Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Live updates: Oligarch's detention angers Moscow

APTOPIX Ukraine Tensions
Max Pshybyshevsky
Associated Press
Ukrainian servicemen attend a funeral ceremony for their comrades Yuri Filyuk, 49, and Oleksander Tkachenko, 33, in a village of Oleksandrivka, Odesa region, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. According to Ukrainian servicemen, these two were killed by a Russian missile hit their military base in Krasnoselka, Odesa region, on April 7.
Updated: April 14, 2022 at 12:34 PM PDT
KPBS is no longer updating this blog. For the latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis, please visit our National & World section.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

LVIV, Ukraine — The detention of fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party and a close associate of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has been met with enthusiasm in Kyiv and irritation in Moscow.

Analysts say Medvedchuk will become a valuable pawn in the Russia-Ukraine talks to end the devastating war that the Kremlin has unleashed on its ex-Soviet neighbor.


Medvedchuk was detained on Tuesday in a special operation carried out by Ukraine’s state security service, or the SBU. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has proposed that Russia could win Medvedchuk’s freedom by trading him for Ukrainians now held captive by the Russians.

The 67-year-old oligarch escaped from house arrest several days before the hostilities broke out Feb. 24 in Ukraine. He is facing between 15 years and a life in prison on charges of treason and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization for mediating coal purchases for the separatist, Russia-backed Donetsk republic in eastern Ukraine.

Medvedchuk has close ties with Putin, who is believed to be the godfather of his youngest daughter. His detention has sparked a heated exchange between officials in Moscow and Kyiv.




— Biden approves $800M in artillery, helicopters for Ukraine

— Ukraine’s detention of oligarch close to Putin angers Moscow

— France’s Le Pen warns against sending weapons to Ukraine

— Polish, Baltic presidents visit Ukraine in show of support

— Russia has yet to slow a Western arms express into Ukraine

— Forced into a basement in Ukraine, residents began to die

— Go to for more coverage



KYIV, Ukraine — The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia visited Ukraine on Wednesday and underscored their support for the embattled country.

The presidents of the four NATO countries on Russia’s doorstep saw heavily damaged buildings and demanded accountability for what they called war crimes carried out by Russian forces. The visit was a strong show of solidarity by the leaders of the countries on NATO’s eastern flank, three of them like Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union.

They traveled by train to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to meet Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy and visited Borodyanka, one of the towns near Kyiv where evidence of atrocities was found after Russian troops withdrew to focus on the country’s east.

“The fight for Europe’s future is happening here,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said, calling for tougher sanctions, including against Russia’s oil and gas shipments and all the country’s banks.

Appearing alongside Zelenskyy in an ornate room in Kyiv’s historical Mariinskyi Palace, the European leaders — Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Estonian President Alar Karis, Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Egils Levits of Latvia — reiterated their commitments to supporting Ukraine politically and with transfers of military aid.

Duda described what is happening not as war but as “terrorism,” saying accountability must extend not just to soldiers who committed atrocities but also those who gave the orders.

“We know this history,” Duda said. “We know what Russian occupation means. We know what Russian terrorism means.”


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has weighed in on growing calls to declare Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide, saying it is “absolutely right” that the term is being used given rampant allegations of war crimes and other human rights violations.

Trudeau made the comments during a news conference Wednesday, a day after U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters that Russia’s conduct in Ukraine appeared to his eyes to be a genocide.

While both North American leaders noted that it will be up to lawyers to determine whether Russia’s actions meet the international standard for genocide, they were nonetheless united in welcoming use of the term.

“It’s absolutely right that more and more people be talking and using the word ‘genocide’ in terms of what Russia is doing,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister went on to list a series of war crimes and human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by Russian forces under the direction of President Vladimir Putin, including deliberate attacks on civilians and the use of sexual violence. Trudeau said they’re attacking “Ukrainian identity and culture.”

Canada has dispatched police investigators to help the International Criminal Court collect evidence to ultimately hold Putin and other Russian leaders to account.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday approved $800 million in new military assistance to Ukraine, including artillery and helicopters, to bolster its defenses against an intensified Russian offensive in the country’s East.

Biden announced the aid after a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to coordinate the delivery of the assistance, which he said included artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored personnel carriers, as well as helicopters.

“This new package of assistance will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden said the U.S. will continue to work with allies to share additional weapons and resources as the conflict continues.

“The steady supply of weapons the United States and its Allies and partners have provided to Ukraine has been critical in sustaining its fight against the Russian invasion,” Biden said. “It has helped ensure that Putin failed in his initial war aims to conquer and control Ukraine. We cannot rest now.”


UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there is no chance at the moment for a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine, as the United Nations was seeking.

But he told reporters Wednesday that the U.N. has made a number of proposals to Russia on the possibility of local cease-fires, humanitarian corridors, and the evacuation of civilians, “and we are waiting for an answer.”

Guterres sent U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths to Moscow and Kyiv as his special envoy to seek a humanitarian cease-fire, but he said, “at the present moment, a global cease-fire in Ukraine doesn’t seem possible.”

He said the U.N. proposals to Russia are aimed at minimizing “the dramatic impact” of Russia’s war against Ukraine on civilians and include creating “a mechanism” involving Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and eventually other humanitarian bodies to permanently manage local cease-fires, humanitarian access and evacuations to avoid incidents and failures.

As for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reported comment Tuesday that negotiations with Ukraine are at a “dead end,” Guterres said, “I will remind you that we are in an Easter period and the Easter period is about resurrection.”


KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official has rejected Russia’s claims that more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered in the besieged southeastern port of Mariupol. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that 1,026 troops from the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade surrendered at a metals plant in the city.

But Vadym Denysenko, advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, denied the claim in comments to the Current Time TV channel, saying that they haven’t heard anything like that and the battle over the sea port is ongoing.

“According to official data of (Ukraine’s) Defense Ministry and the General Staff, we haven’t heard anything like that,” Denysenko said. “Moreover, I will say ... that the battle over the sea port is still ongoing today.”


PARIS — French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen warned Wednesday against sending any more weapons to Ukraine, and called for a rapprochement between NATO and Russia once Moscow’s war in Ukraine winds down.

Le Pen, an outspoken nationalist who has long ties to Russia and has supported Vladimir Putin in the past, also confirmed that if she unseats President Emmanuel Macron in France’s April 24 presidential runoff, she will pull France out of NATO’s military command and dial back French support for the whole European Union.

Macron, a pro-EU centrist, is facing a harder-than-expected fight to stay in power, in part because the economic impact of the war is hitting poor households the hardest. France’s European partners are worried that a possible Le Pen presidency could undermine Western unity as the U.S. and Europe seek to support Ukraine and end Russia’s ruinous war on its neighbor.

Asked about military aid to Ukraine, Le Pen said she would continue defense and intelligence support.

“(But) I’m more reserved about direct arms deliveries. Why? Because ... the line is thin between aid and becoming a co-belligerent,” the far-right leader said, citing concerns about an “escalation of this conflict that could bring a whole number of countries into a military commitment.”


WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has urged China to use its “special relationship with Russia” to persuade Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank, on Wednesday, Yellen said Beijing “cannot expect the global community to respect its appeals to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity in the future if it does not respect these principles now.”

Yellen’s speech comes a week before the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group Spring Meetings in Washington. Her direct appeal to China underscores an increasing frustration that the United States and its allies have with a country that has only deepened its ties with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.

“The world’s attitude towards China and its willingness to embrace further economic integration may well be affected by China’s reaction to our call for resolute action on Russia,” she said.

Yellen said that countries that undermine the sanctions the U.S. and its allies have imposed on Russia will face consequences for their actions. Leaving open the question of what the consequences for flouting the sanctions could be, Yellen said Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has “redrawn the contours” of the global economy, which includes “our conception of international cooperation going forward.”


HELSINKI — European Union nations Finland and Sweden reached important stages Wednesday on their way to possible NATO membership as the Finnish government issued a security report to lawmakers and Sweden’s ruling party initiated a review of security policy options.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 triggered a surge in support for joining NATO in the two traditionally militarily non-aligned Nordic countries, with polls showing a majority of respondents willing to join the alliance in Finland and supporters of NATO in Sweden clearly outnumbering those against the idea.

Finland, a country of 5.5 million, shares the EU’s longest border with Russia, a 1,340-kilometer (833-mile) frontier. Sweden has no border with Russia.

Russia, for its part, has warned Sweden and Finland against joining NATO, with officials saying it would not contribute to stability in Europe. Officials said Russia would respond to such a move with retaliatory measures that would cause “military and political consequences” for Helsinki and Stockholm. One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reasons for invading Ukraine was that the country refused to promise that it would not join NATO.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, speaking Wednesday in Stockholm in a joint news conference with her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson, said Finland is ready to make a decision on NATO “within weeks” rather than months following an extensive debate in the 200-seat Eduskunta legislature.


GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization slammed the global community Wednesday for its almost singular focus on the war in Ukraine, arguing that crises elsewhere, including his home country of Ethiopia, don’t receive equal consideration, possibly because those suffering aren’t white.

In a press briefing, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he didn’t know “if the world really gives equal attention to black and white lives,” given that the ongoing emergencies in Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria have garnered only a “fraction” of the global concern for Ukraine.

Tedros said the siege of the Tigray region of Ethiopia by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces was one of the longest in modern history and noted that a recent truce had still not allowed in significant amounts of humanitarian aid. Tedros acknowledged that the situation in Ukraine was globally significant, but questioned if other crises were being accorded enough attention.

“I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way,” he said. “Some are more equal than others.”

Tedros noted that there are about 6,000 people living in Tigray with HIV, but authorities have lost track of where they are and that “many of them, we assume they have already died.” Tedros described the situation in Tigray as “tragic” and said he “hopes the world comes back to its senses and treats all human life equally.” He also critiqued the press for its failure to document the ongoing atrocities in Ethiopia, noting that people had been burned alive in the region.

“I don’t even know if that was taken seriously by the media,” he said



— Polish, Baltic presidents visit Ukraine in show of support

— Biden: Russia war a ‘ genocide,’ trying to ‘wipe out’ Ukraine

— Russia has yet to slow a Western arms express into Ukraine

— Forced into a basement in Ukraine, residents began to die

— Finland, Sweden move ahead toward possible NATO membership

— Russian war worsens fertilizer crunch, risking food supplies

— Go to for more coverage



GENEVA — Switzerland is joining a raft of new sanctions targeting people and companies in Russia over President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in Ukraine, including his two adult daughters.

The Federal Council on Wednesday adopted new measures against Russia and Belarus, a key ally of Moscow, that mirror similar measures adopted last week by the European Union. Switzerland, which has long prided itself on its neutrality, is not among the EU’s 27 member states.

Switzerland had already lined up with previous EU sanctions. The fifth and latest package of measures focuses on finance, transport, and trade — notably bans on imports of coal, wood, cement, seafood, and vodka that “serve as important sources of revenue for Russia,” the government said.

An extra 200 people or entities were also sanctioned including Russian oligarchs and their families, as well as Putin’s adult daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova.


MILAN — Italian energy company ENI said it has a deal to import up to 3 billion cubic meters of liquid natural gas from Egypt this year as Europe seeks to wean itself from Russian natural gas over its invasion of Ukraine.

ENI signed the deal Wednesday with EGAS (Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company), just days after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi secured a deal to increase gas imports from Algeria to help replace the 29 billion cubic meters Italy imports annually from Russia.

The Algeria deal will add up to 9 billion cubic meters of gas by 2023-24 to the 21 billion cubic meters it already receives, with the increased flows starting in the fall. Russia is Italy’s top supplier of natural gas, which is used to generate electricity, heat and cool homes and power industry.


LONDON — The Channel Island of Jersey says it is freezing assets connected to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich estimated to be worth over $7 billion.

The Law Offices Department of Jersey, a tax haven long known for drawing large amounts of foreign direct investment, said Wednesday that the assets being targeted were either located in Jersey, or owned by Jersey-incorporated entities.

It said that police also executed a search warrant Tuesday at addresses suspected to be connected to Abramovich’s business activities. It didn’t provide details.

Abramovich, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been sanctioned by the U.K. government and the European Union. The 55-year-old tycoon has assumed an unofficial role in the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia aimed at ending the war.


KYIV, Ukraine — The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia traveled by train to Kyiv on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The presidents of the four NATO countries on Russia’s doorstep planned to deliver “a strong message of political support and military assistance,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.

Nauseda, Estonian President Alar Karis, Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Egils Levits of Latvia also planned to discuss investigations into alleged Russian war crimes, including the massacre of civilians. Nauseda said the leaders had visited Borodyanka, one of the towns near Kyiv where evidence of atrocities has been found.

“This is where the dark side of humankind has shown its face,” he wrote on Twitter. “Brutal war crimes committed by the Russian army will not stay unpunished.”


PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has reopened its embassy in the Ukrainian capital that was closed after Russian troops invaded the country.

The Foreign Ministry said the diplomats have returned to Kyiv and the Czech flag is flying again at the embassy.

It said Wednesday’s move is “one of the steps to show our support for Ukraine.”


BERLIN -- Experts commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say they found “clear patterns” of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in Ukraine.

OSCE member countries authorized a study in early March, and the three professors chosen to conduct it -- Wolfgang Benedek, Veronika Bílková and Marco Sassòli -- were selected by Ukraine.

Their report, issued Wednesday, said that if the Russian forces had respected their obligations “in terms of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack and concerning specially protected objects such as hospitals, the number of civilians killed or injured would have remained much lower.”

The experts found “some violations and problems” in Ukrainian practices, voicing concern about the treatment of prisoners of war.

The report said Russia responded by saying it considered the mechanism under which the experts were appointed “largely outdated and redundant” and declined to appoint a liaison person, referring them to official government statements and briefings.


LONDON — Britain has announced a new round of sanctions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, targeting 178 individuals who have helped prop up Kremlin-backed breakaway regions in the eastern part of the country.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Wednesday that the sanctions were coordinated with the European Union. The move comes after rocket attacks that targeted civilians in eastern Ukraine.

Those sanctioned include Alexander Ananchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and Sergey Kozlov, the chair of government in the Luhansk People’s Republic. Also targeted are Pavel Ezubov, cousin of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, and Nigina Zairova, executive assistant to Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman.

Truss says Britain is sanctioning “those who prop up the illegal breakaway regions and are complicit in atrocities against the Ukrainian people. We will continue to target all those who aid and abet Putin’s war.’’


BERLIN -- The German government is defending the country’s president after a diplomatic snub by Ukraine.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the largely ceremonial head of state, said Tuesday that his presence apparently “wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.” He said his Polish counterpart had suggested that they both travel to Ukraine along with the presidents of the three Baltic countries.

German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat as saying that Steinmeier is not welcome in Kyiv at the moment because he had close relations with Russia in the past. Steinmeier was previously Germany’s foreign minister and recently admitted mistakes in policy toward Russia.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Wednesday she regrets that Steinmeier was unable to visit.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany said Chancellor Olaf Scholz would be welcome, but some German lawmakers said the snub to Steinmeier would complicate that.

Government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner defended Steinmeier, saying that he “has clearly taken a stand on Ukraine’s side.”


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Sweden said Wednesday that the Scandinavian country’s customs will donate 8,000 respiratory protection, 263 chemical and gas protection suits and 88 protective suits to Ukrainian colleagues as well as vests and helmets.

The Swedish government said that Swedish Customs has asked for consent to send the equipment to Ukraine.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Latvia says it will train Ukrainian troops to handle drones.

“At the moment, we must do everything we can to promote Ukraine’s victory and to defend its principles of self-determination and sovereignty,” Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said.

He added that two Latvian companies had delivered unmanned aerial vehicles.

Latvia already has provided, among other supplies, Stinger anti-air systems to Ukraine but also weapons, personal equipment, dry food supplies, ammunition, anti-tank weapons, worth more than 200 million euros ($222 million), the defense minister said.


NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ government spokesman says the country is moving to revoke citizenship for four Russians and 17 of their family members, who are included among those sanctioned by the European Union after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Marios Pelekanos confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that procedures are underway to strip citizenship from 21 persons. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had said earlier that the government had authorized the Interior Ministry to begin revocation procedures for the four Russians, who have not been named.

The four received Cypriot passports under the country’s once lucrative citizenship-by-investment program that was scrapped in 2020.

The program’s end came in the wake of an undercover TV report that allegedly showed the parliamentary speaker and a powerful lawmaker claiming that they could skirt rules to issue a passport to a fictitious Chinese investor who had supposedly been convicted of fraud at home.

A 2021 report found that more than half of a total 6,779 passports were issued unlawfully to relatives of wealthy investors over the program’s 13-year run that generated over 8 billion euros.


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has steered clear of calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine genocide.

Asked on France-2 television Wednesday about U.S. President Joe Biden’s use of the term, Macron said:

“I would say that Russia has unleashed an excessively brutal war in a unilateral way. It has been established that war crimes have been committed by the Russian army," Macron said. "We must find those responsible and bring them to justice.”

“I am prudent with terms today....Genocide has a meaning. The Ukrainian people and Russian people are brotherly people. It’s madness what’s happening today. It’s unbelievable brutality and a return to war in Europe," the French president said.

"But at the same time I look at the facts, and I want to continue to try the utmost to be able to stop the war and restore peace. I’m not sure if the escalation of words serves our cause.”


BUCHAREST, Romania __ Visiting a Black Sea air base in Romania, Belgian’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine and said that “Europe has changed forever.”

De Croo was joined by Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca on Wednesday at the southeast Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, where NATO troops are positioned.

The Belgian leader said that “armed aggression and war crimes were unleashed upon innocent people, innocent people of Ukraine.” The aggression, he said, was ”aimed at denying the fact the the population has a right to choose freedom.”

He called Russia's actions "a turning point for Europe — for it is a brutal attack on the core values of Europe,” he said.

President Iohannis said that NATO will continue its “robust response.”

“The fact that we are together in this military base is further proof of the unity, cohesion and solidarity that exists at NATO level,” Iohannis said. He told the troops they are the "concrete expression of our determination to further strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense posture in the Black Sea region.”


NEW YORK — JPMorgan Chase has written down $1.5 billion of assets when the bank reported its quarterly results, most of it tied to the bank’s exposure to Russian and Ukrainian assets.

The write offs on Wednesday partially drove JPMorgan to report a noticeable decline in profits in the first quarter, and to miss Wall Street estimates.

JPMorgan is the first of Wall Street’s big giant banks to report its results. Analysts expect the big banks to have to write off billions of assets that are tied to Russia .


Russia says more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered in the besieged southeastern port of Mariupol.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said 1,026 troops from the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade surrendered at a metals plant in the city.

Russian forces moved on Mariupol in late February and units in the city have been running low on supplies.

Konashenkov said that the 1,026 Ukrainian marines included 162 officers and 47 female personnel, and that 151 wounded received medical treatment.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych did not comment on the alleged mass surrender, but said in a post on Twitter that elements of the 36th Marine Brigade had managed to link up with other Ukrainian forces in the city as a result of a “risky maneuver.”


ROME — Pope Francis says his contention shortly after he became pontiff in 2013 that a third world war “in pieces” was afflicting the globe is ever more actual. Francis writes in an essay published on Wednesday in Italian daily Corriere della Sera that he would never a thought a year ago, while on a pilgrimage in Iraq, that war would be raging in Europe.

After decrying the aggression against Ukraine, Francis called war "a cancer that feeds itself by engulfing everything.” He lamented that women, children and older adults are “forced to live in the belly of the earth to escape bombs.”

The way to rip out “hate from the heart,” the pope said, is through "dialogue, negotiations, listening, diplomatic ability and creativity, long-ranged policies capable of constructing a new system of co-existence that isn’t any longer based on weapons, on deterrence.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

MENLO, Iowa — President Joe Biden for the first time referred to Russia’s invasion in Ukraine as a “genocide” Tuesday.

Speaking in Iowa at an event about steps his administration is taking to staunch rising fuel costs because of the war, Biden termed the conflict, which has seen Russia carry out atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, as a “genocide.”

Said Biden: “Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away.”

Biden has previously stated that he did not believe Russia’s actions amounted to genocide, as Ukrainian government officials have argued, but rather were “war crimes.”



— Ukraine probes claim poisonous substance dropped in Mariupol

— A look at Russia’s military objectives and challenges it faces

— ‘It’s not the end’: The children who survived Bucha’s horror

— Russian war worsens fertilizer crunch, risking food supplies

— Czechs provide free shooting training for local Ukrainians

— Go to for more coverage



KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, who is both the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party and a close associate of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has been detained in a special operation carried out by the country’s SBU secret service.

Ivan Bakanov, the head of Ukraine’s national security agency, said on the agency’s Telegram channel that Medvedchuk had been detained. The statement came shortly after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted on social media a photo of Medvedchuk sitting in handcuffs and wearing a camouflage uniform with a Ukrainian flag patch.

Medvedchuk was the former leader of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform - For Life. He was being held under house arrest before the war began and disappeared shortly after hostilities broke out.

Putin is the godfather to Medvedchuk’s youngest daughter.


WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. Congress said the Biden administration and its allies will not stand by if chemical weapons were used in the Russian war with Ukraine.

Lawmakers monitoring developments during a trip to Poland said Tuesday that the U.S. is investigating reports that a poisonous substance had been dropped in Mariupol. But they cautioned that determining the nature of the attack in the beleaguered port city could take time.

“We’re taking those reports seriously and I know the United States government and others are trying to determine if that did indeed occur,” said Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.

Crow said the administration “has been very clear that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.”

The Democratic lawmakers, all members of the House Intelligence Committee, are bracing for a potential long war in Ukraine. They said at a press briefing that Congress is looking at next steps in sending additional military and other aid to Ukraine.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also addressed the reports coming from Mariupol.

“We’re not in a position to confirm anything, I don’t think Ukrainians are either," Blinken told reporters. “But let me say that we had credible information that Russian forces may use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, that would cause stronger symptoms to weaken, incapacitate ... Ukrainian fighters and civilians, as part of the aggressive campaign” in Mariupol.

“We share that information with ... Ukraine and other partners," Blinken said. “And we’re in direct conversation with partners to try to determine what what actually is happening.”



— Ukraine probes claim poisonous substance dropped in Mariupol

— A look at Russia’s military objectives and challenges it faces

— ‘It’s not the end’: The children who survived Bucha’s horror

— Russian war worsens fertilizer crunch, risking food supplies

— Czechs provide free shooting training for local Ukrainians

— Go to for more coverage



THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The global chemical weapons watchdog says it is “concerned by the recent unconfirmed report of chemical weapons use in Mariupol” and is closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine.

The spokesperson for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says in a statement that the allegations follow “reports in the media over the past few weeks of shelling targeted at chemical plants located in Ukraine, together with accusations levelled by both sides around possible misuse of toxic chemicals.”

The spokesperson said in Tuesday’s statement that the “use of chemical weapons anywhere by anyone under any circumstances is reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community against such use.”

Both Russia and Ukraine are among the organization’s 193 member states.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization says that it “remains ready to assist any State Party upon its request, in case of use or threat of use of chemical weapons.”


WARSAW, Poland – Germany’s president has called on Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin to pull out his troops from Ukraine and stop the “barbarity” there as he stressed that Germany will not restore its previous ties with Russia as long as Putin is in power.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Warsaw on Tuesday to talk with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda about supporting Ukraine’s fight and aiding millions of refugees fleeing the war.

“This barbarity which we see every day must stop,” Steinmeier said at joint news conference.

“This can only happen by President Putin ordering his army to stop and I believe that only then (armistice) talks can be successful,” Steinmeier said.

“One thing is clear: a return to normal is not possible with Russia under Putin,” Steinmeier said, adding that war crimes in Ukraine must be investigated and “those who committed them and those who are politically responsible must be held accountable.”

Steinmeier last week admitted mistakes in policy toward Russia in his previous high-ranking jobs, when Germany pursued dialogue with Putin and cultivated close energy ties.

Steinmeier served as ex-Chancellors’ Gerhard Schroeder’s chief of staff and Angela Merkel’s foreign minister. Schroeder is now head of the board of directors of Russia’s state oil giant Rosneft.


VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer pledged continued “political and humanitarian support” for Ukraine in a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday, Nehammer said in a statement.

The call came a day after Nehammer became the first European leader to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

“It’s important to me to immediately inform all key proponents in this conflict about my talks,” Nehammer said, according to the statement released Tuesday evening by the Austrian chancellery.

Nehammer said he recounted his meeting in Moscow to Zelenskyy, telling the Ukrainian leader about the most important messages he relayed to Putin.

Among those messages are that the war needs to stop, that those responsible for “serious war crimes” like those committed in the Ukrainian city of Bucha will be held to account, and that the European Union is “as united as it’s ever been” on maintaining its sanctions against Russia.

He also told Zelenskyy he believes the continuation of talks in Istanbul are an important step toward bringing an end to the violence, and that Austria will “continue to support all ongoing efforts for peace.”


KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has paid tribute to Ukrainian troops defending the besieged south-eastern port of Mariupol but acknowledged they are running low on supplies.

Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter that “for more than 1.5 months our defenders protect the city from (Russian) troops, which are 10+ times larger. They’re fighting under the bombs for each meter of the city. They make (Russia) pay an exorbitant price.”

Mariupol was a key target for Russian forces soon after the invasion began in late February. It has symbolic significance as one of the largest cities in eastern Ukraine. It is also strategically valuable as a major harbor and as part of a land corridor between territory held by Russia-backed separatists to the east and the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“Our soldiers remain blocked and have issues with supplies,” Podolyak wrote, adding that Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian general staff are working “to find a solution and help our guys.” He did not give details, citing operational reasons.


KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where corpses of civilians with bound hands and gunshot wounds to the head were found after Russian forces pulled out, says 403 bodies have been found so far and that he fears the toll will rise.

“Today, at 10 a.m. we started unearthing the second mass grave, there are 56 bodies there. Plus, there are four private graves. But I’d like to repeat that as of today, we have 403 bodies,” Anatoliy Fedoruk told reporters in Kyiv. “Taking into account that our armed forces, our minesweepers are working in the forests between villages and settlements in our territorial community, we hope that those who are missing are still alive but most probably we will find their bodies somewhere between the villages, in those forests.”

Fedoruk also said 31 multi-story residential buildings had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair during the war, along with 243 private houses.


BERLIN — Germany’s president says his Polish counterpart suggested that they travel to Ukraine together with other leaders to show solidarity, but that proposed visit “apparently wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.”

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s comments Tuesday, during a visit to Poland, came after German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat as saying that he’s not welcome in Kyiv at the moment because he had close relations with Russia in the past.

Steinmeier said Polish President Andrzej Duda had suggested that they travel to the Ukrainian capital with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to send “a strong signal of joint European solidarity with Ukraine.” He said he had been prepared to do so.

Steinmeier last week admitted mistakes in policy toward Russia in his previous job as foreign minister.

Steinmeier served twice as ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign minister, most recently from 2013 to 2017, and before that as ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s chief of staff. In that time, Germany pursued dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and cultivated close energy ties.


KHARKIV, Ukraine — A strike hit a what is believed to be a culinary school near the airport in Ukraine’s second-largest city on Tuesday, destroying the building and damaging others nearby, according to Associated Press journalists at the scene.

It wasn’t clear what hit the building in Kharkiv, with witnesses describing a loud whoosh followed by an explosion. There were no immediate reports of fatalities.


BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis used a speech to his country’s delegation of Invictus Games participants on Tuesday to admonish Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“The Russian Federation has been waging war against Ukraine for almost 50 days, and shocking evidence of atrocities and horrors is unimaginable day by day,” Iohannis told the wounded and injured military personnel, who will compete in the 2022 Invictus Games set to begin in the Netherlands on Saturday.

“You know best what destruction and loss of life and the dramas of war mean, how much families and communities are affected forever,” he said.

Iohannis said that Russia’s acts of “horrific, unjustified cruelty” must be punished by the international justice system.

The Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded servicemen and women, was launched in London in 2014.


KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian prosecutors are expanding their war crimes investigations in northeastern suburbs of Kyiv after Russian forces withdrew.

Reports of killings of civilians have primarily focused so far on the northwestern suburbs such as Bucha, but the Prosecutor-General’s Office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast.

Russian troops advanced into that area last month before retreating to focus on fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office said the bodies of six civilians had been found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and that Russian forces were believed to be responsible.

Prosecutors are also investigating an incident in which they allege Russian forces fired on a convoy of civilians trying to leave by car from the village of Peremoha in the Brovary district, killing four people including a 13-year-old boy. In another incident near Bucha, five people were killed, including two children, when a car was fired upon, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors did not say when they believed the incidents occurred.


MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin says that Russians’ unity will only grow stronger in the face of Western sanctions and it will be the West that will face instability.

Putin said during a visit to the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s Far East on Tuesday that the West mistakenly expected its sanctions to undermine Russia’s stability. He said that “the Russian people always strengthen their unity in a difficult situation.”

He insisted that it will be the West that will be shaken by growing instability, fueled by public dismay over galloping inflation. The Russian leader also lashed out at European leaders, describing them as Washington’s stooges and saying that they are conducting policies harmful to their nations.


MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin says that Russia will press on with its military action in Ukraine until its goals are fulfilled.

Putin said Tuesday that the campaign is going according to plan. He said it is not moving faster because Russia wants to minimize losses.

He said during a visit to the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s Far East that the “military operation will continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks that have been set.”

Putin claimed that Ukraine backtracked on proposals it made during talks with Russian negotiators in Istanbul, resulting in a deadlock in talks and leaving Moscow no other choice but to press on with its offensive.


MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Russian economy has successfully resisted new Western sanctions over Ukraine.

Speaking Tuesday on a visit to the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s Far East, Putin said that Russia’s economy and financial system withstood the impact of what he called the Western sanctions “blitz” and the ruble has recovered its losses.

Putin argued that the sanctions will backfire against the West. For example, he said that Western restrictions on fertilizer exports from Russia and ally Belarus will drive up global fertilizer prices, eventually leading to food shortages and increased migration flows.

Putin said that “common sense should prevail” and added that the West should “come back to reason and make well-balanced decisions without losing its face.” He contended that “they won’t be able to shut all the doors and windows.”

He argued that new Western restrictions on high-tech exports will encourage Russia to move faster to develop new technologies, opening a “new window of opportunities.”


BOSTON — Ukrainian officials say a planned cyberattack by Russian military hackers on the country’s power grid has been foiled.

They say the country’s computer emergency response thwarted an attack planned by hackers from Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency that intended to knock electrical substations offline last Friday.

The State Service of Special Communications said on its website that malware was discovered designed to destroy data on computers.

There was no immediate explanation of how the attack was defeated, though the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine thanked Microsoft and the cybersecurity firm ESET in a separate bulletin. Nor was the scope immediately explained.

GRU hackers twice successfully attacked Ukraine’s power grid, in the winters of 2015 and 2016.

Russia’s use of cyberattacks against Ukrainian infrastructure has been limited compared to experts’ pre-war expectations. In the early hours of the war, however, an attack Ukraine blames on Russia knocked offline an important satellite communications link that also impacted tens of thousands of Europeans from France to Poland.


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government has approved increasing the number of troops in a multinational NATO battlegroup in the country from 2,100 to 3,000.

The first 800 service members have already arrived in Slovakia. The Czech Republic took charge of the battlegroup, with the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia also contributing.

Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad says the increase in the planned troop numbers is related to Patriot air defense systems that the United States, Germany and the Netherlands are deploying in Slovakia.

The move should boost Slovakia’s defense capabilities after the country donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine last week.

The alliance stationed troops in the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by Russia. After Russia attacked Ukraine, NATO decided to boost its presence along the entire eastern flank by deploying forces in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.


GENEVA — The World Trade Organization is predicting that trade in goods will grow much less than previously expected this year, saying prospects for the global economy have darkened since the onset of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Geneva-based WTO on Tuesday pointed to multiple uncertainties in its forecast over the next two years because Russian and Ukrainian exports of items like food, oil and fertilizers are under threat from the war. It also cited the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic –- notably from lockdowns in China.

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala described a “double whammy” from the conflict and the coronavirus. She said the war has caused “immense human suffering” in the region and its effect has rippled around the world, notably in poorer countries.

The WTO said its projections for world trade take into account factors like the impact of the war, sanctions on Russia, and lower demand around the world from lower business and consumer confidence. It said world merchandise trade volume is expected to grow 3% this year, down from a forecast of 4.7% before the war began.


MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has hit Ukrainian arsenals with long-range cruise missiles.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the military used air- and sea-launched missiles to destroy an ammunition depot and a reinforced hangar for warplanes at Starokostiantyniv in the Khmelnytskyi region.

Konashenkov said that another strike destroyed a Ukrainian ammunition depot in Havrylivka, near Kyiv.


NICOSIA, Cyprus -- The head of Cyprus’ Orthodox Christian Church is “unreservedly" condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying there’s “no justification” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “destroy a country, to raze it to kill.”

Archbishop Chrysostomos II told state broadcaster CyBC Tuesday that the invasion is “an unacceptable situation” and that Putin’s actions have “no logic.” The archbishop said he’s distraught that people are being killed and questioned whether the Russian leader is “in his right mind.”

The archbishop added that he’d be the “first to go and bless a defensive war,” but the “egotism, if not the stupidity” of the Russian leadership “knows no bounds.”

Chrysostomos also questioned Putin’s embrace of Orthodox Christianity, including the sincerity of his travels to the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was baptized.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian police say they have launched a war crimes investigation after a 64-year-old man was killed by a mine left behind in an area from which Russian forces recently retreated.

Police said the unidentified local man was driving Monday near the village of Krasne in northern Ukraine and had pulled over his car to greet acquaintances when he struck an anti-tank mine left at the side of the road.

Ukrainian authorities have issued repeated warnings of mines and explosive traps left in areas where Russian troops have been operating.


BERLIN -- German authorities say that over 330,000 refugees from Ukraine are known to have entered Germany so far.

The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that German federal police have recorded 335,578 people entering since Russia’s invasion started on Feb. 24. Those who have arrived are overwhelmingly women and children.

The true number of refugees in Germany could be higher, however, since there are no strict controls on the country’s eastern border and Ukrainian citizens can stay up to 90 days in the European Union without a visa. Officials say an unknown number also have moved on to other European countries.

The U.N. refugee agency on Tuesday put the total number of people who have fled Ukraine at more than 4.6 million, over 2.6 million of whom fled at least initially to Poland.

Monday, April 11, 2022

UNITED NATIONS — Nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since Russia’s invasion and the United Nations has verified the deaths of 142 youngsters although the number is almost certainly much higher, the U.N. children’s agency said Monday.

Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s emergency programs director who just returned from Ukraine, said having 4.8 million of Ukraine’s 7.5 million children displaced in such a short time is something he hadn’t seen happen so quickly in 31 years of humanitarian work.

Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, claimed Russia has taken more than 121,000 children out of Ukraine and reportedly drafted a bill to simplify and accelerate adoption procedures for orphans and even those who have parents and other relatives.

Most of the children were removed from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol and taken to eastern Donetsk and then to the Russian city of Taganrog, according to Kyslytsya.

Fontaine said that of Ukraine’s refugee children, 2.8 million are displaced within Ukraine and 2 million more are in other countries.



— Mariupol mayor says siege has k illed more than 10K civilians

Biden, Modi to speak as US presses for hard line on Russia

Ukrainian nuns open their monastery doors to the displaced

— US doubts new Russian war chief can end Moscow’s floundering

Analysis: War, economy could weaken Putin’s place as leader

— Go to for more coverage



Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr., who was twice sickened in incidents he suspected were poisonings, has been detained in Moscow by police, another prominent opposition figure said Monday.

Ilya Yashin said on Twitter that Kara-Murza was detained Monday near his Moscow residence. It was unclear whether he had been charged.

Kara-Murza was hospitalized with poisoning symptoms twice, in 2015 and 2017. A journalist and associate of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed in 2015, and oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Kara-Murza nearly died from kidney failure in the first incident. He suspects he was poisoned but no cause has been determined.

Kara-Murza was taken to a hospital with a sudden, similar illness in 2017 and put into a medically induced coma. His wife said doctors confirmed that he was poisoned.


PARIS __ Societe Generale has announced it is ending its Russian activities -- making it the first big Western bank to announce it’s quitting Russia.

SocGen is also selling its entire stake in Rosbank to a company linked to a Russian oligarch, costing the French bank some 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion).

Rosbank is a heavyweight in the Russian banking sector, and Societe Generale was the majority shareholder.

“After several weeks of intensive work,” the bank said in a statement, it had signed an agreement with Russian investment fund Interros Capital to sell all of its stake in Rosbank as well as its insurance subsidiaries in Russia.

Interros is one of the largest funds in the country, which holds assets in heavy industry and metallurgy.'


MILAN — Italian Premier Mario Draghi secured a deal Monday for more natural gas imports across a Mediterranean pipeline from Algeria, in the latest push by a European Union nation to reduce dependence on Russian energy following its invasion of Ukraine.

Draghi told reporters in the Algerian capital after meeting with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune that an agreement to intensify bilateral cooperation in the energy sector along with the deal to export more gas to Italy “are a significant response to the strategic goal” of quickly replacing Russian energy.

Russia is Italy’s biggest supplier of natural gas, representing 40% of total imports, followed by Algeria, which provides some 21 billion cubic meters of gas via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline.

The new deal between Italian energy company ENI and Algeria’s Sonatrach would add up to 9 billion cubic meters of gas from Algeria, just eclipsing Russia’s current 29 billion cubic meters a year. The increased flows will start in the fall, ENI said in a statement.


LVIV, Ukraine — The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol tells The Associated Press that more than 10,000 civilians have died in the southeastern city since the Russian invasion in February.

Mayor Vadym Boychenko told The Associated Press by telephone Monday that corpses were “carpeted through the streets of our city” and that the death toll could be more than 20,000.

Boychenko also said Russian forces have brought mobile crematoria to the city to dispose of the bodies and accused Russian forces of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city in an attempt to disguise the carnage.

The mayor had previously claimed 5,000 dead. He explained that these data were on March 21, but “thousands more people were lying on the streets, it was just impossible for us to collect them.”


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s latest assessment is that Russia is gearing up for, but has not yet begun, an intensified offensive in the Donbas.

A senior U.S. defense official said the Russians are moving more troops and materiel toward that area and are focusing many of their missile strikes there. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. military assessments.

The official said a lengthy convoy of vehicles that is headed south toward the eastern city of Izyum contains artillery as well as aviation and infantry support, plus battlefield command-and-control elements and other materials.

The official said the convoy appeared to originate from the Belgorod and Valuyki areas in Russia, which are shaping up as key staging and marshalling grounds for the Russian buildup in the Donbas.

The official said the Russians also are bolstering their presence in the Donbas by deploying in recent days more artillery southwest of the city of Donetsk.

— By Robert Burns


VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer says his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow was “very direct, open and tough.”

In a statement released by his office after the meeting, Nehammer said Monday his primary message to Putin was “that this war needs to end, because in war both sides can only lose.”

Nehammer was the first European leader to meet Putin in Moscow since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.

The Austrian leader stressed that the Monday trip was “not a friendly visit,” but rather his “duty” to exhaust every possibility for ending the violence in Ukraine.

Nehammer’s Moscow visit comes after a trip on Saturday to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In his conversation with Putin, Nehammer said he raised the issue of “serious war crimes” committed by the Russian military in the Ukrainian city of Bucha and others. “All those who are responsible will be held to account,” he added.

Austria is a member of the European Union and has backed the 27-nation bloc’s sanctions against Russia, though it so far has opposed cutting off deliveries of Russian gas. The country is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.


UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. children’s agency says nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since Russia’s invasion, and the United Nations has verified that 142 children have been killed and 229 injured though these numbers are likely much higher.

Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s emergency programs director who returned from Ukraine last week, told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that of the 3.2 million children estimated to have remained in their homes “nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food,” and attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages have left an estimated 1.4 million people in the country without access to water.

He said the situation is worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson in the south, which have been besieged by Russian forces where children and their families have spent weeks without running water, sanitation or a regular supply of food.

“Hundreds of schools and educational facilities have been attacked or used for military purposes,” Fontaine said. “Others are serving as shelters for civilians.”

He said school closings are affecting the education of 5.7 million school-age children and 1.5 million students in higher education.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Relatives of the victims of the genocide in Srebrenica are worried that the history is repeating itself in the war in Ukraine.

Hundreds of women who lost their sons, husbands and other relatives in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 people in the eastern Bosnian town, on Monday demanded that all those who committed war crimes be brought to justice.

An association of the relatives of the Srebrenica victims, the Mothers of Srebrenica, has been active in keeping the memory alive of the Bosnian Serb execution of the Bosniak men and boys — who are mostly Muslim — in the late months of the 1992-95 War in Bosnia.

Sehida Abdurahmanovic says “we spent all these years working to prevent this Srebrenica (killings) from happening to anyone else.” But, she adds, “we are really sad to say, but in today’s Europe its happening again - Srebrenica is happening again.”


LONDON — The World Bank says Ukraine’s economy will shrink by 45% this year because of Russia’s invasion, which has shut down half of the country’s businesses, choked off imports and exports, and damaged a vast amount of critical infrastructure.

Unprecedented sanctions imposed by Western allies in response to the war, meanwhile, are plunging Russia into a deep recession, lopping off more than a tenth of its economic growth, the Washington-based lender said in a report Sunday.

The report said economic activity is impossible in “large swathes of areas” in Ukraine because productive infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports and train tracks have been destroyed.

Ukraine plays a major role as a global supplier of agricultural exports like wheat but that’s in question now because planting and harvesting have been disrupted by the war, the report said. The war has cut off access to the Black Sea, a key route for exports, including 90% of Ukraine’s grain shipments.


WARSAW, Poland – The mayor of Warsaw says a disputed compound administered by Russia’s diplomatic mission is being taken over by the city and will be made available to the Ukrainian community.

Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski was at the site Monday and said that a bailiff had entered the two apparently empty buildings, dubbed “spyville” by Warsaw residents, to check their condition and to mark them as seized by the Town Hall.

“It is very symbolic that we are closing this procedure of many years now, at the time of Russia’s aggression” on Ukraine, Trzaskowski said on Twitter.

Russia’s Embassy, which had the tall apartment blocks built in the 1970s, has been refusing court orders to pay lease or to hand it over. Once busy, the buildings became empty in the 1990s, after Poland shed its communist rule and dependence from Moscow and after the Soviet Union dissolved.

Ever since, Poland has been saying that lease on the plot of land had expired and demanded it be returned.


BUDAPEST, Hungary - Hungary plans to modify its natural gas contract with Russian energy company Gazprom in order to satisfy a demand by President Vladimir Putin that Russian gas be paid for in rubles.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference on Monday that the subsidiary of Hungary’s energy group MVM, CEE Energy, would pay its gas bills in euros to Russia’s Gazprombank, which would convert the payments into rubles and transfer them to the gas provider Gazprom Export.

Putin, in retaliation over sanctions against Russia by the European Union, has demanded that countries pay for Russian gas in rubles or risk having their supply shut off.

While Hungary has voted with the European Union on most sanctions against Russia, it has lobbied heavily against blocking Russian energy imports, arguing that would cripple its economy.

Szijjarto said that modifying Hungary’s contract with Gazprom ensured the country’s energy supply while staying in line with the EU’s sanctioning policy.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish Health Authority said Monday it will buy 2 million iodine tablets in case of “a nuclear accident in our immediate area.”

The COVID-19 pandemic “has shown us that it is important to be prepared,” while the war in Ukraine shows that “the world is unpredictable,” the health authority said, adding it had based its recommendation on advice by the Danish Emergency Management Agency as well as impact calculations for the risk of a nuclear incident in Denmark’s immediate area.

The tablets would cover the risk group which includes those up to age 18, health and emergency personnel under the age of 40, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.


BUCHAREST, Romania — The Republic of Moldova received on Monday in Luxembourg a questionnaire from the European Commission to assess the small country’s readiness to become a European Union member, authorities said.

“A period of hard work is ahead starting today,” Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu wrote online.

The former Soviet republic of around 2.6 million people is one of Europe’s poorest nations. Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova has pushed to accelerate joining the EU since Russia launched its attacks on Ukraine in late February.

Becoming a EU member will take years and be contingent on reforms, including cleaning up widespread corruption.


VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on Monday became the latest Western leader to visit Ukraine to express support to the nation under Russian attack,

“Today, my visit in Ukraine started in Borodyanka. No words could possibly describe what I saw and felt here,” Simonyte wrote on Twitter. She also posted photos of her looking at the at the blackened hole in a high-rise apartment building in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv.

During the unannounced visit, she is expected to meet with the Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy, who plans to address the Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday.


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia has denied its S-300 air defense missile system it transported to Ukraine has been destroyed by the Russian armed forces.

“Our S-300 system has not been destroyed,” Lubica Janikova, spokeswoman for Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

She said any other claim is not true.

Earlier on Monday, the Russian military said it destroyed a shipment of air defense missile system provided by the West on the southern outskirts of the city of Dnipro.

The Russian side said Ukraine had received the air defense system from a European country that he didn’t name. Last week, Slovakia said it has handed over its Soviet-designed S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine, which has pleaded with the West to give it more weapons, including long-range air defense systems.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Latvia has arrested a citizen of Belarus, who is suspected of spying for Belarusian special service by allegedly gathering information about the Baltic country’s Armed Forces and critical infrastructure facilities, news report said Monday.

The Baltic News Service, the region’s main new agency, said Latvia’s State Security Service (VDD) and the Military Intelligence and Security Service detained the man in February.

The Belarusian suspect had been secretly filming and taking photos, BNS said, adding that the state security service had seized technical equipment and data carriers.

Latvian public broadcaster LSM said criminal proceedings were initiated on Feb. 15.

Friday, April 8, 2022

WASHINGTON -- A senior U.S. defense official says the Pentagon has determined that some of the Russian combat units that retreated from the Kyiv area in recent days are so heavily damaged and depleted that their combat utility is in question.

The official described these units as “for all intents and purposes eradicated,” with only a small number of functioning troops and weapons remaining. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. military assessments, did not say how many units sustained such extensive damage.

The official said some combat units that withdrew from the Kyiv area are beginning to move toward the Russian towns of Belgorod and Valuyki for refitting and resupplying before likely deploying to the Donbas region of Ukraine. The official also said the U.S. has seen thousands of additional Russian troops added to the combat force that Moscow has been using in and around the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

The official says that the U.S. believes Russia has lost 15 to 20 percent of the combat power it had assembled along Ukraine’s borders before launching its invasion Feb. 24.

---Reporting by Robert Burns.



Officials say Russian missile kills 50 civilians at train station

— EU imposes sanctions on Putin's daughters

— Key Polish leader bashes Hungary's Orban, longtime ally, over stance on Ukraine

— Congress votes to suspend Russia trade status, enact oil ban

— U.N. General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from UN rights council

— Food prices soar to record levels on Ukraine war disruptions

— Russia is moving troops and focus toward the east, but that strategy carries risks as well

— Go to for more coverage



WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden’s chief spokesperson on Friday called the Russian missile attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine “another horrific atrocity” by Russian forces but stopped short of calling the action a war crime.

“Where we are now is we’re going to support efforts to investigate the attack as we document Russia’s actions, hold them accountable,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

Biden has already accused Russian forces of committing war crimes outside of Kyiv, including in the town of Bucha.

Psaki added that “the targeting of civilians would certainly be a war crime” and that the U.S. would support “efforts to investigate exactly what happened.”

At least 50 people were killed in the attack and about 4,000 civilians were in and around the station at the time of the strike, according to the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said. Most were women and children heeding calls to leave the area before Russia is anticipated to launch a full-scale offensive in the country’s east.


BUCHA, Ukraine – The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office says approximately 67 bodies were buried in a mass grave near a church in Bucha, a northern Kyiv suburb where journalists and returning Ukrainians discovered scores of bodies on streets and elsewhere after Russian troops withdrew.

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said Friday that 18 bodies had been located so far, 16 with bullet wounds and two with bullet and shrapnel wounds. Two were women and the rest were men, she said.

“This means that they killed civilians, shot them,” Venediktova said, speaking as workers pulled corpses out under spitting rain. Black body bags were laid in rows in the mud.

The prosecutor general’s office is investigating the deaths, and other mass casualties involving civilians, as possible war crimes. Venediktova said the European Union is involved in the investigation and “we are coordinating our actions.”



Officials say Russian missile kills 50 civilians at train station

— EU imposes sanctions on Putin's daughters

— Key Polish leader bashes Hungary's Orban, longtime ally, over stance on Ukraine

— Congress votes to suspend Russia trade status, enact oil ban

— U.N. General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from UN rights council

UN aid chief: ‘I’m not optimistic’ about Ukraine cease-fire

— Russia is moving troops and focus toward the east, but that strategy carries risks as well

— Go to for more coverage



LONDON -- The board chairman of Russian metals company Rusal has called for an investigation into events in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where Ukrainian forces and journalists discovered scores of bodies after Russian troops withdrew.

Rusal Chairman Bernard Zonneveld, an independent non-executive director, didn’t address who was responsible or even directly say anyone was killed in Bucha. But he said in a statement this week that the reports “shocked us” and that “we support an objective and impartial investigation of this crime.”

The statement stood out because Russian companies have generally remained silent about the war amid rigorous suppression of opposition by Russian authorities and state-controlled media narratives.

Zonneveld said the company was “interested in putting an end to the conflict in this European country as soon as possible.”


BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia is seeking explanations from NATO on why its jets have allegedly shadowed Serbian passenger planes flying back from Russia.

Serbian officials said that on Wednesday a NATO jet flew close to an Air Serbia flight from Moscow to the Serbian capital, Belgrade, near the Latvian border.

A similar incident was reported by Serbian media on Friday when reportedly a NATO Belgian Air Force fighter jet “escorted” another Air Serbia plane flying from St. Petersburg to Belgrade.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said such actions “endanger civil aviation and lives of passengers.”

Besides Turkish carriers, Air Serbia remains the only European airline to maintain its regular flights to Russia after an international flight ban was imposed.

Serbia has voted in favor of UN resolutions condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine but has refused to join international sanctions against its ally Moscow.


LONDON - U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged another 100 million pounds ($130 million) in high grade military equipment to Ukraine, saying Britain wants to help Ukraine defend itself.

Speaking Friday at a news conference with Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Johnson said he would give Ukraine’s military more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, another 800 anti-tank missiles, and precision munitions capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target.

He also promised more helmets, night vision and body armor. The items were in addition to some 200,000 pieces of non-lethal military equipment from the UK that had already been promised.

The pledge of new weaponry came as Johnson condemned the attack on train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk earlier Friday. Women and children gathering on a train platform perished in the blast.

Johnson said both the U.K. and Germany shared the “revulsion at the brutality being unleashed, including the unconscionable bombing of refugees fleeing their homes,’’ adding that the train station attack “shows the depths to which Putin’s vaunted army has sunk.’’


KYIV, Ukraine - Ukrainian prosecutors say a war crimes investigation has begun after one utilities worker was killed and two injured by a mine that retreating Russian forces left behind.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office said Friday the incident happened near Trostianets, a town in northeastern Ukraine which was occupied by Russian troops for around a month until they withdrew in late March.

It said the workers were traveling Thursday to restore electricity to the area when their vehicle struck the mine outside the village of Bilka.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly warned of the dangers of mines and explosive traps left by Russian forces in formerly occupied areas.


LONDON - A military expert has rejected Russia’s effort to deny responsibility for the missile strike on a Ukrainian railway station, saying the denial follows a standard formula the Kremlin uses to “muddy the waters” after attacks on civilian targets.

Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said Friday that railroads in eastern Ukraine are a significant military target for Russia because destroying this kind of infrastructure makes it more difficult for Ukraine to reinforce its forces in the region. He added that Ukraine has little incentive to deliberately kill its own people during a war of attrition.

Bronk told the Associated Press that the strike was entirely in line with how Russian forces operate by terrorizing civilians to try and increase pressure on the Ukrainian government to agree a cease fire. He added this would allow them to consolidate their gains and try and stabilize their military position, “which is not great.”

Russia’s defense ministry rejected claims that Russia was responsible for the attack, saying it no longer uses the type of missile that hit the railway station.


BERLIN - Officials say 40 Russian diplomats declared ‘persona non grata’ by Germany earlier this week have left the country.

The diplomats were picked up Friday by a Russian government plane that had received special permission to land at Berlin’s Schoenefeld Airport despite a ban on flights from Russia in the European Union.

Germany’s top security official had said earlier this week that the diplomats were chosen because they were linked to Russian intelligence agencies.

Germany ordered the expulsion after dozens of civilians were found killed in the Ukrainian town of Buch following the withdrawal of Russian troops there.


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - Slovakia’s Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad says the United States will deploy a Patriot air defense system in his country next week.

Friday’s announcement came shortly after Slovakia donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine at its request. Nad previously said his country was willing to provide its S-300 long-range air defense missile system to Ukraine on condition it has a proper replacement.

Additionally, Germany and the Netherlands have agreed to send troops armed with Patriot missiles to Slovakia as part of 2,100-strong force made up of soldiers from several NATO members states, including the US. The force will form a battlegroup on Slovak territory to boost NATO defenses on the alliance's eastern flank.


LONDON - Russia’s central bank says it’s lowering a key interest rate, and said more cuts could be on the way.

The decision indicates the bank thinks strict capital controls and other severe measures are stabilizing Russia’s currency and financial system despite intense pressure from Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

The bank said Friday it lowered its benchmark rate from 20% to 17%, effective Monday. It had raised the rate from 9.5% on Feb. 28 -- four days after the invasion -- as a way to support the ruble’s plunging exchange rate.

A currency collapse would worsen already high inflation for Russian shoppers by ballooning the cost of imported goods.

The rate increase shows how the central bank has managed to stabilize key aspects of the economy with severe controls, artificially propping up the ruble to allow it to rebound to levels seen before the invasion of Ukraine — even as the West piles on more sanctions.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A shipment of valuable art destined for Russian museums that was seized on the Finnish-Russian border can be released under an amendment to sanctions that went into effect on Friday, Finnish customs officials said.

The artwork and artifacts — which were returning to Russia from Italy and Japan, where they were on loan — have a total insured value of around 42 million euros ($46 million).

They were seized at the Vaalimaa border crossing on April 1-2 under European Union sanctions imposed on Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine.

The amendment to the sanctions makes it possible to grant an exceptional permit for transports between museums. Finland’s customs agency said the Foreign Ministry can grant a permit enabling the release of works of art.


LVIV, Ukraine — The governor of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region says the death toll from a missile strike on a rail station in the eastern town of Kramatorsk has risen to 50, including five children.

Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on social media that 38 people had died at the scene, and another 12 in hospital.

Ukrainian officials have said as many as 4,000 people were at the station, where trains were evacuating civilians westward from the Ukraine-held town ahead of an expected Russian offensive.

Scores of people were injured in the strike, and local hospitals were overwhelmed in dealing with the influx of patients.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian leaders have accused Russia’s military of deliberately targeting a location where only civilians were assembled. Russia’s Defense Ministry denied any Russian role in the attack.


TIRANA, Albania — Thousands of demonstrators waving Ukrainian flags and chanting support for Ukraine have marched through Albania’s capital.

Western diplomats and the city’s mayor joined Ukraine’s ambassador in a procession from Tirana’s main Skanderbeg Square to the Ukrainian embassy.

Youths held aloft a 30-meter (100-foot) long blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag and anti-war posters. Some sought to liken Russian President Vladimir Putin to the late Serb ex-authoritarian leader Slobodan Milosevic, a reviled figure in Albania.

Albania’s government has lined up with European Union sanctions and expressed support for U.S. initiatives against Russia at the U.N. Security Council, where Albania currently holds a seat.


TOKYO — Japan is expelling eight Russian diplomats and trade officials and will phase out imports of Russian coal and oil.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that Moscow must be held accountable for “war crimes” in Ukraine and pointed to a “critical moment” now in efforts to get Russia’s government to end its invasion of Ukraine.

He said Japan will also ban imports of Russian lumber, vodka and other goods, and will prohibit new Japanese investment in Russia. It will also step up sanctions against Russian banks and freeze assets of about 400 more individuals and groups.

Reduction of Russian fossil fuel imports is a difficult choice for resource-poor Japan, and could mean a shift for its energy policy toward more renewables and nuclear power. Russia accounts for about 11% of Japanese coal imports.

Earlier Friday, Japan’s Foreign Ministry announced it was expelling eight Russian diplomats and trade officials, joining similar moves in European countries.


MADRID — Spain’s defense minister expects a “long and cruel” war in Ukraine.

Margarita Robles said Friday that killings and alleged torture of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha were “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to atrocities committed since Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

Evidence of the violence against civilians emerged after Russian forces pulled out of the town on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv.

Robles told Antena 3 that an expected Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region — where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014 — will likely bring more horror.

She predicted increased “cruelty” would be inflicted by Russian forces in the region.


BRUSSELS — The European Union has returned its ambassador to Ukraine to the capital, Kyiv, in a move that underscores the improved security situation there and the 27-nation bloc’s commitment to the beleaguered country.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made the announcement Friday during a visit to Kyiv where he joined EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Borrell said the ambassador’s return would help ensure that the EU and Ukraine’s government can work together more directly and closely.

Russian forces sought to enter Kyiv in the days after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine but despite severe losses and damage, the city withstood the attacks and the government was able to continue functioning from there.

Borrell called it “impressive” that Ukraine’s government was fully functioning under “the very difficult circumstances.”


ROME — The United Nations says prices for world food commodities like grains and vegetable oils reached their highest levels ever last month due to fallout from the war in Ukraine.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday its Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices for a basket of commodities, recorded a double-digit percentage-point increase in March from the record level already set the previous month.

FAO said the index came in at 159.3 points last month, up 12.6% from February’s all-time high since the index was created in 1990.

The Rome-based agency says the war in Ukraine was largely responsible for the 17.1% rise in prices for cereals, including wheat and all coarse grains. Russia and Ukraine together account for around 30% and 20% respectively of global wheat and maize exports.


LONDON — Britain has added two adult daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin to its sanctions list, following similar moves by the U.S. and the European Union.

The government said Friday it is imposing asset freezes and travel bans on Putin’s daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova, as well as Yekaterina Vinokurova, daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Britain says it has sanctioned more than 1,200 Russian individuals and businesses since the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, including 76 oligarchs and 16 banks.

It says Western nations have collectively frozen 275 billion pounds ($360 billion), amounting to 60% of Russian foreign currency reserves.


KYIV, Ukraine — The regional governor of Ukraine’s Sumy region that borders Russia is urging local residents to avoid using forest roads, walking on roadsides, or approaching destroyed military equipment after Russian troops pulled out of the region.

Dmytro Zhyvytskyy warned Friday on the messaging app Telegram that locals are still in danger because of mines and other ammunition that the Russian forces left behind.

