to return to court to face a judge until Feb. 22.

Representatives for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow last visited Barnes in his detention center in December, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told ABC News.

When asked by Davis if she has a message for the highest-ranking government officials in the U.S., Aaron said, “Just please bring my brother home.”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: 11 dead in missile strikes on Ukraine

SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than 10 months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.

Putin’s forces in November pulled out of key positions, retreating from Kherson as Ukrainian troops led a counteroffensive targeting the city. Russian drones have continued bombarding civilian targets throughout Ukraine, knocking out critical power infrastructure as winter sets in.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jan 26, 1:11 PM EST
11 dead, 11 injured in missile strikes on Ukraine

Eleven people died and 11 others were injured in Russian missile strikes throughout 11 regions of Ukraine on Thursday, according to Ukrainian emergency services.

Two fires broke out and 35 buildings were damaged in the strike.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Jan 26, 11:17 AM EST
US designates Russia's Wagner Group as 'transnational criminal organization'

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against a number of individuals and entities associated with the Wager Group in Russia and across the world in an effort to "degrade the Russian Federation’s capacity to wage war against Ukraine," the department said in a statement.

The U.S. designated Russia's Wagner Group a "transnational criminal organization," not just for the alleged atrocities it has committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also for its alleged human rights abuses in African countries like the Central African Republic.

The U.S. believes the Wagner Group has 50,000 people fighting in Ukraine, including 40,000 convicts, according to the White House. The group's leader is Russian President Vladimir Putin's ally Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who was already facing several U.S. sanctions.

Last week, the White House first announced the U.S. would take this step.

Jan 26, 5:21 AM EST
One dead in Kyiv in Russian missile strike

At least 15 missiles fired at Kyiv on Thursday were shot down, officials said.

One person was killed and two were wounded after part of a missile fell in the Holosiivskyi District of Kyiv, Mayor Vitaliy Klychko said. The missile hit a residential building, he said.

Air raid sirens began sounding just before sunrise in the capital. Some residents fled to shelters, including Kyiv's metro stations.

A missile also struck Vinnytsia, the local governor said. No casualties were immediately reported there.

Jan 26, 2:00 AM EST
Air raid sirens sound in Kyiv

Air raid sirens went off across Ukraine as Russia launched multiple missiles from the east and south. Some were shot down, according to Andriy Yermak, head of the president's office.

Airborne forces last night shot down all 24 unmanned aerial vehicles launched by Russia. At least 15 of those were shot down in or around Kyiv, according to the local authorities. No casualties or impacts were reported.

Jan 25, 6:31 AM EST
Germany to deliver tanks to Ukraine, in major step for allies' support

German officials said on Wednesday they plan to deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

“This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally.”

Officials said the decision was the result of intensive consultations that took place with Germany's closest European and international partners. Other European allies also plan to send tanks, German officials said.

Ukrainian troops will be trained on the tanks in Germany, officials said in a statement. Germany also planned to send ammunition and provide system maintenance.

Jan 24, 2:53 PM EST
US considering sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine: Officials

The Biden administration is leaning toward sending M1A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, U.S. officials have confirmed to ABC News.

The U.S. could commit to sending between 30 to 50 tanks to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

It could take more than a year for the new tanks to be fielded, officials said.

While President Joe Biden has not made a final decision, the transfer of Abrams would presumably enable Germany to authorize the transfer of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. This could then allow the 12 NATO countries that have Leopard 2 tanks to transfer them to Ukraine.

The decision could be announced as early as this week, officials said.

Jan 23, 5:11 PM EST
Zelenskyy issues new rule barring officials from personal travel out of country

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a new policy that forbids Ukrainian officials from leaving the country for non-governmental purposes.
"Officials will no longer be able to travel abroad for vacation or for any other non-governmental purpose," Zelesnkyy said in his evening address Monday. "Within five days, the Cabinet of Ministers is to develop a border-crossing procedure for officials so that only a real working trip can be the reason for border crossing."
-ABC News' Ellie Kaufman

Jan 19, 7:06 PM EST
CIA director held secret meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv: US Official

CIA Director William J. Burns traveled to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian intelligence officials last week, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The director "reinforced our continued support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression," according to the official.

The Washington Post first reported the meeting earlier Thursday.

-ABC News' Cindy Smith

Jan 19, 6:13 PM EST
Pentagon announces $2.5B more aid for Ukraine

The Pentagon announced Thursday evening that it will provide Ukraine with $2.5 billion in additional aid for its efforts fighting Russian forces.

This is the 13th drawdown of equipment from the Department of Defense's inventories for Ukraine since August 2021, the agency said.

The package includes several weapons and equipment such as 59 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers, the DoD said.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Jan 19, 4:34 PM EST
UN nuclear watchdog chief 'worried' about a disaster in Ukraine

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog group said Thursday that he is worried the world is becoming complacent about the "very precarious" situation posed by the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine.

Russian forces seized the plant, Europe's largest, in March 2022 and it has repeatedly come under fire in recent months, raising fears of a nuclear disaster. Rafael Grossi, director general of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is working to set up a safe zone around the facility.

"I think the situation is very precarious," Grossi told reporters in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. "I worry that this is becoming routine, that people may believe that nothing has happened so far, so is the director general of the IAEA crying wolf?"

Grossi said two major explosions occurred near the plant on Thursday, adding to the alarming situation.

"We know every day that a nuclear accident or an accident having serious radiological consequences may take place," said Grossi before travelling to Moscow for talks with Russian officials.

Jan 19, 1:53 PM EST
Zelenskyy calls for new sanctions against Russia's nuclear industry

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday pleaded with leaders of the European Union to pursue new sanctions against Russia's nuclear industry and energy carriers.

During a joint news conference in Kyiv with European Council President Charles Michel, Zelenskyy said he believes a tenth package of sanctions "could be even more effective" than the previous ones.

"The time has come, in particular, for sanctions against the Russian nuclear industry, against all its branches, organizations and all entities that work for the Russian missile program," Zelenskyy said.

He also expressed his frustration over Germany's hesitation to send Leopard tanks Ukraine.

"The issue of tanks remains relevant and very sensitive," Zelenskyy said. "It depends on many reasons and, unfortunately, does not depend on the will of Ukraine. We create pressure as hard as we can politically, but the essential thing is that our pressure is well-reasoned."

Zelenskyy added, "Against thousands of tanks of the Russian Federation, as I told our colleagues, only the courage of our military and the motivation of the Ukrainian people are not enough."

Since the United Kingdom announced last week it will send Challenger 2 tanks to Russia, the German government has faced mounting pressure to follow suit, or at least allow NATO allies such as Poland to supply Ukraine with German-made Leopard tanks.

"The delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine is still a matter of dispute in the Bundestag (national parliament)," according to a statement released Thursday by the German government, which added that the issue is still the subject of "heated debate."

Jan 18, 6:10 PM EST
Close to 100 Stryker armored vehicles part of next aid package: US official

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that the upcoming aid package to Ukraine will include close to 100 Stryker Armored Vehicles and additional Bradley fighting vehicles.

