Vladimir Putin’s rise to power
How did Putin rise to power? A look into the former KGB spy and his rise in Russian politics
Megan Smith, USA TODAY
The U.S. has reliable information that Russian military forces executed Ukrainians who were trying to surrender near Donetsk, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
According to Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. has credible reports and photos of individuals killed “execution-style” with their hands bound, including bodies showing signs of torture and accounts of sexual violence against women and girls.
“These images and reports suggest that atrocities are not the result of rogue units or individuals; they, rather, reveal a deeply disturbing pattern of systematic abuse across all areas where Russia’s forces are engaged,” she said at a United Nations meeting Wednesday.
Investigators and volunteers have also recorded what U.S. officials have described as a “troubling campaign” of brutality against civilians in towns near Kyiv after Russian forces withdrew from the area.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy detailed reports of killing, rape, and torture in an address to the U.N. Security Council after visiting Bucha. He said Russian forces “killed entire families,” crushed civilians with tanks, cut off limbs, and slashed throats.
►President Joe Biden delivers remarks today on the progress of the war.
►Russia shut off gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday over their support of Ukraine in the war and threatened other countries with similar measures.
►Germany was the biggest buyer of Russian energy during the first two months since the start of the war in Ukraine, according to a study published Wednesday by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
A prisoner swap that took place despite unprecedented tensions between Russia and the U.S. came full circle early Thursday. Trevor Reed‘s mother shared the news on Twitter that her son had returned to U.S. soil while also advocating for Paul Whelan, another American held in Russia.
“Trevor is back in the USA,” Paula tweeted early Thursday. “It’s been a day of joy for us, but not for #PaulWhelan and his family. I know this is a hard day for them. Pls keep them (and the MANY others) in your prayers.)”
The 30-year-old Marine veteran had spent nearly three years in a Russian prison after being accused of assaulting a Russian police officer following a night of drinking. He was sentenced to nine years. The Biden administration freed Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.
Russia has been unable to replace the sunken cruiser Moskva with another ship because the Bosporus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships, the British Defense Ministry says in it latest assessment of the war. The strait, connecting the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea, was closed by the Turkish government days after Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago. The strait connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.
Still, despite the “embarrassing losses” of the landing ship Saratov and cruiser Moskva, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets, the assessment warns. Ukraine claims to have sunk eight Russian ships.
Approximately 20 Russian Navy vessels are currently in the Black Sea operational zone, including submarines, the assessment says.
At a time when Russia’s wielding its energy industry like a hammer (and sickle), a new report illustrates how powerful that weapon is.
A study published Wednesday by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air calculates that Russia earned $66.5 billion from fossil fuel exports since its troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, with Germany as the biggest buyer.
Using data on ship movements, real-time tracking of gas flows through pipelines and estimates based on historical monthly trade, the researchers figured Germany paid Russia about 9.1 billion euros ($9.65 billion) for fossil fuel deliveries in the first two months of the war.
— Jorge L. Ortiz
During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rise to power and fortune, he and his associates are suspected of silencing some of those who raised questions about the source of his apparent wealth. Potentially dozens of people have been killed or survived poisonings and other assassination attempts or have had their investigations blocked or shut down, according to USA TODAY interviews and a review of documents and reports.
High-profile victims in the anti-corruption effort include whistleblowers, who tried to figure out how much he is worth and where the Russian leader obtained — and hides — his riches. Read more here.
— Josh Meyer