In a message apparently directed to local residents, Zhyvytskyy said any explosions in the area in the short term were likely to be sounds of rescuers and mine-clearing specialists at work deactivating the ammunition and other explosives.

He had said earlier this week that Russia no longer controlled any settlements in the region.


BRUSSELS — The European Union imposed has sanctions on two adult daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of a new package of measures targeting Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, according to two EU officials.

The EU included Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova in its updated list of individuals facing assets freeze and travel bans. The two EU officials from different EU member countries spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the updated list of sanctions has not been published yet.

The move from the European bloc follows a similar move two days earlier by the United States.

— By Samuel Petrequin and Raf Casert in Brussels.


BRUSSELS — Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger and two top European Union officials are in Kyiv looking to shore up the bloc’s support for war-torn Ukraine.

Heger said in a tweet Friday that he, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief have come with trade and humanitarian aid proposals for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his government.

Part of that, Heger says is “to offer options for transporting grains, including wheat.” Ukraine is a major world wheat supplier and Russia’s war on Ukraine is creating shortages, notably in the Middle East.

He adds that the three want to help Ukraine on its path toward closer ties with the EU by “creating a ReformTeam.” Ukraine has applied to join the EU, but was already sorely in need of reforms, notably to root out rampant corruption, years before Russian troops invaded in February.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Latvia says it has blacklisted 15 citizens of Russia and Belarus on grounds that their activities pose a threat to the nation’s national security.

A list of nine Russians and six Belarus citizens was given by Latvia’s State Security Service — the counterintelligence agency — to Interior Minister Marija Golubeva.

The State Security Service said Friday they include people who “may be involved in obtaining intelligence or providing support for Russia’s foreign policy interests.” It says among them are those who despite the crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine express support for the Kremlin.

Earlier this month, Latvia said it will close two Russia’s consular missions and expel a total of 13 Russian diplomats and employees currently stationed in the Baltic country.


MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has acknowledged that Russia has suffered “significant losses of troops” during its military operation in Ukraine.

Peskov said: “Yes, we have significant losses of troops and it is a huge tragedy for us.”

Speaking in an exclusive interview with British broadcaster Sky on Thursday, Peskov also hinted that the operation might be over “in the foreseeable future.” He said that Russian forces were “doing their best to bring an end to that operation.”

He said: “And we do hope that in coming days, in the foreseeable future, this operation will reach its goals, or we’ll finish it by the negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegations.”


CANBERRA, Australia — The first of 20 Bushmaster armored vehicles has left Australia for Ukraine, one week after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy specifically requested the Australian-manufactured four-wheel drives.

A Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport jet that can carry four Bushmasters left the east coast city of Brisbane for Europe on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

The 20 Bushmasters cost 50 million in Australian dollars, which is $37 million in U.S. dollars.

The vehicles are in addition to $116 million in Australian dollars ($87 million in U.S. dollars) in military and humanitarian aid previously committed to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy requested Bushmasters when he made a video address to the Australian Parliament on March 31.

“And as soon as he asked, we said yes,” Morrison said.


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday announced it is levying sanctions against Russia’s largest military shipbuilding and diamond mining companies.

The move blocks their access to the U.S. financial system as the United States looks to exact more economic pain on President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.

Alrosa is the world’s largest diamond mining company and accounts for about 90% of Russia’s diamond mining capacity, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

Alrosa generated over $4.2 billion in revenue in 2021. Diamonds are one of Russia’s top 10 non-energy exports by value.

The State Department also said it was blacklisting the United Shipbuilding Corporation, as well as its subsidiaries and board members.

The moves against the two-state owned companies come a day after the U.S. announced it was targeting the two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin, two of Russia’s largest banks and banning new American investment in Russia.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

BRUSSELS — European Council president Charles Michel says the bloc’s top diplomat has proposed adding an additional 500 million euros ($544 million) to Ukraine under the “European Peace Facility,” the fund which has been used for the first time during the war to deliver defensive lethal weapons to a third country.

The EU has previously agreed to spend 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) on military supplies for Ukrainian forces in an unprecedented step of collectively supplying weapons to a country under attack.

EU countries and NATO have so far excluded the option of a direct military intervention in Ukraine.

“Once swiftly approved this will bring to 1.5 billion the EU support already provided for military equipment for Ukraine,” Michel said in a message posted on Twitter in which he thanked EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell Josep Borrell.

The proposal needs to be approved by the 27 EU countries. The EU said the instrument should help Ukraine armed forces “defend the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” and protect the civilian population.



— Ukraine girds for renewed Russian offensive on eastern front

— Congress votes to suspend Russia trade status, enact oil ban

— Ukraine appeals to NATO for more weapons

— Russia is moving troops and focus toward the east, but that strategy carries risks as well

— U.N. General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from UN rights council

Ukrainian refugees find quickest route into US goes through Mexico

— Seeing Bucha atrocities is turning point for media, viewers

— Russia makes debt payment in rubles, a move that could result in historic default

— Go to for more coverage



The World Health Organization has verified more than 100 “attacks on health care” in Ukraine since the country was first invaded more than a month ago, the organization’s top official said Thursday.

At least 103 attacks on hospitals and other health-care facilities in the country, and at least 73 were killed and 51 injured in those incidents, said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

The toll includes medical workers as well as patients, he said.

He praised the United States for supporting international health efforts in Ukraine, including the delivery of more 180 metric tons of medical supplies to hard-hit areas. “We are outraged that attacks on health care (in Ukraine) continue,” he said.


BRUSSELS — European Union nations have approved new sanctions against Russia, including an EU embargo on coal imports in the wake of evidence of torture and killings emerging from war zones outside Kyiv.

The ban on coal imports will be the first EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine, said an official on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not yet been made.

The EU ban on coal is estimated to be worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year. In the meantime, the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.

— Reported by Raf Casert.



— Ukraine girds for renewed Russian offensive on eastern front

— Congress votes to suspend Russia trade status, enact oil ban

— Ukraine appeals to NATO for more weapons

— Russia is moving troops and focus toward the east, but that strategy carries risks as well

— U.N. General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from UN rights council

Ukrainian refugees find quickest route into US goes through Mexico

— Seeing Bucha atrocities is turning point for media, viewers

— Russia makes debt payment in rubles, a move that could result in historic default

— Go to for more coverage



PARIS -- The International Energy Agency says its member countries are releasing 60 million barrels of oil from their emergency reserves on top of previous U.S. pledges to take aim at energy prices that have soared since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Paris-based organization said Thursday that the new commitments made by its 31 member nations, which include the United States and much of Europe, amount to a total of 120 million barrels over six months. It’s the largest release in the group’s history.

Half of that will come from the U.S. as part of the larger release from its strategic petroleum reserve that President Joe Biden announced last week.

The IEA agreed last Friday to add to the amount of oil hitting the global market. It comes on top of the 62.7 million barrels that the agency’s members said they would release last month to ease shortages.


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Congress has overwhelmingly voted to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and ban the importation of its oil, ratcheting up the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amid reports of atrocities.

House action came Thursday after the Senate approved the two bills and the measures now go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

Biden has already taken executive action to ban Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal to the United States. The legislation puts the effort into law.

The bill to end normal trade relations with Russia paves the way for Biden to enact higher tariffs on various imports, such as certain steel and aluminum products, further weakening the Russian economy under President Vladimir Putin. It also ensures Belarus receives less favorable tariff treatment.

The bills also provide the president with the authority to return normal tariff treatment for Russia as well as resume trade in Russian energy products subject to certain conditions.


LONDON - Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson have discussed the need for ending imports of energy sources from Russia as a form of tough sanctions on Moscow for its brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Following his talks with Johnson Thursday, Duda said they also analyzed a proposal for Europe to levy additional taxes on Russian gas, oil and coal until the imports are ended.

The U.K. said it will stop importing Russian coal and oil by the end of this year and gas imports will cease soon after. Poland is to end Russian coal imports by May, gas by the year’s end and oil in 2023, possibly.

“Russia is not a credible partner and we should not assume that it will ever be,” Duda told reporters.


NICOSIA, Cyprus - Ukraine’s president has asked Cypriot lawmakers to ratchet up pressure on Russia by shutting Cypriot ports to all Russian ships, and to stop granting Russian businessmen conveniences including Cypriot citizenship.

Addressing the Cypriot Parliament Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the east Mediterranean island nation for its humanitarian and financial aid and spoke of the destruction and death the Russian invasion has wrought. He warned that the killings of civilians that happened in the town of Bucha may be happening elsewhere.

Zelenskyy also pleaded for backing from Cyprus in Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union. He said EU membership for Ukraine would help strengthen the 27-member bloc.


STOCKHOLM — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has urged European Union members to stay together and not decide unilaterally on imposing sanctions against Russia.

“We have been successful by being together. My plea is that we move forward together,” von der Leyen said during a visit to Stockholm where she met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

The EU chief on Friday will travel to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On Saturday, she attends a pledging event in favor of Ukraine in Warsaw, Poland.


PODGORICA, Montenegro — NATO-member Montenegro is joining a number of countries that expelled Russian diplomats over the past week.

The foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that the four diplomats have a week to leave the small Balkan nation.

The decision is based on information provided by security authorities about the diplomats’ activities in Montenegro, the ministry said. No other details were immediately available.

Montenegro last month expelled another Russian diplomat. Local media said at the time that he was believed to be an intelligence officer.

Montenegro is not a member of the European Union but has joined Western sanctions against Moscow.


LONDON — Pink Floyd are releasing their first new music in almost three decades to raise money for the people of Ukraine.

“Hey Hey Rise Up” features group members David Gilmour and Nick Mason, with vocals from Ukrainian singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk of the band BoomBox. It’s Pink Floyd’s first original recording since “The Division Bell” in 1994.

The song features Khlyvnyuk singing a patriotic Ukrainian song, from a clip he recorded in front of Kyiv’s St. Sophia Cathedral and posted on social media.


UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly has voted to suspend Russia from the U.N.’s leading human rights body over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, which the United States and Ukraine have called tantamount to war crimes.

Russia is the second country to have its membership rights stripped at the Human Rights Council, which was established in 2006. In 2011, the assembly suspended Libya when upheaval in the North African country brought down longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The vote on Thursday was 93-24 with 58 abstentions. That is significantly lower than votes on two resolutions the assembly adopted last month demanding an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, withdrawal of all Russian troops and protection for civilians. Both resolutions were approved by at least 140 nations.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield launched the campaign to suspend Russia from its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council in the wake of videos and photos of streets in the Ukrainian town of Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians after Russian soldiers retreated. The deaths have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions on Russia, which has denied its troops were responsible.


WASHINGTON — The U.S. moved Thursday to choke off U.S. exports to three Russian airlines as part of what officials described as an unprecedented enforcement action.

The Commerce Department said the move would prevent the Russian national flag carrier Aeroflot, Utair and Azur Air from receiving items from the U.S., including parts to service their aircraft.

Matthew Axelrod, an assistant commerce secretary for export enforcement, told reporters the sanctioned airlines will largely be unable to continue to fly since they will be cut off from the parts and services needed to maintain their fleets.

The actions, known as temporary denial orders, do allow the Commerce Department to grant exceptions when the safety of a flight would be at risk. The orders extend for 180 days, though they can be renewed.

The private sector has also taken its own action against Russian airlines in response to the war against Ukraine, with Delta Air Lines in February suspending its codesharing partnership with Russian national airline Aeroflot.


LONDON -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday announced plans to build more nuclear power plants, boost renewable energy production and further tap domestic oil and gas reserves to help the U.K. reduce its dependence on Russian energy following the invasion of Ukraine.

Johnson announced the strategy three weeks after he said Western countries had made a “terrible mistake” in failing to wean themselves off Russian energy following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

The goal is to build eight new nuclear reactors by 2050, tripling U.K. production of nuclear energy to 24 gigawatts, or a quarter of projected electricity demand.

In addition, the strategy targets a 10-fold increase in production of electricity from offshore wind farms and an unspecified boost from onshore wind farms in a “limited number of supportive communities.”

The government also announced a new round of licensing for oil and gas projects in the North Sea, saying these fuels would be key to U.K. energy security and as a transition to low-carbon renewable energy. Other elements include promoting solar power and increasing hydrogen production for use in fuel cells.


WARSAW, Poland – A surgeon in Poland says a seriously wounded 13-year-old boy from Ukraine will require long, specialized treatment for the injuries he suffered in the early days of Russia’s invasion.

Pediatric surgeon Professor Jan Godzinski, of the T. Marciniak hospital in Wroclaw said Thursday that a detailed diagnostic scan has been performed on the “very serious” injuries that Volodymyr, or Vova, has suffered to his back, spine and facial nerves.

Vova was injured and his father was killed in late February when the car in which the family were trying to flee Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv was shelled by Russian forces. Doctors in Kyiv were able to save his life, and he was later transferred to Lviv, but he is now in a wheelchair due to the spine injuries and one side of his face is paralyzed.

Some shrapnel particles in his body still need to be removed, Godzinski said.

“What moved me most was that he smiled when we told him we will be able to help him,” Godzinski said on Poland’s private TVN24.


Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is calling for his country to be included in negotiations about ending the war in Ukraine.

“There can be no negotiations without the participation of Belarus,” Lukashenko said at a meeting Thursday of his national security council. “There can be no separate agreements behind the back of Belarus.”

Russia has launched missile attacks on Ukraine from Belarus and Russian troops invaded Ukraine from Belarus. There has been no confirmation of claims that Belarusian forces entered Ukraine.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says scenes that have emerged from the Ukrainian town of Bucha, which was recaptured from Russian forces, have “cast a shadow” over negotiations between Russia and Ukraine but says the sides must continue to talk under all circumstances.

Speaking after a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting on Thursday, Cavusoglu said he told his Ukrainian counterpart that Turkey was prepared to host possible peace talks.

“The only way is diplomacy,” he told Turkish journalists in Brussels.

Turkey, which has maintained its close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, has hosted a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers as well as talks between the two negotiating teams.

The minister said Turkey was also talking with both Russia and Ukraine about the possible evacuation of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol by sea. Some 30 Turkish citizens as well as their companions were still trapped in the city, he said.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — European Union police agency Europol says representatives of member states have discussed ways of tackling organized crime linked to the war in Ukraine.

Europol said after a meeting Thursday that initial intelligence analysis has uncovered “crime patterns” including human trafficking, online fraud, cybercrime and firearm trafficking and warned that the war could lead to more activity by organized crime networks.

The agency says it is “necessary to mobilize resources and increase the preparedness” of a multidisciplinary platform that tackles serious and organized crime.


BRUSSELS — Ukraine’s foreign minister says he’s cautiously optimistic that some NATO member countries will increase their weapons supplies to his country, helping it resist Russia’s invasion, but he urged swift decisions and action.

Speaking Thursday after talks in Brussels with NATO foreign ministers, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba declined to say which countries would be providing equipment or what kind they would be, but he said the weapons must get to Ukraine quickly as Russia gears up for a new offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

Kuleba said: “Either you help us now, and I’m speaking about days, not weeks, or your help will come too late.”


HELSINKI — Finland and Estonia say they are jointly planning to rent a floating liquefied natural gas, or LNG, terminal to ensure gas supply in the two countries in efforts to break energy dependence on neighboring Russia.

Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintila and his Estonian counterpart Taavi Aas said in a statement Thursday that a movable off-shore LNG terminal would offer a quick solution in guaranteeing gas supply in the two European Union members separated by the Baltic Sea.

“Due to the war in Ukraine, we must prepare for possible interruptions of gas import” through pipelines from Russia, Lintila said, adding that a floating LNG terminal “is an efficient way to secure gas supply, including in industry.


BRUSSELS — The Group of Seven major world powers are warning Russia they will keep ramping up sanctions until its troops leave Ukraine and that those responsible for alleged war crimes will be prosecuted.

G7 foreign ministers vowed Thursday to “sustain and increase pressure on Russia by imposing coordinated additional restrictive measures to effectively thwart Russian abilities to continue the aggression against Ukraine.”

Western nations have already slapped several rounds of sanctions on Russia, including on President Vladimir Putin, his family and associates, but have been reluctant to hit the country’s energy sector.

The G7 ministers, meeting on the sidelines of NATO talks in Brussels, say they “are taking further steps to expedite plans to reduce our reliance on Russian energy, and will work together to this end.”

Following allegations this week of war crimes in the city of Bucha, the ministers insist that “those responsible for these heinous acts and atrocities, including any attacks targeting civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure, will be held accountable and prosecuted.”

They also repeated warnings about the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, saying that “any use by Russia of such a weapon would be unacceptable and result in severe consequences.”


MOSCOW — Russia’s top diplomat has accused Ukraine of derailing talks with Moscow by changing its negotiating stance.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Ukraine had walked back its proposal that international guarantees of its security don’t apply to Crimea.

Russian annexed the Black Sea peninsula in 2014 and wants Ukraine to acknowledge Moscow’s sovereignty over it.

Lavrov also accused Ukraine of modifying a provision in a draft deal it had submitted earlier that said that military drills on Ukrainian territory could be organized with the consent of all guarantor countries, including Russia.

Lavrov added that Russia intends to continue the talks despite the Ukrainian “provocations.”

There was no immediate response to his claims from the Ukrainian government.


GENEVA — The World Health Organization says 73 people have died in 91 attacks on public health care in Ukraine during the war with Russia.

The targets have included ambulances, hospitals and clinics, and medical workers.

“The life-saving medicine that Ukraine needs right now is peace,” WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge told reporters Thursday in the western Ukraine city of Lviv.

About half of Ukraine’s pharmacies are believed to be closed and 1,000 health facilities are near conflict areas, endangering the provision of care to those who need it, according to WHO.


Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia intends to respond to U.S. sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s daughters as it sees fit.

“Russia will definitely respond, and will do it as it sees fit,” Peskov said Thursday.

The U.S. on Wednesday announced that it is sanctioning Putin’s two adult daughters as part of a new batch of penalties on the country’s political and economic systems in retaliation for its alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Peskov told a conference call with reporters that the sanctions “add to a completely frantic line of various restrictions” and the fact that the restrictions target family members “speaks for itself.”

“This is something that is difficult to understand and explain. But, unfortunately, we have to deal with such opponents,” Peskov said.


ATHENS, Greece — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country needs anti-aircraft defense systems, artillery systems, munitions and armored vehicles to hold Russia’s invasion at bay.

“The sooner Ukraine receives this help, the more lives we can save in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in an address to Greek parliament Thursday.

Zelenskyy emphasized the destruction wrought on the southern port city of Mariupol, home to a sizeable Greek-Ukrainian community, and urged Greece to help prevent the same fate befalling Odesa, another Ukrainian port city with deep ties to Greece.

The Ukrainian president called for sanctions on all Russian banks and a ban on Russian ships from entering ports as a way of hindering Russia’s ability to finance the war.

“Russia is absolutely confident in its invincibility and that they could do whatever they want without going unpunished. We have to stop it. We must bring Russia to justice,” Zelenskyy said.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says Russian forces have agreed on 10 humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians in three eastern regions of Ukraine on Thursday.

Russia is expected to intensify its military campaign for control of Ukraine’s industrial east in coming days and weeks, and Ukraine has appealed to NATO for more weapons to help stop it.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said civilians from the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions will be able to evacuate to the cities of Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut.

Vereshchuk said on the messaging app Telegram that it would be possible to travel from Mariupol and Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia by car and from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Melitopol by car and on buses.

Evacuations to Bakhmut, a city in the Donetsk region, will take place in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Girske and Rubizhne of the Luhansk region.


BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is calling on members of the organization to provide more weapons for Ukraine and not just defensive anti-tank and anti-craft arms.

As NATO defense ministers gathered in Brussels on Thursday, Stoltenberg said “I have urged allies to provide further support of many different types of systems, both light weapons but also heavier weapons.”

Stoltenberg says that NATO countries, but not NATO as an organization, are supplying many kinds of arms and other support to Ukraine but that the 30 allies can do more.

Stoltenberg is insisting that it is also important for NATO not to be dragged into a wider war with Russia.

“NATO is not sending troops to be on the ground. We also have a responsibility to prevent this conflict from escalating beyond Ukraine, and become even more deadly, even more dangerous and destructive,” he said.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron spoke out against Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Wednesday evening, defending himself over criticism he held multiple talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to no avail.

On Monday, Morawiecki ridiculed the French leader’s several hours of phone calls with Putin, saying that they achieved nothing.

Some fear the comments from Poland might destabilize unity of the European Union as it hopes to stand unified in the face of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.

Macron told TF1 broadcaster’s evening news that he takes full responsibility for speaking to Putin “in the name of France to avoid the war and to build a new architecture for peace in Europe several years ago.”

Macron is standing for re-election in France in polls that begin Sunday.



— Mariupol’s dead put at 5,000 as Ukraine braces in the east

— US targets Putin’s daughters, Russian banks in new sanctions

— Burned, piled bodies among latest horrors in Bucha, Ukraine

— Russia's setback in Kyiv was memorable military failure

— Russian media campaign falsely claims Bucha deaths are fakes

China calls for probe into Bucha killings, assigns no blame

— Go to for more coverage



KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say nearly 5,000 people were evacuated from combat areas Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 1,171 people were evacuated from the besieged Sea of Azov port of Mariupol, and 2,515 more left the cities of Berdyansk and Melitopol and other areas in the south. She said an additional 1,206 people were evacuated from the eastern region of Luhansk.

Vereshchuk and other officials have been urging residents of eastern regions to evacuate in the face of an impending Russian offensive, saying that people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions should leave for safer regions.

Donetsk region Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said at least five civilians were killed and eight others wounded by Russian shelling Wednesday.

Over 10 million people, about a quarter of Ukraine’s population, have been displaced by the war, and more than 4 million of them have fled the country.


UNITED NATIONS — The United States and United Kingdom have boycotted an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council called by Russia to press its baseless claims that the U.S. has biological warfare laboratories in Ukraine.

The move by Russia on Wednesday was the latest of several that have led Western countries to accuse Moscow of using the U.N. as a platform for “disinformation” to draw attention away from its war against its smaller neighbor.

U.N. disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu told the council at two official Security Council meetings called by Russia on the issue last month that the United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons program in Ukraine.

“A smoke screen to draw attention away from the brutal warfare,” “irresponsible,” “dangerous” and “deplorable” were just a few of the responses by countries, including Norway, France, Ireland and Albania.


ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says no embargo of Russian gas is up for consideration at this point as the European Union ponders its next package of sanctions over the war in Ukraine, adding: "I don’t know if it ever will be on the table.’’

Draghi told reporters Monday night that in case a gas embargo is proposed, Italy “will be very happy to follow it” if that would make peace possible.

Draghi added: “If the price of gas can be exchanged for peace ... what do we choose? Peace? Or to have the air conditioning running in the summer? This is the question we must pose.”


KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol says more than 5,000 civilians have been killed during the monthlong Russian blockade, among them 210 children.

Mayor Vadym Boichenko said Wednesday that Russian forces have among other targets bombed hospitals, including one where 50 people burned to death.

Boichenko said that more than 90% of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed by Russian shelling.

The Russian military is besieging the strategic Sea of Azov port, and has cut food, water and energy supplies and pummeled it with artillery and air raids. Capturing the city would allow Russia to secure a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.



— US targets Putin’s daughters, Russian banks in new sanctions

— Burned, piled bodies among latest horrors in Bucha, Ukraine

— Russia's setback in Kyiv was memorable military failure

— Russian media campaign falsely claims Bucha deaths are fakes

China calls for probe into Bucha killings, assigns no blame

— Go to for more coverage



KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities are urging residents of eastern regions to evacuate in the face of an impending Russian offensive.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Wednesday called on people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to leave now “when there is still such a possibility.”

Donetsk region Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said that at least five civilians were killed and another eight wounded by Russian shelling Wednesday. He also urged civilians to leave for safer regions.

Over 10 million people, about a quarter of Ukraine’s population, have been displaced by the war, and more than 4 million of them have fled the country.


WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden is saluting the international community and some of the largest corporations in the U.S. for further increasing “Russia’s economic isolation.”

Addressing thousands at the North America’s Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference at a Washington hotel on Wednesday, Biden said of the Russia-Ukraine war, “There’s nothing less happening than credible war crimes.”

The president said “responsible nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators responsible,” and vowed that “we’re going to stifle Russia’s ability to grow for years to come.”

He said “corporate America’s stepping up for a chance,” noting that 600-plus firms have chosen to leave Russia.


MOSCOW – Russia’s Defense Ministry has accused Ukraine of sabotaging a pre-agreed prisoner swap.

Speaking at a briefing, Defense Ministry official Mikhail Mizintsev claimed that Kyiv had “for a long time” blocked prisoner exchanges, including a swap set to take place Wednesday involving 251 military personnel on each side.

He alleged that the delays gave Moscow “all the reasons to suspect that Russian servicemen held in captivity are not at all well.

On April 1, representatives of the Ukrainian presidential office said Ukraine had secured the release of 86 soldiers, including 15 women, through a swap. This was confirmed by Russian officials on Wednesday.


BRUSSELS — A new U.S. commitment of Javelin missiles means the West soon will have provided Ukrainian fighters with 10 anti-tank weapons for every Russian tank in their country, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

Blinken spoke to U.S. news broadcaster MSNBC after the U.S. announced an additional $100 million for more Javelin missiles for Ukraine. The U.S. says it has provided $1.7 billion for Ukraine’s defense and aid since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pressing the West to provide more weapons, faster, and do more to cut off Russia from the global economy, to pressure Putin to make peace.

“In terms of what they need to act quickly and act effectively, to deal with the planes that are firing at them from the skies, the tanks that are trying to destroy … their cities from the ground, they have the tools that they need,” Blinken said of Ukraine’s forces. “They’re going to keep getting them, and we’re going to keep sustaining that.”


BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s prime minister has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to call an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine but says his country will comply with Russian demands to pay for natural gas imports in rubles.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he had spoken with Putin by phone and urged the Russian leader to end the military conflict in neighboring Ukraine. Orban said he also offered to host a conference in Hungary’s capital between the warring parties.

“I suggested that (Putin) … the Ukrainian president, the French president and the German chancellor hold a meeting here in Budapest, the sooner the better,” Orban said. “It should not be a peace negotiation and not a peace settlement, because that takes longer, but an immediate ceasefire agreement.”

Orban spoke days after his Fidesz party won a fourth consecutive term leading the Hungarian government.

The right-wing nationalist leader, Putin’s closest ally in the European Union, has vehemently refused to supply weapons to Ukraine or allow their transport across the Hungary-Ukraine border. He also lobbied heavily against the EU imposing sanctions on Russian energy imports.


LARNACA, Cyprus — Russian “disinformation” about its war against Ukraine needs to be exposed, including on Russia’s “war crimes,” a U.S. State Department official said on a visit to Cyprus Wednesday.

Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland said Russian “lies” have evolved to the point of blaming Ukrainians for actions by Russian forces, including “the war crimes we see on the ground.”

“So we all have an interest in exposing Russian disinformation, ensuring our citizens have the truth and ensuring that Russian citizens also (have the truth) ... despite the Iron Curtain that Putin has put down over that,” Nuland said.

Nuland was in Cyprus as part of a five-nation tour aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and rallying support for Ukraine.


WASHINGTON — A small number of Ukrainian troops in the United States since last fall for military schooling have been trained on new drones the U.S. is sending to the country for the war with Russia, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a military assessment, said under a dozen Ukraine service members were in the U.S., and that they were taken aside for a couple days for “rudimentary” training on the Switchblade drone. The official said they may get some other basic training while in the U.S. and will be returning to Ukraine relatively soon, as initially planned.

The official also said that over the last 24 hours the U.S. has assessed that all Russian troops have now left Kyiv and Chernihiv, and gone into Belarus or Russia to resupply and reorganize. The estimate is that there were a total of about 40 Russian battalion tactical groups around those two cities.

The Russians continue to refocus their efforts on the east and the Donbas region, and have at least 30 battalion groups there, the official said. A battalion tactical group usually included 800-1,000 troops, and western officials have estimated that Russia dedicated up to 130 of the battalions to the Ukraine war.

As of Wednesday, the official said that the U.S. has not seen a large influx of additional Russian troops into the east yet, but added that already Ukrainian forces are also moving and adjusting to increased Russian effort in the Donbas.

— AP writer Lolita Baldor contributed.


LONDON — Britain says it will end imports of Russian oil and coal by the end of the year and ban U.K. investment in Russia as part of a new set of sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The British government also announced a freeze on the assets of Credit Bank of Moscow and Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and slapped travel bans and asset freezes on eight more wealthy Russians. They included Andrey Guryev, founder of the fertilizer company PhosAgro, and Sergey Sergeyevich Ivanov, president of diamond producer Alrosa.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the measures were coordinated with Britain’s allies. The U.S. also sanctioned SberBank on Wednesday, and the European Union plans to ban imports of Russian coal.

Truss said the sanctions were aimed at “decimating (President Vladimir) Putin’s war machine” and to show “the Russian elite that they cannot wash their hands of the atrocities committed on Putin’s orders.”

Britain had already announced a plan to phase out Russian oil, which accounts for 8% of the U.K. supply. Russia is the top supplier of imported coal to the U.K., though British demand for the polluting fuel has plummeted in the past decade. Britain has not ended imports of Russian natural gas, which accounts for 4% of its supply, saying only that it will do so “as soon as possible.”


UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly plans to vote Thursday on whether to suspend Russia from the U.N.’s premiere human rights body.

The United States initiated the move in response to the discovery of hundreds of bodies after Russian troops withdrew from towns near Ukraine's capital. Videos and photos of corpses of people who appeared to be civilians have sparked calls for tougher sanctions and war crimes charges against Russia, which has vehemently denied responsibility.

