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U.S. attorney general visits Kyiv as heavy fighting continues in Luhansk

Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Ukraine June 21 to discuss efforts to arrest and prosecute those involved in war crimes during Russia's invasion. (Video: Reuters)
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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland met with Ukraine’s top prosecutor Tuesday during an unannounced trip to Kyiv. Garland, announcing the launch of a U.S. “war crimes accountability team,” pledged to “pursue every avenue of accountability for those who commit war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine.”

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In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Americans captured in Ukraine would not be covered by the Geneva Conventions’ protections for prisoners of war. He also said Tuesday that Russia “can’t rule out” that two American captives would face death sentences.

Ukrainian forces continue to face a punishing fight in the eastern Luhansk region, where Ukrainian officials warn that Russia is staging heavy military equipment. Taking full control of the city of Severodonetsk would deliver a key victory to Russia — and bring its forces closer to fulfilling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of overpowering the eastern Donbas region bordering Russia. The days ahead could bring some of the most decisive battles in the war, Ukrainian officials warned.

What are war crimes, and is Russia committing them in Ukraine?

Here’s what else to know

  • Russian forces have captured the strategically important village of Toshkivka, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk said Tuesday. Control of the village could allow Russian troops to encircle cities that have been at the heart of the battle for the Donbas region for weeks.
  • German howitzers arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday, according to the country’s defense minister — the first of a tranche of heavy weapons Berlin has pledged.
  • Ukraine’s application to join the European Union — along with those of former Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova — will be discussed during this week’s European Council summit.
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Like a U.S. lawmaker whipping votes in Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is opening his Rolodex this week and dialing leaders across Europe, lobbying for votes in favor of Ukraine’s candidacy to the European Union. On Tuesday, Zelensky said he spoke with at least nine E.U. premiers — a third of the bloc’s members and “a marathon of phone conversations.”“We are increasing the number of those who stand for Ukraine’s candidacy,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. The European Council is expected to decide whether to grant Ukraine E.U. candidate status at a summit this week. Zelensky has called the coming days “truly historic” for his country, and he has sought to wield his growing international clout to get Ukraine fast-tracked through the accession process.“I will do my best to ensure that the historic decision of the European Union is adopted,” he said. “This is important for us.”