It's been four months since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. As Friday draws to a close in Kyiv and in Moscow, here are the key developments:
Ukrainian troops were ordered to retreat from Sievierodonetsk, in the eastern Luhansk region, making way for a big win for Russia. The battle for Sievierodonetsk lasted more than a month. Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said Ukrainian forces needed to withdraw to avoid being surrounded and to set up new fortified positions elsewhere. Russia's capture of Sievierodonetsk will bring it closer to complete control of Luhansk. In a further advance in the eastern region, Russia said it made headway around the nearby town of Lysychansk.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it's increasingly concerned about conditions at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The agency's head said Ukrainian workers have come under extreme stress since Russian forces took over the Zaporizhzhia facility in March. The IAEA wants acess to the the station, Europe's largest nuclear plant, so that it can assess conditions there, following unconfirmed reports that Ukrainian staff were held against their will and abused.
Ukrainians welcomed Thursday's decision in Brussels making Ukraine a candidate to enter the European Union. Russia's foreign minister said the decision poses no risk to his country but is a sign the EU and NATO are building a coalition against Russia. Yet Ukraine still has a long road ahead. Germany's chancellor said earlier that Ukraine faces a "very demanding" path to the EU because it needs to make progress on the rule of law and fighting corruption. The process could take years, as several other countries have long been waiting ahead of Ukraine to join the EU.
Russia heads toward its first default on foreign-currency debt in over a century. On Sunday, the grace period will end for two interest payments worth about $100 million that Russia was due to pay bondholders in late May. Russia's payments have been blocked by Western sanctions, including the U.S. Treasury closing a path that had allowed Russian debt payments to flow to U.S. investors. Russia does not consider itself in default, as it has the money and has pushed to pay the debt in rubles. The default is unlikely to cause major financial shakeups in the short term, but could ultimately trigger lengthy litigation, raise Russia's borrowing costs even higher and further chip away at its position in the global markets.
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