US Announces $820M in Ukraine Aid, Including Missile Systems

The U.S. announced on Friday that it will provide Ukraine with $820 million in new military aid, including new surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radars to respond to Russia’s heavy reliance on long-range strikes in the war.

Russia in recent days has launched dozens of missiles across Ukraine and pinned down Ukrainian forces with continuous fire for sometimes hours at a time. Ukraine’s leaders have publicly called on Western allies to quickly send more ammunition and advanced systems that will help them narrow the gap in equipment and manpower.

All told, the U.S. has committed more than $8.8 billion in weapons and military training to Ukraine, whose leaders have sought more help from Western allies to repel larger and heavily equipped Russian forces. About $7 billion of that aid has been announced since Russia’s February invasion.

“We are going to support Ukraine as long as it takes,” President Joe Biden said this week at a press conference during the NATO summit in Madrid. He argued that Russia had already suffered a blow to its international standing and major damage to its economy from Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.

The U.S. is giving Ukrainians “the capacity” so that “they can continue to resist the Russian aggression,” Biden said. “And so I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine in Ukraine.”

As part of the new package, the U.S. will purchase two systems known as NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system that is used to protect the airspace around the White House and Capitol in Washington. The Pentagon will also provide the Ukrainians with up to 150,000 rounds of 155-millimeter artillery ammunition.

The Pentagon will also provide additional ammunition for medium-range rocket systems it provided Ukraine in June, known as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. The ammunition will come from the Defense Department’s own inventory under what’s known as drawdown authority. This is the 14th package of military weapons and equipment transferred to Ukraine from Defense Department stocks since August 2021.

The war has evolved into a grinding stalemate in which both sides are heavily reliant on artillery, according to Western officials and analysts. While Russia has not achieved its initial goals of toppling Ukraine’s government, it is believed to be making slow progress in consolidating control over the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donbas.

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Serbian President Vucic: EU in ‘Direct War’ with Russia, Calls for Truce

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says the EU is fighting a “direct war” with Russia, and suggests he is in “a difficult position” because the community has rebuffed his country’s efforts to gain membership.

At a Saturday press conference in the wake of a meeting with 27 EU leaders and six heads of government from the West Balkans, Vucic claimed the Balkans “were not important that day” because the EU is completely at war with Russia and its priority is to provide Ukraine and Moldova with EU candidate status.

“Viktor Orban [Hungarian prime minister] said that in the economic sense, Serbia and Montenegro are much more ready to be part of the EU than some other countries. But who cares?” an exasperated Vucic said.

Serbia officially applied for EU membership in 2009, and is expected to complete negotiations by the end of 2024, allowing it to join by 2025. Still, the EU has not committed to welcoming Serbia into its membership.

The nation has been under pressure to join EU members in imposing sanctions on Russia — and is acutely aware of “how angry many of them are” over the issue, Vucic asserted at the news conference.

According to Vucic, those same nations are deluded.

“Many EU countries are in a direct war against Russia. They send howitzers, planes, S-300s to Ukraine, and how do you think they will treat us? They are not in our shoes as we are not in theirs, and that is why our position is extremely difficult. Will it be easier? Well, it won’t,”Vucic said.

Vucic pledged Serbia will remain on the EU path but insisted “there must be a rational and pragmatic approach in politics, which takes the interests into account,” pointing out that 300,000 Serbians work directly — and 500,000 indirectly — for foreign companies, two-thirds of which are from the EU.

He also offered a grim forecast for the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, saying if the fighting in Donbass does not end with a truce, the world will face a worse world war than the previous one.”

“A little man from the Balkans says that. I hope that they will start peace negotiations, otherwise we will all go,” he warned.

After winning a second term, Vucic used his swearing in speech last month to declare that “we must be firm on the European path.”

Ukraine has voted three times in the United Nations to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has not signed on to EU sanctions.

Last week, Serbia announced that it expected Russian oil imports to stop this November due to EU sanctions blocking transit through member states. Russia currently supplies Serbia 70% of its oil consumption.