General Assembly spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said on Wednesday that an emergency special session on Ukraine will resume at 10 a.m. EDT on Thursday, when a resolution “to suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of the Russian Federation” will be put to a vote.

The brief resolution expresses “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, particularly at the reports of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by the Russian Federation, including gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights.”

To be approved, the resolution requires a two-thirds majority of assembly members that vote “yes” or “no.” Abstentions don’t count.


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department is working with European allies and prosecutors in Ukraine to investigate potential war crimes after Russia’s invasion.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that U.S. prosecutors across the world are working to collect evidence and to “collect the information on atrocities that we have all seen in both photographs and video footage.”

He pointed specifically to photos and videos from Bucha, where Associated Press journalists have witnessed evidence of killings and torture, including charred bodies.

But Garland stopped short of calling for a tribunal like the one set up to hold Nazi leaders to account after World War II. He said a U.S. prosecutors in Paris were meeting with the French war crimes prosecutor, and that other Justice Department lawyers had met with prosecutors in Europe “to work out a plan for gathering evidence with respect to Ukraine.”


WASHINGTON — The U.S. on Wednesday announced that it is sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters as part of a new batch of penalties on the country’s political and economic system in retaliation for its “war crimes” in Ukraine.

The U.S. is also imposing toughened “full blocking sanctions” on Russia’s Sberbank and Alfa Bank, two of its largest financial institutions, as well as some Russian state-owned enterprises. President Joe Biden is also signing an executive order to ban new U.S. investment in Russia.

In addition to Putin’s adult daughters, the new sanctions also target the family of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

The U.S. actions are set to be imposed in concert with toughened sanctions by its European allies.


LONDON — A Western official says it will take Russia up to a month to regroup its forces for a major push on eastern Ukraine.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence, said Wednesday that a “reasonable estimate” would be of three to four weeks before troops that have pulled back from the area around Kyiv and northern Ukraine can be re-equipped and redeployed against the Donbas region in the east.

The official said the Russian units would “have to go through a pretty lengthy period of reconstitution and refurbishment” before they could rejoin the war.

The official said almost a quarter of the Russian ground units known as battalion tactical groups in Ukraine had been “rendered non-combat-effective” in the fighting and either withdrawn or merged with other units.

The losses and pullback of Russian troops mean “the threat posed to Kyiv is limited for the foreseeable future” from Russian ground troops, the official said.

— AP writer Jill Lawless contributed.


BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Finland and Sweden would be welcomed with open arms should they decide to join the world’s biggest security alliance, as Russia’s war on Ukraine spurs public support in the two Nordic countries for membership.

Russia has demanded that the 30-nation military organization stop expanding, so the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining could anger President Vladimir Putin.

But Stoltenberg says NATO members might be prepared to provide security guarantees for the period from when the two might announce any membership bid and when their applications are approved. He declined to say what kind of protection they might get.

Once members, the two neutral Nordic nations would benefit from NATO’s collective security guarantee, which obliges all members to come to the defense of any ally that comes under attack.

Stoltenberg told reporters Wednesday that he is “certain that we will find ways to address concerns they may have regarding the period between the potential application and the final ratification.”

A poll commissioned by Finnish broadcaster YLE last month showed that, for the first time, more than 50% of Finns support joining the Western military alliance. In neighboring Sweden, a similar poll showed that those in favor of NATO membership outnumber those against.


BERLIN — A German spokesman says the government has information which indicates that bodies found after Ukraine retook Bucha last week had been lying there since at least March 10, when Russian troops were in control of the town.

Steffen Hebestreit told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that the information was based on non-commercial satellite images taken March 10-18 of Yablonska Street in Bucha.

“Credible information shows that from March 7 to March 30 Russian soldiers and security forces were deployed in this area,” he said. “They were also tasked with the interrogation of prisoners who were subsequently executed.”

Hebestreit said that “targeted killings by units of the Russian military and security forces are therefore proof that the Russian President and supreme commander has at least approvingly accepted human rights abuses and war crimes to achieve his goals.”

“The assertions made by the Russian side that these are staged scenes or they aren’t responsible for the murders are therefore not tenable,” he added.

Asked about the source of this information, Hebestreit said that images reviewed by Germany “were not commercial satellite images.” He declined to elaborate.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway is following other European nations and expelling Russian diplomats.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Wednesday that three Russian diplomats had carried out activities incompatible with their status.

The timing for the expulsions “was not accidental” and comes “at a time when the whole world is shaken by reports of Russian forces abusing civilians, especially in the city of Bucha,” Huitfeldt said in a statement.

In recent days, numerous European countries have expelled Russian diplomats and staff at Russian diplomatic missions.


GENEVA — The International Committee of the Red Cross says one of its teams in Ukraine has led some 500 people who fled Mariupol in a humanitarian convoy of buses and private cars to a safer location in the embattled country.

The ICRC says its team that has been trying to enter Mariupol since last Friday got within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the besieged city, but security conditions made it impossible to enter. The convoy escorted the civilians from coastal Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia, to the north.

“This convoy’s arrival to Zaporizhzhia is a huge relief for hundreds of people who have suffered immensely and are now in a safer location,” said Pascal Hundt, ICRC’s head of delegation in Ukraine. “It’s clear, though, that thousands more civilians trapped inside Mariupol need safe passage out and aid to come in.”

He said the Geneva-based organization remains available as “a neutral intermediary” to help escort civilians out of Mariupol “once concrete agreements and security conditions allow it.”


LONDON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war by deliberately targeting Ukraine’s essential food supplies.

In an address to Irish lawmakers Wednesday, Zelenskyy said Russian forces “are destroying things that are sustaining livelihoods” including food storage depots, blocking ports so Ukraine could not export food and “putting mines into the fields.”

“For them hunger is also a weapon, a weapon against us ordinary people,” he said, accusing Russia of “deliberately provoking a food crisis” in Ukraine, a major global producer of staples including wheat and sunflower oil.

He said it would have international ramifications, because “there will be a shortage of food and the prices will go up, and this is reality for the millions of people who are hungry, and it will be more difficult for them to feed their families.”

Zelenskyy spoke by video to a joint session of Ireland’s two houses of parliament, the latest in a string of international addresses he has used to rally support for Ukraine.


BRUSSELS — A senior European Union official says the bloc’s member countries should think about ways of offering asylum to Russian soldiers willing to desert Ukraine battlefields.

European Council president Charles Michel on Wednesday expressed his “outrage at crimes against humanity, against innocent civilians in Bucha and in many other cities.”

He called on Russian soldiers to disobey orders.

“If you want no part in killing your Ukrainian brothers and sisters, if you don’t want to be a criminal, drop your weapons, stop fighting, leave the battlefield,” Michel, who represents the bloc’s governments, said in a speech to the European Parliament

Endorsing an idea previously circulated by some EU lawmakers, Michel added that granting asylum to Russian deserters is “a valuable idea that should be pursued.”


BEIJING — China says the reports and images of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha are “deeply disturbing” and it is calling for an investigation.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Wednesday that China supports all initiatives and measures “conducive to alleviating the humanitarian crisis” in the country and is “ready to continue to work together with the international community to prevent any harm to civilians.”

The killings in Bucha may serve to put further pressure on Beijing over its largely pro-Russian stance and attempts to guide public opinion over the war.

China has called for talks while refusing to criticize Russia over its invasion. It opposes economic sanctions on Moscow and blames Washington and NATO for provoking the war and fueling the conflict by sending arms to Ukraine.

Zhao’s remarks echo those the previous day of China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, who called for an investigation, describing the reports and images of civilian deaths in Bucha as “deeply disturbing.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged all Spanish companies to completely halt business with Russia and called for tougher Western sanctions against Moscow that would include a ban on Russian oil imports.

Speaking in a video address to the Spanish Parliament on Tuesday, Zelenskyy denounced the Russian atrocities against civilians in Ukrainian cities, saying they represented war crimes for which Russian officers should face an international tribunal.

Zelenskyy said the “sanctions must be really powerful.”

“How can it be allowed that Russian banks generate incomes even as the Russian military tortures ordinary civilians to death in Ukrainian cities, how can European companies engage in trade with the state that deliberately destroys our people?” he asked.

In an emotional speech, he drew parallels between the Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities and the 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by Nazi aircraft during the Spanish Civil War.

Zelenskyy said the “fate of the entire European project, the values that unite us all” is being decided in Ukraine, and urged Spanish lawmakers to “do even more to force Russia to start searching for peace and respect the international law.”



— Ukraine president Zelenskyy at UN accuses Russian military of war crimes

— EU proposes Russian coal ban in new sanctions

— US official: US, allies, to ban new investments in Russia

— Harvard students’ site helping Ukraine refugees find housing

— Japan’s top envoy brings back 20 Ukrainians from Poland

— Go to for more coverage



LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a direct appeal to the Russian people, urging them to seek the truth about a war he called “a stain on the honor of Russia.”

In a video message, Johnson said Russians were being kept in the dark about the invasion of Ukraine because Russian President Vladimir Putin “knows that if you could see what was happening, you would not support his war.”

Johnson said Russian authorities were hiding the truth of “sickening” slayings of civilians and other crimes, which “betray the trust of every Russian mother who proudly waves goodbye to her son as he heads off to join the military.”

He told Russians they only needed an online VPN connection to gain access to independent information from around the world.

Switching from English to Russian, Johnson said: “Your president stands accused of committing war crimes. But I cannot believe he’s acting in your name.”


WASHINGTON — The U.S. and its European allies will impose stiff new sanctions, including a ban on new investments in Russia on Wednesday, a U.S. official says, in retaliation for Russia’s “war crimes” in Ukraine.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement.

The joint action will include a ban on new investment in Russia, toughened sanctions on its financial institutions and government-owned enterprises, and more sanctions on Russian government officials and their family members.

The official said they would further Russia’s economic, financial and technological “isolation” from the rest of the world as a penalty for its attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

—- AP writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.


ANKARA, Turkey — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said everyone in the Russian leadership and army who is involved in the war is responsible for war crimes committed in Ukraine.

In an interview with Turkey’s Haberturk television in Kyiv on Tuesday, Zelenskyy also accused Russia of trying to hide its actions in the besieged southern city of Mariupol and did not want humanitarian aid to enter the city “until they clean it all up.”

Zelenskyy spoke following the discovery of bodies of civilians in towns around Kyiv that were recaptured from Russian forces.

“The Russian military political leadership and everyone involved in the planning of this war and everyone who gave this order, committed war crimes in my opinion,” Zelenskyy said in comments translated into Turkish. “We are not dealing with a situation where only one person can be prosecuted and be found guilty.”

On the situation in Mariupol, Zelenskyy said thousands may have been killed or injured there.

“I think Russia is afraid that we will successfully send humanitarian aid to Mariupol and the whole world will see what’s going on there,” he said. “Russia doesn’t want anything to be seen until they take control of the city (and) until they clean it all up.”

Zelenskyy said Turkish ships were involved in efforts to evacuate injured civilians from Mariupol, but would not elaborate.


BUCHAREST, Romania — Authorities in Romania said Tuesday that the country is expelling 10 diplomats from Russia’s embassy in Bucharest.

Romania’s foreign ministry said the actions of 10 embassy workers, who have been declared persona non grata, “contravene the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relationships.”

The move by Romania follows a string of expulsions of Russian officials across the 27-nation European Union following a wave of criticism and shock after Russian troops are accused of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

As of Tuesday, more than 200 Russian diplomats or employees had been expelled from at least a dozen countries, including Germany, France and Italy.


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Ukrainian officials are renewing pressure on Chinese consumer drone-maker DJI to block a tool that they say is enabling Russian troops to find and attack Ukrainian drone operators.

Ukraine’s top cybersecurity official Victor Zhora told reporters Tuesday during a press call that DJI’s drone detection tool AeroScope has been “sharing information on Ukrainian drones to Russians.”

Both sides of the war have flown small consumer drones to monitor troop movements and help target attacks. But Ukrainian officials said Tuesday they have evidence that DJI’s tool for detecting the location and flight information of nearby drones is working for Russians and not Ukrainians. A government report called for blocking “all DJI products operating in Ukraine that were purchased and activated in other countries” such as Russia.

DJI has previously denied such claims, saying in March that it doesn’t apply preferential treatment but also can’t switch off the AeroScope tool. It has expressed openness to using technology that could ground its drones in the war zone if Ukraine made a formal request but the no-fly zone would apply to both Ukrainian and Russian drones and some would still be able to fly.


RICHMOND, Va. — Ukraine’s top cybersecurity official says cyberattacks against his country have increased in the last two weeks and there’s evidence that Russian military hackers that tried to break into Ukrainian state agencies also attempted to hack Latvian officials’ email accounts.

Victor Zhora told reporters Tuesday that a major Ukrainian telecommunications provider, Ukrtelecom, suffered an attack on March 28, but was able to restore most of the affected service within a day.

Kirill Goncharuk, Ukrtelecom’s chief information officer, said hackers used compromised credentials of an employee in Russian-occupied territory occupied to break in to his company’s network. He said the employee was okay but couldn’t disclose additional details for safety concerns.

Zhora said hackers had also recently gained access to the emails of staff at Ukraine’s foreign ministry. He said despite the increased hacking attempts in recent days, he’s not seen any successful “complicated attacks” on any Ukrainian critical infrastructure targets.


HOUSTON — NASA’s record-setting astronaut Mark Vande Hei says he and his Russian crewmates focused on their mission, not the “heartbreaking” news unfolding in Ukraine, while serving aboard the International Space Station.

His 355-day spaceflight ended last Wednesday with a landing in Kazakhstan. He returned to Earth in a Russian Soyuz capsule with cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, the latter of whom also spent a year in orbit.

In his first news conference back on Earth, Vande Hei said Tuesday that he did not shy away from the topic with his Russian crewmates while aboard the space station. “They weren’t very long discussions, but I did ask them how they were feeling and sometimes I asked pointed questions. But our focus really was on our mission together."

Vande Hei also cleared up any misunderstandings about the yellow-with-blue-trim flight suits worn by their Russian replacements when arriving at the space station last month. Those were the school colors of their university, Vande Hei said from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and not meant as a political statement. “The folks who wore them had no idea that people would perceive that as having anything to do with Ukraine ... I think they were kind of blindsided by it.”


UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s president told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that the Russian military must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes, accusing invading troops of the worst atrocities since World War II.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, making his plea via video, cited reported atrocities against civilians carried out by Russian forces in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv, saying they are no different than other terrorists like the Islamic State extremist group.

Images of slain bodies on the ground, particularly from the town of Bucha, have stirred global revulsion and led to demands for tougher sanctions and war crime prosecutions against Russia.

Zelenskyy, making his first appearance before the U.N.’s highest body, stressed there are more places in Ukraine that have suffered similar horrors. He called for a tribunal to be established that is similar to the Nuremberg tribunal set up to try war criminals after World War II.


WARSAW, Poland — Britain's foreign secretary says her country will urge the G-7 group to impose more sanctions on Russia, saying that current sanctions have already had a “crippling effect.”

Liz Truss said in Warsaw that sanctions have already frozen $350 billion of “Putin’s war chest,” saying that makes more than 60% of Russia’s $604 billion in currency reserves unavailable.

“Our coordinated sanctions are pushing the Russian economy back to the Soviet era,” she said at a news conference with her Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau.

She observed that Poland had seen more clearly the threat that Moscow posed in past years, even as Western countries embraced doing business with Russia.

“Poland has always been clear-eyed about Russia. You have understood Putin’s malign intent. You were right,” she said.

Truss said Britain will encourage the other G-7 countries to ban Russian ships from its ports, crack down on Russian banks, set a timetable to eliminate imports of Russian oil and gas, and try to prevent Russia from using gold to fund its war effort.


UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations chief says it is more urgent by the day to silence the guns in Ukraine, citing rising deaths and a new U.N. analysis indicating that 74 developing countries with a total population of 1.2 billion people are especially vulnerable to spiking food, energy and fertilizer prices.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that as a result of the global impact of Russia’s “full-fledged invasion on several fronts” of Ukraine, he said “we are already seeing some countries move from vulnerability into crisis and signs of serious social unrest.”

“The flames of conflict are fueled by inequality, deprivation and underfunding,” he said. “With all the warning signals flashing red, we have a duty to act.”

On food, Guterres urged all countries to keep markets open, resist unjustified export restrictions, make reserves available to countries at risk of hunger and famine and fund humanitarian appeals.

On energy, he said that using strategic stockpiles and reserves could help ease the energy crisis in the short-term “but the only medium- and long-term solution is to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy.”

On finance, he said “international financial institutions must go into emergency mode.” He urged the world’s 20 leading economies, the G-20, and international financial institutions “to increase liquidity and fiscal space so that governments can provide safety nets for the poorest and most vulnerable.”


BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister has spoken out in favor of providing Ukraine with additional weapons to defend itself against Russia.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that “we are looking at what solutions there are, together with the EU, NATO and in particular the G-7 partners.”

She dismissed criticism that Germany wasn’t doing enough to arm Ukraine, saying “there aren’t many other countries that have supplied more (weapons).”

Baerbock spoke following a conference in Berlin on support for Moldova, a poor, small eastern European nation bordering Ukraine that has been strongly affected by the conflict.

Participants agreed to take in 12,000 Ukrainian refugees currently in Moldova, provide 71 million euros in aid and almost 700 million euros in loans to the country, and support its efforts to fight corruption and decrease its energy dependence on Russia.


MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any move by foreign countries to nationalize Russian stakes in companies would be “a double-edged sword.”

“We are already hearing statements from officials about a possible nationalization of some of our assets,” he said. “How far will that get us? Let no one forget that it is a double-edged sword.”

Putin also bemoaned what he said was “administrative pressure on our company Gazprom in some European countries.” Germany on Monday put a government agency in charge of a longtime German subsidiary of Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled energy giant.

The move falls short of nationalization because the German state has not taken ownership of the shares, and it is a temporary change of administration through September.

Gazprom said last week it had cut ties with the unit but Germany says that was invalid because the identity of any new owners is unclear and the deal happened without the required government approval.


JERUSALEM -- Israel’s prime minister says he is shocked by the gruesome images emerging from the Ukrainian town of Bucha, but he stopped short of accusing Russia of being responsible or calling the atrocities a war crime.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters Tuesday that “we are, of course, shocked by the harsh scenes in Bucha. Terrible images, and we strongly condemn them.”

He said that “the images are extremely horrible. The suffering of the citizens of Ukraine is huge and we are doing everything we can to help.”

With Israel one of the few countries to have good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, Bennett has emerged as a mediator in efforts to end the war.

In order to preserve his relationship with Vladimir Putin, Bennett has been measured in his criticism of the Russian president. Instead, he has allowed Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to voice harsher condemnations.


BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says he expects more atrocities to come to light in Ukraine as Russian troops continue to retreat from areas around Kyiv.

Stoltenberg said Tuesday that “we haven’t seen everything that has taken place because Russia still controls most of these territories” around the capital. “But when and if they withdraw their troops and Ukrainian troops take over, I’m afraid they will see more mass graves, more atrocities and more examples of of war crimes.”

Stoltenberg rejected Russian assertions that the atrocities were staged.

He said that “these atrocities have taken place during a period in which Russia controlled these areas. So they are responsible. Second, we have information from many different sources.”


BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive branch has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia in what would be the first sanctions targeting the country’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that the EU needed to increase the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after what she described as the “heinous crimes” carried out around Kyiv.

Von der Leyen said the ban on coal imports is worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year. She added that the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.

Von der Leyen didn’t mention natural gas. A consensus among the 27 EU member countries on targeting gas that’s used to generate electricity, heat homes and power industry would be more difficult to secure.


MOSCOW -- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the expulsions of Russian diplomats by European countries will prompt a response from Moscow and will complicate international relations.

Germany, France, Italy and Spain are among the countries which have expelled diplomats since Monday.

Peskov said that “we view negatively, we view with regret this narrowing of possibilities for diplomatic communication, diplomatic work in such difficult conditions, in unprecedent crisis conditions.”

He added that “it is short-sighted and a step which firstly will complicate our communication, which is required in order to seek reconciliation. And secondly it will inevitably lead to reciprocal steps.”


PARIS — French prosecutors say they’re opening investigations into possible war crimes committed against French nationals in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded.

The national prosecutors’ office that specializes in terrorism cases said it launched three war crimes investigations on Tuesday, against suspects yet to be identified.

French law allows prosecutors to investigate suspected war crimes committed outside of France if they involve French victims or suspects who are French or who reside in France.

The three French probes will look into suspected suspected crimes in Mariupol, Chernihiv and Hostomel.

The prosecutors’ statement said the suspected crimes could include deliberate attacks against civilians and deliberately withholding the essentials they needed to survive, physical assaults, and the deliberate destruction of civilian installations.


GENEVA — The U.N. migration agency now estimates that more than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

The International Organization for Migration, in its first such full assessment in three weeks, reported Tuesday that more than 7.1 million had been displaced within Ukraine as of April 1. That comes on top of the figure of more than 4 million who have fled abroad, reported by the U.N. refugee agency.

IOM said more than 2.9 million others are actively considering “leaving their place of habitual residence due to war.”

Ukraine had a pre-war population of 44 million.


LVIV, Ukraine — The governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region has urged residents to stay inside, shut windows and doors and prepare wet face masks after a Russian strike hit a tank containing nitric acid.

Serhiy Haidai said on the messaging app Telegram Tuesday that the incident occurred near the city of Rubizhne, which the Ukrainian military says the Russians have been trying to take over. He didn’t specify what area the warning applies to.

Haidai warned that nitric acid “is dangerous if inhaled, swallowed and in contact with skin and mucous membranes.” The Russian military has not commented on the claim, and it could not be verified independently.


KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine says a civilian ship is sinking in the port of the besieged city of Mariupol after Russian forces fired on it.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the ship was struck during “shelling from the sea” by Russia, causing a fire in the engine room. The crew was rescued, including one injured crew member, it added.

The ministry said the ship was flying the flag of the Dominican Republic and posted a picture of a cargo vessel. It didn’t specify how many people were on board or the nationalities of the crew members.

Russian forces have been bombarding Mariupol for weeks as they try to tighten control over Ukraine’s southeastern coastline.


GENEVA — An international Red Cross team has shelved for Tuesday hopes of entering the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol after being held overnight by police in a town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the west.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been trying to get a small team into Mariupol since Friday as part of efforts to escort beleaguered civilians out and aid in, said the team held by police in Manhush was released overnight. It did not identify the nationality of the police involved, but Manhush is under Russian control.

The ICRC said in a statement that the team’s focus now is on the evacuation operation, and the “incident yesterday shows how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team.”

Jason Straziuso, an ICRC spokesman, said the team was “not planning on trying to enter Mariupol today. Our team’s humanitarian efforts today are focused on helping the evacuation efforts in nearby areas.”

Monday, April 4, 2022

PARIS — The French foreign ministry announced Monday that France has decided to expel “numerous” Russian diplomats, saying their “activities were contrary to our security interests."

The announcement came hours after Germany said it was expelling 40 diplomat and Lithuania said it expelled the Russian ambassador and will recall its envoy in Moscow. No number was immediately given for how many are being expelled by France.

German news agency dpa quoted German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser as saying that the diplomats being expelled are those "whom we attribute to the Russian intelligence services.”

Faeser says that “we won’t allow this criminal war of aggression to also be conducted as an information war in Germany..”



— Russia faces growing outrage amid new evidence of atrocities

— Ukraine accuses Russia of massacre, city strewn with bodies

World reacts with horror at images of slain civilians in Ukraine towns

Drug shortages persist in Russia after start of Ukraine war

Ukrainian refugees find jobs, kindness as they settle in

— Russian, Ukrainian ballet stars to dance together in Naples

— Go to for more coverage



UNITED NATIONS -- Britain’s U.N. ambassador says a previously planned U.N. Security Council meeting Tuesday is certain to focus “front and center” on the killing of large numbers of civilians in Ukraine.

Some of the dead were found with their hands tied behind their backs after Russian troops left the Ukrainian town of Bucha on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv.

The United Kingdom holds the council presidency in April, and Ambassador Barbara Woodward said Britain didn’t grant Russia’s request for a meeting on the situation in Bucha on Monday because “we didn’t see a good reason to have two meetings back to back on Ukraine.”

She told reporters that the Security Council will be briefed Tuesday by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo.

Woodward said that “the images that we saw coming out of Bucha over the weekend were harrowing, appalling, probable evidence of war crimes and possibly a genocide."


MOSCOW — Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the country feels no impact from the expulsion of its diplomats by various European countries, and indicates Russia will respond in kind.

Medvedev was Russia's president from 2008 through 2012 and is now deputy chairman of the security council under President Vladimir Putin. Writing on the messaging app Telegram, Medvedev says that “everyone knows the response: it will be symmetrical and destructive for bilateral relations.”

His comments came after Germany expelled 40 Russian diplomats Monday and Lithuania expelled the Russian ambassador and said it would recall its envoy in Moscow. France on Monday also announced it will expel “numerous” Russian diplomats.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated on Monday from the besieged port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.

Vereshchuk said a total of 2,405 people were evacuated along a humanitarian corridor route running from Mariupol to the Ukraine-held city of Zaporizhzhia, with 1,553 of those coming from Mariupol itself and the rest from other locations in the heavily contested area.

She said the people used the dwindling number of private vehicles left in the area to get out of Mariupol and that a convoy of seven buses sent to help remained unable to enter the city to collect people.

Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, is a key Russian military objective that has faced horrific bombardment.

Vereshchuk added that 971 other people were evacuated from five locations in the eastern Luhansk region, where Russia is now focusing much of its military efforts. She accused Russia of “systematically breaching” a local cease-fire planned to facilitate evacuations there.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian prosecutor-general Iryna Venediktova told Ukrainian TV today that a “similar humanitarian situation” to Bucha exists in other parts of the country where Russian forces recently left, such as the areas around the northern cities of Sumy and Chernihiv.

Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the Ukrainian capital, including Bucha, after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops, many with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture.

She also said the situation in Borodyanka, which is further from Kyiv and was also held by Russian forces until recently, may be even worse.

Venediktova didn’t specify what exactly had happened in Borodyanka but said “the worst situation in terms of the victims” is there.


BUCHAREST, Romania — Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Romania’s parliament Monday evening in a video call in which the leader said had Ukraine not defended itself, Russia would have carried out atrocities like that of Bucha “all over Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy, who visited the town of Bucha on Monday to see the alleged crimes of Russia’s forces against Ukrainian civilians, shared grim video footage during his address that showed areas strewn with dead bodies. The Bucha killings — which Zelenskyy labeled a “genocide” — have become the center of worldwide outrage against Russia.

“The military tortured people and we have every reason to believe that there are many more people killed,” Zelenskyy said. “Much more than we know now.”

The Ukrainian leader also called for tougher sanctions, saying “Russia must be deprived of all resources, primarily economic” and said that the fate of the region will be decided by the outcome of the war in Ukraine.

Before the Ukrainian leader’s address, the president of Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, Marcel Ciolacu, said the last few days “have shown us horrible images that have overwhelmed and revolted us all.”

“I support a speedy investigation by the International Criminal Court,” Ciolacu said.


KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian government says that 18 journalists have been killed in the country since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24.

The Ukrainian Culture and Information Ministry said in a statement on social media Monday that each of the deaths and other crimes against media representatives will be investigated.

The ministry added that another 13 journalists had been wounded, eight had been abducted or taken prisoner and three journalists were still missing. It said that several crimes had been committed against journalists from 11 countries, including Ukraine.


LVIV, Ukraine -- The governor of Ukraine’s northern Sumy region says Russian forces no longer control any settlements in the area following their retreat, although some small groups of Russian troops remain.

The city of Sumy is near the border with Russia and was besieged by Russian troops when the invasion began in February, as other Russian forces pushed onward to join efforts to attack the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, from the northeast. Russia began withdrawing troops from the area around Kyiv last week and says it is now focusing its efforts on the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Sumy Gov. Dmytro Zhyvystskyy said on Ukrainian TV that “currently there are no occupied settlements” and that invading forces have pulled back across the border into Russia with their vehicles and artillery.

However, he added, “there are still individual units and small groups of Russian troops and now they are being caught” by the Ukrainian army and local Territorial Defense volunteers.

“A clean-up is happening across the whole territory of the region," he said.


BERLIN — Germany is expelling 40 Russian diplomats in response to the killings in Bucha and says further measures with partners are being prepared.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday the images received from the Ukrainian town following the withdrawal of Russian troops “shows an intent to destroy that goes beyond all boundaries.”

Baerbock said the Bucha images also reveal the “unbelievable brutality of the Russian leadership and those who follow its propaganda.”

The German top diplomat said “we must fear similar images from many other places occupied by Russian troops in Ukraine” and that “we must counter this inhumanity with the strength of our freedom and our humanity.”

She added “it must also be clear that we must stand up for our freedom and be prepared to defend it.”

She said the Russian diplomats expelled “have worked here in Germany every day against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society” and that their work is “a threat to those who seek protection with us."

Baerbock said she told the Russian ambassador “we will not tolerate this any longer.”



THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The United States is allocating $250,000 to the global chemical weapons watchdog to provide “assistance and protection” to Ukraine if it is targeted or threatened with chemical weapons.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced the contribution Monday, following a meeting last Thursday between Marc Shaw, deputy assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance and OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias.

Western nations have warned of possible chemical weapons attacks by Russian forces since Moscow launched its invasion of its neighbor in late February.