The Stryker is a wheeled armored vehicles that can carry as many as 11 soldiers inside and is equipped with a 30mm gun and or machine gun that are remotely fired from inside the vehicle. It’s fast moving and can be used on roads or off roads, though the off road option is better handled by the tracked Bradley fighting vehicles.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Jan 18, 5:49 PM EST
Zelenskyy provides update on helicopter crash

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy provided an update on the helicopter crash near Kyiv near a kindergarten.

Zelenskyy said 14 people were killed in total including Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrski and one child.

Twenty-five people were injured, including 11 kids, the president added.

"Hundreds of people were involved in extinguishing the fire, searching and rescuing the injured, carrying out the initial investigative actions," Zelenskyy said.

The president praised the efforts of kindergarten teachers who rushed in to help.

"Thank you for your bold actions, for taking the children out," he said.

Zelenskyy said the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be temporarily led by the head of the National Police of Ukraine.

"The tasks for which the Minister was responsible in the context of our defense operation and ensuring the security of the state have also been distributed," he said.

The cause of the helicopter crash is still under investigation.

-ABC News' Wil Gretsky

Jan 18, 12:38 PM EST
Putin prepared for long war, Nato says

Russia is preparing for an extended war so NATO must get ready “for the long haul” and support Ukraine for as long as it takes, the alliance’s Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana told top European military chiefs Wednesday.

NATO nations must invest more in defense, ramp up military industrial manufacturing and harness new technologies to prepare for future wars, Geoana said, speaking at the opening of the military chiefs’ meeting in Brussels.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Jan 18, 9:40 AM EST
Sixteen people dead in helicopter crash, including three children

Sixteen people, including Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, died in a helicopter crash near Kyiv, according to national police, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office and Ukraine's security service.

Monastyrsky is considered the most senior government official to die since the war started 11 months ago.

Jan 18, 3:57 AM EST
Helicopter crash near Kyiv kills interior minister

Ukrainian officials were killed on Wednesday morning in a helicopter crash near Kyiv.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, deputy Evgeniy Yenin and the state secretary of the interior ministry, Yuriy Lunkovych, died when a helicopter crashed in Brovary, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, chief of the national police Igor Klymenko said on Facebook.

The emergency services helicopter crashed near a kindergarten in a residential area, according to officials.

According to the interior ministry, at least 18 people died, including three children. Another 22 people, including 10 children, were wounded, officials said.

The cause of the crash is unclear for now.

Jan 17, 5:06 PM EST
Zelenskyy confirms Netherlands sending Patriot Missile System

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that the Netherlands will provide Ukrainian forces a Patriot Missile System.

Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces will now have three guaranteed Patriot batteries.

-ABC News Will Gretsky

Jan 17, 3:34 PM EST
White House condemns Dnipro attack

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre talked about the latest developments in Ukraine and slammed Russia over its missile strike on the apartment building in Dnipro.

"This weekend’s strikes are another example, as you've heard us say, of the brutal and barbaric war that Russia is waging against the Ukrainian people,” she told reporters during a White House press briefing.

“And we have seen this over and over again," she added.

Jean-Pierre also praised the UK’s announcement Monday that it plans to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.

The press secretary didn't say whether the U.S. would provide tanks to Ukraine or if Biden would pressure other countries to do so.

She noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was going to host another multinational meeting on Friday of the "Ukraine Contact Group" -- a gathering of defense ministers to discuss security assistance to Ukraine.

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson

Jan 17, 12:39 PM EST
Death toll from Dnipro missile attack rises to 45: Mayor

The death toll from Saturday's missile attack on an apartment building in Dnipro has risen to 45, including six children, according to Borys Filatov, the city's mayor.

The search and rescue operations have ended, according to the emergency services.

In addition to the fatalities, there were 79 people wounded, including 16 children, according to emergency services.

Thirty-nine people were rescued from the rubble, including six children, emergency services said.

-ABC News' William Gretsky

Jan 16, 4:56 PM EST
Ukrainian soldiers arrive in US for Patriot missile training

Ukrainian soldiers arrived in the United States on Sunday to begin training on the Patriot air defense missile system at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, a U.S. military official said.

The training at Fort Sill is expected to last several months, and then switch briefly to Europe, officials said.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Jan 16, 4:33 PM EST
39 people, including 6 children, rescued from rubble in Dnipro

Emergency crews have rescued 39 people, including six children, who were buried under the rubble caused by a missile strike on a high-rise apartment complex in Dnipro over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his Monday evening address.

The death toll remains at 40, including three children, he said.

The Kremlin denied being responsible for the attack, saying Russia doesn’t strike residential areas and claiming the destruction was a result of Ukrainian air defense.

"The debris of the house destroyed by the Russian missile is still being dismantled in Dnipro," Zelenskyy said. "I thank everyone who is carrying out this rescue operation. Every employee of the State Emergency Service and police, every doctor, every volunteer. Everyone who is involved."

-ABC News' Ellie Kaufman

Jan 16, 4:09 PM EST
Civilian survivors speak out after missile strike in Dnipro

Emergency workers were still looking for survivors Monday following a strike on a high-rise apartment building on Saturday in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro.

The death toll rose to 40 dead, including three children, making it the deadliest strike on a residential area in Ukraine in the last three months.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the attack "Russian terror," saying Ukraine was "fighting for every person, every life" under in rubble in Dnipro and would "find everyone involved in this terror."

The attack on an apartment building destroyed 72 units and wounded 75 residents.

Rescuers have been using cranes to remove chunk after chunk of rubble, looking for survivors.

One of the survivors, Yevgeni, told ABC News that he was in his bed when the missile struck his apartment.

"I can’t understand. I didn’t hear any bang, any voice, any sound of the missile," said Yevgeni, adding that he suffered a head injury and that his broken window frame fell on him.

He described seeing smoke and "a lot of dust" at the scene. He said "the most scary thing (was hearing) the voices of people screaming."

Local resident Natali Nodykova told ABC News that a friend called her to tell her there was a bombing in her neighborhood.

"My son was alone at home and of course I was afraid," Nodykova said.

Emergency workers rescued 39 people, Ukrainian officials said. Twelve people remained unaccounted for Monday.

The attack was caused by a Soviet-made Kh-22, a long-range missile used to take down aircraft carriers, according to the Ukrainian Air Force.

The massive 13,000-pound missile causes huge amounts of casualties when used in civilian areas.

The Kremlin denied the attack, saying Russia doesn’t strike residential areas and claiming the destruction was a result of Ukrainian air defense.

The same type of weapon had been used in a previous attack on a shopping mall in the town of Kremenchuk back in July that killed 22 people, according to Ukrainian authorities.

-ABC News' Ibtissem Guenfoud, Bruno Roeber, Oleksii Pshemyskiy, Matt Gutman and Max Uzol

Jan 16, 10:24 AM EST
Three children among 40 killed in Dnipro missile strike

The death toll climbed to 40 on Monday from a weekend missile strike on a high-rise apartment complex in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, according to Ukrainian officials.

At least three children were among those killed, officials said. Another 70 people were injured.

The death toll is expected to rise as 30 people remain unaccounted for, officials said.

On Saturday, a missile slammed into a block of high-rise apartment buildings in the central Dnipro. While Ukrainian officials blamed Russia for the strike, one of the deadliest attacks since the war began, the Kremlin denied Russia was involved.

