Live updates | UK: Russia will push to capture 2 more cities

LVIV, Ukraine – The British military believes Russia will make a push to try to seize the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

The British made the comment Wednesday in a daily briefing it posts on Twitter about the war.

The Defense Ministry said Russia had some 22 battalion tactical groups near Izium in its attempt to advance in the area. Russia uses so-called battalion tactical groups – units of infantry typically reinforced with tanks, air defenses and artillery – in its operations. Each group typically has around 800 troops.

The British said: “Despite struggling to break through Ukrainian defenses and build momentum, Russia highly likely intends to proceed beyond Izium to capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk.”

It added: “Capturing these locations would consolidate Russian military control of the northeastern Donbas and provide a staging point for their efforts to cut off Ukrainian forces in the region.”

Analysts have been watching eastern Ukraine, now the site of the country’s heaviest fighting, expecting Russia to try to encircle Ukrainian forces. However, the going has been slow as Ukrainian fighters dig in and use long-range weapons, like howitzers, to target the Russians.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

– Russia storms Mariupol steel plant as some evacuees reach safety

– Debt drama far from over for Russia even though it dodges default

– Biden visit highlights strain on US weapons stockpile

– Pope Francis offers to meet Putin, but hasn’t heard back

– German opposition leader visits Ukraine; chancellor refuses to go

Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

MEXICO CITY – Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees are camping out in Mexico City and waiting for the U.S. government to allow them into the country.

About 500 evacuees were waiting Tuesday in large tents under a searing sun on a dusty field on the east side of Mexico’s sprawling capital. The camp has been open only a week and from 50 to 100 people are arriving every day.

Some refugees have already been to the U.S. border in Tijuana where they were told they would no longer be admitted. Others arrived at airports in Mexico City or Cancun.

The U.S. government announced in late March that it would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Hundreds entered Mexico daily as tourists in Mexico City or Cancun and flew to Tijuana to wait for a few days to be admitted to the U.S. at a San Diego border crossing on humanitarian parole.

Giorgi Mikaberidze, 19, arrived in Tijuana April 25 and found the U.S. border closed. He went from being just yards from the United States to some 600 miles (966 kilometers) away in the Mexico City area. He said he traveled to Mexico alone.

“It’s very difficult to wait. We don’t know how the program will work,” he said.

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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s national security adviser met Tuesday with a Swedish foreign affairs officials and committed to continuing “close coordination” on security issues, a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson said.

NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Oscar Stenström, state secretary for foreign affairs to Sweden’s prime minister, discussed the security situation in Europe in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The topics included ongoing efforts to support Ukraine and impose costs on Russia, Watson said.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the war in Ukraine has worsened problems in the Western Hemisphere caused by the coronavirus pandemic, such as rising poverty.

Concerns about the war decreasing the availability of food and increasing prices have sparked fears of increasing hunger and starvation in other nations. Blinken told the annual Conference of the Americas Luncheon on Tuesday that the effects of the war are being felt after the pandemic inflicted “massive economic harm throughout the region.”

Giving the luncheon’s keynote address in Washington, Blinken said: “Now, with the Russian government’s brutal war of aggression on Ukraine, many of these preexisting problems, these preexisting conditions, have been made worse, raising the price of essential commodities throughout the Americas, from fertilizer to wheat to petroleum, cutting off key export markets for many industries in the Americas, and forcing households across the region to make very wrenching choices as the cost of living skyrockets.”

Blinken plans to chair two United Nations meetings later this month aimed at spotlighting how the war in Ukraine and other conflicts is affecting the availability of food and prices.

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KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian officials say the Russian military has struck railroad infrastructure across the country.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the Ukrainian railways, said the Russian strikes on Tuesday hit six railway stations in the country’s central and western regions, inflicting heavy damage.

Kamyshin said at least 14 trains were delayed because of the attacks.

Dnipro region Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian missiles struck railway infrastructure in the area, leaving one person wounded and disrupting train movement.

The Ukrainian military also reported strikes on railways in the Kirovohrad region, saying there were unspecified casualties.

Ukraine’s railroads have played an important role in moving people, goods and military supplies during the war as roads and bridges have been damaged.

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TROY, Ala. – President Joe Biden on Tuesday credited the assembly line workers at a Javelin missile plant for doing life-saving work in building the antitank weapons that are being sent to Ukraine to stifle Russia’s invasion as he made a pitch for Congress to approve $33 billion so the U.S. can continue hustle aid to the front lines.

“You’re allowing the Ukrainians to defend themselves,” Biden told the workers, his podium flanked by Javelin missile launchers and shipping containers. “And, quite frankly, they’re making fools of the Russian military in many instances.”

The president’s visit to the Lockheed Martin factory in Alabama also drew attention to a growing concern as the war drags on: Can the U.S. sustain the cadence in shipping vast amounts of arms to Ukraine while maintaining a healthy stockpile it may need if conflict erupts with North Korea, Iran or elsewhere?

The U.S. has provided at least 7,000 Javelins, including some transferred during the Trump administration, or about one-third of its stockpile, to Ukraine in recent years, according to an analysis by Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies international security program. The Biden administration says it has committed to sending 5,500 Javelins to Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion.

Analysts also estimate that the United States has sent about one-quarter of its stockpile of shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told investors last week during a quarterly call that his company, which makes the weapons system, wouldn’t be able to ramp up production until next year, due to parts shortages.

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