Shaw said in a statement that the United States “stands with Ukraine and all those who face the threat of chemical weapons use.”

He says he hopes the money will allow the organization to “quickly assist Ukraine as it seeks protection against chemical threats from the Russian government.”

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday called for a war crimes trial against Russian President Vladimir Putin and additional sanctions following reported atrocities in Bucha, one of the towns surrounding the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv where Ukrainian officials say the bodies of civilians have been found.

“What’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone sees it,” Biden said.

Biden's comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the city called the Russian actions “genocide.” Zelenskyy also called for the West to apply tougher sanctions against Russia.

Biden, however, stopped short of calling the actions genocide.

The bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces, said Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various spots around Bucha, northwest of the capital.

“We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight. And we have to gather all the detail so this can be an actual -- have a war crimes trial,” Biden said.


WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday called for a war crimes trial against Russian President Vladimir Putin and additional sanctions following reported atrocities in Bucha, one of the towns surrounding the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv where Ukrainian officials say the bodies of civilians have been found.

“What’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone sees it,” Biden said.

Biden’s comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the city called the Russian actions “genocide.” Zelenskyy also called for the West to apply tougher sanctions against Russia.

Biden, however, stopped short of calling the actions genocide.

The bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces, said Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various spots around Bucha, northwest of the capital.

“We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight. And we have to gather all the detail so this can be an actual -- have a war crimes trial,” Biden said.


WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. defense official says about two-thirds of the roughly 20 Russian battalion groups that had been located around Kyiv have now left and are either in Belarus or on their way there.

The U.S. has said that the “vast majority” of Russia’s approximately 125 battalion groups had been in Ukraine overall during the early fighting.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a military assessment, said the U.S. assesses that Russian forces are being resupplied and reinforced in Belarus and would then go back into Ukraine, potentially in the Donbas region in the east.

In addition, Russian troops have been moving out of Sumy and back into Russia. But they have been reinforcing and repositioning their artillery and putting more energy into the fight around the city of Izyum, which lies on a key route to the Donbas.

The official said overall, Russia has launched more than 1,400 missiles into Ukraine since the war began. In recent days, those strikes have been more focused on the east and on Mariupol. The defense official said the U.S. can’t independently verify details of the atrocities in Bucha, but has no reason to doubt the claims. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was speaking with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Monday morning.


VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania on Monday announced that it will expel Russia’s ambassador and recall its envoy in Moscow in reaction to increasing signs that Russian forces may have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

The Baltic country also decided to close a Russian consulate in the port city of Klaipeda, where it has a large offshore LNG import terminal.

“Lithuania strongly condemned the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in occupied Ukrainian cities, including the brutal massacres in Bucha. All war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine will not be forgotten,” Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Monday.

He added that Lithuania’s ambassador to Ukraine was returning to Kyiv and that Lithuania’s European Union and NATO partners have been informed of its decision to expel the Russian ambassador. He called on them to do the same.

In neighboring Latvia, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said that Riga will narrow diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation, according to the Baltic News Service. No decision was made regarding reducing the ties.


A Russian law enforcement agency says it has launched its own investigation into allegations that Ukrainian civilians were massacred in suburbs of Kyiv which were held by Russian troops, focusing on what it calls “false information” about Russian forces.

The Investigative Committee claims Ukrainian authorities made the allegations “with the aim of discrediting Russian troops” and that those involved should be investigated over possible breaches of a new Russian law banning what the government deems to be false information about its forces.

Russian law enforcement has launched several investigations since Russian troops entered Ukraine, typically into incidents such as the shelling of areas held by Russia-backed separatists.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that Russia needs to move quickly to negotiate an agreement to end the war.

Speaking on a visit Monday to the town of Bucha outside Kyiv, where hundreds of civilians were found dead after Russian troops’ retreat last week, Zelenskyy said the evidence of atrocities makes it hard to conduct talks with Russia.

“It’s very difficult to conduct negotiations when you see what they did here,” Zelenskyy said, adding that in Bucha and other places “dead people have been found in barrels, basements, strangled, tortured.” He added that the Russian leadership “needs to think faster if it has what to think with.”

Zelenskyy added that “the longer the Russian Federation drags it out, the worse it will exacerbate its own situation and this war.” Zelenskyy reaffirmed his criticism of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s opposition to Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, saying that she and other Western leaders who resisted the move should come to Bucha to “see what the flirting with the Russian Federation leads to.”


CAIRO — Five Arab foreign ministers have traveled to Moscow for talks with Russia’s top diplomat on the war in Ukraine.

The Arab League says the foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan and Sudan will meet Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Ahemd Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, will also join the meeting.

The pan-Arab organization says the ministers will then travel to Poland on Tuesday for talks with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.


GENEVA — The United States plans to seek a suspension of Russia from its seat on the U.N.’s top human rights body in the wake of rising signs that Russian forces may have committed war crimes in Ukraine, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday.

According to a statement from her office, Thomas-Greenfield made the call for Russia to be stripped of its seat in the Human Rights Council in the wake of reports over the weekend about violence against civilians in the town of Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, after Russian forces pulled out.

Any decision to suspend Russia would require a decision by the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Russia and the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France and the United States — all currently have seats on the 47-member rights council, which is based in Geneva. The United States rejoined the council this year.

Thomas-Greenfield mentioned the U.S. plan in a meeting with Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, her office said.

In New York, General Assembly spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said on Monday that no request for a meeting on the issue has been received yet.


GENEVA — The United Nations’ top human rights official is calling for “independent and effective investigations” into what happened in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement Monday that she is “horrified by the images of civilians lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves.”

She added that “reports emerging from this and other areas raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law.”

Bachelet said it’s essential that all bodies be exhumed and identified so that victims’ families can be informed and the exact causes of death determined. She said all measures should be taken to preserve evidence.

“It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families,” Bachelet said.


LONDON — Britain has condemned Russia’s “barbaric” killing of civilians in Ukraine, though it stopped short of calling Moscow’s actions genocide.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said bodies found in areas recently recaptured from Russia showed “despicable attacks against innocent civilians, and they are yet more evidence that Putin and his army are committing what appear to be war crimes in Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and some Western leaders have accused Russia of committing genocide.

Blain said “the prime minister’s view is that Putin crossed the threshold of barbarism some time ago,” but added that only a court can make a determination of genocide.

Britain is urging Western allies to enforce tougher sanctions to “ratchet up” pressure on Russia, including cutting it off completely from the SWIFT international payments system.


MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated the Moscow-friendly leaders of Hungary and Serbia on winning elections.

In a letter sent Monday to Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban whose right-wing Fidesz party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s vote, Putin said that “despite the difficult international situation, the further development of bilateral partnership fully conforms to the interests of peoples of Russia and Hungary,” according to the Kremlin.

Putin also congratulated Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on his re-election Sunday, saying that the outcome of the vote confirms a “broad public support” for his independent foreign policies. The Russian leader voiced hope that Vucic’s activities will help further strengthen the “strategic partnership” between Russia and Serbia.


MOSCOW — Russia’s top diplomat has dismissed Ukraine’s accusations that Russian troops committed atrocities against its civilians as a staged provocation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the start of his talks Monday with U.N. Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths that Moscow sees the Ukrainian claim of a massacre of civilians in Bucha outside Kyiv as “a provocation that posed a direct threat to global peace and security.”

Lavrov noted that Russia has called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council but the U.K. that currently chairs it refused to convene it. He vowed to press the demand for holding the meeting.

Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the Ukrainian capital after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops, many with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture. A growing number of world leaders have voiced outrage and called for tougher sanctions against Moscow.

Lavrov charged that the mayor of Bucha made no mention of atrocities against civilians a day after Russian troops left Bucha on Wednesday, but two days later scores of bodies were photographed scattered in the streets in what the Russian minister described as a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation.”


TIRANA, Albania — The leaders of Albania and Kosovo have harshly condemned what they say is evidence of brutal killings of Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops and urged the world to hold Russia accountable.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said the bodies found after Russian soldiers left Bucha, near Kyiv, are “shocking” and strongly urged for an independent investigation “of such horrible crimes.”

“Nothing can ever excuse such cruelty. What a pain and what a shame!” he tweeted.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti said the bodies found in Bucha reminded him of similar atrocities committed in his country during the 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian independent fighters and Serbian forces.

“Mass graves, people brutally killed with body parts missing, burned houses and cities turned to rubble are all familiar scenes from genocidal regimes,” he posted Monday on Twitter.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, nine years after a bloody conflict between Serbia and Albanian separatists in Kosovo, then a Serbian province, which killed more than 12,000 people and left about 1,600 still missing.

“The perpetrators of the Bucha Massacre must be brought to justice and Russia must be held accountable,” he said.

Both Albania and Kosovo have joined calls for hard-hitting sanctions on Russia to be imposed by the European Union and the United States.


MOSCOW — The Kremlin has strongly rejected the accusations that Russian troops committed atrocities against civilians in Ukraine and pushed for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the Ukrainian claims that Russian troops had killed hundreds of civilians outside Kyiv can’t be trusted, adding that “we categorically reject the accusations.” Peskov’s comment in a conference call with reporters followed the Russian Defense Ministry’s statement accusing the Ukrainian authorities of stage-managing what it described as a “provocation” to smear Russia.

Ukrainian authorities have said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the Ukrainian capital after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops, many with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture. International leaders have condemned the reported atrocities and called for tougher sanctions against Moscow.

Peskov said that photo and video materials from the area reflected unspecified “manipulations” and urged international leaders to carefully analyze the facts and hear the Russian arguments before rushing to blame Moscow.

Russia has called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council but the U.K. which currently chairs it refused to convene it, according to Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy at the international organization’s offices in Vienna.

Peskov said that Russia will keep pushing for the meeting, noting that Russia wants the issue to be discussed at the highest level.


MADRID -- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Russian troops’ alleged atrocities against civilians in Ukraine should be judged in an international court and may amount to genocide.

Sánchez said Monday: “I hope that everything possible can be done so that those behind these war crimes don’t go unpunished, and that they can appear before the courts, in this case the International Criminal Court, to answer these alleged cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and, why not say it, of genocide, too.”

He was speaking at an economic forum in Madrid after Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the capital Kyiv after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops. Many had their hands bound, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture.

Sánchez said he felt indignation at “the horror of these deaths that we have seen in recent days.”

Also in Spain on Monday U.S. federal agents and Spain’s Civil Guard searched a yacht owned by a Russian oligarch that was docked on a Spanish island.

The law enforcement officers boarded the yacht at the Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Associated Press reporters at the scene saw police going in and out of the boat on Monday morning.

A Civil Guard source told The Associated Press that the yacht named Tango is a 78-meter (254-feet) vessel that carries Cook Islands flag and that, a specialized website that tracks the world’s largest and most exclusive recreational boats, values it at $120 million. The source was not authorized to be named in media reports and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The yacht is among the assets linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire and close ally with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets, according to U.S. Treasury Department documents. All of Vekselberg’s assets in the U.S. are frozen and U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business with him and his entities.


BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat has joined a growing chorus of international criticism blaming the Russian armed forces for alleged atrocities committed against civilians in Ukraine.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says “the Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area. They are subject to the international law of occupation.”

Borrell said Monday that the “haunting images of large numbers of civilian deaths and casualties, as well as destruction of civilian infrastructures show the true face of the brutal war of aggression Russia is waging against Ukraine and its people.”

Working with the U.S., U.K. and other international partners, the EU has been ramping up sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February. Borrell says the 27-country bloc “will advance, as a matter of urgency, work on further sanctions against Russia.”


WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s prime minister has described Russia as a “totalitarian fascist” state that has carried out atrocities against civilians in Ukraine.

Mateusz Morawiecki called Monday for an international commission to be formed to investigate the evidence emerging that Russian soldiers carried out executions of Ukrainian civilians.

“Russia is already a totalitarian-fascist state today,” Mateusz Morawiecki said at a news conference in Warsaw.

“The bloody massacres perpetrated by Russian soldiers deserve to be called by name: This is genocide and this crime must be tried as the crime of genocide,” Morawiecki said.

He called on other Western powers to impose even heavier sanctions on Russia in order to weaken its war machine, saying that Germany in particular should do more to support sanctions.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Estonia Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said the photos of bodies scattered in a city on the outskirts of Kyiv “recall the mass killings by Soviet and Nazi regimes.”

“This is not a battlefield, it’s a crime scene. Mass killings of Ukrainian civilians by #Russia are clear war crime,” Kallas said on Twitter and called for “a 5th round of strong EU sanctions as soon as possible.”

The Baltic country’s Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets said the pictures from Bucha are ”appalling,” the Baltic News Service reported.


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron condemned “with utmost strength” the reported torture and killings of Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops in an interview Monday on France-Inter radio.

“There is clear evidence of war crimes. It was the Russian army that was in Bucha," Macron said. “We have told Ukrainian authorities that we were at their disposal to help with the investigation they’re carrying out. International justice must prevail. Those who committed these crimes will have to answer for them.”

Macron joined leaders from around the world who are calling for stronger sanctions in response to the reports.

“What just happened in Bucha calls for a new round of sanctions and very clear measures. We will coordinate with our European partners, especially Germany and we will take further individual measures," Macron said. "In particular on coal and petrol, we need to act.”

“It is our collective dignity and it is our values that we need to defend," he added.


LONDON — Britain’s Defense Ministry says Russia is continuing to build up both its soldiers and mercenaries in eastern Ukraine.

“Russian forces are continuing to consolidate and reorganize as they refocus their offensive into the Donbas region in the east of Ukraine,” the ministry said in an intelligence update posted on social media Monday.

It says Russian troops are being moved into the area, along with mercenaries from the Wagner private military group.

Overnight, the U.K. said Russia was still trying to take the southern port city of Mariupol, which has seen weeks of intense fighting. It said “the city continues to be subject to intense, indiscriminate strikes, but Ukrainian Forces maintain a staunch resistance, retaining control in central areas.”

The update added that “Mariupol is almost certainly a key objective of the Russian invasion as it will secure a land corridor from Russia to the occupied territory of Crimea,” which it annexed in 2014.

Friday, April 1, 2022

The secretary of Ukraine’s national security council has denied the country was responsible for a reported attack on a Russian fuel depot.

Moscow had earlier placed the blame on Ukraine. There was no independent confirmation of details about the incident.

“For some reason they say that we did it, but in fact this does not correspond with reality,” Oleksiy Danilov said on Ukrainian television on Friday.

Regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said earlier that two Ukrainian helicopter gunships had flown at low altitude and struck the facility in the city of Belgorod north of the border.

Two workers at the depot were injured, he said. But Russian media cited a statement from state oil company Rosneft that denied anyone was hurt.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy’s office said 86 Ukrainian service members were freed in the Zaporizhzhia region as part of a prisoner swap with Russia. The number of Russians released was not disclosed.



— Ukraine top of agenda as China rejects sanctions at summit

— Ukraine strike on Russian territory reported as talks resume

— War in Ukraine fuels fears among draft-age Russian youths

— African refugees see racial bias as US welcomes Ukrainians

— Go to for more coverage



KYIV, Ukraine – The mayor of Kyiv said the bombardment of satellite towns near the Ukrainian capital was ongoing despite Russian promises of scaling back troops from the region.

Vitali Klitschko told British broadcaster Sky News on Friday he could hear the sounds of explosions “nonstop during the day and night.”

Klitschko said that the cities northwest of Kyiv such as Irpin, Borodyanka and Hostomel were being targeted after Ukrainian fighters moved back Russian troops, and that fighting also persisted in Brovary, east of Kyiv.

For those who may want to return to Kyiv in light of the supposed Russian withdrawal, he urged people to wait a “couple of weeks” to see how the situation develops.


GENEVA — The International Committee of the Red Cross says a team intending to help people leave the besieged city of Mariupol was unable to reach the port city on Friday.

The Red Cross said in a statement that the team hopes to try again Saturday.

“Arrangements and conditions made it impossible” for the convoy of three vehicles to get safely to Mariupol and they returned to Zaporizhzhia, it said.

“For the operation to succeed, it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees,” the organization said.


BERLIN — The International Energy Agency says its members agreed Friday to release further oil from their emergency reserves in response to the market turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Paris-based agency said in a statement that the agreement was reached at an extraordinary meeting of ministers. It did not provide information on how much emergency stock would be released, saying this would be made public next week.

The agency’s 31 members previously announced last month that they would release 62.7 million barrels of oil to ease shortages.

It said members noted the high oil price volatility caused by the war, with commercial inventories at their lowest level since 2014 and particular difficulties in diesel markets. Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer, with about 60% of exports going to Europe and 20% going to China.

The IEA said its member hold emergency stockpiles of 1.5 billion barrels.


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron promised to keep working to establish a sustainable humanitarian corridor in and out of Mariupol in talks Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy appealed to Macron to continue diplomatic efforts to get Russia to agree to conditions for evacuation and aid, according to Macron’s office. That includes a durable cease-fire announced far enough in advance to be able to organize help.

The French leader has been trying for a week to arrange help for Mariupol, so far without evident success.

Macron’s office said France is working to ensure that people fleeing Mariupol can go “in the direction of their choosing,” and that France is available to help civilians displaced by the war to settle elsewhere in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy tweeted after the call: “Told about countering Russian aggression. Discussed the negotiation process - the course and prospects, the importance of security guarantees. The initiative of (France) on humanitarian corridors from Mariupol must be implemented!”


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president said he renewed a call for a meeting between leaders of Ukraine and Russia in a telephone call Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A statement from Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said he and Putin also discussed the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia that were held in Istanbul earlier in the week.

Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader told Putin that the Istanbul talks had “raised hopes for peace.” Erdogan said Turkey wanted to cap off those efforts by bringing Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy together, according to the statement.

The statement said Erdogan told Putin that it was important for the sides “to act with common sense and to maintain the dialogue.”

During the call, Putin thanked Erdogan for hosting the meeting between the delegations, according to the Erdogan’s office.

Earlier on Friday, Erdogan said Zelenskyy was willing to participate in a leaders’ meeting to be hosted by Turkey.


MILAN — Italy’s foreign minister was visiting Azerbaijan on Friday as part of Italy’s efforts to diversify its natural gas supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Italy buys 40% of its gas from Russia, which Premier Mario Draghi acknowledged Thursday was directly financing Russia’s war.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio will discuss the possibility of increasing the supply of gas from Azerbaijan through the Trans-Adriatic pipeline, which was developed as an alternative to Russia supplies. The pipeline transported its first gas at the end of 2020.

Di Maio has been on missions to Qatar, Algeria, Angola and Congo as Italy seeks to replace Russian gas.


VIENNA — The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says that Russian forces’ departure from the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant is “a step in the right direction” and the U.N. nuclear watchdog plans to be there “very, very soon.”

IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi says he will head a support mission to Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, and that further nuclear safety missions to Ukraine will follow.

Grossi spoke Friday after visits to Ukraine and Russia. He said Russian nuclear and foreign ministry officials didn’t discuss with him why Russian forces left Chernobyl.

Of the overall situation in the area, he said: “The general radiation situation around the plant is quite normal. There was a relatively higher level of localized radiation because of the movement of heavy vehicles at the time of the occupation of the plant, and apparently this might have been the case again on the way out.”

Ukraine’s state power company said Russian troops received “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches in the exclusion zone around the plant. But Grossi said “we don’t have any confirmation” that soldiers were contaminated.


MOSCOW — Russian officials say their demand that natural gas be paid for in rubles doesn’t mean supplies will be immediately interrupted.

Gas used for heating and electricity was still flowing from Russia to Europe on Friday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “payments on shipments in progress right now must be made not this very day, but somewhere in late April, or even early May.”

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russia would start accepting ruble payments Friday and gas supplies would be cut off if buyers don’t agree to the new conditions.

A decree he signed gave Russian authorities and Gazprombank 10 days to make arrangements. It also says countries could pay foreign currency to the bank, which would convert it to rubles in a second account.

The European Commission’s energy chief tweeted that the European Union was coordinating “to establish a common approach.” Western leaders have said they will keep paying in euros and dollars.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s general staff says the country’s armed forces have retaken control over 29 settlements in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, where Russia has pulled back some of its troops.

The Russian military in the northeast continues to block and shell Chernihiv and Kharkiv, the general staff said Friday.

In the southeast of the country the Russians are trying to seize the cities of Popasna, Rubizhne and Mariupol in order to expand the territory of separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, according to the Ukrainian military.


LVIV, Ukraine — Authorities in Mariupol say it is not possible to enter the besieged Ukrainian city and that it is dangerous for people to try and leave it on their own.

“We don’t see a real desire from the Russians ... to provide an opportunity for Mariupol residents to evacuate to territory controlled by Ukraine,” Petro Andryushchenko, adviser the mayor of the city, said Friday on the messaging app Telegram.

“Since yesterday, the occupiers have categorically not allowed any humanitarian cargo, even in small volumes, to enter the city,” he added.

Russian officials on Friday allowed 42 buses with Mariupol residents to depart from the neighboring occupied city of Berdyansk, which Mariupol residents were able to reach on their own.

A convoy of about 2,000 refugees, escorted by the Red Cross, on Friday afternoon was heading to the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is under Ukrainian control.

The Mariupol city council on Friday said Russia’s actions in Ukraine and in their bombed-out city amounted to genocide.


WARSAW, Poland — Ukraine’s foreign minister says that now his country’s government is back in control of the Chernobyl nuclear site, it will work with the U.N. atomic agency to determine what the occupying Russians did there and mitigate any danger.

Russian troops left the heavily contaminated nuclear site early Friday after returning control to the Ukrainians.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Russians behaved irresponsibly at the site during the more than four weeks that they controlled it, preventing staff at the plant from performing their full duties and digging trenches in contaminated areas.

Kuleba told a news conference in Warsaw that the Russian government had exposed its soldiers to radiation, endangering their health.


ROME — Venice is preparing special material to send to Lviv’s National Art Gallery and other museums in the Ukrainian city so artworks can be better protected during the war.

Mariacristina Gribaudi, head of the Venice Civic Museums Foundation, said in a statement Friday that some 65,000 artworks and 2,000 sculptures have been placed in Lviv storerooms as a precaution, but the objects aren’t adequately protected.

The Venice foundation will oversee a shipment of special fabric that can cover paintings and graphic art as well as furniture, costumes and materials made from glass or marble to protect the objects from the majority of solvents and gasses. The fabric also impedes mold and fungus growth while the works are in storage.

Also being sent are polyethylene foam shock-resistant panels.

Venice museums experts also gave advice in a video call with the Lviv gallery’s management about how to best store artworks.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says that new sanctions against Russia are needed “to force (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to end this crazy aggression.”

Le Drian, who was in Estonia and spoke through an interpreter, also said Friday that “Russia cannot expect to win this war.”

Le Drian was to travel later in the day to Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.


ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reiterated that he would like to host a meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian leaders in Istanbul, in the hope that it would “turn the negative course of events into a positive one.”

Erdogan made the comments on Friday hours before he was scheduled to hold a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the call, he was expected to renew an offer to host a leaders’ meeting.

Erdogan told reporters that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with whom he spoke on Thursday, had a “positive outlook” toward such a meeting in Turkey and that Putin’s attitude had been positive in the past.

Russian and Ukrainian delegations held a face-to-face meeting in Istanbul earlier this week during which Ukraine presented a list of proposals, including that it would have neutral status guaranteed by a range of foreign countries.


LVIV, Ukraine — Talks between Russia and Ukraine have resumed via video link.

Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky published a picture of the talks under way Friday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office confirmed to The Associated Press that the negotiations had resumed.

Friday’s talks came three days after the last meeting, in Turkey, between Russian and Ukrainian delegations.

Medinsky, the Russian lead negotiator, said “our positions on Crimea and the Donbas are unchanged.”

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine in 2014. The Donbas is the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014.


BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive arm is proposing that the 27-nation bloc’s countries allow the millions of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine to exchange their hryvnia banknotes into the currencies of host member nations.

The European Commission said Friday its proposal aims at promoting a coordinated approach within the region.

“This approach was necessary in light of the fact that the National Bank of Ukraine had to suspend the exchange of hryvnia banknotes into foreign cash in order to protect Ukraine’s limited foreign exchange reserves,” the commission said.

“As a consequence, credit institutions in EU Member States have been unwilling to carry out the exchanges due to the limited convertibility of hryvnia banknotes and exposure to exchange rate risk.”

According to EU figures, more than 3.8 million of people fleeing the war have arrived in the European Union. More than 4 million have fled Ukraine.

The Commission proposed a maximum limit of 10,000 hryvnias (306 euros) per person, without charges, at the official exchange rate as published by the National Bank of Ukraine.


BERLIN — The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog says he will head a team to the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine “as soon as possible.”

Rafael Mariano Grossi wrote on Twitter that the International Atomic Energy Agency “assistance and support” mission to Chernobyl “will be the first in a series of such nuclear safety and security missions to Ukraine.”

Grossi’s comments followed his visits to Ukraine and then to Russia this week. He didn’t elaborate on his plans or give a more precise timeframe. He was due to hold a news conference in Vienna later Friday.

Russian forces took control of Chernobyl, the site of a 1986 nuclear disaster, at the beginning of the war. But authorities say the troops have now left after returning control to the Ukrainians.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian government is proposing a national 14.4 billion kroner ($1.7 billion) crisis package for the war in Ukraine, including spending on refugees and national defense.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told a press conference Friday, “We should take good care” of the Ukrainian refugees while they are in Norway. “This will demand the best of us,” he said.

If the proposal is passed by parliament, as expected, some 7.1 billion kroner ($815 million) will be spent on the refugees, police and the Norwegian immigration agency. Norway expects to receive 35,000 refugees this year.

Money is also going to strengthening the country’s military and civilian defense. Earlier the government has said it wants an extra allocation of 3.5 billion kroner ($402 million) for 2022 to strengthen NATO member Norway’s Armed Forces and civilian preparedness.


MOSCOW — The Kremlin says reports that Ukrainian helicopter gunships attacked a fuel depot inside Russia, setting it ablaze, are not conducive to talks between the two sides in the war.

Asked if the reported incident could be viewed as an escalation of the conflict, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks.”

Russia-Ukraine talks were expected to continue Friday via video link.

The governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod accused Ukraine of flying helicopter gunships into Russian territory early Friday morning and targeting the oil depot, in what if confirmed would be the first attack of its kind.

It was not immediately possible to verify the report.

Peskov said President Vladimir Putin had been informed about the reported fire. He told a daily conference call with reporters that Russian authorities were taking measures to ensure fuel supplies in the region were not disrupted.


BEIJING — China is accusing the United States of instigating the war in Ukraine and says NATO should have been disbanded following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

“As the culprit and leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. has led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing Friday.

“The number of NATO members increased from 16 to 30, and they have moved eastward more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) to somewhere near the Russian border, pushing Russia to the wall step by step,” Zhao said.

While China says it is not taking sides in the conflict, it has declared a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, has refused to condemn the invasion, opposes sanctions on Russia and routinely amplifies Russian disinformation about the conflict, including not referring to it as an invasion or a war in keeping with Russian practice.

Zhao’s comments came as Chinese and European Union leaders were meeting virtually for a summit at which Ukraine was expected to dominate discussions. EU officials say they are looking for a commitment from China not to undermine sanctions and assist in efforts to halt the fighting.


GENEVA — The International Committee of the Red Cross says it’s not sure that a planned delivery of aid into Mariupol and an evacuation of civilians out of the besieged Ukrainian city will happen Friday.

Spokesman Ewan Watson told a U.N. briefing in Geneva that the humanitarian group has sent three vehicles toward Mariupol and a frontline between Ukrainian and Russian forces, but two trucks carrying supplies for the city were not accompanying them.

Dozens of busses that have been put together by Ukrainian authorities to take people out also have not started approaching the dividing line, he said Friday.

Watson called it an “extremely complex” operation, adding that “not all details are in place to ensure that this happens today.”

He said the hope was that “thousands” of people could be ferried out, and their destination would be into parts of Ukraine less affected by the fighting that has been ongoing since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Europol, the European Union police agency, has sent teams to countries bordering Ukraine in an effort to protect refugees from criminals.

The Hague-based agency said Friday its teams are supporting local authorities by running secondary security checks and seeking to “identify criminals and terrorists trying to enter the EU in the refugee flow and exploit the situation.”

The Europol teams are operating in Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova and are planning to deploy to Romania, too.

The agency says they also are gathering intelligence to feed into criminal threat assessments across Europe.

The United Nations says that more than 4 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Police in Norway say they have intensified information and intelligence gathering as a result of the security situation in Europe.

The move is to help “prevent and detect crime as a result of the migration flow and the tense security policy situation,” National Police Commissioner Benedicte Bjørnland said in a statement Friday.

She added that “we are particularly aware of the crime challenges that may arise as a result of the migration flow.” She did not elaborate.

More than 7,800 Ukrainians have sought asylum in Norway.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

GENEVA — A team with the International Committee of the Red Cross has arrived in a Ukraine-held city where staff are preparing to take civilians out of the beleaguered port city of Mariupol.

Julien Lerisson, deputy director of operations for the ICRC, said Thursday that the team assembling in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, has medicines, food, water, hygiene items and other essentials.

He said the organization has high-level agreement for the mission but is focused on making sure “the order trickles down the chain of command," allowing the team to enter and leave Mariupol safely.

The Russian military has said it committed to a cease-fire along the route from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. Ukrainian authorities have said 45 buses would be sent to collect citizens and provide resources to those who remain.

Lucile Marbeau, a staff member with the ICRC team hoping to enter Mariupol, said on Thursday: “We’re here because really, we hope to be able to facilitate safe passage for civilians desperately wanting to flee Mariupol.”