“The Russian armed forces do not strike residential buildings or social infrastructure, they strike military targets,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday.

Jan 15, 3:40 PM EST
Survivor pulled from rubble in Dnipro as death toll rises

The death toll from a Russian missile strike on a block of high-rise apartment buildings in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro rose to 29 on Sunday.

Amidst the devastation, rescuers pulled one woman alive from the rubble on Sunday and officials said she was saved by a cocoon of concrete that surrounded her.

The survivor was rescued from a block of apartment buildings hit by a Russian missile on Saturday in the city about 500 miles southeast of the capital of Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a child was among those killed in the Dnipro missile attack.

Despite Sunday's rescue, emergency workers said the hope of finding more survivors is fading.

The rocket attack reduced part of a high-rise apartment building to a pile of rubble that was still smoldering on Sunday. Noxious fumes from burning couches, curtains and TVs emanated from the pile as firefighters sprayed water hoses on it and rescue workers dug through the debris with their bare hands, an ABC News crew in Dnipro reported.

In addition to the now 29 killed in the attack, more than 70 people were injured, Ukrainian officials said. The strike left hundreds of apartments uninhabitable, officials said.

Emergency crews brought in cranes Sunday to help move large pieces of debris.

As the rescue operation went on Sunday, periodic moments of silence were called for so rescuers could listen for cries for help from people feared missing in the rubble.

-ABC News' Matt Gutman

Jan 14, 11:07 AM EST
5 killed, dozens hurt in attack in Dnipro

Five people were killed and at least 27 were wounded in a Russian attack in Dnipro in central Ukraine, according to the governor.

An apartment block was struck and at least two children are among the injured, according to the deputy head of the president’s office.

-ABC News’ Yulia Drozd

Jan 14, 9:27 AM EST
Kyiv under Russian missile attack Saturday morning

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said explosions occurred in different districts on both banks in the city on Saturday morning and, in one of the districts, fire broke out in a non-residential area.

There were no casualties as a result of the attack that happened at approximately 6 a.m. but 18 residential houses were damaged in the region, according to the governor Oleksiy Kuleba.

The spokesman for the Ukrainian Airborne Forces, Yuri Ignat, told ABC News that Ukrainian authorities think it could have possibly been a ballistic attack by Russia but could not confirm this.

"Most likely, these are missiles that flew along a ballistic trajectory from the north. Ballistics are not available for us to detect and shoot down," Ignat said on Ukrainian television.

-ABC News' Yulia Drozd

Jan 13, 4:02 PM EST
Russian forces claim to have taken Soledar

Russian military leaders claim their forces took over the salt-mining town of Soledar.

Video showed Russian soldiers evacuating civilians from Soledar and nearby villages to the city of Shakhtarsk as fighting took place on the outskirts on Friday.

Serhiy Cherevaty, the Ukrainian commander of the Eastern Group of Forces, however, confirmed that fighting was going on in the region but contested Russia's claims about the status of the city in a statement to ABC News.

"We have a clear understanding of who controls which streets in the city, but I cannot reveal those details," he told ABC News.

-ABC News' Ellie Kaufman and Patrick Reevell

Jan 12, 1:51 PM EST
Pressure mounts on NATO countries to send tanks to Ukraine

Pressure is mounting for key NATO allies to send tanks to Ukraine.

After meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country plans to supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine but only as part of an "international coalition."

"They will be provided within the coalition, because you know that it is necessary to obtain certain official consents. But first we need to build an international coalition and we have decided to form this international coalition," Duda said.

Duda “expressed hope” other NATO countries would provide Ukraine with tanks as well.

The United Kingdom has not made a final decision on whether to send tanks to Ukraine, according to the spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The United Kingdom is considering supplying Ukraine with the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank, according to British media reports.

Germany is also facing pressure from Ukraine and other NATO allies to send tanks to Ukraine. So far, they have not committed to sending any tanks to the country and neither has the United States.

Germany and the United States have both agreed to supply Ukraine with armored carriers and the Patriot air defense system.

Jan 12, 12:52 PM EST
Russians, Ukrainians give conflicting views in the battle for Soledar

Russian and Ukrainian officials offered conflicting views Thursday on the battle being waged over the eastern Ukraine city of Soledar.

Both sides described their forces as making progress in the fight for the salt mining town in the Donbas region.

"Our defenders continue to hold their positions on the most difficult frontlines and in the battle for (the) Donbas," said Hanna Maliar, the Ukrainian deputy of defense. "Today, fierce and heavy battles continue in the direction of Bakhmut, in the area of Soledar city."

Despite the "difficult situation," Ukrainian soldiers are desperately battling for control of Soledar, Maliar said.

"The enemy is suffering heavy losses, unsuccessfully trying to break through our defenses and capture Soledar," Maliar said. "Today, the city's approaches are literally littered with the bodies of Putin's destroyed troops. Nevertheless, they move over the bodies of their fallen fighters. Our defenders show maximum resilience and heroism."

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Russian forces and mercenaries from the Wagner private military company are doing a "truly colossal job" in Soledar.

"These are absolutely selfless, heroic deeds," Peskov told journalists on Thursday.

Peskov said the hostilities in the region will continue.

"There is still a lot of work to be done. No time to stop, no time to rub our hands and so on. The main work is yet to come," Peskov said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that Russia's airborne units had blocked Soledar from the north and the south and assault teams were fighting within the town limits.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address on Wednesday that Ukrainian troops are holding onto Soledar.

"The terrorist state and its propagandists are trying to pretend" to have achieved some successes in Soledar, Zelenskyy said. "But the fighting continues."

Jan 11, 4:51 PM EST
Russian shake-up as military chief in Ukraine replaced

Russia has replaced the military chief in charge in Ukraine, according to the Kremlin.

Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, will replace Sergei Surovikin, who has been commander of Russia's forces in Ukraine for the past three months. Surovikin will become one of Gerasimov's deputies, according to Sergei Shoigu, Russia's minister of defense, who made the new appointments.

The changes come as the progress of the Russian forces in Ukraine continues to stall.

"The increase in the level of leadership of the special operation is linked to the expansion of the scale of the tasks at hand and the need to organize closer interaction between troops," Shoigu said.

Jan 11, 12:17 PM EST
Ukrainians deny reports the city of Soledar on verge of falling to Russia

Ukrainian officials on Wednesday denied reports that the eastern Ukrainian city of Soledar is on the verge of being captured by Russian forces and claimed the battle for the city is ongoing.

The report contradicts British intelligence officials who on Tuesday said it appeared that Russian troops were close to capturing a salt mining town in an apparent attempt to cut off the enemy's supply routes. The British officials said Russian forces, along with mercenaries from the Wagner private military company, were likely in control of the city of Soledar, which is about six miles north of Bakhmut in the Donbas region, where heavy fighting has been reported in recent days.

The head of the Wagner group also released a statement on Telegram Tuesday, saying his mercenaries were in control of Soledar.

But Ukrainian officials said Wednesday the city has not fallen into the hands of Russian forces and the Russian mercenary group.

"Russians say that it is under their control; it is not true," said Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian eastern military command.

