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Dozens dead after fire breaks out at migrant detention center in Juarez, Mexico

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(NEW YORK) -- A fire broke out at the Instituto Nacional de Migración, a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Monday, killing at least 39 people, officials said in a statement.

The center houses migrants near the Puente Internacional Lerdo Stanton bridge to El Paso, Texas.

Story developing...

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Israel delays controversial judicial reform bill until next session amid protests

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(NEW YORK) -- Israel's controversial judicial overhaul plan pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been delayed until the parliament's next legislative session.

Netanyahu spoke in a national address Monday evening, saying he was "not ready to divide the nation in half."

"I decided to suspend the vote on the second and third readings of the law in this session of the Knesset, in order to try and reach an agreement on the legislation during the next Knesset," Netanyahu said, translated from Hebrew, referring to the Israeli parliament.

Earlier in the evening, the powerful leader of the far-right party that was critical in bringing Netanyahu back to power late last year announced the delay.

"I agreed to remove the veto for the postponement of the legislation, in exchange for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's commitment that the legislation will be brought to the Knesset for approval in the next session, if no agreements are reached during the recess," Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the Jewish Power party, said in a statement.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid said in a statement about the pause, "If the legislation really does stop, genuinely and totally, we are ready to start genuine dialogue at the President’s Residence. The State of Israel is injured and hurting. We don’t need to put a plaster over the injuries but to treat them properly."

The White House also welcomed the delay, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying, "We welcome this announcement as an opportunity to create additional time and space for compromise. A compromise is precisely what we have been calling for, and we continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible."

Protesters had stormed Israel's streets overnight, as thousands voiced their opposition to a controversial justice reform bill and the prime minister's decision to fire the defense secretary who spoke out against it.

Netanyahu on Sunday unceremoniously dismissed Yoav Gallant a day after Gallant called for a halt to the planned overhaul of Israel's judiciary that has fiercely divided the country. Military and business leaders have also spoken out against the plan.

Netanyahu's office announced Gallant's firing in a terse statement, saying "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided, this evening, to dismiss Defense Minister Yoav Gallant." The prime minister's office did not provide further details.

Gallant, a former army general, is a senior member of Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party. On Saturday, he called for a pause in the controversial legislation until after next month's Independence Day holiday, citing the threat to Israel's national security.

After a night of protests, including police water cannons shot at demonstrators, thousands gathered on Monday morning outside the Knesset, where Israel's parliament meets. Many more assembled in central Tel Aviv, where a massive rally had been planned.

Ronen Bar, the head of Israeli's intelligence operations, arrived at Netanyahu's home in Jerusalem just after midnight on Monday as protests continued outside.

Ben Gurion Airport, the country's main international airport, halted all departures on Monday, as Histadrut, the country's largest trade union, protested against the planned reforms. Arrivals will continue to land at the airport, although as many as 35,000 people were expected to have their travel disrupted.

Netanyahu crossed all the "red lines" on Sunday night, Histadrut's leader, Arnon Bar-David, said in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday, according to a translation. He called for an "historic" strike to begin on Monday.

The head of the main Israeli labor union said they will end the general strike in response to Netanyahu's pause.

The strike action extended to hospitals, cafes and shopping centers, with many remaining closed on Monday morning. The country's stock market was set to be closed on Tuesday.

Washington urged Israeli leaders to find a compromise, with White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson saying in a statement that the White House was "deeply concerned by today's developments out of Israel, which further underscore the urgent need for compromise."

"As the president recently discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship," Watson said.

Protests have simmered in Israel for months, since the planned changes were rolled out in December. Under Netanyahu's reforms, Knesset lawmakers would be able to override decisions made by the country's supreme court, a change that's seen by many as a move to consolidate power.

The prime minister and President Joe Biden discussed the changes on a March 19 phone call.

Biden at the time told Netanyahu that "democratic societies are strengthened by genuine checks and balances, and that fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support," the White House said.

Two prominent Israeli lawmakers came out against Netanyahu’s judicial reforms as protests continued in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Aryeh Deri, one of the founders of the Shas political party, called on Netanyahu to pause the judicial reforms early Monday morning, according to local media reports.

Miki Zohar, minister of Culture and Sports, said early Monday morning that while the “reform of the judicial system is necessary and essential … when the house is on fire, you don’t ask who is right,” according to a translation.

"If the prime minister decides to stop the legislation in order to prevent the rift created in the nation, we must support his position," Zohar said.

ABC News' Joe Simonetti, Edward Szekeres, Ellie Kaufman, Nasser Atta, Bruno Nota and Jordana Miller contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Two dead, 29 hurt in Russian missile strike on Sloviansk

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(NEW YORK) -- More than a year after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine, the countries are fighting for control of areas in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops have liberated nearly 30,000 square miles of their territory from Russian forces since the invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022, but Putin appeared to be preparing for a long and bloody war.

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

Mar 27, 12:21 PM EDT
Two dead, 29 hurt in Russian missile strike on Sloviansk

At least two people were killed and 29 were injured Monday morning when a pair of long-range Russian missiles slammed into buildings in a city in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said.

The two S-300 Russian missiles hit administrative and office buildings, and private homes in Sloviansk, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the regional governor.

Sloviansk is in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, where heavy fighting has been waged since the start of the war.

The missiles struck the city around 10:30 a.m. local time, Kyrylenko said.

He said the town of Druzhkivka in the Donetsk region was also targeted in Monday's missile attacks. Kyrylenko said a Russian missile "almost completely destroyed" an orphanage in Druzhkivka, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

"Another day that began with terrorism by the Russian Federation," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a statement.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine "will not forgive the torturing of our people."

"All Russian terrorists will be defeated," Zelenskyy said. "Everyone involved in this aggression will be held to account."

Mar 26, 1:47 PM EDT
Ukrainian drone injures 3 inside Russia

Three people were injured in an explosion in the Kireevsky district of the Tula region on Sunday, Yekaterina Makarova, press secretary of the region's Ministry of Health, told Interfax.

Russian authorities and law enforcement agencies said a Ukrainian drone with ammunition caused the explosion in the town far from the two countries' border.

Kireevsk is about 180 miles from the border with Ukraine and 110 miles south of Moscow.

The Russian state-run news agency Tass reported authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141. The Latvia-based Russian news outlet Meduza reported that the blast left a crater about 50 feet in diameter and 16 feet deep.

-ABC News' Anastasia Bagaeva

Mar 24, 2:03 PM EDT
Russia says Slovakia handing over fighter jets unfriendly step, violation of international obligations

Russia called Slovakia's transfer of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine an unfriendly step and a step aimed at destroying bilateral relations.

"We are talking about another gross violation by the Slovak side of its international obligations to re-export Russian-made weapons and military equipment," Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said in a statement.

"We regard these actions of Slovakia as an unfriendly act against the Russian Federation, aimed at destroying bilateral relations," the FSMTC said.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Mar 23, 12:03 PM EDT
Ukraine says Russia's Bakhmut assault loses steam, counterstrike coming soon

Ukrainian troops, on the defensive for four months, will launch a long-awaited counterassault "very soon" now that Russia's huge winter offensive is losing steam without taking Bakhmut, Ukraine's top ground forces commander Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Thursday.

"The aggressor does not give up hope of taking Bakhmut at any cost, despite the losses in manpower and equipment," Syrskyi said.

Adding, "Without sparing anything, they lose considerable strength and exhale. Very soon we will take advantage of this opportunity, as we once did near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balaklia and Kupyansk."

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Mar 23, 11:51 AM EDT
Slovakia hands over 4 fighter jets to Ukraine

Slovakia has handed over four MiG-29 fighter jets to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, according to Slovakian Defense Minister Jaro Nad.

The remaining aircrafts promised to Ukraine will be handed over in the following weeks, Nad said.

In response to the news, Russia accused NATO and the EU of continuing to escalate the conflict in Ukraine and seeking to prolong it.

"The Russian Federation considers the transfer of four fighter jets by Slovakia to Ukraine a destructive step that runs counter to the EU's rhetoric about seeking peaceful solutions," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said in a statement.

Adding, "The Russian Federation will measure its reaction with the specific military activities of NATO on the territory of Finland."

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Mar 22, 9:34 AM EDT
Zelenskyy visits troops after night of Russian strikes

Chinese President Xi Jinping hadn't even left Moscow when the drones started exploding. It came a matter of hours after Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed they were the ones who wanted to make "peace" in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials say 21 lethal attack drones were launched overnight and into this morning by Russia, with 16 shot down by the Ukrainians.

