Ukraine live briefing: Detention of U.S. journalist extended 3 months; battles rage on Bakhmut outskirts

A Ukrainian soldier carries supplies in a trench near Bakhmut on Monday. (Libkos/AP)
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A Moscow court on Tuesday approved a three-month extension of the detention of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich. The Wall Street Journal reporter was arrested in March by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on accusations of spying, which he, his employer, rights groups and the U.S. government have strenuously denied. Russian authorities have not presented evidence to support their claim. The U.S. State Department says Gershkovich is “wrongfully detained.” He is facing trial. A date has not been set.

“We are deeply concerned that Russia has extended the pretrial detention of Evan Gershkovich by an additional three months today,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a Tuesday briefing. “We have been very clear that the claims against him are baseless. Russia should release Evan and Paul Whelan immediately and we’ll continue to be very clear on that point.” Whelan is a former U.S. Marine who was convicted of espionage in Russia in 2020.

Ukrainian officials say troops are still battling around Bakhmut, after Russia claimed to have seized the eastern city that has been a focal point of the war for months. Ukraine’s armed forces and its deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said fighting continues to rage on the city’s outskirts.

Across the border, Russia said it launched an investigation Tuesday into an alleged attack in its Belgorod region, after it accused pro-Ukrainian fighters of targeting the area. The Kremlin said it expelled the perpetrators from the region and blamed Ukraine; Kyiv denied any direct involvement.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe:

Key developments

  • Belgorod’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that the Russian region was targeted by a sabotage group and that a “counterterrorism operation” is underway. Russian officials described the incident as a cross-border attack on the Grayvoron district, and the country’s Investigative Committee said it has opened a criminal case. The full scope and details of the incidents remained unclear.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed “members of Ukrainian armed formations” for the Belgorod incident, after Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Ukraine had “nothing to do with it.” Responsibility was claimed by groups called the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps. On Telegram, the militias — composed of ethnic Russian fighters siding with Ukraine — said they “liberated” a settlement in Belgorod. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims.
  • A video verified by The Post showed two heavily damaged U.S.-made Humvees on the Russian side of a border station outside Belgorod. It is unclear if the militias used them, or if Ukrainian forces provided them to the group. The U.S. has provided more than 2,000 Humvees to Ukraine. A Pentagon spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
  • As their foothold in Bakhmut shrinks, Ukrainian troops are focused on counterattacks on the city’s periphery, officials said. Maliar said early Tuesday that fighting inside the city has subsided and that Russian forces are sweeping areas under their control, while battles rage on the city’s edges. She said Ukrainian troops control the southwestern outskirts.

Global impact

  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is in China, where he spoke at a business forum in Shanghai, according to Russia’s Tass news agency. He is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit.
  • European allies have begun training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets, European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday. “I am happy that finally the training of the pilots for the F-16 has started in several countries. It will take time, but the sooner the better,” he told reporters in Brussels. The training “opens the door for the provision of jets.”
  • Poland is in advanced talks to obtain early-warning aircraft from Sweden, according to Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. Northern European defense ministers met in Poland on Monday to discuss threats to European security and securing NATO’s eastern flank. The group assured continued support for Ukraine, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

From our correspondents

Before-and-after images of the destroyed Ukrainian city of Bakhmut: The city in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region — which was once known for its salt mines and sparkling wine — is the latest symbol of the relentless war, Ruby Mellen, Laris Karklis and Adam Taylor report.

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies distributed by the AP show Bakhmut, Ukraine, in May 2022 and May 2023. (Video: The Washington Post)

Most of its 70,000 residents have fled. Before-and-after satellite images from Maxar Technologies show scorched landscapes, they write.

Isobel Koshiw and Samuel Oakford contributed to this report.