The Russian attack on Soledar is an apparent attempt to bypass Bakhmut from the north and disrupt Ukrainian supply routes, the British intelligence officials said. Part of the fighting is being waged near the entrances to the 124 miles of abandoned salt mine tunnels that run under the area.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the fighting in Soledar as "very difficult."

Jan 10, 4:09 PM EST
Russia not ready to launch new offensive from Belarus: Ukrainian officials

Senior Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that they believe any prospect of Russia launching a new offensive toward Kyiv from Belarus is "not likely at this moment."

The latest statement from Ukrainian officials contrasted with a series of interviews they gave last month in which they suggested Russia could mount an offensive early this year and even try to take Kyiv.

"Our assessment is that the Russians aren't in a position to make an advance on Kyiv from Belarus. And if that were their intention, it wouldn't happen for some time," a senior Ukrainian official said Tuesday.

The Ukrainian officials added that the mere threat of an assault from Belarus means that Ukrainian forces are "fixed" along the Ukraine-Belarus border.

-ABC News' Tom Soufi Burridge

Jan 10, 2:15 PM EST
Ukrainians set to begin Patriot air defense training in Oklahoma

As many as 100 Ukrainians troops will soon begin training on the Patriot air defense system at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, two U.S. officials told ABC News Tuesday.

Fort Sill is the main artillery school for the U.S. Army and where months-long training on Patriot systems already takes place.

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, said the Ukrainians could begin training on the Patriot system as soon as next week.

"The training will prepare approximately 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers to operate, maintain and sustain the defensive system over a training course expected to last several months," Ryder said.

Once deployed, the Patriot batteries will fortify Ukraine's air defense capabilities and provide an additional way for the "Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia's ongoing aerial assaults," Ryder said.

Ryder would not give a precise time frame, but said that once the training is completed, the system will be sent to Ukraine to be put to use.

President Joe Biden announced last month that the United States will provide Ukraine with a Patriot missile defense system. The German government also agreed this month to supply Ukraine with a second Patriot missile battery.

-ABC News' Matt Seyler

Jan 10, 1:30 PM EST
Russians on verge of overtaking eastern Ukrainian city

Russian troops were on the verge Tuesday of capturing a salt mining town in eastern Ukraine in an apparent attempt to cut off the enemy's supply routes, according to British intelligence officials.

The Russian forces, along with mercenaries from the Wagner private military company, were likely in control of the city of Soledar, which is about six miles north of Bakhmut in the Donbas region, where heavy fighting has been reported in recent days, the British officials said.

The attack on Soledar is an apparent attempt to bypass Bakhmut from the north and disrupt Ukrainian supply routes, the British intelligence officials said. Part of the fighting is being waged near the entrances to the 124 miles of abandoned salt mine tunnels that run under the area.

Despite the increased pressure on Bakhmut, Russia is unlikely to be able to encircle the city in the near future because Ukrainian forces have created a stable line of defense and control supply routes in the area, the British officials said.

The Ukrainian Army said Russian troops carried out 86 artillery strikes on Soledar in a 24-hour period, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the fighting there as "very difficult."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nine Palestinians killed after Israel storms West Bank refugee camp

200mm/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- Nine Palestinians were killed when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) reportedly stormed the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank early Thursday morning, ABC News has learned.

The IDF allegedly stormed the camp looking for a person of interest and Israel says that the resulting deaths came when clashes erupted between the IDF and Palestinians at the camp.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that elderly women are among those who died in the early morning conflict.

In Ramallah, a spokesperson for Mahmoud Abbas -- the president of Palestine -- said that the Israeli army committed a massacre inside the Jennie refugee camp on Thursday.

An Israeli army statement following the conflict said that the IDF targeted an active cell for the Palestinian Islamic jihad and killed some of the fighters but that they will be investigating any deaths of civilians that may have occurred.

"Earlier this morning, Israeli security forces, including the IDF, ISA, Israel Border Police and 'Yamam' police forces, conducted a counterterrorism operation in the center of the Jenin camp," read the statement from the IDF spokesperson regarding Jenin. "It has been cleared for publication that the security forces operated to apprehend a terror squad belonging to the Islamic Jihad terror organization. During the operation, the terror squad opened fire toward the Israeli security forces. A crossfire was instigated, during which three terrorists were neutralized."

No IDF injuries were reported in the conflict.

The IDF said that the Islamic Jihad terror operatives they were targeting were "heavily involved in executing and planning multiple major terror attacks, including shooting attacks on IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians."

"During the operation, the security forces operated to surround the building in which the suspects were located. Two armed suspects were identified fleeing the scene and were neutralized by the security forces," the IDF confirmed. "One of the suspects who was in the building surrendered himself to the security forces. IDF combat engineering soldiers entered the building in order to detonate two explosive devices used by the suspects, where there was an additional armed suspect who was neutralized by the soldiers at the scene."

The IDF said "additional armed suspects opened fire toward the security forces" during their operation and that they responded with live fire.

"Claims regarding additional casualties during the exchange of fire are being looked into," the IDF said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Egypt discovers 4,300-year-old tombs in ancient burial ground

Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities

(CAIRO) -- Egypt on Thursday said it uncovered several 4,300-year-old tombs in Saqqara as it continues a series of discoveries in the ancient burial ground.

The tombs date back to the fifth and sixth dynasties of the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 B.C.), officials said in Saqqara, which lies some 19 miles south of Cairo.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who led the team that made the discovery in Saqqara's Gisr Al-Mudir area, said "12 beautifully carved statues" were also found as well as two deep burial shafts, one of which includes what he described as possibly the "most complete mummy found in Egypt to date."

"The most important tomb belongs to Khnumdjedef, an inspector of the officials, a supervisor of the nobles, and a priest in the pyramid complex of Unas, the last king of the fifth dynasty. The tomb is decorated with scenes of daily life," Hawass said.

"The second largest tomb belonged to Meri, who held many important titles, such as keeper of the secrets and assistant of the great leader of the palace," he said.

Another tomb featured a handful of statues of unidentified individuals, including two couples.

Hawass said the main highlight was the uncovering of a 15-meter-deep burial shaft where a "large rectangular limestone sarcophagus" was found at its bottom.

The mummy of a man called Hekashepes was found inside, he revealed. It is covered with gold leaf.

“This mummy may be the oldest and most complete mummy found in Egypt to date,” Hawass added.

Wooden and stone statues were also uncovered in another 10-meter-deep shaft, as was a stone sarcophagus that included a mummy of a man called Fetek, according to the inscriptions found on the coffin.

Egypt hopes a string of discoveries will help revive its ailing tourism industry, a key source of hard currency.

Extensive excavation efforts in Saqqara in recent years have led to several high-profile archaeological discoveries, including the unearthing of a 4,400 tomb of royal priest Wahtye in 2018 and the discovery of hundreds of mummified animals and statues a year later.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Asteroid to make extremely close approach to Earth this week


(NEW YORK) -- An asteroid the size of a box truck is slated to get very close to Earth this week, according to scientists.

But don't be alarmed, it isn't projected to make an impact and cause Armageddon, NASA said.

The asteroid, 2023 BU, will pass by the planet over the southern tip of South America around 7:27 p.m. Thursday and be 2,200 miles above the Earth's surface, NASA said. The asteroid will be well within the orbit of geosynchronous satellites, according to the agency.

Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who developed the agency's Scout impact hazard assessment system, said in a statement that even though this comet's approach is very close to the planet, Scout ruled out 2023 BU as one that would make an impact.

"In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded," he said in a statement.

The asteroid was discovered four days ago by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov, from his MARGO observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea, NASA said. Other agencies and labs analyzed the data and made more observations to come up with the asteroid's path and description.

The object is estimated to be 11.5 to 28 feet across.

NASA noted that even if the asteroid did impact Earth it "would turn into a fireball and largely disintegrate harmlessly in the atmosphere, with some of the bigger debris potentially falling as small meteorites."

The agency did note that 2023 BU will come so close to the Earth that its path around the sun will be altered by the planet's gravity.

"After its encounter, the asteroid’s orbit will be more elongated, moving it out to about halfway between Earth’s and Mars’ orbits at its farthest point from the sun," NASA said in a statement.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden approves sending 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- In a major increase of U.S. support to Ukraine, President Joe Biden has signed off on sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to the war-torn country as concerns mount over a new Russian offensive this spring.

"Secretary [Lloyd] Austin has recommended this step because it will enhance the Ukraine's capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives," Biden said on Wednesday in remarks from the White House's Roosevelt Room, flanked by Austin, the defense secretary, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly appealed for more tanks, with a harsh winter and the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion approaching.

The political maneuvering had muddled Ukraine's plea for more tanks as Russia prepares for a spring offensive.

For weeks, Pentagon officials said publicly that the Abrams tanks weren't suited for the fight in Ukraine, including because of the fuel they need to operate. But officials also did not rule out the vehicles as a potential long-term possibility.

The U.S. transfer of Abrams has presumably enabled Germany to authorize the transfer of German-made Leopard 2s to Ukraine -- which would then allow the 12 NATO countries that have Leopard 2s to send them to Ukraine, with the most vocal of those countries being Poland.

"We remain united and determined as ever in our conviction and our cause," Biden said at the White House on Wednesday. "These tanks are further evidence of our enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of the Ukrainian forces. As I told President Zelenskyy when he was here ... in December: 'We're with you for as long as it takes, Mr. President.'"

Thirty-one tanks is a specific number, a U.S. official told reporters in a conference call earlier Wednesday, as it constitutes one Ukrainian tank battalion. "So we are specifically meeting that requirement."

The U.S. announcement about its tank commitment comes the same day Germany has also pledged to send Ukraine 14 of its own Leopard 2 tanks.

Biden said that the U.S. is also pledging to train Ukrainians so they are prepared to integrate the Abram tanks into their defenses, though U.S. officials separately acknowledged the new vehicles won't arrive for months.

The transfer of European tanks is set to be more expedient.

"The Abrams tanks are the most capable tanks in the world. They're also extremely complex to operate and maintain, so we're also giving Ukraine the parts and equipment necessary to effectively sustain these tanks on the battlefield. And we'll begin to train the Ukrainian troops on these issues of sustainment, logistics and maintenance as soon as possible," Biden said.

Administration officials had confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that they were considering sending the Abrams tanks to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. That means the U.S. will arrange for the contracting of the tanks with their manufacturer, so the vehicles will not be able to be fielded for quite some time -- possibly more than a year.

On Wednesday, Biden confirmed the extended timeline, which government officials had said could take "months, as opposed to weeks."

"Delivering these tanks to the field is going to take time," the president said.

Early Wednesday, Germany confirmed it will supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks and approve requests by dozens of other countries to do the same. The U.K. has also committed 12 of its own Challenger 2 battle tanks, and Poland has asked Germany for permission to send the Leopards it has in stock.

The president said he spoke Wednesday morning about the war with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

"I'm grateful to Chancellor Scholz for providing German Leopard 2 tanks and will lead an effort to organize the European contribution of two tank battalions for Ukraine," Biden said. "Germany has really stepped up. The chancellor has been a strong, strong voice for unity, a close friend and for the level of effort we're gonna continue."

Asked about the timing of this decision and whether Germany "forced you to change your mind" about sending tanks, which the Pentagon was initially against, Biden defended the move as a coordinated decision.

"Germany didn't force me to change your mind. We wanted to make sure we were all together. That's what we were going to do all along and that's what we're doing right now," he said.

Still, the commitment of tanks -- which a Ukrainian official had told ABC News could number about 100 Leopard 2s -- falls far short of the 300 battle tanks that Zelenskyy has said he needs.

U.S. officials argued on Wednesday that the new shipment of tanks highlights the unity among all allies working to support Ukraine, minimizing the disagreement between the U.S. and Germany on the usefulness of the Abrams vehicles.

Zelenskyy reacted to the tank commitments in a new SkyNews interview.

"I would like to say thank you to Germany, to Britain and to the United States that they made this decision," he said.

Russia reacts: 'Burn up ... like any other'

The Kremlin has downplayed the new supply of tanks, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying in his daily briefing on Wednesday that "to supply U.S.-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine won't work, as its initiators overestimate the potential of Ukrainian servicemen."

"I am sure that many specialists overestimate the absurdity of this idea. Simply because it's a rather bad plan in its technological aspects and, most importantly, there is an obvious overestimation of the potential it could add to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This is yet another profound misconception," he added.

"We have repeatedly said that these tanks will burn up just like any other," Peskov said.

Biden reiterated on Wednesday the United States' commitment to countering Russian aggression on Ukrainian land.

"Today's announcement builds on the hard work and commitment from countries around the world led by the United States of America to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity. That's what this is about: helping Ukraine to defend and protect Ukrainian land. It is not an offensive threat to Russia," he said.

More international commitments coming, official says

"We do expect other nations to announce contributions of additional armored capability, including some that will be readily available for use on the battlefield in the coming weeks," an official said earlier Wednesday.

Ukraine wants American and German advanced tanks quickly, as they're more advanced than Russia's own.

"Hundreds of thanks are not hundreds of tanks," Zelenskyy said last week. "All of us can use thousands of words in discussions, but I cannot put words instead of the guns that are needed against Russian artillery or instead of the anti-aircraft missiles that are needed to protect people from Russian air strikes."

The Biden administration last week had announced another huge military aid package for Ukraine -- including close to 150 more armored vehicles -- but not the Ukraine-requested tanks.

ABC News' Libby Cathey, Shannon K. Crawford, Luis Martinez, Matt Seyler and Joseph Simonetti contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ukrainian children saved from the Russian 'vacation' trap

Svitlana Bilosliudtseva

(KYIV, Ukraine) -- Russian authorities, according to the Ukrainian government and human rights groups, are reportedly forcing the illegal adoption of Ukrainian children under the guise of sending them on "vacation." But while some parents barely escape the trap, others have, miraculously, been able to reunite with their kids after weeks of separation, ABC News has learned.

Svitlana was a happy mother of her 10 adopted children living in the Kharkiv region near the Ukrainian-Russian border. But their lives changed in the blink of an eye when Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022.

“Our village was the first to witness the Russian soldiers and vehicles. Explosions, fire, bombing … it was hell on earth,” she recalled.

The bombardment and terror lasted for weeks.