An apartment block was hit in a town southeast of Kyiv, killing at least four people and injuring others, officials said. Russian officials claim Ukrainian soldiers were based there. The Ukrainians are calling it a "civilian" building.

Russian missiles later hit an apartment block in the heart of the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.

And in an apparent repost to the geopolitical theatrics in Moscow, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited his troops on Wednesday in the eastern Donbas, not far from the embattled city of Bakhmut, according to his officials.

Bakhmut has become a potent symbol of Ukrainian resistance and sacrifice and, despite being surrounded on three sides, Ukrainian forces inside the city are, after months of fighting there, still holding on.

Zelenskyy's office released video of him addressing troops and also visiting injured soldiers in a military medical facility in the region. He told troops their "destiny was difficult but important" because they were fighting to save the motherland.

Mar 22, 8:32 AM EDT
Missile strikes residential building in Ukraine

A Russian missile struck an apartment building in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Wednesday, injuring at least 18 people, officials said.

"This must not become 'just another day' in" Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter.

"The world needs greater unity and determination to defeat Russian terror faster and protect lives," he said.

The victims included two children, secretary of the City Council Anatoly Kurtev said. Eleven adults were hospitalized, with four in serious condition, he said.

Mar 21, 6:09 PM EDT
Explosions reported in several Ukrainian cities

Explosions were heard and felt in the cities of Odesa and Kherson and the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk on Tuesday evening, officials and people on the ground in Ukraine reported on social media channels.

During the attack on Odesa, Ukraine's air defense shot down two X-59 guided missiles launched by Russian fighter jets, the Ukrainian Air Force said on its Telegram channel.

Russia fired four missiles at Odesa, Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office, said on his Telegram channel. Two rockets were shot down by Ukrainian air defense, and two rockets hit the city, he said.

Three people were wounded, and a three-story building on the complex of a monastery was damaged, Yermak said.

Three people were killed, and four were wounded as a result of Russian shelling in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General reported on Facebook.

-ABC News' Ellie Kaufman

Mar 21, 4:29 PM EDT
Ukrainian Patriot missile training at Fort Sill nearly complete

The Patriot missile training for Ukrainian troops at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, is wrapping up soon, an Army spokesman said Tuesday.

Sixty-five Ukrainian soldiers have been training at Fort Sill since mid-January in an expedited training cycle on using the Patriots -- training that typically can last up to a year.

The Ukrainians will depart the Army post in the coming days for Europe, where they will receive additional training, before heading back to Ukraine "in the coming weeks," Col. Marty O’Donnell of U.S. Army Europe/Africa told ABC News.

"In Europe, the Ukrainians training here will meet up with Ukrainians training in Europe, and with U.S., German, and Dutch equipment donations to validate the systems and ensure interoperability," O'Donnell said.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Mar 21, 12:48 PM EDT
US to speed up delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine

The United States is going to speed up the manufacture and delivery of the 31 Abrams tanks President Joe Biden approved sending to Ukraine, a U.S. official confirmed Tuesday.

Instead of making new tanks from scratch, the Department of Defense will now refurbish the hulls of several older models that will be equipped with more modern equipment, according to the official.

The new delivery target date is fall 2023, the official said; previously the anticipated delivery time was believed to be mid-2024.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby hinted at the accelerated timeline on Tuesday.

"We're working on that," Kirby said on MSNBC. "There's some changes that you can make to the process to sort of speed that up."

-ABC News' Luis Martinez and Teresa Mettela

Mar 21, 11:49 AM EDT
Japanese PM visits Ukraine for 1st time during war

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Ukraine on Tuesday for the first time since the start of Russia's invasion.

In Kyiv, Kishida laid a wreath at the memorial for fallen Ukrainian soldiers. In Bucha, where Ukrainian officials said more than 400 civilians were killed last year by Russian forces, he laid a wreath outside a church before observing a moment of silence and bowing.

"The world was astonished to see innocent civilians in Bucha killed one year ago," Kishida said. "I really feel great anger for all the atrocious acts."

-ABC News' Ellie Kaufman

Mar 20, 6:33 PM EDT
Ukraine claims it destroyed Russian cruise missiles in Crimea drone attack

Ukrainian forces destroyed Russian Kalibr-NK cruise missiles in a drone strike in Crimea as the weapons were being transported by rail, the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate said on their official Telegram channel Monday.

Sergey Aksyonov, an adviser to the head of the Republic of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, confirmed a drone attack on his official Telegram channel.

Debris from the aerial object damaged a household and a shop and one person was injured from the explosions, Aksyonov said.

-ABC News' Ellie Kaufman

Mar 19, 6:44 PM EDT
Indications China could be supplying electrical components to Russia military use, senior Ukrainian official says

Ukraine has been monitoring multiple flights between Russian and Chinese cities during which the aircrafts' transponders are temporarily switched off, according to a senior Ukrainian official, who called it a cause for concern.

The official said the belief is that China could be supplying Russia with electrical components that Moscow needs for military equipment, thus diminishing the impact of Western sanctions.

The senior official, who spoke exclusively to ABC News on the condition of anonymity, added that Ukraine currently has "no proof" that China is supplying weaponry or ammunition to Ukraine.

The official also dismissed the notion of a Chinese-brokered peace plan in the near future and said Ukraine is focused on retaking more land from Russia and is preparing for a fresh offensive "in the spring or early summer."

-ABC News' Tom Burridge

Mar 19, 1:13 AM EDT
Putin arrives in Mariupol, marking first visit to newly annexed territories

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Mariupol to inspect a number of locations in the city and talk to local residents, the Kremlin press service said on Sunday.

Putin travelled by helicopter to the Ukrainian city, which has been occupied since last year by Russians. He drove a vehicle along the city's streets, making stops at several locations.

The visit was Putin's first to newly annexed territories.

Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin reported to Putin about construction and restoration work. In the Nevsky area, a newly built residential area, Putin talked with residents. He went inside a home at the invitation of one of the families.

Putin also inspected the coastline of the city in the area of a yacht club, a theater building that was heavily bombed with civilians sheltering inside and other memorable places of the city.

-ABC News' Tanya Stukalova

Mar 18, 11:04 AM EDT
Putin visits Crimea on anniversary of annexation

Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the Black Sea peninsula's annexation from Ukraine on Saturday, one day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader accusing him of war crimes.

Putin visited an art school and a children's center.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that most of the world denounced as illegal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded that Russia withdraw from the peninsula as well as the areas it has occupied since last year.

Putin has shown no intention of relinquishing the Kremlin's gains. Instead, he stressed Friday the importance of holding Crimea. "Obviously, security issues take top priority for Crimea and Sevastopol now," he said, referring to Crimea's largest city. "We will do everything needed to fend off any threats."

-ABC News' Edward Szekeres

Mar 17, 8:03 PM EDT
Biden calls Putin arrest warrant 'justified'

President Joe Biden called the arrest warrant issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday by the International Criminal Court "justified," though acknowledged it might not have strong teeth.

"Well, I think it's justified," Biden told reporters Friday evening. "But the question -- it's not recognized internationally, by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point."

In a earlier statement on the warrant, the White House said it supports "accountability for perpetrators of war crimes."

"There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in the statement.

-ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett and Davone Morales

Mar 17, 2:35 PM EDT
Turkey agrees to start ratifying Finland's NATO bid

Turkey is beginning the process of ratifying Finland's application to join NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, 10 months after both Finland and Sweden applied to become NATO members in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"At a critical time for our security, this will make our alliance stronger and safer," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

The breakthrough came as Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was in Ankara, Turkey, to meet with Erdogan.

Erdogan said Finland fulfilled its part of the agreements and therefore he saw no reason to further delay the ratification process. Erdogan did not provide an update on Sweden's bid.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement, "We encourage Türkiye to quickly ratify Sweden’s accession protocols as well. In addition, we urge Hungary to conclude its ratification process for both Finland and Sweden without delay. … The United States believes that both countries should become members of NATO as soon as possible."

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Mar 17, 11:54 AM EDT
ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying in a statement Friday that Putin is "allegedly responsible for the war crime of" unlawfully deporting children from occupied areas of Ukraine and bringing them to Russia.

The ICC also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's presidential commissioner for children's rights, alleging she carried out the same war crime.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that the arrest warrants "have no meaning for the Russian Federation" and "are legally null and void."

Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, tweeted that the arrest warrants are "just the beginning."

