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Analysis | NCAA tournament bracketology: Selection Sunday has finally arrived

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Analysis | NCAA tournament bracketology: Selection Sunday has finally arrived


It’s been a Murphy’s Law couple of days for teams at the edge of the men’s NCAA tournament field. And it’s made the task of selecting the bracket’s 36 at-large teams all the more difficult.

A Saturday filled with unpredictability — from Brown’s upset of top-seeded Princeton in the 11 a.m. Ivy League semifinal to the WAC championship devolving into a game of dodgeball when Texas Arlington grew frustrated with Grand Canyon adding a dunk in the closing seconds — meant everything that could have gone wrong for the teams hoping to snare one of the last few berths in the tournament field almost certainly did.

There were the outright bid snatchers, North Carolina State and Oregon. The Wolfpack won its fifth game in five days, dispatching North Carolina for the program’s first ACC tournament title since 1987. Oregon picked off UCLA, Arizona and Colorado in a three-day span to claim the last Pac-12 title.

There was Florida Atlantic, failing to do the rest of the field a favor and falling to Temple in the American Athletic semifinals. Paired with Dayton’s loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament Thursday, there was no help coming from teams that could turn their conferences into one-bid leagues.

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Even the borderline tournament team in action couldn’t finish the job. Texas A&M fell to Florida, and the Aggies must wait for the committee’s verdict. That hasn’t been a good thing for Buzz Williams’s team the past two years; in 2022, Texas A&M was left out after a late push. Last year, it was arguably the most underseeded team in the field based on the numbers (though not on its subsequent first-round exit).

Among the other possible losers because of the tumult: Oklahoma and Virginia, two teams that didn’t do much wrong but have limited top-end success; Providence, Seton Hall and St. John’s, a parade of Big East teams with their own résumé limitations; and Indiana State, which last Sunday afternoon was a wild card and might now be an afterthought.

(Or it might not. Indiana State is a hard-to-evaluate variable, because its profile doesn’t look much like the power conference teams it is being compared with).

The one thing all of these teams have in common, whether they receive a reprieve or not, is they could have won more. Virginia could have made free throws. Oklahoma could have beaten someone better than Iowa or Kansas State away from home. Indiana State could have won Arch Madness. Pitt could have played a better nonconference schedule. Texas A&M could have avoided silly losses.

There will be caterwauling Sunday night from many schools, but the confluence of events tightened the field and might lead to a play-in game occupying the No. 10 seed line. It’s anyone’s guess whether the tournament will be a classic, but the week leading up to it already is unusual even by the standards of March.

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Sunday’s games to watch

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Ivy League final (New York): No. 2 Yale vs. No. 4 Brown, noon (ESPN2)

Brown (13-17) knocked out top-seeded Princeton in the first of Saturday’s Ivy semifinals, setting off day-long carnage for top seeds. The Bears can earn their first NCAA tournament berth since 1986, and third ever, with a defeat of Yale (21-9), which just lost at home to Brown on March 9.

Bracket impact: One-bid territory, though Yale has a much higher seeding territory than Brown.

SEC final (Nashville): No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 6 Florida, 1 (ESPN)

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Auburn (26-7) faces a path to an SEC title that goes through the No. 7 (South Carolina), No. 9 (Mississippi State) and No. 6 (Florida) seeds. Those are three NCAA tournament teams so it isn’t a clear path, but it didn’t include Tennessee or Kentucky, either. The Gators (24-10) ended Texas A&M’s run yesterday and have quietly stitched together a 13-4 mark since Jan. 20.

Bracket impact: Both are safely in the field, so maybe there are some seeding stakes here. Auburn can make a case for a No. 3 seed if it wins, and Florida might have a case to climb as high as the No. 5 line.

Atlantic 10 final (Brooklyn): No. 5 VCU vs. No. 6 Duquesne, 1 (CBS)

VCU (22-12) has hired six coaches this century. If the Rams win today, all of them will have led the program to an NCAA tournament within their first two years, with Ryan Odom doing it with a season to spare. Duquesne (23-11) is aiming for its first NCAA berth since 1977.

Bracket impact: Only one of these two is getting in, and both would be right around the No. 12 line.

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American Athletic final (Fort Worth): No. 4 UAB vs. No. 11 Temple, 3:15 (ESPN)

UAB (22-11) bounced top-seeded South Florida in the semifinals, while Temple (16-19) won its fourth game in four days by stunning Florida Atlantic. The Owls had won only four games in the 75 days leading up to the American tournament.

