Putin slows strikes; Obama on communication

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday there was “no need for massive strikes” now after a barrage of missile attacks in Ukraine.

The strikes followed a bombing that damaged the bridge linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula a week ago. Russia then began what is believed to be its largest coordinated missile attacks in Ukraine since its invasion, killing dozens of people.

On Friday, Putin said Russia did not see the need for ongoing strikes but select ones would continue.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, may be abandoning plans to ask the U.S. government to fund his Starlink satellite network in Ukraine after a Saturday tweet. USA TODAY has reached out to SpaceX for comment.

In the first weeks of the invasion in early March, Musk came to Ukraine’s aid when his SpaceX company shared its Starlink satellite system that helps deliver internet access to areas that lack coverage.

Friday, Musk, the world’s richest man, tweeted that it cost SpaceX about $20 million a month to support the system and that the company “cannot fund the existing system indefinitely.”

‘TAKE YOUR CHILDREN AND LEAVE’:Russian official urges Kherson residents as Ukraine presses offense

Other developments

►A Russian missile strike seriously damaged a key energy facility in Ukraine’s Kyiv region, Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba said Saturday, adding that there were no deaths or injuries. Repair crews are working to restore electricity but further outages are possible, the electricity transmission company Ukrenergo said.

►Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he expects a controversial draft of army reservists he ordered to support its military campaign in Ukraine to be completed in two weeks, as Russia tries to counter gains by Ukrainian troops.

►In the southern Ukraine region of Kherson, Moscow-installed authorities urged residents to evacuate to Russia on Friday as Ukrainian troops continued counteroffensive efforts into the region. The move appears to indicate that Ukrainian military gains are worrying Russia as it tries to hold onto areas illegally annexed from Ukraine last month.

►Dane Partridge, a 34-year-old Idaho man serving as a volunteer soldier in Ukraine, died Tuesday from his injuries from a Russian attack in Luhansk in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

GRAPHICS:Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Obama: WH, Kremlin communications ‘as weak as they have been in a very long time’

Former President Barack Obama sounded the alarm on increasingly tenuous communications between U.S. and Russian leadership in a Friday interview with the podcast Pod Save America. 

“The thing that I’m most concerned about is that lines of communication between the White House and the Kremlin are probably as weak as they have been in a very long time,” he told the podcast, which is hosted by former Obama administration staffers.

During the Cold War, even at its most strained points, there was a sense that picking up the phone and communicating through diplomatic channels was still an option, Obama said. But now, “a lot of that is broken down,” he said.

The former president attributed worsening communications between Russia and the U.S. to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s growing isolation, both globally and within his own ranks. 

“I think that we’re now dealing with a type of Russian regime that is actually even more centralized, even more isolated and closed off,” Obama said. “I think Putin has consolidated decision making to a degree that we haven’t seen even during the Soviet era.”

USA TODAY requested comment from the White House on Obama’s remarks. 

– Ella Lee, USA TODAY

RUSSIAN MISSILE ATTACKS:Death toll rises again as Russian missiles, drones hit Ukraine-held Zaporizhzhia

US to send Ukraine $725 million military aid package

The U.S. will send Ukraine a new $725 million package of weapons and military aid, the White House said Friday.

The new package will include missiles, anti-tank weapons, ammunitions and medical supplies, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Defense.

In total, the U.S. has committed to more than $18.2 billion in military aid to Ukraine since January 2021.

The European Union, meanwhile, is preparing to announce about a half billion more euros of aid to buy weapons for Ukraine and a military training mission in Europe for thousands of Ukrainian troops, officials said Friday.

GRAPHICS:Ukraine regains more territory in east and south as counteroffensives continue

Contributing: The Associated Press

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

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