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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russian strikes near Odesa after Snake Island withdrawal

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(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jul 04, 6:54 am
Pope hints at possible trip to Ukraine

Speaking of the situation in Ukraine in an exclusive interview with Reuters over the weekend, Pope Francis said he might be heading to Ukraine after returning from his trip to Canada.

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Francis, who has repeatedly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said he “would like to go [to Ukraine],” but wanted to “go to Moscow first.”

No pope has ever visited Moscow. Last Thursday, Francis implicitly accused Russia of waging a “cruel and senseless war of aggression.”

Francis noted over the weekend that there have been contacts between Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about a possible trip to Moscow.

“After I come back from Canada, it is possible that I will manage to go to Ukraine,” Francis said. “The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.”

According to Francis, the Vatican first inquired about a trip to Russia several months ago, but Moscow said it was not the right time.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Yuriy Zaliznyak, Max Uzol and Fidel Pavlenko

Jul 04, 6:37 am
Ukrainian annual military budget spent in just over a month, PM says

Ukraine spends almost as much on its army in a month as it did in a year before Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told local media on Sunday.

Ukraine’s monthly military budget is now about $4.4 billion, according to Shmyhal. Before the war, its annual military budget was close to $5.3 billion, the prime minister said.

Shmyhal added that Ukraine’s overall monthly budget is lacking around $150 million. Many businesses have suspended work or completely ceased to exist, he said, adding that millions of tons of harvest remain stuck in warehouses due to Russia blocking the path for exports.

On Sunday, Turkish customs detained a Russian cargo ship with grain stolen by Russian forces and shipped from the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Turkey said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey will be able to re-export grain products, including wheat, oat, and barley from the Black Sea to countries in need after talks with Russia and Ukraine that will be held in the coming days.

Turkey has about 20 bulker ships ready to transport grain, Erdogan added.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Yuriy Zaliznyak, Max Uzol and Fidel Pavlenko

Jul 03, 4:26 pm
Ukrainian troops retreat from Lysychansk

Ukrainian troops have retreated from the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk in order to save the lives of soldiers, Ukrainian military officials said Sunday.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces confirmed that Ukrainian troops have left Lysychansk after weeks of heavy fighting.

Ukrainian military officials said a combination of Russian artillery superiority, the prowess of Russian military aviation and its rocket salvo systems proved too much for Ukranian troops.

“This was done to save the lives of the soldiers,” the general staff said in a statement, adding that the continuation of the defense of the city “would lead to fatal consequences.”

Russian forces now effectively control Luhansk Oblast, bringing them a step closer to seizing Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Jul 03, 4:24 pm
Russia claims total control of Lisichansk in eastern Ukraine

The city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine is purportedly under total control of Russian forces and the Kremlin-backed Luhansk People’s Militia, the Russian Ministry of Defense said Sunday.

Russian Army Gen. Sergei Shoigu said in a statement that Lysychansk and a number of settlements in the Luhansk oblast, or province, of the Dobas region — including the largest settlements of Belogorovka, Novodruzhesk, Maloryazantsevo and Belaya — are under control of Russia after weeks of heavy fighting.

Shoigu said that over the past day, Russia and the Luhansk People’s Militia have taken control of more than 70 square miles of the Luhansk province.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that Ukraine has not confirmed that the Russian’s have seized Lysychansk.

“We cannot definitively say that Lysychansk is under the control of the Russian Federation” Zelensky said in a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday.

However, Zelensky acknowledge that battle for Lysychansk and other areas of the Luhansk region has been tough for Ukrainian forces.

“It’s really the most difficult situation, the most dangerous, and we don’t have an advantage there, and it’s true, it’s our weak spot,” Zelenskyy said.

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