Bracket impact: Only one of these two gets in. UAB has the profile of a No. 13 or No. 14 seed, while Temple would be a genuinely difficult team to evaluate. Here’s guessing the Owls would be a No. 15 seed if they complete the five-wins-in-five-days marathon.

Big Ten final (Minneapolis): No. 2 Illinois vs. No. 5 Wisconsin, approx. 3:30 (CBS)

The traditional final game before the selection show pits the Fighting Illini (25-8) and the Badgers (22-12) in a matchup of two teams already in the field.

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Bracket impact: It’s always fair to wonder whether the Big Ten final impacts the field unless a bid snatcher is involved. Illinois is going to be a No. 3 or No. 4 seed, while Wisconsin is going to land right around a No. 5 seed.

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Last four included: Florida Atlantic, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Virginia

First four on the outside: Oklahoma, Providence, Pitt, St. John’s

Next four on the outside: Indiana State, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, Ohio State

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Moving in: Long Beach State, N.C. State, Saint Peter’s, Oregon, Yale

Moving out: Fairfield, Oklahoma, Princeton, Providence, UC Davis

Conference call: Big 12 (8), Southeastern (8), Big Ten (6), Mountain West (6), Atlantic Coast (5), Pac-12 (4), Big East (3), American Athletic (2), Atlantic 10 (2), West Coast (2)

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(1) BIG EAST/Connecticut vs. (16) SWAC/Grambling-NORTHEAST/Wagner winner

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(8) Texas vs. (9) Colorado State

(5) Wisconsin vs. (12) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/UAB

(4) Alabama vs. (13) SOUTHERN/Samford

(3) Baylor vs. (14) OHIO VALLEY/Morehead State

(6) San Diego State vs. (11) ACC/N.C. State

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(7) Washington State vs. (10) Texas Christian

(2) Tennessee vs. (15) BIG SOUTH/Longwood

Connecticut with the top overall seed? It would be easy to give the Huskies that nod over Purdue because they won their conference tournament and no one else on the top line did. But Purdue’s set of victories away from home remains impressive. Those two will be the top two seeds, in some order. … Grambling will make the first NCAA tournament appearance in program history after beating Texas Southern in Saturday’s SWAC title game. …

When Virginia Tech won the ACC tournament as a No. 7 seed two years ago, it got a No. 11 seed. N.C. State will probably receive similar treatment, but in a year with less tumult, the Wolfpack would have been a line lower. … Texas Christian’s profile isn’t fabulous, but it does own a victory at Baylor. It also took both games it played from Oklahoma, which suddenly finds itself in a tenuous situation.

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(1) North Carolina vs. (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Howard-BIG SKY/Montana State

(8) MOUNTAIN WEST/New Mexico vs. (9) Nebraska

(5) Texas Tech vs. (12) ATLANTIC 10/Virginia Commonwealth

(4) SEC/Auburn vs. (13) AMERICA EAST/Vermont

(3) BIG TEN/Illinois vs. (14) HORIZON/Oakland

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(6) Brigham Young vs. (11) SUN BELT/James Madison

(7) Gonzaga vs. (10) MISSOURI VALLEY/Drake

(2) Arizona vs. (15) BIG WEST/Long Beach State

New Mexico has never made it out of the opening weekend of the tournament in 12 tries since the field expanded to 64 in 1985. Nebraska has never even won a game in seven appearances. … Will the committee bump Auburn up to the No. 3 line if it beats Florida? That’s a hard sell for a team that would own three Quadrant 1 victories (it has two entering the day). …

James Madison could be one of the winners from all the upsets Friday and Saturday. The Dukes are comfortably on the No. 11 line in this projection. … Long Beach State fired Coach Dan Monson on Monday, effective the end of the season. Five days later, he led the 49ers to their first NCAA berth since 2012. …

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(1) Purdue vs. (16) METRO ATLANTIC/Saint Peter’s

(8) Nevada vs. (9) Colorado

(5) Florida vs. (12) WESTERN ATHLETIC/Grand Canyon

(4) Kansas vs. (13) COASTAL/College of Charleston

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(3) Creighton vs. (14) MID-AMERICAN/Akron

(6) Utah State vs. (11) Florida Atlantic/Virginia winner

(7) Clemson vs. (10) Northwestern

(2) Iowa State vs. (15) SUMMIT/South Dakota State

Maybe the committee avoids the rematch of Purdue’s Sweet 16 loss to Saint Peter’s. But heavens knows that game will be referenced no matter who the Boilermakers’ opponent is given their recent run of losses against double-digit seeds. … Grand Canyon makes its third NCAA trip in four years, and at 29-4, this is the Antelopes’ best chance to do some damage in the postseason since moving up to Division I in 2013. …

