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Ukraine

Each week — and some days, it seems, each hour — brings more clarity to the picture of the Ukraine affair and the political crisis it sparked in Washington over impeachment.

But some of the biggest questions still don't have answers.

Here's a look at where the saga stands, what investigators want to learn and what major decisions still must be reached before the fever breaks.

The Ukraine affair

No one disputes the basic outlines of the Ukraine affair, including President Trump:

Updated at 7:35 p.m. ET

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged several substantial facts about the Ukraine affair on Thursday — but disputed that it was inappropriate or that the administration even was trying to hide what it had done.

Mulvaney acknowledged that President Trump expected concessions from his Ukrainian counterpart in exchange for engagement and also that Trump had empowered his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to run what has been called a parallel foreign policy for Ukraine on his own.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

Two Florida-based businessmen who helped President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in his efforts to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden in Ukraine have been arrested and charged with campaign finance violations in a separate matter.

Updated 9:50 a.m. ET

The Trump administration has blocked Gordon Sondland, President Trump's ambassador to the European Union, from testifying before Congress on Tuesday.

Sondland has been a key figure in the widening Ukraine scandal involving the president, members of his Cabinet and high-ranking diplomats.

The legal team representing the whistleblower whose complaint sparked an impeachment inquiry against President Trump now says it is representing a second whistleblower described as an intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the allegations against the president.

Updated at 10:01 a.m. ET

Senior U.S. diplomats debated the propriety of a White House strategy aimed at pressuring Ukraine for political investigations in exchange for assistance and engagement with President Trump, new documents show.

The Democratic chairmen of three House committees investigating President Trump released dozens of text messages late Thursday from top State Department officials handling European and Ukrainian affairs.

Updated at 1:38 p.m. ET

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has publicly acknowledged that he was listening to the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that has sparked an impeachment inquiry.

"I was on the phone call," Pompeo said Wednesday in Rome.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

At a press conference at the United Nations last week, President Donald Trump accused Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of being too busy on an impeachment "witch-hunt" to work with him on gun control. 

"Chris Murphy who've I've been dealing with on guns," President Trump said in his speech. "So nice and always, 'No, we want to work it out, we want to work it out.' But they're too busy wasting their time on the witch-hunt."

But Murphy says the White House still wants him at the negotiating table.

Updated 3:45 E.T. Sunday

The rapidly unfolding Ukraine scandal has kicked impeachment investigations into high gear, with Democratic leaders in Congress now saying it will take just a number of weeks to consolidate findings from multiple House committees.

"This is not going to require months and months and months of hearings," says Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who spoke with NPR on Saturday.

Well, that escalated quickly.

At the beginning of this week, it wasn't at all clear that the country was heading toward another impeachment investigation, 21 years after Republicans filed articles of impeachment against Democratic President Bill Clinton.

A tumultuous week in Washington has set the stage for an intense new congressional investigation into President Trump — and what could prove to be a historic clash between the White House and Congress.

The outlines are now clear about conduct that no one, including Trump, disputes: The president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the family of Vice President Joe Biden, a potential political rival in the 2020 presidential election.

Updated at 12:08 p.m. ET

The nation's top spy told lawmakers on Thursday that he supports the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the Ukraine affair but said he struggled to deal with how to handle the case inside the Trump administration.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire told the House intelligence committee in an open hearing that he believed the whistleblower and the spy world's inspector general had acted in good faith and that he has tried to handle a unique situation as best he could.

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET

President Trump told Ukraine's president that "a lot of people want to find out" about the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden's family in Ukraine and asked its leader to be in touch with lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr.

That's according to a briefing for correspondents about the contents of the July 25 phone call, on Wednesday at the Justice Department.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

President Trump said Wednesday that the push for his impeachment is a "hoax," again denying any wrongdoing during a July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during which he pushed for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 rival.

"No push, no pressure, no nothing — it's all a hoax, folks. It's all a big hoax," Trump said.

Updated at 6:08 p.m. ET

President Trump vowed on Tuesday that he will release a transcript of his phone call from earlier this year with Ukraine's president.

The July 25 call is at the heart of a rapidly intensifying controversy over whether Trump improperly pressured another country to investigate a political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

A phone conversation between Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine about former Vice President Joe Biden has sparked outrage from some U.S. lawmakers and amplified calls for Trump’s impeachment. This hour, Connecticut U.S. Rep. Jim Himes joins us to weigh in on this unfolding situation. 