“We slept together in the kitchen with the bombs exploding incessantly,” Svitlana told ABC News. “At the same time, we were afraid to walk around the village because the Russians were angry and we didn’t know what to expect from them.”

But one of the scariest moments she can recall was when she was approached by a Russian officer. He attempted to convince her that she should send her kids to Russia, allegedly for a vacation.

“Imagine your kids being wounded, lying on the ground bleeding. 'You don’t want that,' he told me,” said Svitlana. “He was apparently pressuring me and sounded threatening. I almost started considering such an option."

Fortunately, the woman abandoned the idea before barely managing to evacuate with her family to Latvia through Russia. Other parents told ABC News, however, that they were not so lucky -- with some being separated from their children for weeks when they were unable to escape the Russian occupation.

Iryna Smelkova and Natalia Ternovskaya live in Izium and Kupyansk, respectively -- two places in the Kharkiv region that were heavily shelled.

“In our house, a wall crashed. We were spending hours in a basement. I can’t even tell you how it feels like when a bomb falls in your street," Natalia said through tears. “Of course, as a mother, I wanted my daughter to be safe."

Both Natalia and Iryna told ABC News that they heard an advertisement on Russian radio that was broadcast in the occupied area that offered children a "vacation" in a camp in Gelendzhik in southern Russia. They voluntarily sent their daughters there in late August.

The women said that nobody pressured them to do this and the children were escorted by local teachers whom the parents knew personally. They also said that they saw other children going there and returning "suntanned and happy."

But it didn’t turn out like that for either Natalia or Iryna.

What was intended to be a three-week vacation turned into a weeks-long separation from their children -- along with a lot of fear and uncertainty.

When the Kharkiv region was liberated by the Ukrainian forces in early September, the mothers realized it would be very difficult for them to get their children back when the teachers they left with were classified as collaborators by the Ukrainian authorities.

“At that moment, I regretted so very much what I did," Iryna confessed.

The mothers said they had no idea what to do.

Things changed, however, when they met volunteers from Save Ukraine, an NGO run by Ukraine’s former children’s ombudsman, Mykola Kuleba.

“We understood that we have to do our best to return these children because we feared they might be illegally adopted too," said Kuleba.

It took several days in a car -- a journey that would lead them through four countries -- for the mothers to finally be reunited with their kids. The children told ABC News that they were treated well in the camp and it was like a typical vacation trip with different kinds of entertainment for them during their stay. But the children were also told by teachers that they couldn't return home "because the roads were unsafe."

Kuleba didn’t fully disclose the whole procedure of negotiations but did say that they rely only on themselves and "the sanity of the people on the Russian side."

According to Aksana Filipishina, a representative of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, "vacation" or "salvation” trips are actually guises Russia has used previously to force the illegal adoption of Ukrainian children since the war broke out in Feb. 2022.

In his annual New Year's speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Russia is using a variety of social schemes to justify the transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia and thanked Russians for their efforts to help children from the occupied Ukrainian territory with these “holidays."

Filipishina says that it is nothing more than a trap for parents who lost their jobs and have been living in extremely difficult situations in areas highly conflicted areas of fighting. Although many parents do send their kids voluntarily, Ukraine still considers such cases a kidnapping.

“These kids had to be returned in the same way they were taken, that is with the same teachers. It never happens” Filipishina explained. “The Russian side puts a condition -- if you want to see your kids, come to us. This is unseen cynicism."

ABC News has discovered that other children have managed to return to Ukraine from the same camp in Gelendzhik -- all thanks to the help of volunteers in Russia, a network of drivers and people who help with financial aid.

It is unclear, ultimately, how many children have been sent from Ukraine to these camps in Russia but diplomats from the United Kingdom and United States estimate the number could be as high as 300,000.

To date, Ukrainian authorities have identified almost 14,000 children who have been sent over to Russia with only 125 that have actually returned, with each case requiring extensive efforts from different governmental bodies, the Ukrainian ombudsman's office told ABC News.

According to Russian data, however, only around 400 children have been adopted by Russian families, with many of the children between the ages of 5 and 6 years old and unlikely to ever be fully aware of what has happened to them.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

US considering sending dozens of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, officials say

omersukrugoksu/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials confirm that the Biden administration is leaning toward sending M1A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine and that a decision could be announced as early as this week.

One official said that the U.S. will commit to sending between 30 to 50 tanks to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which means the U.S. will arrange for the contracting of the tanks with their manufacturer. That could mean the new tanks will not be able to be fielded for quite some time -- possibly more than a year.

President Joe Biden has not made a final decision, but the transfer of Abrams would presumably enable Germany to authorize the transfer of German-made Leopard 2s to Ukraine -- which would allow the 12 NATO countries that have Leopard 2s to transfer them to Ukraine, with the most vocal of those countries being Poland.

Last week, those 12 countries agreed to supply Ukraine with around 100 Leopard 2 tanks once the German government gives its consent, a senior Ukrainian official told ABC News.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged Germany to approve the transfer.

For weeks, Pentagon officials said publicly that the Abrams tanks weren't suited for the fight in Ukraine, including because of the fuel they need to operate. But officials also did not rule out the vehicles as a potential long-term possibility.

"I am aware of the press reporting stating that the U.S. is considering providing Abrams tanks to Ukraine. I have no announcements to make at this time and when we do, we'll be sure to let you know," Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday.

"As always, we continue to remain in close contact with Ukrainians and our international allies and partners on Ukraine's most pressing security assistance requirements to include their near-, medium- and long-term needs," Ryder said.

Rep. Michael McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Sunday that the U.S. should send at least one of its M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine to push Germany to allow for its own tanks to help Kyiv fight Russia's invasion.

"There's gonna be a winter offensive by the Russians. They need these tanks on the eastern flank in the Donbas," McCaul said on ABC's "This Week."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who just returned from another trip to Ukraine, held a news conference Tuesday to push for tanks from Germany and the U.S. to be sent to the war-torn ally.

Graham, R-S.C., acknowledged Abrams tanks were "not the best fit" but said it would ultimately "open the floodgates to more tanks coming from allies."

"Seldom in the history of modern warfare has so much depended on so few tanks. Three hundred tanks given to the Ukrainians, who have an ability to take any weapons system and maximize its benefits, I think will determine and will change the outcome of this war," Graham said.

ABC News' Tal Axelrod, Tom Soufi Burridge and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Princess Eugenie expecting second child with husband Jack Brooksbank, Buckingham Palace confirms

Samir Hussein/WireImage

(LONDON) -- Princess Eugenie, granddaughter of the late Queen Elizabeth II, is pregnant.

Eugenie, 32, and her husband Jack Brooksbank are expecting their second child, Buckingham Palace confirmed Tuesday.

Eugenie, the daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and Brooksbank are already parents to a son named August, who will turn 2 in February.

Eugenie spoke recently in Davos, Switzerland, about her son and how becoming a mom has changed how she thinks about the world and preserving the environment.

"As a mother, you totally change. Now I'm scared of flying where I'd never be before. It's the same with how you view the world," she said. "Now all I think about is what happens to rising sea levels and the communities that are on the beaches who depend entirely on the sea, as well as what August can do about it in the future."