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Florida Atlantic, with a pair of Quad 4 losses (Bryant and Florida Gulf Coast) and Saturday’s setback against Temple, may have played its way to Dayton. It’s definitely unlikely the Owls exceed the No. 9 seed they had last year during their Final Four run. … Northwestern has a profile that’s sneaky underwhelming — a terrible nonconference schedule, a Quad 4 loss to Chicago State and not a truly noteworthy win away from home. Still, the Wildcats beat five projected tournament teams (Purdue, Illinois, Dayton, Michigan State and Nebraska), and that counts for something.

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(1) Houston vs. (16) ATLANTIC SUN/Stetson

(8) Dayton vs. (9) Mississippi State

(5) WEST COAST/Saint Mary’s vs. (12) SOUTHLAND/McNeese State

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(4) Kentucky vs. (13) IVY/Yale

(3) Duke vs. (14) PATRIOT/Colgate

(6) South Carolina vs. (11) PAC-12/Oregon

(7) Boise State vs. (10) Michigan State/Texas A&M winner

(2) Marquette vs. (15) CONFERENCE USA/Western Kentucky

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Even with a clunker in the Big 12 title game, Houston is ranked No. 1 in three of the team sheet metrics and No. 2 in the other two. The Cougars should anchor the South. … Oregon has used surprising Pac-12 tournament title runs to land a double-digit seed twice before (2013 and 2019) under Dana Altman, and both times the Ducks made the Sweet 16. Something to monitor. …

Who you beat should probably matter a little more than who you lost to. Texas A&M has seven Quad 1 victories, including five over teams projected to land a No. 5 seed or better. That should offset the four Quad 3 losses. … Western Kentucky Coach Steve Lutz is now 7-0 in conference tournaments. He led Texas A&M Corpus Christi to Southland titles the past two years, and now has the Hilltoppers back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. That ends the program’s longest NCAA drought since 1940-60.



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Ron Washington Unhappy With Jo Adell for ‘Embarrassing’ Base Running Blunder That Cost Angels

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Ron Washington Unhappy With Jo Adell for ‘Embarrassing’ Base Running Blunder That Cost Angels


Jo Adell made a major blunder during the Los Angeles Angels’ 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday. With the Angels trailing by two during the eighth inning, Adell took off to steal a base. He easily reached second base, but ran past the bag, giving the Rays enough time to get him out before he could return. This was the final out of the inning, preventing the Angels from having a chance at coming back with a runner on and the tying run at the plate. They would be unable to score again during the ninth inning, sealing the loss.

Angels manager Ron Washington was highly critical of the move after the game, calling the gaffe ’embarrassing.’

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“I don’t care what kind of jump you got, you gotta get that bag. Simply because of the situation of the game,” Washington said, via Bally Sports West. “Hopefully, that will never happen again because when you actually look at it, it was embarrassing to all of us.”

This easily blown opportunity was one of the costly moments for the Angels on Wednesday as they lost their sixth game of the season and fell to 6-6 overall. They’ve now lost four of their last six games.

Along with Adell’s mistake, Washington was critical of several other aspects of the game. He slammed the umpire after the game, saying his calls toward the end of the game seemed to indicate the umpire had a flight to catch or somewhere to be.

It’s unlikely Washington will be pleased with his team’s performance until they get back in the win column. After finishing their home series against the Rays with those back-to-back losses, the Angels head back on the road where they will face the Boston Red Sox on Friday.





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Review | Pascual raises the bar for Mexican cooking in D.C.

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Review | Pascual raises the bar for Mexican cooking in D.C.


If you chase hot new restaurants in Washington, this much is certain: You’re eating a lot of dinners around 5 p.m.

Pascual, from chefs Matt Conroy and Isabel Coss, seems impossible to book. From the moment the Mexican eatery opened in February on Capitol Hill, no amount of trying led me to a reservation.

Blame it on the dining room, a mere 30 seats including a bar, or the reputations of the chefs, who met cute while they were working in New York at the admired Empellón and subsequently relocated to Washington to open Lutèce in Georgetown. Conroy’s credits include the breezy-but-serious Oxomoco in Brooklyn. Coss, a native of Mexico City who cooked at the world-class Pujol there when she was just 17, went on to be the pastry chef at Cosme in Manhattan.

You could say a lot of food fans were champing at the bit to get an early taste of their menu.