In May, Vucic announced that a new 3-year agreement with  Russia to provide Serbia natural gas under terms he described as “extremely favorable.” With a population of 7 million, Serbia is a landlocked nation and relies heavily on Russian gas and oil.

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As Summit Host, Spain Urges NATO to Watch Its Southern Flank

At this week’s NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, NATO will decide the largest military deployment since the Cold War, El Pais reported.

The summit will feature the 30 allies meeting in a state of maximum military alert, calling the invasion of Ukraine to “lead allies to define Russia as a direct threat, while China will be considered a geostrategic challenge,” according to the report.

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is certain to dominate an upcoming NATO summit in Madrid, Spain and other member nations are quietly pushing the Western alliance to consider how mercenaries aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin are spreading Moscow’s influence to Africa.

As the host of the summit taking place from Tuesday to Thursday, Spain wants to emphasize its proximity to Africa as it lobbies for a greater focus on Europe’s southern flank in a new document outlining NATO’s vision of its security challenges and tasks.

The Strategic Concept is NATO’s most important working document after the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, which contained the key provision holding that an attack on one member is viewed as an attack upon all. The security assessment is updated roughly every decade to reset the West’s security agenda.

The current version, approved in Lisbon in 2010, stated the risk of a conventional war on NATO territory was “low.” It did not explicitly mention concerns about instability in Africa. At the time, the alliance viewed apathy as its biggest military threat; U.S. complaints that some European members were not paying their due featured heavily in summit talks.

Fast forward a dozen years, and the view looks very different from NATO headquarters in Brussels. After Russia brought war close to NATO’s eastern borders, the alliance has worked to provide Ukraine with an assortment of more powerful weapons and to avoid the very real risk of getting drawn into the fighting.

But there appears to be a consensus among NATO members heading into the Madrid summit that while Russia remains concern No. 1, the alliance must continue to widen its view globally. Spain’s position for an increased focus on “the South” is shared by Britain, France and Italy.

In their view, the security challenges in Africa arise from a Putin apparently dead-set on restoring the imperial glories of Russia as well as from an expansive China. Russia has gained traction thanks to the presence of its mercenaries in the Sahel region, a semiarid expanse stretching from Senegal to Sudan that suffers from political strife, terrorism and drought.

“Each time I meet with NATO ministers, the support of the allies is total due to the instability that we see on the alliance’s southern frontier and especially the situation in the Sahel region right now,” Spanish Foreign Minister José Albares said.

The Kremlin denies links to the Wagner Group, a mercenary force with an increasing presence in central and North Africa and the Middle East. The private military company, which has also participated in the war in Ukraine, has developed footholds in Libya, Mali, Sudan and Central African Republic.

In Mali, Wagner soldiers are filling a void created by the exit of former colonial power France. In Sudan, Russia’s offer of an economic alliance earned it the promise of a naval base on the Red Sea. In Central African Republic, Wagner fighters protect the country’s gold and diamond mines. In return, Putin gets diplomatic allies and resources.

French President Emmanuel Macron has long called for a “greater involvement” from NATO in the Sahel region. Now that Wagner has moved into Mali, French authorities underlined that Wagner mercenaries were accused of human right abuses in the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria.

Former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said that Russia’s brutal military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during his country’s long civil war left it emboldened.

“Syria gave (the Russians) the sentiment that they could be more active in that part of the world,” Solana told The Associated Press. “They have very good relations with Algeria and they have (…) the Wagner type of people in the Sahel, which is delicate.”

With the Sahel, Morocco and Algeria at risk of worsening instability, “the southern part of NATO, for Portugal, Spain, Greece, etc., they would like to have an eye open to that part of the world,” he said.

Italy is another NATO member attuned to the political climate across the Mediterranean Sea. The country hosts NATO’s Joint Force Command base in Naples, which in 2017 opened a south hub focusing on terrorism, radicalization, migration and other issues emanating from North Africa and the Middle East.

The Italian ambassador to NATO, Francesco Maria Talo, said in a May interview with Italian news agency ANSA that humanitarian crises in Africa must concern all NATO allies.