— Heavy fighting rages near Kyiv as Russia appears to regroup

— Kremlin decree says foreign currency can still buy natural gas

— As Russia sees tech brain drain, other nations hope to gain

— Ukraine refugees encouraged to find work as exodus slows

— Ukrainians in US mobilize to help expected refugees

— Go to for more coverage



LONDON — Britain’s defense minister says Ukraine’s international allies have agreed to send more military equipment, including artillery ammunition and armored vehicles.

U.K. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace held a conference call Thursday with defense ministers from more than 35 countries, including the United States, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan.

Wallace said that as a result “there will be more lethal aid going into Ukraine.” He said that would include “more long-range artillery, ammunition predominantly,” to help counter Russia’s bombardment of Ukraine’s cities.

Wallace said Ukraine was “also looking for armoured vehicles of some types, not tanks necessarily, but certainly protective vehicles.”

He said allies were also “looking to see what more we can do” to help Ukraine defend its coastline.


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has sanctioned an employee of a state-affiliated Russian defense firm that developed malicious software that was used to target the energy sector.

The Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh. He was one of four Russians charged in Justice Department indictments unsealed last week that alleged the hacking by Russia of critical infrastructure around the globe, including in the U.S. energy and aviation sectors.

Among the thousands of computers targeted in some 135 countries were of a Saudi petro-chemical plant where the hackers overrode safety controls.

That hack is singled out in a Treasury Department release announcing sanctions against Gladikh and several other employees of the research firm. In total, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that it was designating 21 entities and 13 individuals, including in the aerospace, marine and electronics sectors.


LVIV, Ukraine — Russian troops were leaving the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and heading towards Ukraine’s border with Belarus, the Ukrainian nuclear operator company said Thursday.

The operator, Energoatom, said that the Russian military was also preparing to leave Slavutych, a nearby city where power plant workers live.

Energoatom also said reports were confirmed that the Russians dug trenches in the Red Forest, the 10-square-kilometer (nearly four-square-mile) area surrounding the Chernobyl plant within the Exclusion Zone, and received “significant doses of radiation.”

The Russian troops “panicked at the first sign of illness,” which “showed up very quickly,” and began to prepare to leave, the operator said. The claim couldn’t be independently verified.

Energoatom said the Russians have signed a document confirming the handover of the Chernobyl plant and stating that the plant’s administration doesn’t have any complaints about the Russian troops who were “guarding” the facility.


LONDON — The head of Britain’s military says Russian President Vladimir Putin has “already lost” in Ukraine and is weaker than he was before the invasion.

Adm. Tony Radakin at a think-tank seminar Thursday in London said Moscow’s aim to “take the whole of Ukraine” fell apart. He added that the coming weeks “will continue to be very difficult” for Ukraine.

“But in many ways, Putin has already lost,” he said. “Far from being the far-sighted manipulator of events that he would have us believe, Putin has damaged himself through a series of catastrophic misjudgements.”

Radakin also said there was “disquiet” at all levels of Russia’s military about the campaign, from troops who were not told they were invading Ukraine up to senior commanders.

Western officials say Putin’s small inner circle is not giving him the true picture of the war, and his isolation may have contributed to miscalculating the strength of resistance Russian troops would meet.


BERLIN — The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed regret Thursday at Russia’s decision to veto the extension of its observer mission in Ukraine.

The OSCE’s special monitoring mission has been present in Ukraine since 2014, when fighting between Ukrainians and Russia-backed separatists broke out in the country’s eastern regions after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, who holds the OSCE rotating chair, said the observers had played a “crucial role by providing objective information on the security and humanitarian situation on the ground and relentlessly working to ease the effects of the conflict on the civilian population” in Ukraine for the past eight year.

The Vienna-based body’s secretary general, Helga Maria Schmid, expressed gratitude to the mission’s members, several of whom were wounded or killed over the years.


BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister says Europe should impose additional sanctions on Russia to prevent what he described as a “barbaric” war in Ukraine.

Robert Habeck said he discussed what further measures could be taken with his French counterpart during a bilateral meeting in Berlin on Thursday.

“The last package (of sanctions) doesn’t need to be the final one, it should not be the final one,” he told reporters, adding that he and French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire had “identified additional points that could be included in a (sanctions) package.”

Habeck declined to elaborate on what those points might be.

Speaking ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on new rules requiring countries to pay for Russia’s natural gas sales in rubles, Habeck insisted that contracts would be adhered to. These stipulate payment in euros or dollars.


BERLIN — The Austrian and German leaders have underlined their rejection of a halt to Russian energy deliveries at this point.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer noted that several central and eastern European countries depend to one extent or another on Russian gas deliveries.

He and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz argued that existing sanctions already are having a significant effect and said they need time to switch to new providers and renewable energy sources.

Nehammer said that “sanctions only make sense … when they hit those they are supposed to hit, and don’t weaken those who carry out sanctions.”


ROME — A Kremlin decree says “unfriendly countries” can continue to pay for natural gas in foreign currency through a Russian bank that will convert the money into rubles.

The decree published Thursday by state media came a day after the leaders of Italy and Germany said they received assurances from President Vladimir Putin.

Putin talked tougher, saying Russia will start accepting ruble payments starting Friday for Western countries that imposed sanctions over its conflict with Ukraine. He said contracts will be stopped if buyers don’t sign up to the new conditions, including opening ruble accounts in Russian banks.

European leaders had rejected paying for deliveries in rubles, saying it would undermine sanctions imposed because of the war in Ukraine.

The decree Putin signed and published by state news agency RIA Novosti says a designated bank will open two accounts for each buyer, one in foreign currency and one in rubles. The buyers will pay in foreign currency and authorize the bank to sell that currency for rubles, which are placed in the second account, where the gas is formally purchased.


ROME — Italy’s leader is urging Europe to “cultivate all available land” as a partial remedy to reductions in agricultural imports, especially of Russian grain, due to the war in Ukraine.

Premier Mario Draghi told reporters on Thursday that under existing agricultural practices in the European Union 10% of land is purposely left fallow, but that must now change as European countries search for ways to reduce dependency on farm imports.

It’s not clear whether Ukraine, one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, maize and sunflower oil, might be able to salvage any of this planting season.

Meanwhile, Draghi noted that Western Europe will be looking to food producers like Canada, the United States and Argentina to help make up the shortfall of imports from Ukraine and Russia.


STOCKHOLM — The deputy director of Sweden’s Military Intelligence and Security agency says Russia has made “a strategic miscalculation when invading Ukraine.”

Daniel Olsson said the invasion of Ukraine “has shown that the Russian leadership is ready to take great risks, larger than previously taken.”

The government agency’s analysis suggested a likely “a western containment of Russia,” including reducing trade in Russian energy.


MADRID -- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says his country has so far received more than 30,000 Ukrainian refugees and expects that figure to reach 70,000 “within days.”

Sánchez announced the latest refugee numbers Thursday during a visit to a refugee reception center in the southeastern city of Alicante, one of four in Spain.

Also Thursday, Defense Minister Margarita Robles said Spain has sent 10 transport aircraft with weapons and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. She didn’t specify how many shipments of each type were sent, but at least two carried arms.

She also said during a visit to the Morón de la Frontera air base in southern Spain that eight Spanish F-18 fighter planes are going to Lithuania to take part in NATO patrols.


KYIV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian emergency services say the death toll after a Russian missile strike Tuesday on the regional government headquarters in the southern city of Mykolaiv has risen to 20.

The emergency services said rescuers had now found 19 bodies in the ruins since the strike devastated the government building Tuesday morning. One other person died in hospital.

The regional governor accused Russia of waiting until people arrived for work before striking the building.

Emergency services said they are still working at the scene.


HELSINKI — Greenpeace says its activists from the Nordic countries and Russia have blocked a the transfer of Russian oil between two large tankers sailing in northern Denmark.

Greenpeace said swimmers and activists in kayaks and boats from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia placed themselves between two supertankers to block the transfer of 100,000 tonnes of Russian oil in waters in northern Denmark.

The environmental organization called for an embargo of Russian fuels to stop the funding of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. It said in a statement Thursday that “every time Russian oil or gas are purchased, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war chest grows, and so far at least 299 supertankers with fossil fuels have left Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine.”

Despite some countries declaring a ban on the arrival of Russian vessels to their ports, Russian coal, oil and gas is still arriving via ships registered in other countries, Greenpeace said.


ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says Europe is pushing for a cap on gas prices with Russia because its payments are financing the war in Ukraine.

Draghi told foreign reporters Thursday that the prices that Europe is paying are out of line with the global market.

“We, Germany and Italy, along with other countries that are importers of gas, coal, grains, corn ... are financing the war. There is no doubt,’’ Draghi said. “For this reason, Italy along with other countries are pushing for a cap on the price of gas. There is no substantial reason that the price of gas is so high for Europeans.”

Draghi noted that Russia has no other market for its gas, giving Europe room to maneuver. Asked about the risk that Russia would simply respond by turning off the taps, Draghi said, “no there is no danger.”


BERLIN -- The German government says its energy minister has received a Ukrainian delegation that includes the foreign ministry’s special envoy for sanctions policy.

The Economy Ministry gave no details on the substance of the meeting Thursday hosted by Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, who is Germany’s vice chancellor and also responsible for energy.

The Ukrainian delegation included the sanctions envoy, Oleksiy Makeev, and Wladimir Klitschko, the brother of Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko. The Klitschko brothers, both former heavyweight boxing champions, are well-known in Germany.

They were joined by Ukrainian lawmaker Halyna Yanchenko.

The German government has resisted calls to halt Russian energy deliveries, though it is working to reduce the country’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels in the longer term.


ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says the Russian president told him during a 40-minute phone call Wednesday evening that European companies can continue to pay for existing energy contracts in euros and dollars.

Draghi also indicated that Russia’s desire for payments in rubles remained intact, but it may be the case that the currency conversion would be up to Russia. Draghi said he is referring the discussion to experts and that analysis was under way on whether “European companies can continue to pay as foreseen, if this means something for the ongoing sanctions.”

“It is absolutely not simple to change the currency of payments without violating the contracts,” he said.


BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Russia does not appear to be scaling back its military operations in Ukraine but is instead redeploying forces to the eastern Donbas region.

Russia promised during talks in Istanbul on Tuesday that it would de-escalate operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the West were skeptical.

Stoltenberg told reporters Thursday that “Russia has repeatedly lied about its intentions,” and must be judged on its actions alone, not the word of its leaders.

“According to our intelligence, Russian units are not withdrawing but repositioning. Russia is trying to regroup, resupply and reinforce its offensive in the Donbas region,” he said.

At the same time, he said pressure is being kept up on Kyiv and other cities and “we can expect additional offensive actions bringing even more suffering.”

The U.S. says Russia has begun to reposition less than 20% of its troops that had been arrayed around Kyiv. The Pentagon says that most moved north, although some crossed into Belarus where they could be resupplied and sent back into Ukraine.


The Kremlin has expressed “regret” and “concern” over U.S. officials’ reports that the Russian president is being misinformed by advisers about his military’s performance in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that “neither the State Department nor the Pentagon possess the real information about what is happening in the Kremlin.”

“They simply don’t understand what’s going on in the Kremlin, they don’t understand President Putin, they don’t understand the mechanism of decision-making, they don’t understand the way we work,” Peskov said.

“It is not just regrettable, it elicits concern, because this complete lack of understanding leads to erroneous decisions, tragic decisions that could have very bad consequences,” he added.

U.S. intelligence officials said Putin is being misinformed by advisers about his military’s poor performance in Ukraine, according to the White House. The advisers are scared to tell him the truth, the intel says.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Wednesday the U.S. believes Putin was being misled not only about his military’s performance but also “how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because, again, his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth.”


LONDON — Britain has imposed sanctions on more than a dozen Russian media figures and organizations accused of spreading propaganda and disinformation about the war in Ukraine.

The latest group subjected to asset freezes and travel bans includes Rossiya television anchor Sergey Brilev, who previously lived in the U.K., Gazprom-Media chief executive Aleksandr Zharov and Alexey Nikolov, managing director of Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT.

Sanctions have also been slapped on media organizations TV-Novosti, which owns RT, and Rossiya Segodnya, which controls the Sputnik news agency.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday’s sanctions would hit “the shameless propagandists who push out Putin’s fake news and narratives.”

The U.K. also said it was sanctioning Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, chief of Russia’s National Defence Command and Control Center, accusing him of orchestrating atrocities including the siege of Mariupol.


MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on the spring draft, with 134,500 new conscripts to be added to the Russian army amid the country’s war on Ukraine.

Both Putin and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu have said that conscripts will not be taking part in the operation in Ukraine. Earlier this month, however, the Russian military admitted that a number of conscripts ended up in Ukraine and were even captured there.

The decree signed on Thursday outlines the draft which will kick off on April 1 and last through July 15.


BERLIN — The International Committee of the Red Cross says its teams are ready to facilitate the evacuation of civilians out of the besieged city of Mariupol.

The Red Cross said “for logistics and security reasons, we’ll be ready to lead the safe passage operation tomorrow, Friday, provided all the parties agree to the exact terms, including the route, the start time, and the duration.”

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine is sending out several dozen buses to collect civilians from Mariupol after Russia’s military said it committed to a localized cease-fire from the city to Ukraine-held Zaporizhzhia from Thursday morning.

“It’s desperately important that this operation takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it,” the Red Cross said.


AMSTERDAM — Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spoke by video link to the Dutch parliament.

Zelenskyy, who delivered his speech in Ukrainian, called on the Netherlands to be prepared to stop importing Russian energy, to halt trade with Russia and to provide more weapons.

He also addressed Prime Minister Mark Rutte, saying “Our EU membership depends on you.”

Rutte had told Zelenskyy at an EU summit earlier this month that Ukraine’s EU accession can’t be sped up. “There isn’t something like a fast track, a fast procedure,” Rutte said at the March 11 summit in Versailles.


BRUSSELS — European Union antitrust regulators have raided the offices of several companies in Germany involved in the supply, transmission and storage of natural gas amid concern over skyrocketing prices in Europe.

The European Commission, which polices EU competition policy, did not name the companies targeted in the March 29 “surprise inspections.” But anti-trust regulators have been probing the actions of Russian energy giant Gazprom, which has premises in Germany, in the European market. Gazprom could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Commission suspects that the companies “have violated EU competition rules that prohibit abuse of a dominant position” in the market. It says the inspections do not imply that those involved are guilty.

Russia is the biggest exporter of oil, natural gas and coal to the 27-nation EU. About 40% of the bloc’s gas imports come from Russia, much of it piped through Ukraine.

In January, the head of the International Energy Agency blamed Russia for Europe’s natural gas crisis, saying that high prices and low storage levels are largely due to Gazprom withholding supplies.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s top diplomat says Ankara is working to bring the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers together again for talks.

In an interview with Turkey’s A Haber channel, Mevlut Cavusoglu said the meeting could happen within two weeks.

His comments came days after Turkey hosted Ukrainian and Russian negotiators for face-to-face talks in Istanbul. Cavusoglu said decisions taken during the talks to reduce tensions had not fully been put into effect on the ground.

“We do not see these decisions being reflected on the field - for example, the removal of Russian soldiers from some areas,” he said.

Asked about the presence of sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in the negotiations, Cavusoglu said the businessman was engaged in “useful” efforts to end the fighting.

“Abramovich has been sincerely making efforts to end the fighting since the first day of the war,” he said.

During the talks in Istanbul Tuesday, Ukraine set out a detailed framework for a peace deal under which the country would remain neutral but its security would be guaranteed by a group of third countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Turkey, China and Poland.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A Red Cross warehouse in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been struck amid intense Russian shelling of the area.

Satellite pictures from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press on Thursday show clear damage to the warehouse’s roof along the Kalmius River near its mouth on the Sea of Azov. A red cross had been painted on the top of the warehouse.

At least one hole from suspected shelling could be seen in an image taken March 21. Some four holes in the roof were clearly visible in images taken Wednesday. The red cross had been on the warehouse’s roof from at least late August 2021, according to satellite images.

The International Committee of the Red Cross distributed all the supplies from inside the warehouse earlier in March and no staff have been at the site since March 15, the aid group said in a statement.

The Special Forces Unit “Azov,” a Ukrainian National Guard unit fighting in Mariupol whose members include far-right activists, has accused Russian forces of firing on the building. Russia did not immediately acknowledge the allegation.


CANBERRA, Australia — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed directly to Australian lawmakers for more help in Ukraine's war against Russia including armored vehicles and tougher sanctions.

Zelenskyy has been tailoring his message to individual countries through video appeals like the one shown Thursday to legislators in the Australian Parliament. Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation at the start and end of his 16-minute address.

He called for Russian vessels to be banned from international ports. Zelenskyy specifically asked for Australian-manufactured Bushmaster four-wheel drive armored vehicles.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier told Zelenskyy that Australia would provide additional military assistance including tactical decoys, unmanned aerial and unmanned ground systems, rations and medical supplies.


LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says Russia continues to pound Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, despite Moscow’s claim to have scaled back its offensive around that city and Kyiv.

The Ministry of Defense says “significant Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued.”

It said Thursday that “Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units. Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days.”

The U.K. intelligence update also said heavy fighting continues in the southern port of Mariupol, which has been besieged by Russia for weeks, but that Ukrainian forces remain in control of the center of the city.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that the talks with Russian negotiators have given some positive signals but warned Russia can’t be trusted.

Russia announced after Tuesday’s talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegation in Istanbul, Turkey that it will significantly reduce military operations near Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

The U.S. and others earlier expressed skepticism in Russia’s announcement.

In a video address Tuesday night, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian troops’ “courageous and effective actions” forced Russia to scale down its action around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

He said Ukraine will continue the negotiation process “to the extent depending on us” but emphasized mistrust in “the words coming from representatives of the country that continue fighting to destroy us.”

Zelenskyy said Ukraine's negotiators won't compromise "on sovereignty and territorial integrity.”



— Russia says it will scale back near Kyiv as talks progress

— Many in Mideast see hypocrisy in Western embrace of Ukraine

— After Russian forces pull back, a shattered town breathes

Pentagon may need more budget funding to help Ukraine

— UN chief launches effort for Ukraine humanitarian cease-fire

— Ukraine’s other fight: Growing food for itself and the world

— Go to for more coverage



WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says it has detected “small numbers” of Russian ground forces moving away from the Kyiv area.

Spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the movement appears to be a repositioning of forces, “not a real withdrawal.” He said it was too soon to say how extensive the Russian movements may be or where the troops will be repositioned.

“It does not mean the threat to Kyiv is over,” he said. “They can still inflict massive brutality on the country, including on Kyiv.”

He said Russian airstrikes against Kyiv are continuing.

Asked whether the Pentagon assesses that Russian military campaign in Ukraine has failed, Kirby said the Russian forces have failed in their initial objective of conquering Kyiv but remain a threat to the country, including the eastern Donbas region where Russian forces now appear to be focusing more fully.


WASHINGTON — Members of the Ukrainian parliament visiting the U.S. Congress are urging their American allies to send more military supplies -- air support, tanks and other equipment - to push the Russians out of their country.

As the Ukrainian legislators spoke Tuesday at a Capitol Hill press conference, one of their cell phones blared with the sound of an air raid siren going off in the country back home.

The Ukrainians spoke at a roundtable with members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, a longstanding group from the U.S. House focused Ukrainian issues.


MILAN — Italian Premier Mario Draghi has met with Italy’s president after a key coalition partner put in question support for Italy’s commitment to raise its military spending in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A government official confirmed the meeting Tuesday evening, after Draghi met privately with the head of the 5-Star Movement, former Premier Giuseppe Conte. Conte reportedly has balked at Italy’s intention to raise military spending to 2% of GDP in line with other NATO members.

Draghi’s message to Conte was that it would be difficult to sustain the coalition agreement backing the current government if the 5-Star movement puts international commitments into question, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly.

The official noted that while Conte was premier Italy increased its military spending 17%, from 21 billion euros to 24.6 billion euros.

Conte told reporters Monday that he did not want to put the government at risk but added ‘’we are the largest party and we have a right to be heard.’’

— Associated Press writer Colleen Barry contributed from Milan.


WARSAW — Poland’s government has decided to block imports of coal from Russia, part of an overarching strategy to reduce energy dependence that gained new urgency after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Poland will impose financial penalties on any private entities importing Russian coal into Poland, with Polish customs officials carrying out checks, government spokesman Piotr Mueller said as he announced the new policy on Tuesday.

He added that Poland could no longer wait for the whole 27-nation European Union to embrace the policy.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU, the United States and some other powers imposed a range of economic sanctions on Russia. But Europe has historically been dependent on Russian energy sources.

And while Poland produces much of its own coal, it also relies on imports. Russian coal makes up 13% of the fuel used each year, according to Piotr Lewandowski, the president of the Institute for Structural Research in Warsaw.


HORDYNIA, Ukraine — A second front line in Russia’s war runs through the farmland in western Ukraine, far from the daily resistance against the invasion. It is an uphill battle for farmers to feed not only their country but the world.

Ukraine and Russia account for a third of global wheat and barley exports, leaving millions across North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia facing the potential loss of access to the affordable supplies they need for bread and noodles.

The war has raised the specter of food shortages and political instability in countries reliant on Ukrainian wheat, including Indonesia, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon.

It is unclear how many farmers in Ukraine will be able to plant or tend to their harvests with the war raging, forcing many to the front lines. Damage to infrastructure also makes it difficult to get critical supplies and export products.


LONDON — Britain’s government has seized a superyacht owned by a Russian billionaire with ties to Vladimir Putin — the first vessel to be detained in the U.K. under sanctions imposed because of the war in Ukraine.

U.K. officials, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, boarded the vessel at Canary Wharf in east London on Tuesday. The name of the vessel’s owner was not made public.

The 58.5-meter (192-foot) yacht is bright blue and features an “infinite wine cellar” and freshwater swimming pool, according to the National Crime Agency. It is valued at 38 million pounds ($50 million).

The Phi, named after a mathematical concept, was in London for a “refit” but “won’t be going anywhere,” Shapps said.

The yacht is registered in St. Kitts and Nevis but carried Maltese flags to hide its origins, the crime agency said.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s authorities have updated the death toll from the Russian strike on the regional government’s building in Mykolaiv to 12.

Mykola Ponasenko, a spokesman for the state emergencies service, said 12 bodies have been recovered from the debris of the nine-story regional administration headquarters in Mykolaiv, a key Black Sea port and shipbuilding center.

He said the search for more bodies was continuing. The authorities previously reported that seven people were killed by a Russian strike on the building on Tuesday.

At least 22 people have been wounded.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says he’s waiting to see how Russia adjusts its troop presence in Ukraine before assessing the intent behind them.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Biden was asked whether the withdrawal was a sign that negotiations to rein in the month-long invasion might be showing progress, or an indication that Russia was merely trying to buy time to continue its assault on Ukraine.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are.”

As for the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, Biden said the consensus of Western allies is to “see what they have to offer.”


LONDON — Western officials say Russia is building up troops in eastern Ukraine, but it’s too soon to say whether Moscow’s claim to be scaling back operations around Kyiv is true.

Officials familiar with the intelligence picture said Tuesday that Moscow is reinforcing troops in the Donbas in an attempt to encircle Ukraine’s best-trained and best-equipped forces, which are concentrated in the eastern region. Moscow has said gaining control of the Donbas is now its main military goal in Ukraine.

A Western official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence said it’s clear that Russia’s “tactics and strategies are changing” but it’s not yet clear what that prefigures.

The British government also expressed skepticism about Russia’s claims to be scaling back and its commitment to ending the war through talks.

“We will judge Putin and his regime by his actions, not by his words,” said Max Blain, spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

— Associated Press writer Jill Lawless contributed from London.


WASHINGTON — The White House is rejecting as “false” and “disinformation” assertions by Russia that the U.S. government is launching cyber operations against Moscow that include the theft of personal data and the spreading of false information about the Russian military.

The Russian Foreign Ministry made the assertions in a statement Tuesday. It alleged that the U.S. and other NATO members had trained Ukrainian hackers and blamed what it said was an effort by Ukraine to recruit international hackers.

Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, responded by calling the claims “false” and said the U.S. government has “not engaged in the activity described by Russia.” She says “Moscow’s statements to the contrary amount to disinformation.”


WASHINGTON — The U.S. will likely need to add more permanent or rotational forces in Europe in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. European Command leader told Congress Tuesday, without detailing when or how many.

Gen. Tod Wolters, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander, said decisions will be based on what European nations do, particularly in response to the need to build four additional NATO battlegroups, which are being set up in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. The groups are an effort to protect and reassure nations on Europe’s eastern flank.

“My suspicion is we’re going to still need more,” Wolters told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Questioned about early U.S. intelligence that suggested Russia would overwhelm Ukraine quickly, Wolters said that there may have been an “intel gap.” He said broader reviews of the U.S. response to the war will consider that element.

On Russia’s use of hypersonic weapons in Ukraine, Wolters said there have been “multiple” launches that appeared to be an attempt by Putin to demonstrate his military's capabilities..

“I don’t think they were successful,” he said.



— Russia says it will scale back near Kyiv as talks progress

— Many in Mideast see hypocrisy in Western embrace of Ukraine

— After Russian forces pull back, a shattered town breathes

Pentagon may need more budget funding to help Ukraine

— UN chief launches effort for Ukraine humanitarian cease-fire

— Ukraine’s other fight: Growing food for itself and the world

— Go to for more coverage



MOSCOW — The Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian province of Chechnya has called for storming the Ukrainian capital.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement came Tuesday as the Russian military announced after a round of talks with Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul, Turkey that it would scale back its combat operations near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Speaking to about 10,000 troops in Chechnya’s regional capital of Grozny, Kadyrov said that “we need to complete what we have started and shouldn’t stop.” He said if Moscow had allowed his fighters to press the offensive, “I’m more than confident that we would have entered Kyiv and established order there.”

Kadyrov has posted numerous videos on a messaging app allegedly featuring himself and Chechen fighters on the outskirts of Kyiv and in the besieged Sea of Azov port of Mariupol. Those videos couldn’t be independently verified.


ISTANBUL, Turkey — The head of the Russian delegation in talks with Ukraine says that Moscow sees the latest meeting as a step toward compromise.

Vladimir Medinskiy said on Russian RT television that Russia sees Ukrainian proposals made Tuesday during the talks in Istanbul as a “step to meet us halfway, a clearly positive fact.”

He added that the two parties have a long way to go to reach an agreement.

Medinsky said that Russia made “two big steps toward peace” during the talks, first by agreeing to reduce military activities around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. He said Russia agreed to a prospective meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy once a prospective peace treaty is ready for signing.

The Ukrainian delegation earlier Tuesday said it had laid out a possible framework for a future peace deal based on legally binding security guarantees that would provide for other countries to intervene if Ukraine is attacked.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — In what appeared to be a coordinated action to tackle Russian espionage, at least four European allies expelled a total of dozens of Russian diplomats on Tuesday.

The expulsions come against a backdrop of relations between Russia and the West that have been plunged into a deep freeze following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Netherlands said it was expelling 17 Russians who it described as intelligence officers masquerading as diplomats. Belgium said it was ejecting 21 Russians. The Czech Republic gave one Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country. Ireland told four senior Russian officials to leave the country because of activities deemed not “in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour.”

Poland last week expelled 45 Russians whom the government identified as intelligence officers using their diplomatic status as cover to operate in the country.


BRUSSELS — Belgium has decided to expel 21 Russian diplomats for activities related to espionage or unlawful influence peddling.

The diplomats were given two weeks to leave the country, foreign affairs spokeswoman Elke Pattyn told The Associated Press on Tuesday.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government says it is expelling 17 Russian intelligence officers, calling their presence a “threat to national security.”

The foreign ministry said that the Russian ambassador was summoned Tuesday and told the officers, who were accredited as diplomats, are to be removed from the country.

The ministry says it took the decision on national security grounds.

It says that the “intelligence threat against the Netherlands remains high. The current attitude of Russia in a broader sense makes the presence of these intelligence officers undesirable.”

The government said it took the decision in consultation with “a number of like-minded countries,” citing similar expulsions by the United States, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro.


ISTANBUL — Turkey’s foreign minister says Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have reached “a consensus and common understanding” on some issues.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two sides made “the most meaningful progress” since the start of the negotiations at a meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday. He said the meeting would be followed by a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers.

Cavusoglu said a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders was also “on the agenda,” he said. He didn’t give a timeframe.

He said that difficult issues “will be taken up at a higher level.”

Cavusoglu added that Turkey encouraged the two sides to “secure a cease-fire” and an agreement on the issue of the opening of humanitarian corridors.


ISTANBUL -- The Ukrainian delegation to talks with Russia has laid out a possible framework for a future peace deal based on legally binding security guarantees that would provide for other countries to intervene if it is attacked.

Delegate Oleksandr Chaly said Tuesday that the guarantees should be similar in character to NATO’s Article 5, which pledges members of the alliance to defend each other in case one is attacked.

The delegation said Ukraine is prepared to pledge to be neutral, not to host foreign military forces and to hold talks over the next 15 years on the future of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Delegate David Arakhamia said there would be a peace deal which would be secured by a referendum in Ukraine. That would take place only after all foreign troops have left.

Russia’s views on the proposal were not immediately clear.


ISTANBUL — Russia’s deputy defense minister says that Moscow has decided to “fundamentally ... cut back” operations near the Ukrainian capital and another major city to “increase mutual trust” at talks aimed at ending the fighting.