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My strategy for getting into impossible situations is to just show up — early, hopeful and with a smile on my face. Most restaurateurs don’t want to say “no” to would-be diners who have taken the initiative to wait outside their door until opening time. Or really, anyone able and present.

Needless to say, I am relieved to see just two people outside Pascual on my initial trip in mid-March — albeit 30 minutes before showtime. “One and two?” I ask them, and they nod. Like my partner and me, the couple doesn’t have a reservation. “We’re three and four,” I tell them, just as a third couple strolls up. “And we’re five and six!” one of the two strangers announces to the early birds, which grows to a flock within minutes.

I don’t know about the others, but my sense of accomplishment feels like finding Wonka’s golden ticket. At least until opening time, when the shades of the windows at Pascual go up and a hostess calls out to those with reservations. The lucky ones form a separate, exclusive line that looks like the boarding process at an airport: first-class travelers first. Meanwhile, the huddled masses yearning to drink mezcal margaritas (awesome) and eat lamb neck (just as marvelous) start making silent calculations about their prospects.

A long moment passes. Then in we go, to a spare, light-filled dining room. Omar Popal, whose family also owns Lapis in Adams Morgan and Lutèce, where Conroy and Coss continue to cook, created the minimalist look, which is punctuated by some botanicals. Otherwise, white brick walls and blond wood chairs and tables direct your attention to the food and drink.

If you’ve done any homework on the place, named for the patron saint of cooks and the kitchen, you know to order the guacamole, “the perfect beginning of a meal,” says Coss. The dip starts with the basics — avocados, lime, salt — but also pickled jalapeños followed by finishes of olive oil and crushed toasted avocado powder. Nice. But the chefs raise the bar for every guac around by serving it on a Lazy Susan with half a dozen salsas and other condiments, what Coss playfully calls banchan, a reference to the Korean side dishes that often launch a meal. They include pickled vegetables, spiced pineapple and papaya, and bright salsas with varying degrees of heat including the dark brown oil-based salsa macha, “the new chile crunch,” says the chef of the dip with the twin allures of sesame and smoke. There’s no rush to clear the condiments when a fresh course arrives; servers encourage you to enjoy them throughout the rest of dinner.

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Pascual employs a full-time “tortilla lady” to make the alluring rounds patted out from a variety of colors of heirloom corn. What’s seemingly simple is important to the chefs. When Coss lands somewhere new, she says, she looks for a good tortilla that “makes me miss Mexico less.”

With the first bite of anything here, you realize how special Pascual is. Yet this is a level of talent I’ve tasted before, in visits to Mexico and Los Angeles, as well as right here at home. If you haven’t noticed, distinctive Mexican cooking is easier than ever to find in and around Washington, and at all price points.

I have yet to greet shad or rhubarb anywhere. For me, spring was sprung at Pascual with a tlayuda — a giant soft tortilla turned crisp on the wood-fired grill — decorated with asparagus, mint salsa and streaks of smoked yogurt fueled with dried scallions and herbs. The green of the assembly pulls you into the season; the toppings keep you there.

A lot of people talk up the parsnip tamal, whose creamy mole — white with almonds, sesame seeds and golden raisins — and nonstaining slivered endive and finely grated cheese explain why brides want to serve it on their wedding day. I like, but do not love, the combination, which veers sweet for me. “Sent by an angel,” a server says as she placed the dish on the table and announced it as a staff favorite. For me, the more celestial vegetarian combination gathers garbanzo beans, potatoes and a custard spiced as if it were green chorizo. The suggestion of eucalyptus in the flan comes from hoja santa, the heart-shaped Mexican pepper leaf that lends its savor to many dishes in Oaxaca in particular. The crunch is dried garbanzos.

The chefs offer dishes from around Mexico. Seafood is a strong suit. Prawns are brushed with a spicy paste of pickled chipotle and grilled in their open shells so the seafood remains tender. Like the chefs, I eat the (thin) crisp shell along with the prawn. Any mess is erased by incoming hot cloths. Skate might look more at home at the French-themed Lutèce, but Conroy likes the fish for its bones, which keep skate moist during cooking and are easily separated from the flesh at the table for taco-making. Before the fish is swaddled in a banana leaf and placed over embers, it gets brushed with a sauce of tomatoes, fruity guajillo peppers, coriander and oregano that flatters the entree without masking it.