“Near us there’s Africa, with a billion inhabitants at risk of poverty, aggravated by food insecurity, terrorism and climate change, all factors that combine to create insecurity,” Talo said. “And Russia is present there, too.”

The importance of the other side of the Mediterranean became painfully evident to Spain over the past year due to a series of diplomatic crises involving Morocco and Algeria and their rivalry over the fate of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.

Amid the disputes, reduced border security allowed migrants to enter Spanish territory, and there were perceived threats to energy supplies. Analysts consider both to be tactics of “hybrid warfare” when governments use them against other countries.

Speaking in Madrid last month, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace noted the problems caused last year when Belarus, a Putin ally, allegedly encouraged migrants to cross its borders into Poland and other neighboring countries.

“If the likes of Wagner get the control they have or they’d like to have in places like Libya or indeed what we see they’re already doing in Mali, do not think that Spain will be untouched by that,” Wallace said.

NATO is also expected to include in the new Strategic Document a reference to China’s growing military reach both in and beyond the Pacific theater.

U.S. Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command, warned last month that China was trying to build a military naval base on Africa’s Atlantic coast. He said Beijing “has most traction” toward establishing the base in Equatorial Guinea, a tiny oil-rich dictatorship that was once Spain’s only sub-Saharan African colony.

China only operates one acknowledged foreign military base, located in Djibouti in East Africa, But many believe its People’s Liberation Army is busy establishing an overseas military network, even if it doesn’t use the term “base.”

NATO has invited the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand to the summit to demonstrate its interest in the Asian-Pacific.

The foreign minister of Mauritania, a former French colony in West Africa, is also invited to attend a working dinner of fellow foreign ministers at the NATO summit. NATO said the country, which borders Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali and Senegal, was “closely associated with the preparatory work” for the new Strategic Concept.

Information from The Associated Press was used throughout this report.

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North Korea Denounces US ‘Aggression’ as It Marks War Anniversary

North Korea on Saturday condemned “aggression moves” by Washington and Seoul, vowing to take revenge as it marked the 72nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War at a time of rising tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Amid concerns North Korea could be preparing to conduct its first nuclear test in five years, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed in May to deploy more U.S. weapons if it was necessary to deter the North.

The North’s state news agency KCNA said on Saturday a number of workers’ organizations had held meetings to “vow revenge on the U.S. imperialists,” blaming the United States for starting the 1950-1953 Korean War.

The war ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, meaning U.S.-led U.N. forces are still technically at war with North Korea.

According to the KCNA report, Pyongyang denounced Washington over what it called “aggression moves” carried out with South Korea and Japan, and said the U.S. push to deploy “strategic assets” on the South was aimed at provoking another war.

Strategic assets can typically include aircraft carriers, long-range bomber aircraft or missile submarines.

“Such insolent behavior of the U.S. fans the anger and revenge of the Korean people,” KCNA said.

Marking the war anniversary in Seoul, Yoon pledged to do his utmost to protect freedom and peace.

“We will maintain strong security posture based on South Korea-U.S. alliance and a strong military backed by science and technology,” he wrote on Facebook.

Saturday’s anniversary came amid concerns Pyongyang could conduct what would be its seventh nuclear test, which U.S. and South Korean officials have said could take place “any time” now. 

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Russian TV Host: Famine in Ukraine Will Spur West to End Sanctions Against Russia

A Russian state TV host who is apparently familiar with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thinking asserts that the threat of famine in Ukraine will eventually force the West to lift its collective sanctions against Russia.

At the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of the Russian state-controlled media outlet RT, said she has heard from several people in Moscow that ”all our hope is in the famine.”

”Here is what it means,” Simonyan continued. ”It means that the famine will start now and they will lift the sanctions and be friends with us, because they will realize that it’s necessary.”

Various sanctions against Russia were levied around Feb. 24, when Russia  invaded Ukraine. Nearly four full months later, the military conflict continues between the neighboring countries.

The sanctions include:

  • The United States placed a ban on all imports of Russian oil and gas, while also targeting the country’s largest lenders.
  • The United Kingdom has been phasing out imports of Russian oil.
  • Germany halted plans to open the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.
  • And the European Union has promised to phase out imports of coal from Russia by August.