Mar 16, 12:15 PM EDT
Russia has committed 'wide range of war crimes' in Ukraine: UN-backed report

Russia has committed a "wide range of war crimes" and possible crimes against humanity in Ukraine, according to a new United Nations-backed investigation.

"The body of evidence collected shows that Russian authorities have committed a wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in many regions of Ukraine and in the Russian Federation," the human rights report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine stated. "Many of these amount to war crimes and include willful killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape, and forced transfers and deportations of children."

Additionally, Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy-related infrastructure and use of torture "may amount to crimes against humanity," the report concluded.

The commission said it conducted interviews with nearly 600 people, inspected graves, destruction and detention sites and consulted satellite imagery and photographs as part of its investigation.

Mar 16, 11:51 AM EDT
Poland to deliver MiG-29 jets to Ukraine 'in the coming days'

Poland plans to deliver four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine "in the coming days," Polish President Andrzej Duda said at a press conference on Thursday.

The latest news shortens the timeline announced earlier this week by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who had said they might send the Soviet-designed fighter jets to Ukraine in the next four to six weeks.

Mar 16, 11:08 AM EDT
225 Russians killed in last 24 hours in Bakhmut

Ukrainian forces have killed 225 Russian fighters and injured another 306 in the past 24 hours in the Bakhmut area, according to Serhiy Cherevaty, the spokesman for the Eastern Group of Forces of the Ukraine army.

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a brutal battle for the city in eastern Ukraine for months, with both sides seeing high rates of casualties.

Cherevaty said that in the last day, the occupiers in the area of Bakhmut and nearby villages -- including Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bohdanivka and Ivanivskoho -- tried to attack Ukrainian positions 42 times. There were 24 combat clashes in the Bakhmut area alone.

In total, in the Bakhmut direction, the occupiers shelled Ukrainian positions 256 times with various types of artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, Cherevaty said. Of them, 53 shellings were in the area of Bakhmut itself.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Mar 15, 12:08 PM EDT
Putin says effort underway to increase weapons production

Russia is working to increase its weapons production amid an "urgent" need, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

"Prosecutors should supervise the modernization of defense industry enterprises, including building up capacities for the production of an additional volume of weapons. A lot of effort is underway here," Putin said at a meeting of the Collegium of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation.

Putin added that the weapons, equipment and ammunition are "urgently" needed.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Mar 13, 4:04 PM EDT
White House welcomes Xi Jinping speaking to President Zelenskyy

The White House is welcoming reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to soon speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the first time since Russia’s invasion began, while cautioning that after speaking with Ukrainian counterparts, "they have not yet actually gotten any confirmation that there will be a telephone call or a video conference."

"We hope there will be," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a briefing on Air Force One. "That would be a good thing because it would potentially bring more balance and perspective to the way that the new PRC is approaching this, and we hope it will continue to dissuade them from choosing to provide lethal assistance to Russia."

"We have been encouraging President Xi to reach out to President Zelenskyy because we believe that PRC and President Xi himself should hear directly the Ukrainian perspective and not just the Russian perspective on this," Sullivan continued. "So, we have in fact, advocated to Beijing that that connection take place. We've done so publicly and we've done so privately to the PRC."

Sullivan said the U.S. has “not yet seen the transfer of lethal assistance of weapons from China to Russia," after previously warning it was being considered.

"It's something that we're vigilant about and continuing to watch carefully," he added.

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Mar 13, 12:27 PM EDT
Russia agrees to 60-day extension of Black Sea Grain Initiative

Russia said Monday it will extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative after it expires on March 18, but only for 60 days. The announcement came after consultations between U.N. representatives in Geneva and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin.

"The Russian side, noting the package nature of the Istanbul agreements proposed by UN Secretary General António Guterres, does not object to another extension of the Black Sea initiative after the expiration of the second term on March 18, but only for 60 days," Vershinin said, according to Russian media reports.

Russia's consultations in Geneva on the grain deal were not easy, Vershinin said. Russia will rely on the effectiveness of the implementation of the agreement on the export of its agricultural products when deciding on a new extension of the grain deal, according to reports.

Ukraine, which is a key world exporter of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and fertilizer, had its shipments blocked in the months following the invasion by Russia, causing a worldwide spike in food prices. The first deal was brokered last July.

Mar 12, 4:13 PM EDT
More than 1,100 Russians dead in less than a week, Zelenskyy says

Russian forces suffered more than 1,100 dead in less than a week during battles near the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the focal point of fighting in eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday.

During his nightly address, Zelenskyy described the battles as "Russia's irreversible loss."

Russian forces also sustained about 1,500 "sanitary losses," meaning soldiers were wounded badly enough to keep them out of further action, Zelenskyy said.

Dozens of pieces of enemy equipment were destroyed, as were more than 10 Russian ammunition depots, Zelenskyy said.

-ABC News' Edward Seekers

Mar 10, 3:17 PM EST
Russia says Nord Stream explosion investigation should be impartial

The investigation into who was behind the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline explosion should be "objective, impartial and transparent," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian news agency Interfax.

"I do not want to threaten anyone. I do not want to hint at anything either. I just know that this flagrant terror attack will not go uninvestigated," Lavrov added.

Russia also said it will distribute its correspondence with Germany, Denmark and Sweden on the investigation of the Nord Stream explosion among the members of the United Nations Security Council soon.

Russia claimed the three countries are denying Russia access to information and participation in the investigation, first deputy permanent representative to the U.N. Dmitry Polyansky said in an interview, according to Russian news agency TASS.

-ABC News' Anastasia Bagaeva and Tanya Stukalova

Mar 10, 3:03 PM EST
Russia says Nord Stream explosion investigation should be impartial

The investigation into who was behind the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline explosion should be "objective, impartial and transparent," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian news agency Interfax.

"I do not want to threaten anyone. I do not want to hint at anything either. I just know that this flagrant terror attack will not go uninvestigated," Lavrov added.

Russia also said it will distribute its correspondence with Germany, Denmark and Sweden on the investigation of Nord Stream explosion among the members of the United Nations Security Council soon.

Russia claimed the three countries are denying Russia access to information and participation in the investigation, first deputy permanent representative to the U.N. Dmitry Polyansky said in an interview, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Mar 10, 9:46 AM EST
Zelenskyy says Ukraine had nothing to do with Nord Stream explosions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denied that Ukraine had anything to do with the Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions last year.

"As for the Nord Stream, we have nothing to do with it," Zelenskyy said Friday.

The New York Times published a report that U.S. intelligence suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged the pipeline.

Zelenskyy also suggested that the information being spread about the involvement of pro-Ukrainian groups in the attack could be done to slow down aid to his country.

-ABC News' Natalia Shumskaia

Mar 09, 2:45 PM EST
Power returns to Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after attacks

Electricity supply has been fully restored in Kyiv after Russia's overnight barrage of missile attacks on Ukraine, Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said in a Telegram post Thursday.

Also, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is now "receiving electricity for its own needs from the Ukrainian grid after power supply was cut," Russian news agency Interfax reported.

-ABC News' Tatiana Rymarenko and Natalia Shumskaia

Mar 09, 7:25 AM EST
Russia 'brutalizing' Ukrainian people, White House says

Russia's overnight barrage of missiles aimed at civilian infrastructure may have knocked heat out to as much as 40% of Ukrainians, the White House said on Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to "brutalize" the people of Ukraine, John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America on Thursday.

"It also appears, George, that they were definitely targeting civilian infrastructure," Kirby said. "I would agree with the Ukrainians. He's just trying to brutalize the Ukrainian people"

Russian forces early on Thursday launched 81 missiles from land and sea, Ukrainian officials said. Eight uncrewed drones were also launched in what officials described as a "massive" attack.

Eleven regions and cities were targeted in an attack that lasted at least seven hours, officials said.

Kirby said on Thursday that the White House expects to see more fighting on the ground in Ukraine for at least the "next four to six months."

"We know that the Russians are attempting to conduct more offensive operations here when the weather gets better," he said.

Mar 09, 3:59 AM EST
Zelenskyy decries Russia's 'miserable tactics'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday said Russian officials had returned "to their miserable tactics" as they launched at least 81 missiles at Ukrainian sites overnight.

"The occupiers can only terrorize civilians. That's all they can do. But it won't help them," he said on Telegram. "They won't avoid responsibility for everything they have done."

He added, "We thank the guardians of our skies and everyone who helps to overcome the consequences of the occupiers' sneaking attacks!"