Alexander Fomin said Russian forces would cut back “military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv.”

Fomin’s statement comes Tuesday after another round of talks Russia and Ukraine held in Istanbul and appears to be the first major concession the Russians made since the beginning of their invasion in Ukraine more than a month ago.

The Ukrainian military’s general staff said earlier it had noted withdrawals around Kyiv and Chernihiv.


GENEVA — The head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says an estimated 18 million people in Ukraine will need humanitarian aid amid the devastation and displacement after Russia’s invasion.

IFRC president Francesco Rocca says the Ukrainian Red Cross has reached 400,000 people with items like food, bedding, blankets, tents and water since the invasion on Feb. 24. Ukraine’s pre-war population was 44 million.

He told reporters at a U.N. briefing in Geneva Tuesday that “no one in Ukraine is left unscathed by the ongoing conflict.”

At the same briefing, spokesman Ewan Watson of the International Committee of the Red Cross – a sister organization which focuses on conflict and the rules of war -- said “time is running out” for civilians in Mariupol and other frontline areas that have recently been unable to receive humanitarian aid.

The World Health Organization representative in Ukraine, Dr. Jarno Habicht said the U.N. health agency has tallied 74 attacks on health care – including medical facilities, ambulances and health workers – that have killed 72 people so far in the conflict.


WARSAW, Poland - Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to offer support and humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine.

Pichai and Morawiecki also held a remote meeting with the Slovenia Prime Minister Janez Jansa and a representative of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

In addition, Pichai also met with Polish humanitarian organizations and Ukrainian startups. Poland has been the largest single destination for refugees fleeing Ukraine.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says seven people were killed in a missile strike on the regional government headquarters in the southern city of Mykolayiv.

Zelenskyy, who spoke to the Danish parliament through a translator, said Tuesday’s strike also left 22 people injured. The Telegram channel of regional governor Vitaliy Kim showed a gaping hole in the center of the nine-story building.

Kim accused Russian forces of waiting until people had arrived for work in the building before striking it and said he had a lucky escape because he had overslept.

Zelenskyy has made online speeches to lawmakers in several countries, including the United States, Britain, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Israel, Japan and the European Union.

He is set to address Norway’s parliament on Wednesday. He told the Danish parliament that “the brutality is more violent than what we have seen during World War II.”


MOSCOW -- Russia has expelled a total of 10 diplomats from the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in retaliation for those countries expelling Russian diplomats earlier this month.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was cancelling the accreditation of four Lithuanian diplomats, three Latvians and three Estonians and they would be required to leave the country. That corresponds to the number of Russian diplomats each country previously expelled.

On March 18, the three Baltic countries ordered the expulsion of 10 Russian embassy staff members in a coordinated action taken in solidarity with Ukraine.

Russia said Tuesday that move was “provocative and entirely baseless” and that it had summoned the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian ambassadors in Moscow for an official protest.


NEW YORK -- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected reports that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich may have been poisoned as part of an “information war.”

The investigative news outlet Bellingcat reported Monday that Abramovich and two Ukrainian delegates suffered symptoms of poisoning after attending talks between Russia and Ukraine on March 3.

Peskov said Tuesday that Abramovich has been “ensuring certain contacts between the Russian and Ukrainian sides” but is not an official member of the Russian delegation. He said that Abramovich’s role has been approved by both sides.

He said of the reports that Abramovich may have been poisoned: “It’s part of the information war. These reports obviously do not correspond to reality.”


BUDAPEST, Hungary -- A planned meeting in Hungary of central European defense ministers has been cancelled amid regional disagreements over the response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The meeting was due to be held Wednesday. Hungary’s defense ministry said Tuesday that the meeting of ministers from the Visegrad alliance of Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland would “be held at a later date.”

The cancellation came after the defense ministers of both the Czech Republic and Poland indicated they wouldn't attend.

Leaders from both countries have criticized Hungary’s response to the war in Ukraine, pointing out that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government has refused to supply its embattled neighbor with weapons and lobbied against sanctions on Russian energy imports.


MOSCOW -- Russia’s defense minister says that “liberating” the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine is the main goal of Moscow’s military operation, underlining a possible shift in strategy announced last week by another Russian military official.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whose few public appearances this month raised questions about his health and whereabouts, held a meeting with top military officials on Tuesday and said that “overall, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed.”

He said that “the combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has been significantly reduced, which makes it possible to focus the main attention and main efforts on achieving the main goal — the liberation of Donbas.”

The minister stressed that the Russian military will continue the operation until “the set goals are achieved.”

Shoigu also offered an assurance that Russia will not send conscripts recruited in the upcoming April draft to Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Russian military admitted that a number of conscripts ended up in Ukraine and were even captured there.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The International Monetary Fund’s chief says the global lender “has no problems with Russia” and that its board can only suspend the country if the fund’s membership says it no longer recognizes the government.

“That is a very tall order,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Tuesday in response to a question about consequences against Russia over its war in Ukraine.

She added that “we all know for this war to end there has to be dialogue.” Georgieva spoke at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

The fund approved emergency financing of $1.4 billion for Ukraine on March 10. That’s in addition to a disbursement of $700 million to the country before the war, which was launched by Russia on Feb. 24.

The IMF has said it expects “a bad recession in Russia” and spillover impact on neighboring countries. The IMF says its Moscow office is not actively operating.


ISTANBUL -- An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the talks under way with Russia in Istanbul are focusing on security guarantees for Ukraine and hopes of a cease-fire.

Mykhailo Podolyak told Ukrainian media on Tuesday that there are “intensive consultations going on regarding several important issues, the key among those is an agreement on international security guarantees for Ukraine.” He said that “only with this agreement can we end the war in a way that Ukraine needs.”

He adds that “the second block of issues is a cease-fire so that we could resolve all the humanitarian problems which have piled up and which require urgent resolutions.”

Podolyak added the two sides were also discussing breaches of the rules of war.


MOSCOW -- The Russian Foreign Ministry says the United States and its allies are involved in hacking Russian data and infrastructure.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that “the U.S. and its satellites are undertaking a massive cyber-operation against our country.” It also said the U.S. and other NATO members had trained Ukrainian hackers and blamed what it said was an effort by Ukraine to recruit international hackers.

The ministry said that the attacks include stealing Russians’ personal data, putting pressure on the economy and spreading “fake information” about the Russian military.

Russia says it is strengthening its own cyber-security and will seek to bring hackers to justice.


LONDON — Britain’s Foreign Office says it is concerned about reports that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich may have been poisoned as he participated in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

The investigative news outlet Bellingcat reported Monday that Abramovich and two Ukrainian delegates suffered symptoms of poisoning after attending talks on March 3. Abramovich, whose exact role in the talks hasn’t been confirmed, has now recovered.

The Foreign Office said in a statement Tuesday that “the allegations are very concerning.”

A Bellingcat investigator said the dosage wasn’t lethal and the “most plausible” explanation for the alleged attack is that it was a warning to Abramovich and any other wealthy Russians who might seek to intervene in the negotiations.

“He volunteered to play … this role of (an) honest broker, but other oligarchs had … declared certain independence from the Kremlin position and criticize the war,” Christo Grozev told Times Radio. “So it could well be seen as a warning sign to them to not join the ranks of those who dissent, and to not be too much of an honest broker.”

Abramovich, owner of London soccer club Chelsea, had his British assets frozen by the U.K. government earlier this month as authorities targeted wealthy Russians with close ties to the Kremlin. Those sanctions also cover Chelsea, limiting ticket sales and spending by the club.

Asked about the alleged poisoning and Abramovich’s role in the negotations, a spokesperson for him declined to comment.


VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lawmakers in Lithuania are debating a ban on using the ‘Z’ symbol to show support for Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Russian troops in Ukraine have painted the letter Z on the side of vehicles and it has been adopted by some in Russia as a symbol of support for what the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation.”

Lithuania, which already has outlawed Soviet and Nazi symbols, also wants to ban the black-and-orange ribbon that was originally a military decoration is now used as a of remembrance of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

Lawmaker Monika Osmianskiene said the symbols “are becoming a symbol not only of propaganda but also of aggression.

A vote in Lithuania’s parliament is expected this week. If it passes, people who violate a ban could face a fine of up to 500 euros ($550).

Monday, March 28, 2022

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would meet “briefly” with the Ukrainian and Russian delegations ahead of their talks on Tuesday.

In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting Monday, the Turkish leader also said that separate telephone calls he has been holding with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin were progressing in a “positive direction.” He did not elaborate.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are scheduled to begin two days of face-to-face talks in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Earlier talks between the sides, held both by video and in person, failed to make progress. Zelenskyy says Ukraine is prepared to declare its neutrality and consider a compromise on contested areas in the country’s east to secure peace — but he said only a face-to-face meeting with Putin can end the war. A meeting like that hasn't happened yet.



Ukraine could declare neutrality to secure peace, Zelenskyy says

Russia is shifting its focus to grinding down Ukrainian forces in the east

— As the number of Ukrainian refugees near 4 million, pace of the exodus has slowed

Holocaust survivors flee from Ukraine to Germany for safety

Ukrainian welders turn donated vehicles into army transport

— Ukraine war threatens food supplies in fragile Arab world

— Go to for more coverage



WASHINGTON — The U.S. Pentagon says it is deploying six Navy aircraft that specialize in electronic warfare and about 240 Navy personnel to bolster NATO defenses in Eastern Europe.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says the EA-18G “Growler” aircraft based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state were scheduled to arrive Monday at Spangdahlem air base in Germany, where they will be stationed. They are not intended for use in Ukraine, he said.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. intelligence assessments, said there has been little change in the situation on the ground in Ukraine.

The senior defense official said Russian forces largely remain in defensive positions in the area of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and they are making little forward progress elsewhere in the country.

The official said the U.S. believes Ukrainian troops have retaken the town of Trostyanets, south of Sumy, in eastern Ukraine.

The official said the U.S. continues to see Russia prioritizing operations in the Donbas region and de-emphasizing ground operations in the Kyiv area, but the Pentagon believes it’s too early to know whether this reflects a change in Moscow’s strategic goals.

— Associated Press writer Robert Burns contributed from Washington.


BRUSSELS — French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin says that no suspected extremists or spies appear to be entering the European Union from Ukraine, but he is warning about the dangers posed to war refugees by human traffickers.

Asked whether extremists or other infiltrators who might pose a security risk are crossing into the 27-nation bloc, Darmanin conceded that “there could be attempts, but we are not seeing this today.”

Speaking after presiding over a meeting Monday of EU interior ministers, Darmanin warned of the dangers posed to the many women and children entering from Ukraine by traffickers in Europe.

Police agencies, he says, “are very alert to what we are starting to see, that is the presence of suspicious people near areas where refugees are gathering who could exploit women and, or, children.”

Around 3.8 million people have fled Ukraine to escape the conflict. About half are children. Even before the war started, Ukrainians ranked among the top five nationalities of people likely to be trafficked in the EU.


MEDYKA, Poland — The number of refugees who have flooded out of Ukraine is nearing 4 million, but data shows fewer people have crossed the border in recent days.

Border guards, aid agencies and refugees say Russia’s unpredictable war on Ukraine offers few signs as to whether it’s just a pause or a permanent drop-off.

In the first two weeks after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, about 2.5 million people in Ukraine’s pre-war population of 44 million left the country to avoid the bombs and bloodshed. In the second two weeks, the number of refugees was roughly half that.

The total exodus through Sunday now stands at 3.87 million, according to the latest tally announced Monday from UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. In the previous 24 hours, only 45,000 people crossed Ukraine’s borders to seek safety, the slowest one-day count yet.

“People who were determined to leave when war breaks out fled in the first days,” said Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for the Polish border guards.

UNHCR says the war has triggered Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, and the speed and breadth of refugees fleeing to countries including Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia — as well as Russia — is unprecedented in recent times. Poland alone has taken in 2.3 million refugees and Romania nearly 600,000. The United States has vowed to take in 100,000.


UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations chief says he is launching an immediate effort to explore possible arrangements for “a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday he used his “good offices” to ask Martin Griffiths, the head of the U.N.’s worldwide humanitarian operations, to explore the possibility of a cease-fire with Russia and Ukraine.

He told reporters he is appealing for “an immediate humanitarian cease-fire to allow for progress in serious political negotiations, aimed at reaching a peace agreement.”

Guterres said that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, there has been a “senseless loss of thousands of lives,” displacement of 10 million people, systematic destruction homes, schools and hospitals and other essential infrastructure, “and skyrocketing food and energy prices worldwide.”

A cessation of hostilities will allow humanitarian aid to be delivered and people to move safely, the secretary-general said, and “it will save lives, prevent suffering, and protect civilians.”

“I strongly appeal to the parties to this conflict, and to the international community as a whole, to work with us for peace in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and across the world,” the U.N. chief said.


PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has donated personal protective equipment to Ukraine to be used in the case of a chemical attack by the invading Russian troops.

The Czech move announced on Monday came after Ukraine asked the member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for such help.

The Biden administration publicly warned earlier in March that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine as the White House rejected Russian claims of illegal chemical weapons development in the country it has invaded.

The warning came after Russia, without evidence, accused Ukraine of running chemical and biological weapons labs with U.S. support.

The White House rejected that, saying it could be part of an attempt by Russia to lay the groundwork for its own use of such weapons of mass destruction against Ukraine.

The Czech Republic’s Office for Nuclear Safety said it joined forces with the National Institute for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Protection to hand over protective masks, chemical suits, detection and decontamination systems and other materials to the Ukrainian authorities.


BERLIN — Sweden’s prime minister says her country will help refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine but won’t take in the kind of share it did during the influx of 2015.

Magdalena Andersson told reporters in Berlin on Monday that “we will do our part in helping Ukrainian refugees, but we cannot come back to the situation we had in 2015 when Sweden took a disproportionate part of the asylum seekers.”

Andersson, a member of the Social Democratic Party, said Sweden accepted about 12% of the total number of refugees coming to the European Union in 2015, despite having only 2% of the bloc’s population.

“We cannot come back to that kind of solution, but of course we will do our part and we are right now , of course, also welcoming Ukrainians that are coming to Sweden today, yesterday and during the last weeks,” she said after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Since the war began on Feb. 24, more than 3.8 million people have fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency.


ROME — The Italian premier’s office says that in a phone conversation on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “lamented the blocking of humanitarian corridors” by Russians.

Premier Mario Draghi’s office says Zelenskyy also expressed sorrow over the continued siege and “bombings of cities, including schools, with the resulting loss of civilian lives, among them, children.’’

In a statement, Draghi’s office says he reiterated the Italian government’s staunch support for Ukrainian authorities and people as well as “the full availability of Italy to contribute to the international action to put an end to the war and to promote a lasting solution to the crisis in Ukraine.”


BELGRADE, Serbia — Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has praised Serbia for refusing to impose sanctions against Moscow over its aggression in Ukraine, saying the Balkan ally has made “a smart choice.”

“We deeply respect the Serbian people, Serbian culture, Serbian history and commitment to traditional friends,” Lavrov told a group of Serbian journalists in a video conference. “We are sure that they will continue to make smart choices in this situation.”

Although Serbia voted in favor of a UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion, Belgrade has refused to join the United States and the European Union in imposing wide ranging sanctions against Moscow.

Lavrov said the sanctions are “an attempt by the United States to impose its hegemony” in the Balkans and added that the West “is trying to isolate Russia” in the region that has seen a devastating war in the 1990s.

Although formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has been forging close political, economic and military ties to Russia.


ANKARA, Turkey —A plane carrying members of a Russian delegation has landed in Istanbul ahead of talks with Ukrainian negotiators aimed at ending the month-long war.

Turkey’s private DHA news agency said the Russian government plane landed at Istanbul Airport on Monday. The face-to-face talks between the two sides are scheduled to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine could declare neutrality, potentially accept a compromise on contested areas in the country’s east, and offer security guarantees to Russia to secure peace “without delay.” He said only a face-to-face meeting with Russia’s leader could end the war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that the two presidents could meet, but only after the key elements of a potential deal are negotiated.

Earlier talks have failed to make progress on ending the war that has killed thousands and driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes — including almost 4 million from their country.

NATO-member Turkey has close relations with both Ukraine and Russia. Earlier this month, it hosted a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers.


MOSCOW — Russian shares have slumped as its stock market resumed trading of all companies after a monthlong halt following the invasion of Ukraine.

The benchmark MOEX index slid 2.2% Monday after the Moscow Exchange reopened for all of its several hundred listed companies, but with restrictions still in place to limit volatility.

The last full trading session in Moscow was on Feb. 25, a day after the index tumbled by a third after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

Prices whipsawed last week when the exchange tentatively reopened for two days of limited trading, with investors allowed to trade only 33 of the MOEX index’s 50 companies.

Some restrictions remained in place Monday to prevent another big selloff. The daily session is shortened to four hours and there is a ban on short-selling, which essentially involves betting on stock prices to go down. Foreigners also are unable to sell shares until Friday.


SOFIA, Bulgaria — Russia uses local level corruption as a tool of influence in the Balkan region, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said after a meeting of leaders from southeast Europe NATO members.

The prime ministers of Bulgaria, Romania, the Republic of North Macedonia, and Montenegro condemned Russia’s military aggression and voiced support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Petkov said the leaders discussed “eradicating money laundering and helping each other fight corruption,” which he said was “used by Russia to influence the region.”

Talks also focused on strengthening the cooperation as NATO allies on the bloc’s eastern flank, as well as on reducing the dependence on Russian energy supplies, countering Russia’s fake news, improving cyber protection and widening mutual trade.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish brewery group Carlsberg says it has decided to pull out of Russia, saying it's "the right thing to do in the current environment.”

The announcement came hours after its competitor, Dutch brewing giant Heineken, said it was doing the same.

The Copenhagen-based Carlsberg said Monday it “will have no presence in Russia." Its business in Russia will no longer be included in the Danish brewer’s revenue and operating profit, and the business “will be treated as an asset held for sale until completion of the disposal.”

In 2021, Carlsberg reported revenue and operating profit in Russia of 6.5 billion kroner ($959 million) and 682 million kroner ($101 million) respectively. The Danish brewer generates around 10% of its sales in Russia, where it operates several breweries and has about 8,400 staff which would be laid off.

Heineken said earlier Monday that it was seeking an “orderly transfer of our business to a new owner in full compliance with international and local laws.”

Heineken will continue to pay its 1,800 staff in Russia through the end of the year. The company says it will not profit from the sale of its Russian operations and expects to take a 400 million-euro ($438 million) charge as a result.


MOSCOW -- Leading independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which is edited by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov, says it is suspending operations after receiving warnings from Russian authorities.

The newspaper reported being warned by Roskomnadzor, the state communications regulator.

“After this we are stopping the release of the newspaper on the website, on (social) networks and on paper -- until the end of the ‘special operation on the territory of Ukraine,’” the newspaper said in a statement Monday.

Russia strictly limits how media can describe events in Ukraine, which it labels a “special military operation.” Several other Russian media outlets have already opted for suspending operations rather than face heavy restrictions on what they can report, and the Kremlin has also blocked multiple foreign news outlets.


BERLIN — Germany’s energy minister says the Group of Seven major economies have agreed to reject Russia’s demand to pay for Russian energy imports in rubles.

Robert Habeck told reporters Monday that “all G-7 ministers agreed completely that this (would be) a one-sided and clear breach of the existing contracts.”

Habeck said after an online meeting with G-7 energy ministers that “payment in ruble is not acceptable and we will urge the companies affected not to follow (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s demand.”

Asked by reporters earlier Monday if Russia could cut gas supplies to European customers if they reject the demand to pay for the Russian gas in rubles, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we clearly aren’t going to supply gas for free.”


BERLIN — German authorities are considering whether to prosecute people who use the “Z” symbol to show support for Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Russian troops in Ukraine have painted the letter Z on the side of vehicles and it has been adopted by some in Russia as a symbol of support for what the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” in the neighboring country.

A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said Monday that security services are aware the symbol is also being used at rallies in Germany.

The spokesman, Marek Wede, told reporters in Berlin that the letter can under certain circumstances be considered a sign of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The Russian attack on Ukraine is a crime and whoever publicly approves of this war can thereby become criminally liable,” Wede said.

He added that federal authorities welcomed announcements by some German states to investigate whether individual instances of the “Z” use constitute criminal acts.


LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia says it has reinstated a diplomatic representative in Kyiv and reopened the country’s embassy in Ukraine.

The ministry says Slovenia’s embassy in Kyiv reopened on Monday after the arrival of the interim charge d’affaires Bostjan Lesjak. Slovenia’s ambassador to Ukraine remains in Rzeszow, a town on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Slovenia’s move comes after Prime Minister Janez Jansa urged European Union countries to restore their presence in Kyiv in support for Ukraine. Jansa visited Kyiv this month along with the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic.

He said on Twitter on Monday that “we are back.” Jansa adds that “the Slovenian and European flags flutter again in front of the Slovenian Embassy in Kyiv.”

Slovenia’s Foreign Ministry said that Lesjak said upon arrival that the city was deserted, and that alarms and detonations could be heard in the distance.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne has quoted the mayor of Mariupol as saying that around 160,000 people remain in the besieged port city, and that a “humanitarian catastrophe” would ensue if more evacuations are not possible.

Vadym Boychenko said Monday that Russian forces were preventing civilians from evacuating from the city and had been turning back some who tried to make it out.

The city, which had a pre-war population of more than 400,000, has seen some of the worst conditions since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb.24. Russian forces have pounded the city, and scores of civilians have been unable to escape, with no access to essentials and cut off from communication with the shelling of cell, radio and TV towers.


MOSCOW — The Kremlin has voiced concern about U.S. President Joe Biden’s comment about the Russian President Vladimir Putin and said it will carefully follow his rhetoric.

Capping a four-day trip to Europe Saturday, Biden said of Putin: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” words the White House immediately sought to downplay.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday that Biden’s statement “undoubtedly causes alarm." He added that the Kremlin will carefully monitor the U.S. president’s statements.

Peskov said previously that “it’s not up to the president of the U.S. and not up to the Americans to decide who will remain in power in Russia.”


MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign minister says the presidents of Russia and Ukraine could meet for talks only after the key elements of a potential deal are negotiated.

Sergey Lavrov said Monday that “the meeting is necessary once we have clarity regarding solutions on all key issues.”

Lavrov’s comments follow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s statement that he’s ready to discuss Ukraine’s neutrality and security guarantees with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure peace “without delay.” Zelenskyy added that only a face-to-face meeting with Russia’s leader could end the war.

Russian and Turkish negotiators are set to hold another round of talks in Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday to try to draft an agreement.

Speaking in an online interview with Serbian media, Lavrov alleged that Ukraine only want to “imitate talks” while Russia needs specific results that would be secured by the countries’ leaders.

Friday, March 25, 2022

A senior U.S. defense official says Russia’s military advance on Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv appears to have halted as it turns its focus to fighting elsewhere in the country.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe an internal U.S. military assessment of the war, said Friday that Russia appears to be concentrating more on fighting for control of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region rather than its ground offensive aimed at capturing Kyiv, at least for now.

The Kremlin seemed to confirm the shift Friday. Col.-Gen Sergei Rudskoi, deputy chief of the Russian general staff, said that the main objective of the first stage of the operation — reducing Ukraine’s fighting capacity — has “generally been accomplished,” allowing Russian forces to focus on “the main goal, liberation of Donbas.”

The Donbas is the largely Russian-speaking eastern industrial heartland of Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

___ AP Military writer Robert Burns


— U.S. President Joe Biden visits American troops in Poland, a complex ally at Ukraine’s doorstep

— Russian President Vladimir Putin faces stark choices in Ukraine invasion as armed forces stall

Ukrainesays 300 dead in airstrike on theater in Mariupol; hunger stalking besieged areas

Some prominent Russians quit jobs, refuse to support the war on Ukraine

— EU, US announce partnership to undercut Russian energy

Go to for more coverage



WARSAW, Poland – Polish President Andrzej Duda says he regrets not being able to welcome U.S. President Joe Biden on his arrival to Poland because his plane malfunctioned and had to make an emergency landing.

Duda was flying to Rzeszow airport, in southeastern Poland, on Friday to greet Biden but about ten minutes into the flight, the flight crew said there was a problem and the plane had to return to Warsaw.

Duda and the delegation took another plane, but arrived in Rzeszow well after Biden had landed and there was no welcoming ceremony. Duda said he didn’t question the pilot’s decision. A special commission for air incidents will look into the plane’s malfunction.

In 2010, Poland’s then-president, Lech Kaczynski and a delegation of 95 were killed in a plane crash in Russia, as the pilots tried landing in poor visibility at a rudimentary airport.


STOCKHOLM — Spotify is halting its services in Russia in light of the country’s strict new censorship law, which it says puts its employees and possibly even listeners at risk.

The Swedish music streaming company’s move comes on the heels of other companies pulling out of Russia due to its censorship law. The statute imposes prison sentences of up to 15 years for those spreading information that goes against the Russian government’s narrative on the war.

Netflix and TikTok suspended most of their services in the country earlier this month. U.S. credit card companies Visa, Mastercard and American Express all said over the weekend they would cut service in Russia.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, a leading supplier of both smartphones and computer chips, said it would halt product shipments to the country, joining other big tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Intel and Dell.


ROME — Pope Francis has presided over a special prayer for Ukraine that harked back to a century-old apocalyptic prophecy about peace and Russia.

Francis invited bishops, priests and ordinary faithful around the world to join him in the consecration prayer on Friday.

An estimated 3,500 people, including cardinals, ambassadors and pilgrims, attended the service at St. Peter’s Basilica and the text of the prayer was translated into three dozen languages.

The ritual is of deep spiritual importance to many Catholics and a source of fascination to others.

It deals with some of the more controversial aspects of the Catholic faith: purported visions of the Madonna, prophecies of hell, Soviet communism and the death of a pope.

The service was Francis’ latest effort to rally prayers for an end to the war. The pope has yet to publicly condemn Russia by name, though his denunciations have grown increasingly outraged.



— U.S. President Joe Biden visits American troops in Poland, a complex ally at Ukraine’s doorstep

— Russian President Vladimir Putin faces stark choices in Ukraine invasion as armed forces stall

Ukrainesays 300 dead in airstrike on theater in Mariupol; hunger stalking besieged areas

Some prominent Russians quit jobs, refuse to support the war on Ukraine

— EU, US announce partnership to undercut Russian energy

Go to for more coverage



FRANKFURT, Germany -- More than 130 refugees from Ukraine have arrived at a German airport, the first of 2,500 due to arrive via Moldova.

More than 376,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine have arrived in Moldova, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

But the influx has been a challenge for the small, former Soviet republic, which is wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said Germany is working with allies to airlift refugees to countries farther away from the war.

She planned to welcome the new arrivals on Friday along with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who said in a statement that Germany “can be a hub for fair distribution in Europe” of refugees. More than 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion started a month ago.


LONDON — Author J.K. Rowling is pushing back after Russian President Vladimir Putin dragged her into a rant against Western efforts to “cancel’’ Russian culture.

“Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics,” the Harry Potter author said Friday in a tweet linked to an article about jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

Putin earlier compared recent Western criticism of Russia with efforts to “cancel” Rowling over her views on transgender issues. Rowling has been criticized after saying she supported transgender rights but did not believe in “erasing” the concept of biological sex.

“The notorious cancel culture has become a cancellation of culture. Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov are excluded from concert posters, and Russian writers and their books are also banned,’’ Putin said during a videoconference with cultural figures.



— U.S. President Joe Biden visits American troops in Poland, a complex ally at Ukraine’s doorstep

— Russian President Vladimir Putin faces stark choices in Ukraine invasion as armed forces stall

Ukrainesays 300 dead in airstrike on theater in Mariupol; hunger stalking besieged areas

Some prominent Russians quit jobs, refuse to support the war on Ukraine

— EU, US announce partnership to undercut Russian energy

Go to for more coverage



RZESZOW, Poland — President Joe Biden has given a pep talk to U.S. troops stationed in Poland near the border with Ukraine.

Biden said he wanted to visit Friday to thank members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division for their service. He added that it’s “not hyperbole” when he says they are the “finest fighting force in the world.”

The president told the fatigue-clad men and women that they are an “amazing group” and he reminisced about his late son, Beau, who served in the Delaware Army National Guard.

Biden visited some troops at lunch at their temporary headquarters in Rzeszow and chowed down on a slice of pepperoni and jalapeno pepper pizza. He also visited others who were getting haircuts at the barbershop.

Poland is the second stop on Biden’s four-day trip to Europe. He spent Thursday in Brussels meeting with world leaders on the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden is scheduled Saturday to meet separately with Poland’s president and Ukrainian refugees before he heads back to Washington.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Four Nordic energy companies say they are ready to help the three Baltic nations in the event Russia curbs or completely cuts electricity exports to its smaller neighbors.

Denmark’s Energinet, Statnett of Norway, Sweden’s Svenska kraftnat and Fingrid Oyj of Finland said in a statement they’ve “secured routines and identified eventual ambiguities in a scenario where the Baltics are disconnected from the Russian grid.”

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are still reliant on their Russian neighbor for much of their electricity needs.


NEW YORK — The deputy head of Russia’s military general staff says that 1,351 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine.

Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoi also said Friday that 3,825 have been wounded.

NATO estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine.

The Russian figure did not appear to include the Moscow-backed separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, and it was not clear whether the toll encompassed Russian forces not part of the Defense Ministry, such as the National Guard.


WARSAW, Poland -- Polish President Andrzej Duda was unable to welcome U.S. President Joe Biden on his arrival in Rzeszow due a technical problem with the Polish presidential plane taking him from Warsaw.