The widespread sanctions have also hit prominent individuals, businesses and banks, while big companies such as McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola have completely withdrawn from Russia as a sign of protest against Putin’s war.

Russia, meanwhile, has been accused of blocking Ukraine’s ports and laying the groundwork for a global food crisis. 

According to the United Nations, the Russia-Ukraine war, Russia’s seizure of foreign farmland and the Black Sea blockade have exacerbated the food crisis in Ukraine,  driving up famine levels in that country.

Putin has reportedly pledged to lift the blockade if Western sanctions from Russia’s ”special military operation” are removed in due time.

”Most important of all, we need to end the war in Ukraine,” António Guterres, the U.N. secretary‑general, told the Security Council on May 19, while lamenting how the food distribution networks are struggling.

Sara Menker, founder and chief executive officer of Gro Intelligence, which provides actionable insights across the economy, climate and agriculture, said that before the war, Russia and Ukraine provided nearly one-third of the world’s wheat exports.

The countries were also among the top five global exporters of corn, she said.

For now, though, all Ukrainian ports remain closed amid the conflict.

A representative of Ukraine reportedly told the Security Council that Putin’s war threatens some 400 million people globally who rely on Ukrainian grain exports.

Russia is also seizing Ukrainian grain for its own consumption or to sell it illegally on international markets, according to the unnamed official.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, has accused Putin of deliberately attempting to ”create hunger in the world in order to put pressure … on the EU.”

”This is a real war crime. If you are using hunger as a weapon of war — this has a name,” Fontelles said in Luxembourg after arriving for a meeting of EU foreign ministers, according to Newsweek.

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Legendary ‘Nazi Hunter’ to Lead DOJ Investigations of War Crimes in Ukraine

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has tapped Eli Rosenbaum to lead the War Crimes Accountability Team, as it pertains to the alleged war crimes and atrocities committed during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The DOJ’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) has experience within this investigative scope, previously being tasked with identifying and deporting Nazi war criminals through the years; and now, Rosenbaum — who reportedly has the nickname of “Nazi Hunter” — will be overseeing the investigations in Ukraine.

“Working alongside our domestic and international partners, the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable every person complicit in the commission of war crimes, torture, and other grave violations during the unprovoked conflict in Ukraine,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a release.

Also, the release states, “This initiative will bring together the Department’s leading experts in investigations involving human rights abuses and war crimes and other atrocities; and provide wide-ranging technical assistance, including operational assistance and advice regarding criminal prosecutions, evidence collection, forensics, and relevant legal analysis.”

On Tuesday, Garland made an unannounced visit to Ukraine to meet with the country’s prosecutor general.

Garland’s primary objective: Discussing the United States’ commitment to prosecuting those responsible for war crimes in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The DOJ release reiterates that Rosenbaum will be responsible for coordinating efforts across the department, along with other federal agencies.

Prosecutors from the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section will also work with Rosenbaum on holding those responsible accountable.

DOJ officials will have jurisdiction over incidents which involve the wounding and killing of American journalists covering the Russian invasion.

According to the DOJ release, numerous Russian war crimes have been reported throughout the war, including the killing of civilians and multiple allegations of Russian soldiers raping women.

It remains to be seen if a global tribunal will conduct separate war trials for the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

After the events of World War II during the mid-1940s, the Nuremberg, Germany-based International Military Tribunal (IMT) oversaw war trials involving Nazi Germany.

Judges from the Allied powers — Great Britain, France, the United States, and Soviet Union (now Russia) — presided over the hearings, which resulted in 199 defendants, 161 convictions, and 37 death sentences, including 12 reportedly tried by the IMT.

And according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, beginning in 1979, the OSI “opened hundreds of investigations and initiated proceedings of Nazi war criminals. These investigations lead to the denaturalization and/or removal of more than 100 Nazi offenders from the United States.”