Mar 09, 3:34 AM EST
81 missiles launched in 'massive' Russian attack, Ukraine says

Waves of missiles and a handful of drones were launched overnight by Russia, targeting energy infrastructure and cities across Ukraine, officials said.

The attack on "critical infrastructure" and civilian targets lasted throughout the night, Verkovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, said on Twitter. Energy was being gradually restored on Thursday morning, the body said.

Ukraine's parliament and military said at least 81 missiles were fired from several bases. Eight Iranian-made drones were also launched, the military said.

Ukraine destroyed 34 cruise missiles and four drones, military officials said on Facebook.

"Russia's threats only encourage partners to provide long-term assistance to Ukraine," said Yehor Chernev, deputy chairman of the Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence.

Russia "will be sentenced as a terrorist state" for its attacks, Ruslan Stefanchuk, Rada's chairperson, said on Twitter.

Mar 09, 12:35 AM EST
Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant now running on diesel generators, energy minister says

The last line that fed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been damaged following missile strikes, and the plant is now working on diesel generators, according to the Ukrainian energy minister, Herman Galushchenko.

Mar 09, 12:16 AM EST
Emergency power outages nationwide due to missile attacks, provider says

DTEK, the largest private grid operator in Ukraine, said emergency power outages are in effect due to the missile attacks in the Kyiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv and Dnipro regions.

Mar 09, 12:27 AM EST
Multiple missile strikes reported across Ukraine

Multiple explosions have been reported in city centers all over the country, including Dnipro, Odesa, Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi and Kharkiv.

Residents in multiple areas are being asked to shelter in place, and communication and electricity has been impacted.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said multiple explosions were reported in the Holosiiv district.

The governor of Kharkiv, Oleh Syniehubov, said Russia struck the city at least 15 times overnight.

The head of the Odesa Regional Military Administration said there had been no casualties and that the power supply is being restricted.

Mar 08, 2:05 PM EST
Ukraine says it was not involved in Nord Stream Pipeline bombings

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov denied Ukraine was involved in the bombing of the Nord Stream pipeline, which carries natural gas from Russia to Germany. While the pipeline was not active at the time of the bombing last September, it was filled with fuel.

The denial comes after The New York Times reported that intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the Nord Stream bombings last year.

After the story broke, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius warned against “jumping to conclusions” about who carried out the explosion, suggesting it could have been a “false flag” operation to blame Ukraine.

German authorities were reportedly able to identify the boat used for the sabotage operation, saying a group of five men and one woman using forged passports rented a yacht from a Poland-based company owned by Ukrainian citizens. The nationalities of the perpetrators are unclear, according to a separate report by Germany’s ARD broadcaster and Zeit newspaper.

“We have to make a clear distinction whether it was a Ukrainian group, whether it may have happened at Ukrainian orders, or a pro-Ukrainian group [acting] without knowledge of the government. But I am warning against jumping to conclusions,” Pistorius said on the sidelines of a summit in Stockholm.

A Russian diplomat said Russia has no faith in the U.S.‘s “impartiality” in the conclusions made from intelligence.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman

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Here's why Israelis are protesting Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan

Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

(JERUSALEM) -- Tens of thousands of people are marching in the streets in Israel on Monday, the latest day in a series of protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned judicial overhaul.

Here's what you need to know about the deepening political crisis:

Why are people protesting in Israel?

Stores, restaurants and the biggest airport in Israel were closing their doors on Monday amid an escalation in protests that have kept the nation's attention for weeks. Tens of thousands -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- of people filled the streets in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere. The country's stock exchange is set to close on Tuesday as part of a strike.

The country's biggest union, Histadrut, announced on Monday that it would begin a "historic" strike, with most of its 800,000 members stopping work in protest of Netanyahu's reform plan.

Israelis are protesting against a judicial reform plan proposed by Netanyahu's hardline nationalist government -- a plan that some see as a consolidation of power, with parliament increasing its oversight of the court system.

Netanyahu on Monday called for protesters to "behave responsibly and not to act violently," according to a translation of a statement he posted on Twitter.

"We are brotherly people," he said.

Supporters of Netanyahu's plan are also scheduled to counterprotest Monday night.

Netanyahu was meeting with Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister of national security, and other politicians at the Knesset Monday afternoon but still has yet to make any public statements on the legislation.

What is the judicial overhaul in Israel?

After Netanyahu, a member of the conservative Likud Party, formed a right-wing coalition government in December 2022, he announced he would return to his role as Israel's prime minister.

His government, which is said to be the most right-wing government in the country's history, then announced it would introduce a measure countering what it saw as the growing influence of the judicial system.

The changes would allow lawmakers at the Knesset -- Israel's parliament -- to override many decisions made by the country's Supreme Court. It would also give ruling lawmakers more control over appointments to the high court. Opponents of the plan say it amounts to a power grab.

Some officials have said Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for charges including corruption and bribery, should bow out of the discussions over the reform, calling his participation a conflict of interest.

Netanyahu spoke on March 19 with President Joe Biden, who told him that "fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support," according to a readout of the call from the White House.

In his conversation with Biden, Netanyahu said "that Israel was, and will remain, a strong and vibrant democracy," according to a statement from his office.

Why did Netanyahu fire the country's defense minister?

The biggest spark in the continuing protests was the firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday.

On Saturday, Gallant had spoken out against the judicial overhaul.

"The events taking place in Israeli society do not spare the Israel Defense Forces -- from all sides, feelings of anger, pain and disappointment arise, with an intensity I have never encountered before," Gallant said in a televised address on Saturday after the end of the Jewish Sabbath. "I see how the source of our strength is being eroded."

Gallant said that the national crisis over the judicial overhaul has created a "clear, immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state."

Netanyahu's office did not provide further details of the firing, but it signaled he doesn't appear to be backing down from the judicial plan yet.

What happens next?

Several top lawmakers and Netanyahu allies called on Sunday and Monday for Netanyahu to postpone or suspend his plan. But the prime minister during months of public debate has not signaled his willingness to do so.

"In case you haven't noticed, Israel is in the midst of a little thing on judicial reform," Netanyahu said in a speech at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in February.

He said at the time that Israel is "a democray and will remain a democracy, with majority rule and proper safeguards of civil liberties." Much of the conversation about the proposal as been "frankly reckless and dangerous," he said at the time.

Parts of the overhaul could be enacted as early as this week.

The prime minister was meeting late Sunday with top officials at his home in Jerusalem, with thousands of protestors nearby. Observers said he may be considering whether to pause the changes.

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Russian jets of newer generation increase 'dominance' in combat zone, Ukrainian official says

Maxime Popov/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Newer generation fighter jets are giving Russia "increasing dominance" in the skies over the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, according to a senior Ukrainian official.

It is a potentially worrying shift for the United States and its allies because Russia’s inability to achieve total air superiority throughout the course of the war has been key to Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.

In a briefing last week with journalists, a Western official downplayed the concern, stating that Russia’s ability to control the skies has been limited by air defense and surface-to-air missiles.

"We’re not seeing a huge change in that situation," the official said.

The senior official in Kyiv, who spoke exclusively to ABC News, said Russia had replaced older models of aircraft with its more modern Su-35.

The Su-35 is equipped "with very effective radar and long-distance rockets," the official said, and Russia is using these aircraft to attack Ukrainian jets in the air as well as for ground support operations.

Ukraine "does not have capabilities" to counter this threat, the official added.

"[Russian] air superiority is a real risk," the official said, adding that more air defense systems from the United States and its allies is currently "priority No. 1" for Ukraine.

Two other Ukrainian officials confirmed that Russian dominance of the skies over the combat zone was a top issue, with one official claiming Russia has "12 times more aircraft" than Ukraine.

"This is a problem," one official said. "What we keep telling the Americans is that in the end, there is no other solution than to give us [Western] fighter jets."

The Biden administration has so far resisted calls to supply Ukraine with F-16s.

Asked if he was open to the idea, President Biden said "no" in January.

Discussions are ongoing between Ukraine and NATO countries about the supply of modern fighter aircraft.

Two Ukrainian pilots have been taking part in an assessment in Arizona on flight simulators in order to ascertain how much training they would need if they were to adapt to Western fighter jets.

Retired Col. Steve Ganyard, who is also an ABC News contributor, said he believes Russia’s air superiority may largely come down to numbers.

"Sometimes quantity can be better than quality," Ganyard said. "Being short on aircraft and anti-aircraft systems is putting Ukraine at increasing disadvantage."

Last week Slovakia said it had handed over the first four of 11 Soviet-era Mig fighter jets which it had promised to Ukraine.

