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Ukraine: Russia's invasion heads into fourth month — live updates

Russia is seeking to take control of Donetsk and Luhansk, shifting its strategy away from Kyiv and other regions

Russia is seeking to take control of Donetsk and Luhansk, shifting its strategy away from Kyiv and other regions

  • Russia's assault on Ukraine enters fourth month

  • Germany to hold conference on world food crisis amid Black Sea port blockade

  • Ukraine granted EU candidate status

This article was last updated at 02:13 UTC/GMT

US senator urges safety review of Russian air carriers

US Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to probe the safety of Russian airlines.

Sanctions have crippled the Russian airline industry, preventing Moscow from acquiring new parts and planes. It has also denied Russia access from some forms of technical support for aircraft.

Although the US, Canada, and the EU have banned Russian planes from their airspace, Russian commercial carriers are still flying routes in regions such as the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. These flights could pose a safety risk to Americans onboard.

"So long as Russian airlines maintain such operations, they pose a potential threat to international travelers, as well as to Russians flying domestically," Rubio said in a request to the FAA.

"Many Russian airlines have attempted to evade stringent US export controls, continuing to operate flights to Beijing, Delhi, Dubai and elsewhere after being blocked," he added.

The FAA has not yet commented on the request, but earlier downgraded its air safety rating for Russia in April.

Russia's war enters fourth month

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, is heading into its fourth month, with fighting now centered on Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the fighting in the Donbas is now "entering a sort of fearsome climax." Russia's attacks are targeting the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, the last remaining Ukrainian-controlled holdouts in Luhansk province.

Russia's attack has led to an unprecedented response from the West, with sanctions targeting the Russian financial, energy and travel sectors, among others.

On Sunday, leaders of the G7 nations will meet in Germany to further formulate their response to Russia's attacks. Next week, NATO will meet in Spain to discuss mutual security amid the invasion, with Finland and Sweden seeking to join the alliance.

What happened in Russia war in Ukraine on Thursday

Leaders of the European Union decided to make Ukraine an official candidate for membership in the 27-country bloc. The EU has been largely united in backing Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow. Just four days after Russia launched its war, Ukraine applied to become a member of the EU.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the decision, calling it "a unique and historic moment" in relations with the 27-nation bloc. "Ukraine's future is in the EU," he tweeted.

The United States said it will send another $450 million (€428 million) in military aid to Ukraine. The package, which comes on the heels of a $1 billion military aid package announced last week, will include additional HIMAR medium-range missile systems.

Norway and the European Union struck an agreement that will increase gas Norwegian exports to its partners in the EU. The news comes as several EU countries face gas shortages as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Before Moscow's February 24 invasion, the EU was importing about 20% of its gas from Norway as compared to 40% from Russia.

A dozen EU member states have suffered reductions in gas supply from Russia, according to Frans Timmermans, the bloc's climate policy chief.

Moscow has halted gas exports to Poland and the Netherlands as a result of the conflict. Germany announced that it had officially entered Phase 2 of its Emergency Energy Plan, which could trigger higher prices as well as increased dependency on the country's coal industry.

So far, 152 cultural and historic heritage sites in Ukraine have been fully or partially destroyed since Russia began its invasion, said experts from the UN's cultural agency, UNESCO.

Among the damaged or destroyed sites are museums and monuments, churches and other religious buildings, and libraries and other exceptional buildings, UNESCO said in an updated assessment.

Russian troops or officials who are found to have knowingly damaged Ukraine heritage sites could be prosecuted under international law, UNESCO has warned.

Click here to catch up with all of Thursday's major developments regarding the war in Ukraine.

wd/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)