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Senate confirms new ambassador to Ukraine; Russia displaying scaled-down ambition, U.S. says

Aerial footage released on May 17 showed people being carried on stretchers through the streets of Mariupol. (Video: Reuters)

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The Senate on Wednesday night confirmed Bridget A. Brink as the next U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, less than a month after President Biden nominated Brink, currently America’s top diplomat in Slovakia, to the post. She is the first U.S. ambassador in Ukraine since 2019, and her confirmation comes as the State Department reopened its embassy in Kyiv.

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As the war nears the end of its 12th week, Russian forces have made an adjustment that demonstrates diminished ambitions, the Pentagon said Wednesday: Moscow’s troops are now attacking in smaller groups with scaled-back objectives, a response to organizational problems and Ukrainian military resistance.

Instead of combat units with several hundred soldiers, Russian Army companies ranging in size from several dozen to about a hundred troops have sometimes led attacks in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, a U.S. defense official said. They’ve focused efforts on villages and crossroads instead of major cities and expanses of Ukrainian territory, the official said.

Meanwhile, Turkey blocked the start of NATO accession for Finland and Sweden, a sign that expanding the military alliance could be a bumpy process. President Biden endorsed the Nordic nations’ applications and expressed confidence that he could persuade Turkish leaders to drop their objections. “I think we’re going to be okay,” he told reporters Wednesday.

Here’s what else to know

  • A Russian soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday during the first trial on war crimes charges in the conflict, Ukraine’s public broadcaster reported. Ukraine has brought war-crime charges against two more Russian troops, the general prosecutor’s office said, and their trial is set to begin Thursday.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv reopened Wednesday for the first time since Russia invaded. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said additional safety measures are in place to protect returning staff.
  • With peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv stalled, one of Ukraine’s top negotiators said Wednesday that negotiations with his Russian counterparts are “impossible.”
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.
8:20 p.m.
Headshot of Reis Thebault
National and breaking news reporter
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked his country’s parliament to extend martial law and the period of general mobilization for another 90 days, he said Wednesday. Zelensky first signed the decrees when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, and he has extended martial law twice before.The emergency declarations have allowed Ukraine’s government to impose curfews, restrict fighting-age men from leaving the country and curb travel. Zelensky has also cited martial law in consolidating the country’s national TV channels into one platform to ensure a “unified information policy.”“Our army and all those who defend the state must have all the legal tools to act steadily,” Zelensky said in an address Wednesday evening.
1:27 a.m.
Headshot of Reis Thebault
National and breaking news reporter
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian missile strikes across the country on Tuesday were an attempt to “compensate for a series of failures in the east and south of our country.” Although the Russian offensive has been stalled in the Donbas region, Moscow secured a victory in Mariupol on Monday, when Ukraine ended its defense of the ruined steel plant.Zelensky said that “the evacuation mission continues” at the facility and that the “most influential international mediators are involved.” He said he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday about the negotiation process.