Poland has also promised to supply a number of Mig fighter jets to Ukraine.

On a trip to London last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a very public plea for Western fighter jets.

The senior Ukrainian official who spoke to ABC News suggested there was now more of an acceptance in Kyiv that U.S. military aid should be focused on other priorities such as air defense systems and the provision of artillery ammunition.

The official recognized that the supply of modern fighter jets, as well as the missiles to go with them, would require "a huge amount of money" and it could only come from the United states at the expense of other types of military aid.

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Prince Harry makes surprise appearance in UK court for tabloid lawsuit

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(LONDON) -- Prince Harry, the duke of Sussex, made an unexpected appearance in a United Kingdom courtroom on Monday.

Harry, who now lives in California with his wife Meghan and their two children, appeared in person at the High Court in London for a hearing on a lawsuit he, Elton John and other celebrities have brought against a group of British tabloids.

Harry and John, as well as filmmaker David Furnish and actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost, are among those suing Associated Newspapers Ltd., the publisher of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline.

John and Furnish, the pop star's husband, as well as Frost, were all seen arriving at court as well.

The case, first announced last year, alleges the celebrity defendants are "the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy," according to a press release shared last year by Hamlins, the London-based law firm representing Harry and Frost in the case.

In the press release, the law firm alleges that Associated Newspapers Ltd. hired private investigators to "secretly place listening devices inside people's cars and homes," commissioned individuals to "surreptitiously listen into and record people's live, private telephone calls while they were taking place," paid "police officials, with corrupt links to private investigators, for inside, sensitive information," impersonated individuals "to obtain medical information from private hospitals, clinics, and treatment centers by deception," and accessed "bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions through illicit means and manipulation."

Associated Newspapers Ltd., denied the allegations, telling ABC News in a statement last year that the company "utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old."

"These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims -- based on no credible evidence -- appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere," the publisher said in its statement.

Harry's trip to the U.K. marks his first public appearance there since last September, when he and Meghan attended the funeral and other events to mark the death of Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The trip is also Harry's first return to his home country since the January publication of his bestselling memoir, Spare.

The memoir is a detailed account of Harry's rift with his family, his decision to leave his senior royal role in 2020 and how he felt growing up as the "spare" to his older brother Prince William, the heir to the throne.

It is not believed that Harry is meeting with his father, King Charles III, or his brother William while he is in the U.K.

Charles, William and other members of the royal family have not publicly commented on the claims Harry makes in Spare.

It is also not known where Harry is staying during his time in the U.K. Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan confirmed that the couple had been asked to "vacate" Frogmore Cottage, where they had lived in Windsor since 2019.

Harry and Meghan have not yet confirmed whether or not they plan to attend Charles's coronation in May, though a spokesperson for the couple confirmed this month that they have received an invitation to the coronation.

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Putin says he'll move nukes to Belarus, prompting Ukrainian alarm; US says no sign of imminent risk

Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(MOSCOW) -- U.S. officials and lawmakers reacted with a mix of caution and concern this weekend in the wake of comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would be moving tactical nuclear weapons into neighboring Belarus, which provided a crucial staging ground for the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine's government denounced such a move as a provocation and called for a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Speaking on Russian TV on Saturday, Putin insisted that the reason for the decision, reached with the agreement of Belarus, was the U.K. supplying depleted uranium shells to Ukraine, though British officials have called such munitions "a standard component and ... nothing to do with nuclear weapons."

The weapons Putin would move into Belarus would be less powerful and with a shorter range than other kinds of nuclear weapons; he said the storage necessary for them would be ready by July.

"We are doing what they have been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allied countries, preparing the launch platforms and training their crew," Putin said on TV.

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said later Saturday that the U.S. hasn't seen any indications Russia is going to imminently use a nuclear weapon and will not be changing its own posture.

"We have seen reports of Russia's announcement and will continue to monitor the implications," Watson said, adding, "We remain committed to the collective defense of the NATO alliance."

The State Department responded similarly, with a spokesperson saying in a statement that "Russia and Belarus have talked about doing this for some time."

"This could be political signaling on Belarus Freedom Day, which is celebrated by the democratic opposition to the Lukashenka regime," the spokesperson said, referring to Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said Sunday that "we have not seen any indication he's [Putin] made good on this pledge or moved any nuclear weapons around."

"We've, in fact, seen no indication he has any intention to use nuclear weapons -- period -- inside Ukraine," Kirby said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Obviously, we would agree that no nuclear war should be fought, no nuclear war could be won and clearly that would cross a major threshold."

Appearing on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Rep. Mike Gallagher said Putin's remarks amounted to posturing but were troubling nonetheless.

"Putin has engaged in nuclear saber-rattling since the start of this crisis. It is something to be concerned about, but we should not allow his threat to deter us," said Gallagher, R-Wis. "We can't allow that to be a cause for delaying critical weapon systems that we need to deliver to the Ukrainians."

The risk of nuclear weapons being used has reemerged on the world stage since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden said at a fundraiser in October that Putin was "not joking when he talks about the use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons" and that "we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis" in the 1960s.

Kirby subsequently said on "This Week" in October that Biden was reflecting the very high "stakes" of the conflict rather than immediate danger.

"We are monitoring this as best we can, and we have been monitoring his nuclear capabilities, frankly, since he invaded Ukraine back in February," Kirby said then.

Putin declared last month that Russia was suspending its participation in the New START treaty, first signed in 2010 and extended in 2021, which implements caps on the number of nuclear weapons deployed by Russia and the U.S. and inspections of nuclear sites.

He blamed NATO support for Ukraine.

Soon after, Biden told ABC News anchor David Muir that Putin had made a "big mistake."

"Not very responsible. But I don't read into that that he's thinking of using nuclear weapons or anything like that," Biden said.

ABC News' Tal Axelrod, Cheyenne Haslett, Matt Seyler, Tanya Stukalova and Edward Szekeres contributed to this report.

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'I wish I could tell you I am shocked, but I'm not. I am tired': Uganda's Parliament passes tough anti-LGBTQ bill

Manuel Augusto Moreno/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- In the days after Ugandan Parliament passed one of the world's harshest anti-LGBTQ bills, members of the country's LGBTQ community who spoke to ABC News said they were worried about their personal liberties and safety.

"There are no words to describe the feeling of being persecuted by everyone around you, just for being yourself, for being who you are," Atuhaire, a Kampala-based member of Uganda's LGBTQ community told ABC News, using only their first name to protect their personal safety.

Atuhaire added, "When we leave work every day our colleagues know they have a safe place to go home to. We no longer have even that luxury. As we speak, I am facing eviction."

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 -- which was passed on Tuesday evening after several readings and hours of debate -- proposed tough penalties against Uganda's LGBTQ+ community, who have been on the end of increasing discrimination and violence.

The sweeping legislation would criminalize "the offence of homosexuality," meaning anyone who identifies as LGBTQ or "any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female" may be subject to imprisonment of up to 10 years if convicted.

The bill would also outlaw the promotion of homosexuality," meaning anyone advocating for LGBTQ rights or anyone who provides funding to organizations that do faces the threat of imprisonment or a fine not exceeding 1 billion Ugandan shillings, or about $265,900.

The bill touches on landlords and property owners too. They face the threat of prosecution through penalties or imprisonment if their premises are found to be used for "homosexual acts."

"This country will stand firm, and once it is passed, I can tell you madam speaker, we are going to reinforce the law enforcement officers to make sure that homosexuals have no space in Uganda," said Musa Ecwery, a lawmaker from Uganda's Amuria District, speaking in parliament.

Parliamentary Speaker Anita Annet announced the passing, saying, "The Ayes have it." She was met with cheers and applause in the packed parliamentary chamber. The bill was supported by 283 of 389 legislators.

"This house will continue to pass laws that recognize, protect and safeguard the sovereignty, morals and cultures of this country," Annet said.

If the bill passes into law through assent by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, anyone caught engaging same-sex sexual activity could face life imprisonment, as would anyone convicted of grooming or trafficking children for the purpose of "homosexual activities."

"Aggravated homosexuality," a broad term encapsulating perpetrators who are HIV positive, among other categories, would also could carry a life sentence for those convicted.

In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said the bill's passing was "deeply disturbing" and threatened to erode gains made over the years.

"The passing of this discriminatory bill -- probably among the worst in the world," Türk said, adding, "Let us be clear: this is not about 'values.' Promoting violence and discrimination against people for who they are and who they love is wrong and any disingenuous attempts to justify this on the basis of 'values' should be called out and condemned."