"Everything is for them, right? Every decision we now make has to be about how August is going to be able to live his life," Eugenie said.

Eugenie's son and now his future sibling count Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan's children, Archie and Lilibet, and Prince William and Princess Kate's children, George, Charlotte and Louis, among his second cousins.

Eugenie's older sister, Princess Beatrice, is the mother of a daughter, Sienna Elizabeth Mapelli Mozzi, who was born in September 2021.

The baby will be the second grandchild for Sarah and Andrew, who continues to face scrutiny over his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Eugenie and Brooksbank wed at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in 2018.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ukraine expects to get 100 Leopard 2 tanks from 12 countries, once Germany approves: Senior Ukrainian official

Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Twelve countries have agreed to supply Ukraine with around 100 Leopard 2 tanks if the German government gives its consent, according to a senior Ukrainian official who spoke exclusively to ABC News.

Those agreements, the source said, were made at Friday's summit at Ramstein US Air Force Base in Germany when allied nations discussed military support for Ukraine.

Countries such as Poland and Finland have already indicated publicly that they are willing to provide a number of their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian official with knowledge of the matter said Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark were also willing to provide some of their tanks, however Germany's consent was still necessary for the coalition of countries to proceed on the matter.

As the country where the military hardware is manufactured, Germany has to approve the export license if countries want to supply some of their tanks to a third nation, such as Ukraine.

The Biden administration and other western governments are working to increase Ukraine's military capabilities ahead of a possible escalation in the fighting in the coming weeks or months.

During a briefing last week, a western diplomat called it "the right moment" to provide new capabilities such as tanks to Ukraine.

"Ukraine's allies have the ability to increase the quantity and quality of Ukraine's military capabilities in a way that Russia simply doesn't", the diplomat said.

However the senior Ukrainian official, who spoke with ABC News on condition of anonymity, said the German-made Leopard tanks were also urgently needed by Ukraine because its stocks of ammunition for its soviet-era tanks are "running out."

Ukraine is unable to produce new ammunition for these Soviet era tanks, the official said, "so this forced us to find an alternative way."

Earlier this month the U.K. made a symbolic gesture by pledging to supply Ukraine with 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks.

The move was an attempt by the U.K. government to convince Berlin to move on its Leopards. The senior Ukrainian official with knowledge of the matter told ABC News that it helped.

"It started to be realistic after the decision in the UK. (UK Defense) Minister Wallace broke through this wall," the official said.

Germany has faced criticism for delaying its decision on whether to approve the export of Leopard tanks.
In an interview broadcast on German TV last Thursday, the day before the Ramstein summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested the delay was costing lives.

"People die here, every day", he said. "In plain language, can you deliver Leopards or not?"

However the senior Ukrainian source told ABC News that there was a great "understanding" that the Ramstein summit took place on the second working day for the newly-appointed German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius.

"It's not the time to put pressure on a newly appointed minister of defense. We fully understand (the need) for him to discuss it further," the official told ABC News.

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American detained in Iran ends 7-day hunger strike, calling it 'weapon of last resort'


(WASHINGTON) — Siamak Namazi, a U.S. citizen who has been detained in Iran since 2015, has ended his seven-day hunger strike, according to a Monday news release.

Namazi, 51, began the hunger strike on Jan. 16 to mark the seventh anniversary of a prisoner swap with Iran that freed five other Americans while he remained detained in Evin Prison.

Namazi said last week that he was protesting to draw the attention of the Biden administration.

"I went on hunger strike because I've learned the hard way that U.S. presidents tend to rely more on their political thermometer than their moral compass when deciding whether or not to enter a prisoner deal with Iran – or indeed who to include in one," Namazi said in a statement after ending his strike. "I denied myself food for an entire week so that maybe President [Joe] Biden will recognize just how desperate the situation of the U.S. hostages here has become."

Namazi, who is classified as wrongly detained by the U.S. government, was arrested while on a 2015 business trip to Iran for "colluding with an enemy state."

"I've been Iran's prisoner for a very long time," Namazi said in Monday's statement. "I know better than most that a hunger strike is a prisoner's weapon of last resort – to be used only if our cup of endurance has truly run over and after exhausting all other options."

During his seven-day hunger strike, Namazi lost around 10 pounds and his blood pressure spiked above normal levels, according to the news release. He also suffered drops in energy and lacked the ability to focus and stay warm.

In 2016, the Obama administration negotiated the freedom of five Americans detained in Iran, but Namazi was not included.

In an open letter to President Biden that announced his hunger strike last week, Namazi wrote, "Seven years and two presidents later, I remain caged in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, holding that long overdue IOU along with the unenviable title of the longest held Iranian-American hostage in history."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday, "We received the letter, and our thoughts are with Namazi and his family."

"The U.S. government is continuing to work to bring him home along with U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran, including Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz," Jean-Pierre said then.

A spokesperson for the State Department told ABC News after Namazi began his hunger strike last week that "our thoughts are with him and his family."

"Iran's use of wrongful detention as political leverage is outrageous, and Iran should release our wrongfully detained citizens," the spokesperson said.

Despite the negative physical effects of the hunger strike, the positive international response has renewed Namazi's hope for freedom, according to Monday's news release.

"Everyone here for the sole crime of speaking their mind and for demanding their rights and the rule of law deserves our attention and respect," Namazi said in his statement.

ABC News' Shannon K. Crawford and Cindy Smith contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Former Navy SEAL killed fighting in Ukraine

Tatsiana Kalasouskaya / EyeEm / Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- American Daniel Swift, a former Navy SEAL who deserted in 2019, was killed while fighting in Ukraine on Jan. 18, according to U.S. officials.

"The Navy can confirm that a former Sailor, Daniel W. Swift, was killed in Ukraine on Jan. 18, 2023," the Navy said in a statement. "The Navy Absentee Collection and Information Center confirmed that the Sailor was is in an active deserter status since March 11, 2019. We cannot speculate as to why the former Sailor was in Ukraine."

The U.S. State Department also confirmed the death of an American in Ukraine, though it did not identify him.

""We can confirm the recent death of a U.S. citizen fighting in Ukraine," the Department of State said in a statement. "We are in touch with his family and providing all possible consular assistance. Out of respect for the privacy of the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add."

Swift had a 14-year military career, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Family believes California public defender who died in Mexico was 'victim of a brutal crime'

Blair family

(MEXICO CITY and LONDON) -- The family of an American tourist found dead in Mexico said Tuesday that they believe he "was the victim of a brutal crime."

California resident and Orange County public defender Elliot Blair died on Jan. 14 at Las Rocas Resort and Spa, located on the shores of Rosarito Beach, just south of Tijuana, along the western coast of Mexico's Baja California peninsula. While investigators initially believed that Blair died from a fall, there is a specific injury on his forehead "that would not have been caused by a fall," a local law enforcement official told ABC News on Monday.

The State Attorney General's Office of Baja California later released a statement saying an autopsy established that Blair's death "was the result of an unfortunate accident due to the fall of the deceased from a third floor." The office said the investigation is ongoing and that it is in contact with American authorities through the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, "who are collaborating and have the information about the investigation to provide it to the relatives who require it."

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the FBI Los Angeles field office told ABC News on Tuesday that the agency, to their knowledge, has "no involvement."

