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Russian troops withdraw from Snake Island

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Russia on Thursday withdrew its troops from Snake Island. This strategically important island lies along a busy shipping route in the Black Sea and has come to symbolize Ukrainian resistance to the invasion.

The island gained international attention in February when a Russian warship demanded that Ukrainian troops surrender or be bombed, and the soldiers responded with expletives. The soldiers were captured and later released during a prisoner exchange.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov called the withdrawal of Zmiyinyy (Snake) island off the Ukrainian port of Odesa a “goodwill gesture” to demonstrate that the country is not interfering in the attempts by the United Nations to create space for Ukraine to export agricultural products.

Ukraine and its western allies have accused Russia of blocking ports and exacerbating a global food crisis, which Russia denies.

After the Russians took control of Snake Island, the Ukrainian army relentlessly attacked their forces. The Ukrainian military said Russian troops fled the island after being bombed by Ukrainian artillery and rocket attacks.

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Latest developments

►Dmitry Medvedev, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, warned on Thursday that Moscow could view Western sanctions as a justification for war, calling the restrictions “angry and cynical” and bordering on “economic war”.

►The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who remained in power thanks to the intervention of Russian troops in 2015 during a civil war, said it would recognize the “independence and sovereignty” of Ukraine’s separatist eastern republics in Luhansk and Donetsk provinces .

Russian troops

Biden announces additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine

President Biden said on Thursday the US would tell $800 million in other military assistance to Ukraine in the coming days.

The aid includes new advanced air defense systems, more artillery, counter-battery radars, and more ammunition, Biden said at a news conference closing the annual NATO meeting in Madrid.

“We will remain with Ukraine, and the entire alliance will remain with Ukraine for as long as it takes to ensure that they are not defeated… by Russia,” he said.

Earlier at the summit, NATO declared Russia the “most important and immediate threat” to the peace and security of its members and vowed to strengthen support for Ukraine in the conflict.

Putin still wants to claim most of Ukraine, US intelligence chief says

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not changed his goals in Ukraine, even if they seem unrealistic, the top US intelligence official said Wednesday.

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, foresees a long, “grinding battle” in which Russia retains the parts of the eastern Donbas region it already controls and consolidates its hold on the south by the fall but is unlikely to progress beyond Which.

At an event in Washington, Haines said Putin “basically has the same political goals he had before, which is to take most of Ukraine” and push NATO away.

“We see a discrepancy between Putin’s short-term military objectives in this area and the capacity of his army, a kind of discrepancy between his ambitions and what the army can achieve,” she said.

Russia continues to make incremental progress in Lysychansk, the last city in Luhansk province it does not control. The invading forces and their separatist allies control 95% of Luhansk and about half of Donetsk, making up largely Russian-speaking Donbas.

US to expand military presence in Eastern Europe, Biden says

On the same day that NATO formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the security alliance, President Joe Biden said the US would increase its military presence in Eastern Europe during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Arriving at NATO’s Madrid summit on Wednesday, Biden announced that the US would establish its first permanent headquarters in Poland, maintain an additional rotating brigade in Romania and ramp up its rotating deployment in the Baltic region.

The troops in Poland would represent the first permanent US troops on NATO’s eastern flank. The alliance plans to stockpile equipment and ammunition in the east and grow nearly eight times its total rapid response force, from 40,000 to 300,000 troops, by next year.

Contributions: The Associated Press

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