The bill was introduced in early March 2023 by Asuman Basalirwa, a lawmaker who said homosexuality was a "human wrong" that threatened traditional family values and the continuation of humanity.

"The vitriol and we receive daily on social media has always been vicious, but nothing like the last few months," Grace, an LGBTQ+ activist, told ABC News in a phone interview. "Especially following the Anglican church debacle and comments form the president calling us deviants and so on and so forth, the list goes on -- this is the climate for us in Uganda."

"I wish I could tell you I'm shocked, but I'm not. I am tired," Grace said. "But the beauty of our community and what I love is no matter what bill, intimidation or what have you, or what circumstance, we will not be erased or silenced. We will keep speaking up for our rights."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the bill "undermine[s] fundamental human rights" of Ugandans and could "reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS." He called on Museveni to veto the bill.

In a White House press briefing, National Security Council coordinator John Kirby and Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the bill, saying the East African nation may face repercussions -- "perhaps in an economic way" -- should the law be enacted.

"We'll have to take a look. No decisions. We're watching this very, very closely," Kirby said

The U.S. currently provides Uganda with an annual assistance budget exceeding $950 million as well as health assistance through PEPFAR.

Museveni, the president, has said the West has "weird cultures" and has vowed not to bend to western pressure.

"Western countries should stop wasting the time of humanity by trying to impose their practices on other people," he said in an address earlier this month.

Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, as in over 30 of Africa's 54 countries. Human rights advocates said they planned to challenge the bill in court if it's signed into law.

"The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke about how pernicious and ghastly it is that people are penalized and killed simply and solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and called on us to all oppose this injustice," Türk said. "I would like to renew his plea today."

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Vice President Harris arrives for historic Africa trip, focused on investment and empowerment

Ernest Ankomah/Getty Images

(ACCRA, Ghana) -- Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Accra, Ghana, on Sunday, kicking off a weeklong trip on the continent that will also take her to Tanzania and Zambia.

Harris, the first Black woman U.S. vice president, is making her first trip to Africa while in office.

She arrived Sunday in Air Force Two with the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, and was greeted by Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia.

The welcome ceremony included a gift of flowers, dancers and drummers as she walked down a red carpet and a large group of children gathered to the side of the stage where she made brief remarks.

“What an honor it is to be here in Ghana and on the continent of Africa," she said on the tarmac of Kotoka International Airport.

"I’m very excited about the impact of Africa on the rest of the world," she said, pointing to a future in the coming decades in which the population -- with a current median age of 19 -- would help put African nations at the center of international relations.

While on her trip, Harris said she wants to promote "increasing investments," the "economic empowerment" of women, girls and young businesspeople, "digital inclusion" and food security in light of mounting challenges from climate change.

She said she will also be discussing democracy and government as she meets with various leaders and will be observing just some of the innovation and creativity that is "inspiring the world."

"We have a lot of work ahead of us, and again I'm so very excited to be here," she said.

The vice president will meet with Ghana's president Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday and hold a news conference following their meeting.

She travels to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Wednesday afternoon, and then departs Tanzania for Lusaka, the Zambian capital, on Friday, where she will meet with President Hakainde Hichilema.

She returns to Washington on April 2.

Harris continues the Biden administration's outreach to African countries amid competition from China and their growing influence on the continent, where countries have forged trade and other ties with Beijing.

Previewing the vice president's agenda on a call with reporters on Thursday evening, senior administration officials said Harris will be asking the leaders not to "choose" between the U.S. and China but to "expand" their options.

"We can't ignore the current geopolitical moment. It's no secret that we are engaged in competition with China. And we've said very clearly we intend to out-compete China in the long term," the officials said.

In a show of how much Tanzania values their relationship with China, President Samia Suluhu Hassan's first state visit outside of Africa last November was to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing where their meeting focused on areas of cooperation such as agriculture trade and infrastructure.

Two notable moments to watch for during Harris' trip will be in Ghana and Zambia. The administration officials said that on Monday, Harris will tour Cape Coast Castle, a former slave-trade outpost and location of the so-called "Door of No Return," and deliver remarks on the "brutality of slavery and the African diaspora."

And Harris' time in Zambia will be notable as it marks her return to the country for the first time since she was a young girl. In the 1960s, she traveled there to visit her maternal grandfather, who was a civil servant in India and worked for several years in the Zambian government on refugee resettlement issues.

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Additional attacks on American bases in Syria Friday after US retaliatory airstrikes on Iranian-backed groups

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(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. official told ABC News that there were two new attacks late Friday on two U.S. facilities in Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria after another earlier in the day and a drone attack on Thursday that prompted retaliatory U.S. airstrikes that targeted Iranian-backed militias believed responsible.

Both attacks late Friday happened about the same time, the official said. One involved three drones targeting one facility and the other involved five rockets fired at a separate facility, according to the official, who said one American service member was wounded and was in stable condition.

The official said that two of the three drones that targeted one U.S. facility were shot down, but one drone made it through. There were no injuries in that attack.

The official said that five rockets were fired at another U.S. facility where the American service member was wounded. That individual is in stable condition, the official said, and that a damage assessment of the facility was still underway.

Earlier Friday, a Pentagon spokesman said the first of the three attacks on U.S. bases did not cause any damage and there were no injuries.

"On the morning of March 24th, at approximately 8:05 am local time, 10 rockets targeted coalition forces at the Green Village in northeast Syria," said Lt. Col. Phil Ventura, a Pentagon spokesman.

"The attack resulted in no injuries to US or coalition personnel and no damage to equipment or facilities," he added.

The new attacks, of which there have been about 80 since the start of 2021, come a day after the U.S. military conducted retaliatory airstrikes in eastern Syria on Thursday against the Iranian-backed groups after a one-way explosive drone attack targeting a U.S. base in the region killed a U.S. contractor and injured six others, including five U.S. service members, the Pentagon said.

"Earlier today, a U.S. contractor was killed and five U.S. service members and one additional U.S. contractor were wounded after a one-way unmanned aerial vehicle struck a maintenance facility on a Coalition base near Hasakah in northeast Syria at approximately 1:38 p.m. local time," the Pentagon said in a statement.

Two of the wounded service members were treated on site, while the other four Americans were medically evacuated to coalition medical facilities in Iraq, officials said. A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that both contractors were American.

U.S. intelligence assessed that the one-way attack drone that struck the base on Thursday was Iranian in origin, according to the statement. Iran has used such drones in the past in attacks on Saudi Arabia and in Yemen, but this drone technology has become more noticeable after it provided hundreds of Shahed drones to Russia that have been used in attacks against Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure targets.

Earlier on Thursday, Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, who as the commander of U.S. Central Command is the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, told Congress that there have been 78 such attacks since the beginning of 2021.

"At the direction of President [Joe] Biden, I authorized U.S. Central Command forces to conduct precision airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)," Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in the statement, issued late Thursday.

"The airstrikes were conducted in response today's attack, as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC," he added.

A U.S. official told ABC News that the airstrikes were carried out by U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter aircraft as part of a response approved by President Joe Biden earlier on Thursday.

Biden was enroute to Ottawa, Canada, when he approved the airstrikes presented by the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community as response options to the drone attack, White House spokesman John Kirby said during an appearance on CNN.

"He made the decision very, very shortly in that discussion to authorize the strikes against these particular targets," Kirby said. "We're going to work to protect our people and our facilities as best we can. It's a dangerous environment."

"We are not seeking a conflict with Iran," said Kirby. "We've been very clear with the Iranians and with our partners about how serious the mission that we're doing in Syria is and how we're going to protect that mission."

"Iran should not be involved in supporting these attacks on our facilities or on our people, we've made that very very clear," said Kirby.

At a news conference with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday afternoon, before the reports of even more attacks, Biden said, "make no mistake, the United States does not -- does not, emphasize -- seek conflict with Iran but be prepared for us to act forcefully protect our people. That's exactly what happened last night."

The U.S. has about 900 troops in eastern Syria providing assistance to Syrian Kurdish forces in preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State.

In recent months, some of the bases have been the target of drone attacks that had, in most instances, not led to injuries or physical damage. Iranian-backed groups in Syria are believed to have been responsible for these attacks.

"These precision strikes are intended to protect and defend U.S. personnel. The United States took proportionate and deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties," the Pentagon statement read.

"As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing," Austin said. "No group will strike our troops with impunity."

"Our thoughts are with the family and colleagues of the contractor who was killed and with those who were wounded in the attack earlier today," the defense secretary added.