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Wealth Tracking Firm Predicts Russian Millionaire Exodus of 15K by 2023

Russia could lose 15% of its millionaires by 2023 because of harsh economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other nations in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

The wealth tracking organization Henley & Partners is predicting that Russia will “hemorrhage” some 15,000 millionaires by the end of 2023 as it grapples with harsh economic sanctions, according to the firm.

“Russia is expected to see a net loss of around 15,000 high-net-worth individuals in 2022, a massive 15% of its total millionaire population,” New World Health Head of Research Andrew Amoils wrote of the migration trends expected this year. “Affluent individuals have been emigrating from Russia in steadily rising numbers every year over the past decade, an early warning sign of the current problems the country is facing. Historically, major country collapses have usually been preceded by an acceleration in emigration of wealthy people, who are often the first to leave as they have the means to do so.”

The organization predicts that the main destination for these millionaires is likely the United Arab Emirates.

The Guardian reported in March, about a month following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that nations around the world were imposing tough economic sanctions on President Vladimir Putin’s country, that the UAE’s destination city of Dubai was throwing out the welcome mat for rich Russians, including many of the most well-heeled in Putin’s inner circle.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Alan Pinto, a leasing consultant at Espace Real Estate in Dubai Marina told the Guardian in March. “A radical amount of Russian investors are purchasing units. Even tenants: we’ve had a huge amount of calls. They transfer their funds via crypto. They have an intermediary who will do that for them and then the cash is passed to the landlords.”

The moves come as U.S.-led sanctions against Russia’s central bank are preventing it from propping up the Russian ruble, denying them access to the SWIFT messaging system, which hampers Russia’s ability to move money around the world, and assets of several key oligarchs are being seized including bank accounts, real estate, and luxury items housed in other countries, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition, the United States and several other countries have stopped importing Russian oil and gas, a significant money-maker for that nation, which combined have the potential to “produce far more severe consequences” to the Russian economy, according to the council.

According to the wealth tracking firm’s analysis, Russia has about 101,000 millionaires, or high-net-worth individuals, in the country.

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Bucolic Ukraine Forest Is Site of Mass Grave Exhumation

The lush green beauty of a pine forest with singing birds contrasted with the violent deaths of newly discovered victims of Russia’s war in Ukraine, as workers exhumed bodies from another mass grave near the town of Bucha on Kyiv’s outskirts.

The hands of several victims were tied behind their backs. The gruesome work of digging up the remains coincided with the Ukrainian police chief’s report that authorities have opened criminal investigations into the killings of more than 12,000 people since Russia’ invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Workers wearing white hazmat suits and masks used shovels to exhume bodies from the soil of the forest, marking each section with small yellow numbered signs on the ground. The bodies, covered in cloth and dirt, attracted flies.

“Shots to the knees tell us that people were tortured,” Andriy Nebytov, head of the Kyiv regional police, said at the scene. “The hands tied behind the back with tape say that people had been held (hostage) for a long time and (enemy forces) tried to get any information from them.”

Since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region at the end of March, authorities say they have uncovered the bodies of 1,316 people, many in mass graves in the forest and elsewhere.

The horrors of Bucha shocked the world after Russian troops left. The mass grave that reporters saw Monday was just behind a trench dug out for a military vehicle. The bodies of seven civilians were retrieved. Two of the bodies were found with their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the knees and head, Nebytov said.

National police chief Igor Klimenko told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Monday that criminal investigations into the deaths of more than 12,000 Ukrainians included some found in mass graves. He said the mass killings also were done by snipers firing from tanks and armored personnel carriers. Bodies were found lying on streets and homes, as well as in mass graves.

He didn’t specify how many of the more than 12,000 were civilians and how many were military.

Complete information about the number of bodies in mass graves or elsewhere isn’t known, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the American Jewish Committee on Sunday. He cited the case of two children who died with their parents in the basement of an apartment building in Mariupol in a Russian bombing. Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust, asked:

“Why is this happening in 2022? This is not the 1940s. How could mass killings, torture, burned cities, and filtration camps set up by the Russian military in the occupied territories resembling Nazi concentration camps come true?”

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Zelenskyy Adviser Reveals Weapons Needed to End War With Russia

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Monday revealed the weapons his country needs to end the war against Russia.

