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Week in Ukraine: NATO meets as Russia's war blows past 500 days

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference ahead of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday. Russia's war in Ukraine will top the agenda when NATO leaders meet in the Lithuanian capital on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mindaugas Kulbis
/
AP
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference ahead of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday. Russia's war in Ukraine will top the agenda when NATO leaders meet in the Lithuanian capital on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Here's a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week.

What to watch

President Biden and NATO allies will gather for the alliance's summit in Lithuania starting Tuesday, and the war in Ukraine is due to dominate. Sweden's pending entry to NATO and a possible pathway for Ukrainian membership — or not — have also been big issues in the lead-up to the gathering.

A deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to enable Ukrainian grain and other farm goods to ship safely from Black Sea ports is due to expire next week, July 17. Russia has again threatened to back out of the deal if its own trade terms aren't met.

What happened

Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks withYevgeny Prigozhin and other leadership from the Wagner Group mercenary force, the Kremlin said. They spoke just five days after Wagner's rebellion against Russia's defense leadership. It remains unclear what role Wagner could play in the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the 500th day of the war with Russia over the weekend, issuing a video filmed on Snake Island, where he honored the troops defending his country. He also announced five commanders of a renowned unit that fought in the city of Mariupol who had been captured would be coming home.

U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich passed the 100-day mark in Russian detention. Emma Tucker, editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, his employer, told NPR he remains in good health and relatively good spirits.

The U.S. is giving Ukraine controversial cluster bombs to target dug-in Russian forces. Both Ukraine and Russia have been using cluster munitions, which are banned by over 120 countries because of their immediate and longer-term danger to civilians.

Wagner Group mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was allegedly back in Russia, according to the autocratic leader of Belarus, which is the country where the Kremlin had said Prigozhin would be headed after his mutiny attempt.

Ukraine said Russian forces placed devices resembling explosives on the roofs of nuclear reactors they control in Ukraine. Russia also accused Ukraine of planning attacks against the plant.

President Biden welcomed Sweden's prime minister to the White House in a show of support for the Nordic country's entry into NATO, ahead of the alliance's summit this week.

In-depth

The U.S. is sending cluster bombs to Ukraine despite humanitarian warnings

Opinion: Remembering Ukrainian poet Victoria Amelina

Biden meets King Charles before heading to a NATO leaders summit in Lithuania

Is a prisoner swap being discussed for a U.S. reporter detained in Russia?

An advocate for banning cluster munitions speaks about U.S. deliveries to Ukraine

Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is back in Russia, says Belarus' Lukashenko

To protect against Russian airstrikes, Ukraine's defenders "shoot and scoot"

Ukraine's Zelenskyy warns of possible Russian sabotage at nuclear plant

Special report

Russia's war in Ukraine is changing the world: See our report on its ripple effects in all corners of the globe.

Earlier developments

You can read past recaps here. For context and more in-depth stories, you can find more of NPR's coverage here. Also, listen and subscribe to NPR's State of Ukraine podcast for updates throughout the day.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Alex Leff is a digital editor on NPR's International Desk, helping oversee coverage from journalists around the world for its growing Internet audience. He was previously a senior editor at GlobalPost and PRI, where he wrote stories and edited the work of international correspondents.