In a statement, U.S. Central Command leader Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla said, in part, that the U.S. "will always take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing. We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks."

"Our troops remain in Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS, which benefits the security and stability of not only Syria, but the entire region," he added.

During Thursday's House Armed Services Committee hearing focused on the Middle East and Africa, Kurilla was asked by Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon about the frequency of Iranian proxy attacks on U.S. forces.

There have been 78 such attacks since the beginning of 2021, according to Kurilla.

"It is periodic. We see periods where they will do more," he said

"So what Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies -- that's under UAVs or rockets -- to be able to attack our forces in Iraq or Syria," Kurilla added.

ABC News analyst Mick Mulroy, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East and retired CIA officer, said the U.S. "must strike back at the Iranian forces in Syria responsible for these attacks to such an extent that they know the consequences of killing and injuring Americans will not be worth the costs."

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American couple being held at ransom in Haiti, family says: 'We told them not to go'

Toussaint and Imbert Family

(TAMARAC, Fla.) -- An American couple visiting Haiti is being held at ransom after being kidnapped from a bus nearly a week ago, according to their family.

Jean-Dickens Toussaint and his wife, Abigail Toussaint, of Tamarac, Florida, were in Haiti to see ailing relatives and attend a community festival when they were kidnapped Saturday while traveling on a bus from Port-au-Prince, their family said.

A family friend who met the couple at the airport to escort them was also kidnapped, their niece, Christie, who declined to give her last name, told ABC Miami affiliate WPLG.

"They stopped the bus at a stop and they asked for the Americans on the bus and their escorts to come off the bus and then they took them," Christie told the station.

In response to an inquiry about the incident, the U.S. Department of State did not confirm a kidnapping but said it is "aware of reports of two U.S. citizens missing in Haiti."

The family learned about the ransom demands after the friend escorting the Toussaints contacted his relatives, Christie said.

The kidnappers initially demanded $6,000 for the couple's release, Nikese Toussaint, the sister of Jean Dickens Toussaint, told ABC News. Though once they sent the money, the price went up to $200,000 per person and "we don't have that type of money," Christie told WPLG.

Nikese Toussaint said they did not know how to reach Haiti police so have not contacted them, but said they did reach out to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"The U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas," the U.S. Department of State said. "When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can."

"We have nothing further to share at this time," the statement added.

The two have a 1-year-old son who "is thankfully not with them" but staying with a relative, Nikese Toussaint said.

The family members said they were worried about the couple making the trip, given the political unrest and gang violence in Haiti.

"We were very worried when they said they were going, we told them not to go but they wanted to go," Nikese Toussaint said.

The State Department advises Americans not to travel to Haiti "due to kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest."

"I do have the worst-case scenario playing in my head, but I keep trying to reject it because I don't want that to happen," Christie told WPLG.

"We just want to hear their voice as proof that they are still alive," she said.

ABC News' Aicha El Hammar Castano contributed to this report.

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"Hotel Rwanda" hero Paul Rusesabagina to be released from prison, Rwandan government says

Darrin Klimek/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- The Rwandan government announced Friday that Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the acclaimed 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, will be released from prison nearly three years after he was captured and detained.

The 68-year-old Rwandan hotelier-turned-dissident, who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was tried and convicted on a slew of terrorism-related charges in Rwanda's High Court in Kigali in 2021. He was sentenced to 25 years behind bars.

Rusesabagina's prison sentence was commuted by presidential order on Friday after consideration of requests for his clemency and approval by the Cabinet, according to Rwandan Minister for Justice and Attorney General Emmanuel Ugirashebuja.

"Under Rwandan law, commutation of sentence does not extinguish the underlying conviction," Ugirashebuja said in a statement. "If any individual benefitting from early release repeats offences of a similar nature, the commutation can be revoked and the remainder of the prison sentence will be served, in accordance with the conditions specified in the Presidential Order. Other penalties imposed by the Court, such as compensation owed to victims, are not affected by this commutation and thus remain in force."

Rwandan government spokesperson Stephanie Nyombayire confirmed to ABC News that Rusesabagina would be freed within 24 hours.

When asked for comment, Rusesabagina's family told ABC News in a statement on Friday: "We are pleased to hear the news about Paul's release. The family is hopeful to reunite with him soon."

Last year, the U.S. Department of State determined that Rusesabagina, who has maintained his innocence, had been "wrongfully detained." The U.S. House of Representatives subsequently passed a bipartisan resolution calling on the Biden administration to demand Rusesabagina's release on humanitarian grounds. As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Rwanda in August 2022, members of Congress sent a letter urging him to push for Rusesabagina's "immediate release" and "safe return to the United States."

Rusesabagina was the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when divisions between Rwanda's two main ethnic groups came to a head. The Rwandan government, controlled by extremist members of the Hutu ethnic majority, launched a systemic campaign with its allied Hutu militias to wipe out the Tutsi ethnic minority, slaughtering more than 800,000 people over the course of 100 days, mostly Tutsis and the moderate Hutus who tried to protect them, according to estimates from the United Nations.

More than 1,200 people took shelter in the Hotel des Mille Collines during what is often described as the darkest chapter of Rwanda's history. Rusesabagina, who is of both Hutu and Tutsi descent, said he used his job and connections with the Hutu elite to protect the hotel's guests from massacre. The events were later immortalized in Hotel Rwanda, with American actor Don Cheadle's portrayal of Rusesabagina earning an Academy Award nomination for best actor in 2005.

Rusesabagina, who fled Rwanda with his family in 1996 and later settled in San Antonio, Texas, rose to fame and was lauded as a hero after the movie's release. In 2005, he was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor given by the American president. He also wrote a book, gave paid speeches and became an outspoken critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has been in office for the last two decades.

In August 2020, Rusesabagina traveled to Dubai to meet up with a Burundi-born pastor who Rusesabagina alleges had invited him to speak at churches in Burundi about his experience during the Rwandan genocide. The pair hopped on a private jet that Rusesabagina believed would take them to Burundi's capital, according to Rusesabagina's international legal team.

Rusesabagina did not know that the pastor was working as an informant for the Rwanda Investigation Bureau and had tricked him into boarding a chartered flight to Kigali. He was subsequently arrested and charged with several terrorism-related offenses, with Rwandan prosecutors alleging that Rusesabagina wanted to go to Burundi to coordinate with rebel groups based there and in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Rusesabagina's family and lawyers have repeatedly expressed concern over his condition and treatment while under detention in Rwanda's capital. The married father of six is a cancer survivor and is prescribed medication for a heart disorder. He was held in solitary confinement for more than eight months after his capture and has been denied proper medical care, according to his international legal team. The U.N.'s Nelson Mandela Rules state that keeping someone in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days is torture.

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Harris to discuss 'brutality of slavery' at Cape Coast Castle during weeklong Africa visit

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

(WASHINGTON) -- Kamala Harris, the first Black U.S. vice president, on Saturday begins a historic first trip while in office to Africa, with stops scheduled in Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia during her weeklong tour.

She continues the Biden administration's outreach to African countries amid competition from China and their growing influence on the continent, where countries have forged trade and other ties with Beijing.

Previewing the vice president's agenda on a call with reporters on Thursday evening, senior administration officials said Harris will be asking the leaders not to "choose" between the U.S. and China but to "expand" their options.

"We can't ignore the current geopolitical moment. It's no secret that we are engaged in competition with China. And we've said very clearly we intend to out-compete China in the long term," the officials said.

In a show of how much Tanzania values their relationship with China, President Samia Suluhu Hassan's first state visit outside of Africa last November was to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing where their meeting focused on areas of cooperation such as agriculture trade and infrastructure.

Harris, in her own visit to Africa, will hold bilateral meetings in each country that will involve "wide-ranging discussions" on regional security, democracy, strengthening business ties, debt relief and restructuring and the impact on Africa from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, officials said.

"Russia's war is not only hurting the people of Ukraine and Europe, but it's hurting Africans and others around the world by generating rising food and commodity prices that are actually having a disproportional impact on African countries," the administration officials told reporters Thursday.

Two notable moments to watch for during Harris' trip will be in Ghana and Zambia. The administration officials said that on Monday Harris will tour Cape Coast Castle, a former slave-trade outpost and location of the so-called "Door of No Return," and deliver remarks on the "brutality of slavery and the African diaspora."

And Harris' time in Zambia will be notable as it marks her return to the country for the first time since she was a young girl. In the 1960s, she traveled there to visit her maternal grandfather, who was a civil servant in India and worked for several years in the Zambian government on refugee resettlement issues.