Meanwhile, in a press release obtained by ABC News on Tuesday, an attorney for Blair's family said that Mexican authorities "still have not reached out to the family with this information."

"The family is devastated that since this incident, no one from the Rosarito Beach Police Department, their district attorney's office, or any other Mexican officials have reached out and spoken to them directly," the attorney said. "The only communication that the family has received has been through a liaison to the coroner's office."

The coroner's office liaison told Blair's family on Monday that "the cause of death was severe head trauma and that the case had been forwarded to the district attorney's office to conduct a possible homicide investigation," according to the attorney.

"The family informed the liaison that they would be conducting their own independent investigation, specifically hiring a private investigation firm, retaining an independent forensic pathologist to conduct a medical examination, including their own toxicology analysis," the attorney added.

The attorney said Blair was visiting Mexico with his "loving wife," Kim Williams, to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. The couple was staying in a third-floor room at Las Rocas Resort and Spa, where they had stayed "on multiple occasions" over the past five years, according to the attorney.

The "incident" that led to Blair's death "occurred in an open-air walkway located outside the front door of their room," the attorney said. Blair was found in the T-shirt he wore to sleep, underwear and socks. Williams was woken up by hotel staff asking if that was her boyfriend, according to the family's attorney.

Blair "was very familiar" with the hotel's layout, spoke Spanish fluently and "was not intoxicated at the time" of the incident, according to the attorney.

However, police said on Tuesday there was a "considerable" amount of alcohol in Blair's body after doing a toxicology report.

Police also said there was no sign of a dispute or a struggle in the hotel room, which they searched again for evidence on Monday.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State told ABC News on Tuesday that they are aware of reports of the death of an American citizen in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. The State Department stands ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance, according to the spokesperson, who declined to comment further, citing respect to the family during this difficult time.

A spokesperson for the State Attorney General's Office of Baja California told ABC News on Tuesday investigators have conducted a second inspection of the hotel and sent the evidence to a laboratory, where the results are pending.

The attorney for Blair's family said Mexican authorities have continually suggested that the body be cremated.

"Yesterday, during a conversation with the funeral home liaison, it was again suggested he be cremated and the family insisted his body not be cremated in order to conduct a thorough, complete, independent investigation," the attorney added.

Moreover, the attorney said that Blair's wife, also an Orange County public defender, "has been given multiple versions of what happened to Elliot," whom was described in the press release as "a brilliant attorney with a bright future" as well as "a loving husband, son and brother."

"The family, which has extensive legal training in criminal law, wholeheartedly believes based on their initial investigation, that Elliot was the victim of a brutal crime," the attorney said. "Elliot's tragic, untimely, and suspicious death has left his family and community with a huge hole in their hearts that will never be repaired."

Case Barnett, a lawyer representing Blair's family, told ABC News on Thursday that Blair's body was embalmed before they could have their own toxicology report performed. They do not have the body yet and are hoping it will be returned home on Thursday, he said.

ABC News' Jennifer Leong contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trial resumes for David Barnes, American detained in Russia

Courtesy Carol Barnes

(NEW YORK) -- Over the last two months, following lengthy periods of detention in Russia, Americans Brittney Griner, Sarah Krivanek and Taylor Dudley were all allowed to return home -- but Alabama native David Barnes continues to be held by Russian authorities.

Now, after more than a year of incarceration in Russia, Barnes' trial resumed this week before a judge in Moscow.

Barnes, a 65-year-old father who was living in The Woodlands, Texas, prior to his arrest during a trip to Russia, appeared in district court on Thursday for the beginning of testimony.

Barnes is being tried on allegations by Russian authorities that he abused his two sons in suburban Houston, even though law enforcement in Texas previously investigated Barnes following similar accusations from his ex-wife, Svetlana Koptyaeva, and did not find cause to file charges.

With his hands cuffed, Barnes was seen being escorted up a courthouse staircase in jeans and a long sleeve shirt at 1:00 p.m. local time before the hearing began.

When asked by an ABC News reporter if he had anything that he wanted to say, Barnes said, “I love my boys.”

The hearing lasted for more than four hours. Koptyaeva, who is wanted in the U.S. on a felony interference with child custody charge, was questioned on the stand.

Koptyaeva’s mother also provided testimony, but details from inside the courtroom are scarce due to restrictions in Russia on public access to trials involving minors.

“It is a civil matter. It should not be a criminal case,” Barnes told ABC News. He was also asked whether he is currently having any health issues, but said he is not.

Two additional people are expected to be called to the stand to testify during the next hearing. Since the trial is not occurring on consecutive days, Barnes is not due back in court until February 22.

A U.S. State Department official told ABC News that they are aware of media reporting about the resumption of Barnes’ trial this week, adding, “We have requested permission for another consular visit and are awaiting a response from Russian authorities.”

"Generally, the Russia[n] Federation does not abide by its obligations to provide timely notification of the detention of U.S. citizens in Russia,” the State Department official said. “Additionally, Russian authorities also do not regularly inform the U.S. Embassy of the trials, sentencing, or movement of U.S. citizens detained in Russia."

Griner was released from a Mordovia penal colony in December 2022 through a highly-publicized prisoner exchange. Krivanek's detention ended the same day while Dudley was transported across the border to Poland last week as part of his release.

"There are still no charges in Montgomery County related to David Barnes," Kelly Blackburn of the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office told ABC News in November.

Texas authorities did file a felony charge of interference with child custody against Koptyaeva, a native of Russia, after she allegedly took the children out of the United States on March 26, 2019, in violation of a court judgment.

Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, considers the children to have been missing since that date, and Barnes' family says he has not seen his children since.

In late 2021, following a Texas judge's 2020 decision to designate Barnes as the sole managing conservator of his children, Barnes traveled to Russia in the hope of being granted similar custody or visitation rights in Russian family court, according to Barnes' family. But he was detained just over a month after arriving in Moscow.

Koptyaeva continues to say that the children suffered abuse from Barnes, writing in part in a September 2022 email to ABC News, "We were running away just to protect the boys. Do you really think that a person would take two kids and go into [the] unknown, without [a] job, without any source of income, into nothing just to hurt someone?"

Barnes' trial began in November following a series of delays that, according to his family, were caused by issues associated with transporting him to the courthouse. The trial, which is not occurring on consecutive days, was previously slated to continue on Dec. 15, but was adjourned until January after court representatives reported that there were absences involving trial participants.

"My hope is that they can actually get him transported to the courthouse and there's no confusion again as to when the trial is scheduled to begin," Carol Barnes, David's older sister, said in an email to ABC News on Tuesday. "My real hope is that they dismiss the case, but we know that's not going to happen."

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said in December that representatives from the agency have visited Barnes in custody five times since his arrest.

"Our last visit to Mr. Barnes in detention was on December 13, 2022," the State Department spokesperson told ABC News. "U.S. Embassy representatives attempted to attend his trial on December 15, but were denied entry."

Barnes maintains his innocence, writing to his family in December that he is hoping that he can be part of another prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia, but adding, "I still want a shot at the trial ... but who knows how long the trial could last."

ABC News' Tanya Stukalova and Anastasia Bagaeva contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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