Podolyak, one of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s peace negotiators, took to Twitter to say:

“Being straightforward – to end the war we need heavy weapons parity:

1000 howitzers caliber 155 mm;

300 MLRS;

500 tanks;

2000 armored vehicles;

1000 drones.

Contact Group of Defense Ministers meeting is held in #Brussels on June 15. We are waiting for a decision.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will host the Wednesday meeting, at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. International ministers and chiefs of defense have been invited to discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Podolyak’s tweet came on a day Russia’s Defense Ministry said its missiles had destroyed a large quantity of weapons and military equipment in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, told the Guardian that the war now depends on the weapons Ukraine receives from Western allies.

“Everything now depends on what [the West] gives us,” Skibitsky told the Guardian. “Ukraine has one artillery piece to 10 to 15 Russian artillery pieces. Our Western partners have given us about 10% of what they have.”

Mykolaiv Regional Governor Vitaliy Kim also called for more support from U.S. and European allies.

“Russia’s army is more powerful, they have a lot of artillery and ammo. For now, this is a war of artillery… and we are out of ammo,” Kim said, Newsweek reported. “The help of Europe and America is very, very important.”

Russian troops were attempting to seize Severodonetsk and its twin city, Lysychansk — doing so would place all of the Luhansk region under Russian control and give President Vladimir Putin a military victory.

It was reported Sunday that NATO countries in Europe had agreed to stop sending tanks to the Ukrainian armed forces, and Spain apologized to Germany for having talked about sending German tanks to aid Ukraine.

Reasons for the halt include NATO countries unable to mass-produce military equipment because Russia has stopped selling materials including titanium, which is vital to producing the composite armor for tanks.

President Joe Biden said May 31 that the United States would send Ukraine advanced rocket systems and munitions.

The $700 million pledge is a substantial escalation in the U.S.’ posture toward the Kremlin as Putin’s three-month-old war against Ukraine raged on.

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Ukraine’s Teen Drone Hero “happy That we Destroyed Someone”

As Russian tanks and trucks rumbled close to their village, a Ukrainian teenager and his father stealthily launched their small drone into the air.

Working as a team, they took bird’s-eye photos of the armored column moving toward Kyiv and pinpointed its coordinates, swiftly messaging the precious information to the Ukrainian military.

Within minutes, artillery batteries rained shells down on the invading forces, with deadly effect.

Andriy Pokrasa, 15, and his dad, Stanislav, are being hailed in Ukraine for their volunteer aerial reconnaissance work in the early days of the invasion, when Russian troops barreling in from the north made an ultimately failed attempt to take the capital and bring the country to its knees.

For a full week after the Feb. 24 invasion, the pair made repeated sorties with their drone — risking capture or worse had Russian troops been aware of their snooping.

“These were some of the scariest moments of my life,” Andriy recounted as he demonstrated his piloting skills for an Associated Press team of journalists.

“We provided the photos and the location to the armed forces,” he said. “They narrowed down the coordinates more accurately and transmitted them by walkie-talkie, so as to adjust the artillery.”

His father was happy to leave the piloting to the boy.

“I can operate the drone, but my son does it much better. We immediately decided he would do it,” Stanislav Pokrasa, 41, said.

They aren’t sure how many Russian targets were destroyed using information they provided. But they saw the devastation wrought on the Russian convoy when they later flew the drone back over the charred hulks of trucks and tanks near a town west of Kyiv and off a strategically important highway that leads to the capital.

“There were more than 20 Russian military vehicles destroyed, among them fuel trucks and tanks,” the father said.

As Russian and Ukrainian forces battled furiously for control of Kyiv’s outskirts, Ukrainian soldiers finally urged the Pokrasa family to leave their village, which Russian troops subsequently occupied.

With all adult men up to age 60 under government orders to stay in the country, the elder Pokrasa couldn’t join his wife and son when they fled to neighboring Poland.

They came back a few weeks ago, when Andriy had finished his school year.

“I was happy that we destroyed someone,” he said. “I was happy that I contributed, that I was able to do something. Not just sitting and waiting.”

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