"The vice president is very much looking forward to returning to Lusaka [the Zambian capital], which is a part of her family's story and a source of pride," the senior administration officials said Thursday, suggesting there would be "more to say" about this portion of the trip as that day nears and that Harris would "have much more to say about this herself throughout the trip."

Harris departs Washington on Saturday evening and arrives in Ghana on Sunday afternoon, though her first engagements will take place on Monday, beginning with a bilateral meeting with President Nana Akufo-Addo, followed by a visit to a local recording studio in Accra.

On Tuesday she is set to deliver a "major speech to an audience of young people," tour Cape Coast Castle and "speak about the brutality of slavery and the African Diaspora" from that location as well.

Also in Accra on Wednesday, Harris will meet with women entrepreneurs and discuss the economic empowerment of women. During that meeting, senior administration officials said, Harris is expected to announce a "series of continent-wide, public and private sector investments to help close the digital gender divide and to empower women economically more broadly."

Harris travels to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday she begins the day meeting with President Samia Suluhu Hassan. The vice president will also participate in a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy there, and she will meet with entrepreneurs at a tech incubator and coworking space.

Next Friday, March 31, Harris departs Tanzania for Lusaka where she will meet with President Hakainde Hichilema.

And on April 1, she will focus on climate adaptation and resilience and food security, along with a convening of "business and philanthropic leaders from both the continent and for the United States to discuss digital and financial inclusion on the continent," administration officials said.

She arrives back in Washington on April 2.

It's the latest high-profile international tour for Harris, who has been an administration lead on issues including immigration -- on which she has sometimes drawn backlash -- and, more recently, highlighting what the White House said is the importance of ensuring abortion access after Roe v. Wade was overruled.

The vice president's trip is also the latest show of support from the administration amid President Joe Biden's push to engage closer with the African continent.

At the U.S.-Africa summit in Washington last year, Biden said the United States was "all in on Africa and all in with Africa," adding that the continent "belongs at the table in every room" where global challenges are being discussed. Biden announced then that he was "eager" to visit the continent himself, though the White House has not announced any official travel.

Harris' visit also comes on the heels of a series of other notable trips by high-ranking figures in the administration.

Just over a week ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken became the first person in his post to visit Niger and announced $150 million in new humanitarian assistance for Africa's Sahel region. During the first stop of his tour, he also committed $331 million in new humanitarian aid for Ethiopia.

First lady Jill Biden was in Namibia and Kenya last month for a five-day visit focused on food insecurities in the Horn of Africa as well as challenges facing youth and women. In Kenya, she met with drought-affected communities and heard first-hand accounts of its devastating impacts in the region.

Following her visit, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced it was providing over $126 million in additional food assistance for Kenya.

And in January, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen began the administration's engagement with a 10-day tour to Senegal, South Africa and Zambia; and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield made stops in Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique.

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How to watch the five-planet alignment: Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Mars

ABC News Photo Illustration

(NEW YORK) -- Don't miss your lucky chance to see the stars -- or planets -- align next week.

A five-planet alignment of Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus and Mars will be visible in the night sky on Tuesday, March 28.

Bill Cooke, who has a Ph.D. in astronomy and heads NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center, spoke to ABC News' Good Morning America about the best ways to catch this upcoming alignment.

He said to grab a pair of binoculars and head outside right after sunset in order to see Mercury and Jupiter, which will be the closest to the western horizon.

"Perhaps the hardest to see with your eye will be the planet Mercury, [which] will be the one closest to the horizon, and right beside it will be a brighter object, planet Jupiter," said Cooke, who added that the next planet, Venus, will probably be the brightest planet to spot, whereas Uranus, a green star, can be hard to see with an unaided eye.

"Of course, the capper will be the moon, which will be halfway lit up just above Mars. So you'll get five planets and the moon," he said.

Each planet in our solar system, excluding the now-relegated Pluto, shares the same orbital plane. During a planetary alignment, the planets will appear to "bunch" on the same side of the sun -- forming a line but appearing as an arc since the sky "is like a dome," according to Cooke.

Cooke said planetary alignments happen every few years, but the configurations vary. The last planetary alignment was a four-planet alignment on Dec. 28, 2022.

"You're worrying that planetary alignments are rare, but honestly we get one every couple of years. It may involve four planets, or it may involve five planets, but planetary alignments -- they can put on a show," Cooke said.

However, if you miss your chance on March 28, Cooke said to just wait until Sept. 8, 2040, for the rare alignment of Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Mars.

"All of them will be visible within 10 degrees and that'll be pretty darn impressive," he said. "I'm always partial to Saturn because of the rings, right? I mean, who can resist?"

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US speeds up delivery of Abrams tanks, could be in Ukraine by fall

FILE photo -- Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Ukraine will get American Abrams tanks this fall, much sooner than expected, after the Pentagon decided to refurbish existing hulls in its inventory instead of building new ones from scratch.

Meanwhile. the Patriot air defense missile training for Ukrainian troops that has been taking place in Oklahoma will wrap up "in coming days" and the missile systems will be in Ukraine "in coming weeks" on an expedited basis, according to a U.S. Army spokesman.

In January, the Pentagon would be sending Ukraine 31 M1A2 Abrams tanks that would be built from scratch, a process that could take at least a year, if not longer.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon's top spokesman told reporters that the switch to sending refurbished hulls equipped with modern weapons systems would get to the battlefield quicker.

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters that, since the initial announcement in January, the U.S. has been committed "to exploring options to deliver the armored capability as quickly as possible."

He added that after further analysis the Pentagon, in consultation with Ukraine, decided that choosing the M1A1 version will "enable us to significantly expedite delivery timelines and deliver this important capability to Ukraine by the fall of this year."

"This is about getting this important combat capability into the hands of the Ukrainians sooner rather than later," said Ryder.

The Pentagon had never given a timeline for when the 31 Abrams tanks would arrive in Ukraine, but Ryder acknowledged that "we were projecting it would be probably over a year or so before we would have been able to deliver" the more modern M1A2 variant.

Ryder said the M1A1 Abrams will have "a very similar capability" to the M1A2 that includes advanced armor, a 120 mm cannon, and a 50-caliber heavy machine gun.

The U.S. commitment to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine was the linchpin of a plan to get Germany to go along with the transfer of Leopard tanks in its own inventory or that of other nations.

The understanding was that the slower manufacturing pace of newly Abrams would meet Ukraine's longer range military needs while the Leopards would have a more immediate impact on the battlefield as Ukraine prepares for an anticipated counteroffensive.

Some of those German-made Leopard tanks have already begun arriving in Ukraine where they will be paired up with Ukrainian tank crews that have been receiving training outside of Ukraine.

Ryder did not have any details on when Ukrainian troops might begin to train on the Abrams tank and where such training could take place.

"We will ensure that the Ukrainians receive the necessary training on these tanks in time for them to be delivered," said Ryder.

On Tuesday, senior Russian officials expressed environmental concerns about the armor piercing shells used by British Challenger 2 tanks being given to Ukraine that contain depleted uranium. The Abrams tank also fires depleted uranium rounds, but when asked by reporters if the U.S. was going to provide similar rounds to Ukraine Ryder said "not to my knowledge."

At Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Army officials confirmed that the training of 65 Ukrainian troops on how to operate the Patriot air defense system is nearing its conclusion and that the system could soon be in Ukraine.

The Patriot missile training of Ukrainian troops at Fort Sill, Oklahoma is going to wrap up in coming days according to an Army spokesman who adds that the American Patriot battery being sent to Ukraine will arrive "in coming weeks".

The Ukrainians will depart here in the coming days, go to Europe, and depart for Ukraine in the coming weeks," Col. Marty O'Donnell, the spokesman for U.S. Army Europe and Africa told ABC News.

The Ukrainian troops have trained at Fort Sill since mid-January in an expedited training cycle for how to use the Patriots, a training cycle that can normally last a year.

"In Europe, the Ukrainians training here will meet up with Ukrainians training in Europe, and with U.S., German, and Dutch equipment donations to validate the systems and ensure interoperability," said O'Donnell.

The United States and Germany have each committed to providing a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine to assist with that country's pressing air defense needs to counter Russian barrages aimed at its cities and infrastructure. The Netherlands has also committed to providing additional missiles and launch systems that will be incorporated into the German Patriot system.

The training for Ukrainian troops to use the Germany Patriot battery has been taking place in Poland.

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