Russia-Ukraine war news: U.S. says war is not a ‘stalemate’; Russian bomber destroyed by drone

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis signed an agreement during their meeting in Athens on Monday. (Kostas Tsironis/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

National security adviser Jake Sullivan defended Ukraine’s battlefield performance on Tuesday, pledging continued American aid to Kyiv despite widespread disappointment about the country’s progress in reclaiming Russian-held territory.

Several months into a counteroffensive in which Ukrainians have struggled to penetrate robust Russian defenses, falling short of Western hopes that they could break through and recapture large areas of Russian-occupied territory in their country’s south and east, Sullivan said Ukraine was retaking territory “on a methodical, systematic basis.”

A drone appears to have destroyed a Russian TU-22M3 long-range bomber at an air base outside the Russian city of St. Petersburg, Ukrainian media outlets reported. Photos shared on Telegram, verified by The Washington Post, show smoke rising from the site and a supersonic bomber engulfed in flames. The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that a Ukrainian drone had damaged the plane. Ukraine has not confirmed the incident.

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

“We do not assess that the conflict is a stalemate,” Sullivan told reporters in an online briefing. “Ukrainians are operating according to their tactics and their timetable, making progress according to the strategic and operational decisions of their commanders and their leadership, and we’ll continue to support that.”

Ukraine’s 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade claimed to have entered Robotyne on Tuesday after two months of fighting over the strategic southeastern village. The claim, which could not be independently verified, may bring Ukrainian forces one step closer to the key southeastern city of Melitopol. But, as The Washington Post recently reported, the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach Melitopol and that its forces will instead remain several miles outside the city.

The U.S. Embassy in Belarus urged Americans to leave the country “immediately,” citing spillover risks from the war in Ukraine. On Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country was aware of Russia moving tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, warning that the plan, announced by Russia in March, would change “the architecture of security in our part of Europe.”

The region around Russia’s capital was targeted by drones overnight for the fifth consecutive day. Andrey Vorobyov, the regional governor, said Russian air defenses intercepted two drones near Moscow on Tuesday. One interception allegedly occurred west of the capital and the other near Krasnogorsk, Moscow’s satellite city, where the resulting blast “shattered windows” in a 25-story apartment building and “damaged cars” but caused no casualties, Vorobyov said. Moscow closed three airports early Tuesday, but they resumed operations within hours, state news agency Tass reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had an “open, honest and fruitful meeting” with his Serbian counterpart at a summit of Balkan nations and Ukraine. Zelensky said Tuesday that he and Aleksandar Vucic spoke about “respect for the U.N. Charter and the inviolability of borders,” about their countries’ “shared future in the common European home” and about “developing our relations.” Their meeting is significant because Serbia has deep cultural and economic ties with Russia, and Vucic has resisted calls from Western countries to impose sanctions on Moscow. However, a leaked U.S. intelligence document suggested a few months ago that Serbia had provided or committed to provide lethal aid to Ukraine — a claim Belgrade denied.

The British Defense Ministry said there is evidence that some drone strikes against Russian military targets “are being launched from inside Russian territory.” The ministry cited a Saturday attack on a Russian air base more than 400 miles from Ukraine’s border. Russian authorities said the attack, which “highly likely destroyed” a Russian bomber aircraft, was carried out by a “helicopter-style” drone. The ministry said those drones “are unlikely to have the range to reach [the air base] from outside Russia,” suggesting that the attack may have been launched from inside the country.

The Russian Defense Ministry said air defense systems detected two drones over the Bryansk region of western Russia overnight. The ministry said the systems jammed the drones, which crashed in the region, and it blamed Ukraine for the attack. The Post could not independently verify the claims.

The Russian Defense Ministry said two other drones crashed in the Black Sea northwest of Crimea on Monday night after being jammed by electronic systems. Moscow accused of Kyiv of being behind the drone attacks. The Post could not verify the claims.

Russian shelling damaged four multistory buildings in the city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, Zaporizhzhia City Council Secretary Anatolii Kurtiev said on Telegram. No casualties were reported.

Ukraine evacuates civilians as Russia tries to retake liberated city: For weeks, Russia has ramped up its attacks on Kupyansk, trying to win back a city it lost last year. The near-constant shelling is killing between five and 10 civilians in the city and surrounding area each week, the regional governor said. Although officials here are reluctant to acknowledge the looming risk of a second Russian occupation, they say they can no longer guarantee the safety of people who choose to stay, Siobhán O’Grady, Heidi Levine and Serhii Korolchuk report.

Those who have agreed to clear out are being evacuated by a coalition of volunteer groups. Some drove an ambulance through Kupyansk last week to reach Oleksandr and Natalya Mikolovich in their fourth-floor apartment on the city’s east side. On their way, they passed a home engulfed in flames after a Russian artillery strike. Many of those who were still in Kupyansk when the evacuation order was announced were already vulnerable. They include many elderly people who survived Russian occupation last year and are reluctant to uproot their lives now.

Alex Horton, John Hudson and Serhiy Morgunov contributed to this report.

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