Jakub Kumoch, a top adviser to Duda, said Friday that the Polish presidential plane had to make an emergency landing in Warsaw.

The plane landed safely and Duda was waiting for a replacement plane.


MEDYKA, Poland -- Refugees from the war in Ukraine are among those who will be watching the visit of U.S. President Joe Biden to Poland, which began on Friday afternoon with a stop in the eastern Polish city of Rzeszow.

Some hope the visit might bring concrete steps to help their homeland as it is under attack.

Lyra Syniavska, 42, from Lviv, said that Ukrainians expect more help than what they have received so far.

“We are getting a lot of help now, really a lot. But our people are still suffering, especially those who lives in the eastern part (of Ukraine),” she said.

Alina Sylkina, 26, from the eastern Luhansk region, says she wishes NATO would close the airspace over Ukraine -- though the alliance has said it won’t take that step.

During his visit to Rzeszow, Biden will be briefed on the humanitarian response to the refugees streaming out of Ukraine. He will also meet U.S. service members. Biden is due in Warsaw on Saturday.


VILNIUS, Lithuania — An exhibition of photos of civilian victims and shelling in Kyiv and Mariupol has been put up at the Vilnius railway station so that travelers on trains crossing Lithuania for the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad will see the images.

The Lithuanian railway said Friday that the 24 photographs were selected by the Lithuanian Press Photographers Club. A text on the photos says in Russian that President Vladimir “Putin is killing innocent people in Ukraine today. Are you OK with that?”

Lithuanian Railways CEO Egidijus Lazauskas said that the exhibition is a symbolic show of support.

Transit trains run daily from Moscow to Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Finland’s national railway company says it will suspend services between Helsinki and the Russian city of St. Petersburg from this weekend, closing one of the last public transport routes for Russians who want to reach the European Union.

Citing the sanctions imposed on Russia, the head of passenger traffic with state-owned VR, Topi Simola, said that “people who wanted to depart from Russia have had adequate time to leave.”

Only the morning train from Helsinki to St Petersburg will be operated on Sunday while the afternoon train will be cancelled. Both services from St Petersburg will be operated. After that, trains will be suspended until further notice.

VR said customers can cancel their tickets at no cost.


GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says its strict methodology in counting casualties in Ukraine’s conflict has yielded “very few” confirmed casualties in Mariupol, largely because of difficulties getting access in and information out of the besieged port city.

Matilda Bogner, who heads the rights office’s Ukraine branch, noted that council leaders in Mariupol have estimated more than 2,000 civilian deaths in the city following Russia’s military invasion on Feb. 24.

Overall, the rights office has counted at least 1,035 civilians killed in Ukraine and 1,650 injured but Bogner said it doesn’t have a “the full picture of locations that have seen intense fighting, in particular Mariupol and Volnovakha.” The office has acknowledged that its tally is likely to underestimate the actual toll.


MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia is facing total war declared by the West.

Lavrov said at a meeting on Friday that “a real hybrid war, total war was declared on us.” He said the goal was “to destroy, break, annihilate, strangle the Russian economy, and Russia on the whole.”

During the first month of what Russia describes as a “special military operation” in Ukraine, the West imposed tough measures targeting Russia’s economy and financial system as well as President Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs.

Despite that, Lavrov said Russia was not isolated.

“We have many friends, allies, partners in the world, a huge number of associations in which Russia is working with countries of all continents, and we will continue to do so,” Lavrov said. He added that the vast majority of states won’t join the Western sanctions policy against Russia.


KYIV, Ukraine — Mariupol’s city government says the Kremlin's main political party has opened a political office in a shopping mall on the outskirts of the besieged city.

According to the post on the city’s Telegram channel, the United Russia office is distributing promotional materials as well as mobile phone cards for an operator that functions in the nearby Russia-backed separatist regions.

Mariupol’s communication links have been all but severed since the siege began in early March. Cell phone, television and radio towers have been targeted in Russian airstrikes and artillery barrages.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that any use of chemical or nuclear weapons “will totally change the nature of the war in Ukraine. It will be absolutely unacceptable.”

Stoltenberg spoke during a visit to the long-planned Cold Response drill in his native Norway and called Russia’s war in Ukraine “a watershed moment." He also regretted that Moscow had declined to observe the drill, saying that NATO “always invite other countries to observe.”

The drill taking place in southeastern, central and northern Norway includes around 30,000 troops from 27 countries. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden are also participating. The exercise started March 14 and ends April 1.

The first Cold Response exercise was held in 2006. It is conducted every two years.


KYIV, Ukraine — The government of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol says 300 people died in a Russian airstrike on March 16 on a theater being used as a bomb shelter.

The post Friday on the city government Telegram channel cited eyewitnesses for the toll of “about 300.” It was not immediately clear whether emergency workers had finished excavating the site or how the eyewitnesses arrived at the horrific death toll.

When the theater was struck, an enormous inscription reading “CHILDREN” was posted outside in Russian, intended to be visible from the skies above.

Soon after the airstrike, Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, said more than 1,300 people had been sheltering in the building.


BRUSSELS — The United States and the European Union have announced a new partnership to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy. Top officials characterized the step as the start of a years-long initiative to further isolate Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden asserted Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin uses energy to “coerce and manipulate his neighbors” and uses the profits from its sale to “drive his war machine.”

Biden said the partnership he announced jointly with a top European Union official will turn that dynamic on its head by reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy sources, as well as the continent’s demand for gas overall.

Under the plan, the U.S. and other nations will increase liquified natural gas exports to Europe by 15 billion cubic meters this year. Even larger shipments would be delivered in the future.

At the same time, they will try to keep their climate goals on track by powering gas infrastructure with clean energy and reducing methane leaks that can worsen global warming.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ukraine and Russia appear to be making progress on four issues being negotiated for an end of the fighting but differences remain on two other key issues.

Speaking to reporters on his return from a NATO summit late Thursday, Erdogan said Kyiv has expressed readiness to give up on its wish to join NATO, is ready to accept Russian as an official language, and can also accept “certain concessions” concerning disarmament and “collective security.”

But Erdogan said Ukraine "is not so comfortable“ regarding Russian demands on Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and the eastern Donbas region, where it has recognized separatist entities as independent. His comments were reported by Hurriyet newspaper and other Turkish media on Friday.

NATO member Turkey has been trying to balance its relations with both Ukraine and Russia, positioning itself as a mediator between the two. It has hosted a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers earlier this month.


BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister says his country has forged contracts with new suppliers that will allow it to significantly reduce its reliance on Russian coal, gas and oil in the coming weeks.

Robert Habeck told reporters in Berlin on Friday that Russian oil will account for about 25% of Germany’s imports in the coming weeks, from currently about 35%. Habeck said imports of Russian coal will be halved from about 50% of Germany’s total to 25% in the coming weeks.

He said Germany also expects to be able to become almost entirely independent of Russian gas by mid-2024. To do this the government has secured the use of three “floating” terminals capable of regasifying LNG brought in by ship and is working hard to build permanent LNG terminals for long-term imports.


JERUSALEM — A Ukrainian who fled the country with her daughter has finished first among women in this year’s Jerusalem marathon.

Valentyna Veretska, 31, competed in Friday’s race after fleeing with her 11-year-old daughter shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Her husband stayed behind.

Organizers say Veretska finished the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) race in two hours, 45 minutes and 54 seconds. Ageze Guadie, 33, from Israel, finished first in the men’s category with a time of 2:37:17.

Veretska, 31, is ranked 444th worldwide among female marathon runners and most recently finished first in the October 2021 Tirana Marathon, according to World Athletics. Ahead of the Jerusalem race, she told reporters that she would “run for peace.”

She and her daughter fled from the southern city of Mykolaiv with only their travel documents, making their way to neighboring Poland. She was invited to take part in the Jerusalem marathon earlier this month.

Marathon organizers say around 40 Ukrainian immigrants and refugees competed among thousands of runners.


BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s prime minister on Friday rejected an emotional appeal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to supply Ukraine with weapons and support sanctions on Russia’s energy sector.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a video posted to social media that Zelenskyy’s requests were “against Hungary’s interests,” and that sanctions on Russian energy “would mean that the Hungarian economy would slow down and then stop within moments.”

The rejection came after Zelenskyy on Thursday addressed a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels where he specifically addressed Orban, who is widely considered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the EU.

“Listen, Viktor, do you know what is happening in Mariupol?” Zelenskyy said. “I want to be open once and for all — you should decide for yourself, who you are for.”

Hungary, alone among EU countries bordering Ukraine, has declined to supply its neighbor with weapons and refused to allow weapons shipments to cross its border into Ukraine.

On Friday, Orban said that 85% of Hungary’s gas and more than 60% of its oil comes from Russia, and that blocking Russian energy exports would force Hungarians to “pay the price of the war.”


KHARKIV, Ukraine — About half the population of the eastern city of Kharkiv has left, and food and other essentials are dwindling for those who stay behind. A line formed Thursday at an apartment block as neighbors waited for aid from the Red Cross.

“Among those who stayed, there are people who can walk on their own, but many who cannot walk, the elderly,” said Hanna Spitsyna, who distributed the food to the sound of explosions behind her.

Kharkiv has been under siege by Russian forces since the start of the invasion, with relentless shelling that has forced people to sleep in metro stations and in basements.

Ukraine’s government said shelling on a group of people awaiting aid elsewhere in the city killed six people on Thursday. It was not immediately possible to verify the allegation.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press show thick black smoke rising Thursday over the port in the Ukrainian city of Berdyansk, with a large ship on fire.

The timing of the photos correspond with what the Ukrainian navy described as a successful attack that saw a Russian landing craft ferrying armored vehicles to the city sink off the port.

The image also corresponds to online videos purportedly showing the attack at the port in the city held by Russia on the Sea of Azov.


LVIV, Ukraine – Russian forces fired two missiles late Thursday at a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro, the fourth-largest city in the country, regional emergency services said.

The strikes destroyed buildings and set off two fires, it said, while the number of those killed and wounded was still being established.

Dnipro is west of the regions along the Russian border that have been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.


LVIV, Ukraine — With the war headed into its second month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke of hope and determination in his nighttime video address to the nation late Thursday.

“It is already night. But we are working,” he said in a quiet voice. “The country must move toward peace, move forward. With every day of our defense, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much. We are getting closer to victory. … We can’t stop even for a minute. For every minute determines our fate, our future, whether we will live.”

He reported on his conversations that day with leaders of NATO and European Union countries gathered in Brussels, and their promises of even more sanctions on Russia.

“We need to look for peace,” he said. “Russia also needs to look for peace.”


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked EU leaders for working together to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia.

But he lamented that these steps weren’t taken earlier, saying there was a chance Russia would have thought twice about invading.

He then appealed to the EU leaders, who had gathered Thursday in Brussels, to move quickly on Ukraine’s application to join the bloc. He appealed particularly to Hungary not to block Ukraine’s bid.

“Here I ask you, do not delay. Please,” Zelenskyy said by video from Kyiv. “For us this is a chance.”

Hungarian President Viktor Orban is widely considered to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally among EU leaders.


BRUSSELS — European nations have reacted sharply to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to have “unfriendly” countries pay for its natural gas exports only in rubles.

Several EU leaders have come out saying it would be a gross violation of their contracts. From German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, they said they would not meet such demands.

The EU imports 90% of the natural gas used to generate electricity, heat homes and supply industry, with Russia supplying almost 40% of it.

Economists say Putin’s threat seems designed to try to bolster the ruble, which has collapsed against other currencies since Russia invaded Ukraine and Western countries responded with far-reaching sanctions against Moscow.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Thousands of people took to the streets of Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, on Thursday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to show solidarity with Ukrainians.

The rally, organized on social networks, followed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call on people around the world to protest the month-long war.

Some of the 60,000 refugees from Ukraine joined the demonstration. Waving Ukrainian and European flags, protesters chanted “Stop the war,” “Stop Putin” and “Freedom for democratic Ukraine."

The organizers of the event said that it was time for Bulgaria to come out in large numbers in support of a sovereign Ukraine.



Ukraine president presses Biden, NATO for more aid as war enters second month

UN votes to condemn Russia for humanitarian crisis in Ukraine

Russian stock market, crushed by war, partially reopens

— Go to for more coverage



MOSCOW — The Russian military says it will offer safe passage to foreign ships that have been stranded in Ukrainian ports.

Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said Thursday that Russia is offering to allow foreign vessels to gather in the Black Sea 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of the port of Illichivsk and then follow a 80-mile-long (129-kilometer-long) “humanitarian corridor” to safety. He added that the safe route will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Moscow time (0500 to 1600 GMT) starting Friday.

He said that 67 ships from 15 countries have been stranded in Ukrainian ports. Mizintsev charged that those ships have been unable to leave due to the threat of Ukrainian shelling and the presence of sea mines deployed by the Ukrainian forces.


BRUSSELS — President Joe Biden says that he wants Russia out of the G-20.

Biden made the comments during a press conference Thursday in Brussels following a series of urgent NATO meetings on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The G-20, or Group of Twenty, is an intergovernmental forum of 19 countries and the European Union that works on major global issues. He said he raised the issue Thursday with other world leaders.

Biden said that he would prefer Russia is removed from the group, but should Indonesia or other nations disagree, he would ask that Ukraine leaders be allowed in for conversations.

Biden and Western allies on Thursday pledged new sanctions and humanitarian aid in response to the continued assault in Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin.


BRUSSELS - President Joe Biden says that Russian President Vladimir Putin was wrong to assume NATO would be divided over Ukraine.

Biden says at a news conference that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has built greater unity within NATO, the European Union and the Group of Seven economies.

Biden says of Putin, “He didn’t think we could sustain this cohesion,” adding that NATO has “never been more united than it is today.”

NATO countries and other allies have imposed harsh sanctions against Russia, crippling that country’s economy. Still, the EU has refrained from taking the same steps as the U.S. by banning oil and natural gas from Russia.


PARIS — French President Emmanuel warned about “reputation risks” for French companies which are operating in Russia but said they are free to make their own choices.

“My position is to let the companies free to decide for themselves. That’s up to the companies’ leadership to assess” the situation, he said Thursday in a news conference in Brussels.

Macron’s remarks come after French automaker Renault announced plans to pause production at its Moscow plant in an apparent move to fend off mounting criticism.

Macron said he requested all French companies operating in Russia to comply with EU sanctions.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on French multinationals to stop indirectly supporting the war against Ukraine by leaving Russia, in a speech to the French parliament on Wednesday.

Naming Renault, supermarket chain Auchan and home improvement giant Leroy Merlin, Zelenskyy said they “must stop being sponsors of Russia’s war machine.”


BRUSSELS -- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the world is united in its response to the Russian attack on Ukraine last month and said that sanctions against Russia were proving to be powerful.

Scholz told reporters in Brussels Thursday after the NATO summit that “we are united in our commitment to see these sanctions through as long as necessary and to keep reviewing them for effectiveness.”

Asked about the threat of a possible nuclear, biological, chemical weapons attack by Russia, Scholz said that such an attack “would be a breach of all the rules and agreements and conventions that exist.”

Scholz also said that Germany has committed to giving 370 million euros ($407 million) to Ukraine in humanitarian aid and pledged another 430 million euros for the global food supply to help prevent famines.

He called on the international community to help Europe shoulder the burden of the millions of refugees arriving from Ukraine.


BRUSSELS — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says “extraordinary unity among allies” characterized both the NATO and G-7 meetings in Brussels.

Draghi told reporters during a break in gatherings on Thursday that the unity pertained to both applying the sanctions against Russia as well as to ”deciding to toughen them if necessary.”

He described as “unanimous” the analyses by summit participants that the sanctions are being “extraordinarily effective. The Russian economy is strongly weakened.”

As for the drama of the millions of refugees from Ukraine, Draghi said the feeling among participants was that the humanitarian drama must be managed, in addition to on a European level, also on world level, with the full involvement of the United Nations.

Regarding China, ’’there was no condemnation, on the contrary, there was the hope that China contributes to the peace process,” the Italian leader said.


LVIV, Ukraine — Belarus’ authoritarian leader has warned that a Polish proposal to deploy a Western peacekeeping force in Ukraine could trigger World War III.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has allowed his ally Russia to use Belarus’ territory to launch an invasion of Ukraine, pointed Thursday at Poland’s offer of a peacekeeping mission made last week, saying “it will mean World War III.”

“The situation is very serious and very tense,” he added.

Lukashenko’s comment follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning at the start of the invasion of Ukraine that any foreign interference with Moscow’s military action would trigger an immediate Russian response that will lead to “the consequences you have never seen in your history.” A few days after the start of the invasion, Putin ordered to put Russia’s nuclear forces on special regime of combat duty.



Ukraine president presses Biden, NATO for more aid as war enters second month

UN votes to condemn Russia for humanitarian crisis in Ukraine

Russian stock market, crushed by war, partially reopens

— Go to for more coverage



LVIV, Ukraine -- A local government official in the northern city of Chernihiv has said a “catastrophe” is unfolding for the population as Russian troops deliberately target food stores in a near-month-long siege.

An airstrike this week destroyed a bridge over the Desna River, which was a crucial route to bring in food and other aid from Ukraine-controlled territory further south.

“Humanitarian help, medicines and food used to be delivered into the city via this bridge,” city council secretary Olexander Lomako told The Associated Press in an audio message.

He estimated that more than 130,000 people are left in the city out of a pre-war population of 285,000 but that Ukraine remains in full control.

“Chernihiv is under total control of Ukrainian army, Ukrainian flag waves here,” he said.


LVIV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Ukraine and Russia exchanged a total of 50 military and civilian prisoners Thursday.

Vereshchuk said in a statement on social media that Ukraine exchanged 10 “captured occupiers” for 10 Ukrainian troops.

She also said that Ukraine had handed over 11 civilian Russian sailors who Ukraine had rescued from a sinking ship off Odesa, in return for 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors from a Ukrainian search and rescue boat. The boat will also be returned via Turkey, she said.

There have previously been reports of local prisoner exchanges on a smaller scale than those announced by Vereshchuk. They included a swap of nine Russian soldiers for a captured Ukrainian mayor. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday two prisoner swaps had taken place but didn’t provide details of when they happened or who was involved.


Ukraine says more than 400,000 of its citizens have been forcibly taken to Russia.

Ukrainian Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova said at a briefing Thursday that the Ukrainians were taken to by Russian troops from Mariupol and other besieged Ukrainian cities. The number includes 84,000 children. She says they are held in primitive conditions with little food and water.

Donetsk Region Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko also said that Russians are taking Ukrainians’ passports and take them to filtration camps place where Russian FSB counterintelligence agency officers conduct security checks before moving them to various distant areas in Russia.

Kyrylenko said that Mariupol’s residents had been long deprived of information and the Russians feed them false claims about Ukraine’s defeats to persuade them to move to Russia. “Russian lies may influence those who have been under the siege,” he said.

Russian officials reported Wednesday that over 384,000 Ukrainians had voluntarily traveled to Russia where they were being offered accommodation and payments.



Ukraine president presses Biden, NATO for more aid as war enters second month

UN to vote on blaming Russia for Ukraine humanitarian crisis

Russian stock market, crushed by war, partially reopens

— Go to for more coverage



BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister says Europe needs to beware of Russian efforts to destabilize the Western Balkans against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters in Berlin on Thursday that such moves preceded Russia’s military engagement in Ukraine, despite Moscow’s continued denial that it was preparing an attack.

Similar support by Russia for breakaway movements in Bosnia, for example, could endanger the integrity and sovereignty of Western Balkans nations, Baerbock said after a meeting with her Croatian counterpart, Goran Grlic Radman.

Baerbock said the European Union and its partners would do what they can to help countries now taking in large numbers of Ukrainians fleeing the war, particularly tiny Moldova, which has received the highest number of refugees per capita so far.

Germany has organized a first direct flight to bring refugees from Moldova to Frankfurt on Friday, with more to follow, she said.


UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution blaming Russia for humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and urging an immediate cease-fire and protection for millions of civilians and the homes, schools and hospitals critical to their survival.

Thursday’s vote on the resolution was 140-5 with only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea joining Russia in opposing the measure. There were 38 abstentions, including China.

The resolution deplores Russia’s shelling, airstrikes and “besiegement” of densely populated cities, including the southern city of Mariupol, and demands unhindered access for humanitarian aid.

The vote was almost exactly the same as on the March 2 resolution the assembly adopted demanding an immediate Russian cease-fire and withdrawal of all its forces and demanding protection for all civilians and infrastructure indispensable to their survival. That vote was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.

When the result of the vote was announced, many diplomats in the General Assembly chamber burst into applause.


SOFIA, Bulgaria - Bulgaria’s prime minister said Thursday that his country will recall its ambassador to Moscow for consultations in response to a succession of statements by Russia’s ambassador that have deeply offended Bulgaria’s government.

Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said the move comes on the heels of ”undiplomatic, sharp and rude” statements made by Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova.

The latest was on Monday, when Mitrofanova said in an interview with Russia 24 TV channel that “the people of Bulgaria do not support the rhetoric and actions of their government regarding Russia’s special operation in Ukraine.”

“This is why we will summon our ambassador from Russia for consultations. Usually, when a country summons its ambassador for consultations, the other country should follow suit and do the same,” Petkov said.


LONDON — Greenpeace has accused the 27-nation European Union of bankrolling Russia’s war in Ukraine by continuing to purchase oil, gas and coal from Moscow.

EU leaders have stopped short of announcing a blanket ban on Russian imports of gas and oil but the EU commission has proposed slashing the bloc’s dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year. The EU is in talks with the US to ensure extra deliveries of liquefied natural gas and have also started discussions with other suppliers.

“Fossil fuels have a history of being connected with conflict and war – wherever they come from, governments must phase them out as quickly as possible, not look for new suppliers,” said Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss. He criticized

The EU imports 90% of the natural gas used to generate electricity, heat homes and supply industry, with Russia supplying almost 40% of EU gas and a quarter of its oil. Many EU leaders believe that an embargo on fossil fuels from Russia would hurt the bloc’s economy too hard.


BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the military alliance is stepping up its defenses against chemical and nuclear weapons as concern mounts that Russia might use such weapons in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg says that NATO leaders agreed at their summit Thursday to send equipment to Ukraine to help protect it against a chemical weapons attack.

“This could include detection equipment, protection, and medical support, as well as training for decontamination and crisis management,” he told reporters after meeting in Brussels.

But Stoltenberg says the 30 NATO allies are boosting their own “preparedness and readiness.”

The leaders agreed Thursday to deploy four new battlegroups, which usually number from 1,000-1,500 troops, to Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Four other battlegroups are stationed in the Baltic States and Poland.

NATO nations are concerned that Russia’s attempt to falsely accuse them of working on chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine is part of a ruse by Moscow to create a pretext for using such arms itself.


LONDON — Britain is sanctioning 65 more companies and individuals over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The targets include Russia’s largest private bank and a woman the British government said was the stepdaughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the new round of sanctions target strategic industries, banks and business elites. Among those sanctioned are Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private bank and Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company.

The U.K. also targeted billionaires Eugene Markovich Shvidler, who has close ties to Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich and Herman Gref, the chief executive of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. Polina Kovaleva, who was described as Lavrov’s stepdaughter, was also sanctioned as the U.K. broadens the scope of its sanctions to reach people linked to those responsible for “Russian aggression.”


LVIV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry says Russia is making arrangements to forcibly relocate thousands of civilians to Russia from the besieged port of Mariupol.

It said Thursday Russian forces had taken 6,000 Mariupol residents “to Russian filtration camps in order to use them as hostages and put more political pressure on Ukraine.”

The Foreign Ministry expressed concern for 15,000 people from a district of Mariupol under Russian control, saying Russian troops were confiscating their identity documents and insisting they traveled to Russia. Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian troops of obstructing attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, including by seizing bus drivers sent to collect civilians.

Ukrainian military intelligence said Thursday that Ukrainian civilians were being sent through a “filtration camp” in Russian-controlled territory then onward through southern regions of Russia and then to “economically depressed” parts of the country.

Some could be sent as far as the Pacific Ocean island of Sakhalin, Ukrainian intelligence said, and are offered jobs on condition they don’t leave for two years. The claims could not be independently verified.

Russia has said it is helping civilians evacuate from Mariupol and other cities affected by fighting. Russia claims many civilians are keen to find refuge in Russia.


BRUSSELS — NATO leaders are extending the mandate of Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg for an extra year to help steer the 30-nation military organization through the security crisis sparked by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Stoltenberg tweeted Thursday that he is “honored” by the decision of NATO leaders to extend his term until 30 September 2023.

“As we face the biggest security crisis in a generation, we stand united to keep our Alliance strong and our people safe,” he said.

The former Norwegian prime minister was named to NATO’s top civilian post in October 2014. It’s the second time that his term of office has been extended. His mandate was due to expire in September.


BRUSSELS — Group of Seven leaders have announced they are restricting the Russian Central Bank’s use of gold in transactions, while the U.S. announced a new round of sanctions targeting more than 400 elites and members of the Russian State Duma.

Previously, sanctions against Russian elites, the country’s Central Bank and President Vladimir Putin did not impact Russia’s gold stockpile, which Putin has been accumulating for several years. Russia holds roughly $130 billion in gold reserves, and the Bank of Russia announced Feb. 28 that it would resume the purchase of gold on the domestic precious metals market.

White House officials said Thursday the move will further blunt Russia’s ability to use its international reserves to prop up Russia’s economy and fund its war against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced more sanctions targeting 48 state-owned defense companies, 328 members of the Duma, Russia’s lower parliament, and dozens of Russian elites. The Duma as an entity was also named in the new sanctions.

The G-7 and the European Union also announced a new effort to share information and coordinate responses to prevent Russia from evading the impact of sanctions that western nations have levied since the Feb. 24 invasion.


WASHINGTON — A White House official says the U.S. is trying to help its Eastern European allies by taking in up to 100,000 of the 3.5 million Ukrainians refugees who have fled Russia’s invasion of their country.

Among the first Ukrainians refugee coming to the U.S. will be those who have family already in the United States, senior Biden administration officials said in a conference call with reporters.

U.S. refugee efforts will also focus on helping refugees who are considered particularly vulnerable following the Russian invasion, groups that include LGBTQ people, those with medical needs as well as journalists and dissidents, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the efforts ahead of their formal release.

The officials said further details of the refugee effort will be released later but they don’t expect to raise the overall cap of 125,000 refugees, from around the world, for budget year 2022 that the administration set last year in consultation with Congress.

That’s because the 100,000 Ukrainians can come in through other admission programs such as humanitarian parole, which was used to bring in thousands of Afghans following the U.S. withdrawal in August.

— By Ben Fox


LVIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s president has pleaded with NATO to provide his embattled nation with military assistance.

In a video address to the NATO summit Thursday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs “military assistance without limitations,” as Russia is “using its entire arsenal” against the country.

Zelenskyy urged NATO to provide Ukraine with “1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks.” “We can’t just buy those,” Zelenskyy said. “When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100% security.”

Ukraine is also in dire need of multiple launch rocket systems, anti-ship weapons and air defense systems, Zelenskyy said. “Is it possible to survive in such a war without this?,” he asked.

Zelenskyy said Russia used phosphorous bombs on Thursday morning, killing both adults and children. He reminded NATO leaders that thousands of Ukrainians have died in the past month, 10 million people have left their homes, and urged NATO to give “clear answers.”

“It feels like we’re in a gray area, between the West and Russia, defending our common values,” Zelenskyy said emotionally. “This is the scariest thing during a war -- not to have clear answers to requests for help.”

Zelenskyy did not reiterate his request for a no-fly zone or ask to join NATO, according to a senior Biden administration official.


PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s Parliament has approved a plan to deploy up to 650 Czech service members to Slovakia as part of an multinational NATO force set up in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Parliament's lower house approved the deployment Thursday after the upper house gave the green light last week.

The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia will also contribute troops to the unit, expected to include up to 2,100 soldiers.

The plan is part of the NATO initiative to reassure member countries on the alliance’s eastern flank.

The alliance stationed troops in the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by Russia. After Russia attacked Ukraine, NATO decided to boost its presence along the entire eastern flank by deploying forces in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.


STOCKHOLM — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited Sweden to help rebuild his country as he marked one month of the Russian invasion during an address to the Swedish parliament.

“This is a month now,” Zelenskyy said during a speech by video link Thursday. “We have not seen a destruction of this scale since World War II.”

“Just look at what the Russian army has done to our country ... A month of bombings similar to what we have seen in Syria,” Zelenskyy said, adding 10 million people have been displaced.

He called on “Swedish companies and state to come rebuild” the country.

Zelenskyy, speaking through an interpreter, also raised an alarm about the possibility of Russia using nuclear and chemical weapons.

His speech was broadcast live before members of the 349-seat Riksdagen which gave him a standing ovation.


BEIJING — China is rejecting accusations of helping Russia spread disinformation over Washington’s involvement in Ukraine, while repeating Moscow’s baseless claims about secret American biological warfare labs in Ukraine.

“Accusing China of spreading disinformation on Ukraine is disinformation in itself,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily Briefing Thursday. He said China has acted in “an objective and just manner.”

Wang claimed the international community continues to have “grave concerns” about U.S. biolabs in Ukraine, despite rebuttals from independent scientists.

China claims it is neutral in the conflict, although it maintains what it calls a limitless friendship with Russia, which it calls its “most important strategic partner.” China has refused to criticize Russia over its invasion — or even to refer to it as such — and Chinese state media repeatedly regurgitate Moscow’s false claims over the conflict.

Click here for an archive of past entries.