The latest graduates from Johns Hopkins University, their degrees in hand and most of their future ahead of them, got a powerful message from a surprise commencement speaker Thursday: Make the most of your time on earth.
Those words have special resonance coming from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who addressed the students via a livestream from embattled Kyiv and highlighted how unexpected events, such as a war, can change the course of life, so it’s important to seize the moment at hand.
“Every person eventually realizes that time is the most valuable resource on the planet, not oil or uranium, not lithium or anything else, but time, time,’’ Zelenskyy said. “While it is still possible to find new deposits of oil or lithium, and if in the future humanity can start mining resources in space, it is still purely science fiction to live longer than has been given.’’
Zelenskyy mentioned he had recently returned from the front lines, where he met soldiers he said have the same hopes and dreams as the students, except the fighters no longer control their fate. The Russian invasion has turned musicians, plumbers, lawyers and athletes into warriors.
“The time of life of all Ukrainians who are forced to live through this terrible Russian aggression, unfortunately, is subject to many factors that are not all in their control,’’ Zelenskyy said.
Johns Hopkins officials initially reached out to the Zelenskyy administration in March, and university president Ron Daniels followed with an invitation to the charismatic Ukrainian president, hoping his leadership in defending the values of freedom and democracy would inspire the graduates and their families. Given the chaotic nature of leading a country at war, Zelenskyy’s live appearance wasn’t assured until days before commencement.
Daniels awarded an honorary doctorate to Zelenskyy after his address, which also touched on his gratitude to the U.S. for wasting no time in coming to Ukraine’s defense. There’s no manual on how to use time properly, Zelenskyy said, but shared some advice that may help.
“You have to know exactly why you need today and how you want your tomorrows to look like,’’ he said, before concluding: “All of our tomorrows and the tomorrows of our children and grandchildren depend on each of our todays.’’
A reservoir crucial to Ukraine’s drinking water and power supply is seeing dangerously high water levels because of damage to a Russian-occupied dam that has gone unrepaired for months.Ukraine successfully defended against 36 Russian drones launched overnight at multiple cities, including Kyiv, Zelenskyy said in a statement.The European Union reported freezing about $215 billion in assets from the Russian Central Bank since the start of the war.The Russian Foreign Ministry said it’s expelling five Swedish diplomats in response to Stockholm’s “openly hostile step” to declare five employees of Russian foreign missions in Sweden “personae non grata” in April.A record number of people − 606,000 − moved to Britain in 2022. This number is up from just under 500,000 in 2021 amid increased immigration from Ukraine and Hong Kong.
Several European nations will train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s
Denmark and the Netherlands will lead the effort to train and equip Ukrainian pilots with F-16 warplanes, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday. Belgium, Norway, Poland and Portugal have also agreed to help with training, Austin told reporters after a meeting of Western allies that support Ukraine in its war against Russia.
Ukrainian officials had pleaded for the sophisticated aircraft for months. Last week, the Biden administration agreed to allow allies to provide the F-16s and train Ukrainian pilots. Permission from the White House was required to transfer the American jets to a third country.
Ukrainian officials had pleaded for the sophisticated aircraft. Last week, the Biden administration agreed to allow allies to provide Ukraine with F-16s and train its pilots. U.S. allies need permission from the White House to transfer the American jets to a third country.
The decision on F-16s followed “hard-core military analysis,” according to Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Air defense systems have been the top priority for Ukraine to prevent Russian warplanes from providing close-air support to its invading troops, he said.
Surface-to-air missile defenses have been a more effective, and cheaper, solution to defending Ukrainian airspace than F-16s, Milley said. F-16s, which will require months of training, are not “magic weapons,” he said, but will help Ukraine defend itself in the future.
− Tom Vanden Brook
Mercenary troops start leaving Bakhmut, Wagner chief says
The head of the Russian private military contractor Wagner said Thursday that his fighters have begun withdrawing from Bakhmut as they hand control of the eastern city to Russia’s military.
The announcement comes days after Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his troops had captured the city after a grueling nine-month battle. Prigozhin said in a video published on Telegram that the handover will be completed by June 1.
Ukrainian officials have insisted pockets of resistance remain in Bakhmut, and Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces still have a foothold in southwestern outskirts. She also said regular Russian troops had replaced Wagner units in the suburbs but Wagner fighters remained inside the city.
The Russian defense ministry did not immediately comment on the handover from Wagner.
Bakhmut delivered a badly needed win for Russia as its invasion of Ukraine has lost momentum and Russian troops brace for a Ukrainian counteroffensive using weapons from Western allies.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Thursday that Ukraine’s counteroffensive had already begun and that it would not be “a single event that will begin at a specific hour of a specific day.”
“These are dozens of different actions to destroy the Russian occupation forces in different directions, which have already been taking place yesterday, are taking place today and will continue tomorrow,” Podolyak said on Twitter.
Moscow signs deal on deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus
Russia and Belarus signed a deal Thursday on deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, according to statements from both countries’ defense ministries. The agreement allows Russia to store the weapons on its ally’s territory while retaining control of them.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russia “is not giving nuclear weapons to Belarus” and that control over their use and deployment remains in Moscow’s hands.
Officials didn’t immediately release additional information about when the weapons would be deployed. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the construction of storage facilities for tactical nuclear weapons would be completed in Belarus by July 1.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the U.S. strongly condemns the arrangement but sees no need to change its strategic nuclear position.
“It’s the latest example of irresponsible behavior that we have seen from Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine over a year ago,” Miller told reporters at a briefing.
Contributing: The Associated Press