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Ukraine briefing: Biden and Scholz meet in White House as battle rages over Bakhmut


President Biden met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House on Friday, calling his country’s support for Ukraine “profound” as fierce fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces continued to rage in the city of Bakhmut.

“The moral support you gave Ukrainians has been profound,” Biden told Scholz ahead of their meeting. A White House readout of the talks said the two leaders discussed “the importance of maintaining global solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

Biden and Scholz also “reiterated their commitment to impose costs on Russia for its aggression for as long as necessary,” the statement said.

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

Why Russia and Ukraine are fighting over Bakhmut

Key developments

  • The United States announced an additional $400 million in military aid for Ukraine on Friday. The arms package mostly consists of ammunition for howitzers and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS — along with Bradley fighting vehicles, demolition munitions and other equipment, according to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Friday, a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. The trip to the western city of Lviv was not previously announced for “security reasons,” the spokesperson said, adding that Garland held several meetings, including with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to “reaffirm [U.S.] determination to hold Russia accountable.”
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was laughed at for saying Moscow was the victim, not the aggressor, in the Ukraine war. “The war was launched against us,” he said Friday during a conference in New Delhi, prompting a mixture of guffaws, groans and eye rolls from the audience of academics, government officials and business executives. However, Lavrov also drew strong applause when he accused critics of hypocrisy and pointed out the U.S. role in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why Russia and Ukraine are fighting over Bakhmut

Battlefield updates

  • Wagner Group boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin said that “the pincers are closing” on Bakhmut, in a video posted Friday on Telegram in which he claimed to be speaking from a rooftop in the city. He paraded three men who appeared to be captured local fighters on camera and said Ukrainian forces should withdraw to “give them a chance to leave the city.”
  • A Ukrainian soldier defending Bakhmut denied the Wagner Group’s claim, instead saying that enemy forces are “right now on three sides trying to get to us,” with some of the heaviest fighting striking the city’s south. Yuriy Syrotyuk, who is stationed with Ukraine’s Fifth Independent Assault Brigade, spoke to the Post by phone on Friday.
  • A Russian anti-Putin group fighting for Ukraine claimed responsibility for an attack in Russia’s western Bryansk region, which Russian officials said killed two people. The Russian Volunteer Corps said it carried out Thursday’s assault, which Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed on Ukraine and described as a “terrorist attack.” Ukrainian officials have denied involvement. .

Global impact

  • Kicking Russia out of the Group of 20 nations would be a mistake, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said Friday as a high-level meeting of G-20 foreign ministers drew to a close in New Delhi. “We have to keep ways of talking, or at least listening,” Borrell said. Russia was suspended from the Group of Eight after its invasion of Crimea in 2014.
  • The war in Ukraine is not distracting the United States from its challenges in Asia, Blinken said Friday. “Not only are we not distracted, on the contrary, we’re more deeply engaged than ever,” he said during a panel discussion in India’s capital. Blinken made the comment during a talk with other members of the Quad — a group consisting of Australia, Japan, India and the United States. Even though Washington has spent billions of dollars in support of Ukraine and provided a massive arsenal of weaponry, Blinken insisted the United States could “run and chew gum at the same time,” reiterating that the “future is so much in the Indo-Pacific.”
  • The U.S. Treasury Department and the State Department announced new sanctions Friday targeting three Russians accused of committing human rights abuses against Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian journalist and opposition leader who has been imprisoned in Moscow since April for criticizing Russian military tactics in Ukraine. Kara-Murza, who is a Washington Post opinion contributor, was charged with “spreading deliberately false information” and faces up to 15 years in prison. Among the officials facing sanctions are the judge who oversaw Kara-Murza’s pretrial detention hearing, the special investigator who ordered the opening of a criminal case against him and the Russian national who served as an expert witness for the Russian government in his hearing.
  • Belarus has jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski. The democracy and human rights activist was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for financing protests, a judgment that his supporters say is politically motivated. An outspoken critic of President Alexander Lukashenko, Bialiatski won the international prize in 2022, sharing it with Russian and Ukrainian rights defenders.

From our correspondents

Ukraine uncovers new grave near Bucha, site of alleged Russian atrocities: Ukrainian officials have dug up potential proof of further killings carried out by Russian troops, report Missy Ryan, Kamila Hrabchuk and Alice Martins. The remains of three men were exhumed from an unmarked grave near Bucha after a man who buried them returned to inform authorities about it.

Andriy Nebytov, police chief for the Kyiv region, where Bucha is located, said residents have been reluctant to report incidents of violence they witnessed under Russian occupation. “It is difficult to evaluate the actions of people who have experienced such fear,” Nebytov told reporters at the site. “Russians killed and destroyed in front of their eyes, then [residents] buried these people.”

Natalia Abbakumova, Robyn Dixon, Francesca Ebel and John Wagner contributed to this report.