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels near Crimea is an "outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory," says U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, calling it "another reckless Russian escalation" in a deadly and years-long conflict.

Updated at 2:04 p.m. ET

A U.S. political lobbyist with links to Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to violating foreign lobbying laws for work he did on behalf of a Ukrainian political party.

W. Samuel Patten appeared in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia where he entered a guilty plea to one count of failing to register as a foreign agent. He has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, who can request a reduced sentenced for Patten.

No sentencing date has been set.

Olga Zakrevska / dahkabrahka.com

The Ukrainian world music quartet DakhaBrakha combines rhythms and instruments from several continents with folk music from their native country. The group is scheduled to stop in Connecticut on Thursday for a performance.

The chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign says he never received a single off-the-books cash payment for political work in Ukraine.

The statement from campaign chairman Paul Manafort comes after The New York Times reported that his name appears in a so-called "black ledger" recording under-the-table payments made by the political party of Ukraine's former pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Sean Scanlon / Office of Sen. Chris Murphy

Ukrainian Americans, many with family members still living in the country, packed Hartford's Ukrainian National Home for the town hall meeting about the situation in the Eastern European country.

In a claim that's meeting with skepticism in Kiev, Russian-backed separatists say they've started to withdraw heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, as required by a recent cease-fire. Ukraine's military says separatist attacks are ongoing.

The development comes after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he thinks a war with Ukraine would be "apocalyptic" — but that the area is now on a path to stability, after the recent Minsk agreement.

Following heavy shelling in what had been a Ukraine-controlled city, the central government's force is retreating from Debaltseve, a key railroad and transportation hub. Ukraine says it has now withdrawn 80 percent of its armed forces from the city.

"I can say now that the Ukrainian armed forces and the National Guard completed an operation on the planned and organized withdrawal of some units from Debaltseve this morning," Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said, according to the Interfax news agency in Ukraine.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have resulted in a cease-fire which is set to begin Sunday. But there's still a long ways to go before a lasting peace can exist between the two countries.

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't think the cease-fire will hold. He told CNN that the U.S. should send weapons to Ukrainian fighters to help counter Russian-backed troops and President Vladamir Putin.

"I think if we give them the weapons to defend themselves, it actually raises the prospects that the cease-fire will hold because it creates a little more balance on the ground and creates a bit of a disincentive for Putin and the separatists to keep moving through eastern Ukraine," said Lieberman.

A new cease-fire is set to begin Sunday in eastern Ukraine, in a deal after 16 hours of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. The leaders of France and Germany helped broker the deal, which calls for a buffer zone free of heavy weapons. News of the temporary peace emerged along with a new international aid plan for Ukraine.

As has been the case in Ukraine's nearly yearlong conflict with separatists, the new arrangement established by Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko leaves some important issues unresolved.

Catie Talarski

The American Polish Advisory Council held its annual conference at Yale University this weekend. The group discussed issues ranging from U.S.-Polish relations to the crisis in nearby Ukraine. 

Elections in Ukraine are pointing to a new parliament that will be dominated by pro-Western parties, a result that President Petro Poroshenko is hailing as a "course toward Europe" but one that is likely to further anger Russia.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Kiev that exit polls show the bloc supporting Porsohenko is projected to win about 23 percent of the vote, followed closely by an allied party, the People's Front, with around 21 percent.

Vladimir Yaitskiy / Creative Commons

The U.S. should allow others to take the lead in the Ukrainian crisis, according to former state department diplomat and foreign policy analyst E.Wayne Merry

An initial investigation by Dutch experts appears to support the long-held theory of what happened to MH17 over eastern Ukraine: The Malaysian airliner was brought down by multiple "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft."

Although the preliminary technical report by the Dutch Safety Board did not directly say the objects were surface-to-air missiles, it left little room to conclude otherwise.

Ukraine and the West, including the United States, insist that the Russian army has been fighting in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Russia just as vehemently denies.

But reports from Russia now acknowledge that Russian soldiers are part of the battle — though they are claimed to be volunteers, on leave from their army jobs.

Critics say the Russian military is ordering soldiers into the fight, and covering up the deaths of those who are killed, in an unacknowledged war on foreign soil.

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