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The larger dishes include a lamb neck that demonstrates the time and attention lavished on the food at Pascual. The centerpiece is brined for a day; marinated in an adobo sauce built from chiles, avocado leaves, onions and garlic; seared over the fire; bundled in agave leaves; and braised, during which the juices of the meat are captured, strained and used to cook the sublime ayocote beans that ground the imposing lamb neck in its bowl. A brief time on the grill before serving crisps the meat, which goes into some of the most extraordinary tacos you’re likely to make with the accompanying salsa crudo and tortillas. (One complaint: Those margaritas are great, but Mexico also makes some fine wines. It would be nice to see some on Pascual’s itty-bitty list.)

Dessert is another excuse to take photos. Other Mexican restaurants offer churros. Pascual uses a big rosette iron to make plate-size buñuelos, fried confections dusted in sugar and Mexican cinnamon and served with two sauces: chocolate with cajeta, caramel sauce made with goat milk. The rice pudding with poached quince hidden at the bottom is very good, too, but it’s second to the lovely ornament, supported on what looks like a little air bag in its bowl.

Coss, whose parents were both woodworkers, says the setting in the onetime Kenny’s BBQ Smokehouse “feels like home. The smell of wood is familiar.” The blank canvas on the ground floor yields to a spa vibe in the basement, where the restrooms are soothing in pink and scented with palo santo.

Pascual opens its doors Thursday through Monday. The schedule lets the team explore other restaurants with more traditional hours and makes it easier for industry types to visit Pascual. Cooking for peers on Monday night is a “fun service” that ends on a high note for all involved, says Coss.

Getting in requires patience. But Pascual is worth the wait or line. The latest in a succession of Mexican models, foremost Amparo Fondita in Dupont Circle, this mom-and-pop proves the best yet.

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732 Maryland Ave. NE. 202-450-1954. pascualdc.com. Open for dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Prices: appetizers $8 to $24, main dishes $34 to $50. Sound check: 73 decibels/Must speak with raised voice. Accessibility: A small ramp can be used for the step at the door, but the dining room is compact and restrooms are all down a flight of narrow stairs.



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Top British Diplomat Cameron Gets ‘Snubbed’ in Washington

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Top British Diplomat Cameron Gets ‘Snubbed’ in Washington


British Foreign Affairs Secretary David Cameron during a two-day visit didn’t meet with a White House official and anybody in the lower legislature chamber of the House of Representatives where a bill for Ukraine funding has stalled for nearly two months.

The purpose of his visit was to offer a “plea” to continue US support for Ukraine as it withstands an all-out onslaught by invading Russian forces.

Britain’s former prime minister met with his counterpart Antony Blinken and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as is customary to speak with the political opposition by visiting British envoys.

However, President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy official, Jake Sullivan cancelled a meeting and instead held a phone call with the British diplomat.

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A meeting was held with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Cameron didn’t get to meet with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who has for 60 days sat idle on a Senate funding bill that includes more than $60 billion for Kyiv.

“We know what works, we know what they [Ukrainians] need, and we know what is right for us,” Cameron said at a joint press availability with Blinken on April 9. “We know that if we give the Ukrainians the support they deserve, they can win this war.”

The reception Cameron received in Washington was underwhelming, Peter Dickinson, the British publisher of Business Ukraine Magazine told the Kyiv Post.

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Zelensky in Lithuania Pleads For New Air Defence Aid

The visit, during which Ukraine signed a 10-year bilateral security deal with Latvia, comes after Moscow launched a barrage of aerial attacks, targeting energy facilities across Ukraine.

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Cameron’s visit “was a failure, it was an embarrassment, he was frankly snubbed essentially,” he said. “He didn’t get the key meetings with the key people…the message was quite clear that this is purely a domestic affair, it looked bad for Britain, it looked bad from an optic point of view.”

His visit came as Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is being surgically destroyed by Russian aerial attacks amid air-defense shortages. Kyiv’s forces have had to ration weaponry and is running short of manpower.

America’s top US general in Europe, Christopher Cavoli, told a House Armed Services Committee on April 11 that Russia currently enjoys a five-to-one- ratio in artillery against Ukraine. In the coming weeks Moscow could increase that ratio to ten-to-one.

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Since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Kyiv has been mostly reliant on US military support, which has mostly dried up.

“They’re [Ukrainians] are mostly dependent this year on us,” Gen. Cavoli told the House committee.

The last Congressional funding bill for Ukraine was passed in 2022 and included $113 billion in security and financial aid to Ukraine, of which, $67 billion was allocated toward defense needs.

Prior to Cameron’s truncated Capitol Hill swing, he met with former President Trump.

The latter’s campaign summary noted that both parties discussed “the upcoming US and UK elections, policy matters specific to Brexit, the need for NATO countries to meet their defense spending requirements, and ending the killing in Ukraine.”

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