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Russia-Ukraine: The latest

Zelensky accuses Russian forces of worst atrocities since World War II

A resident looked for belongings in the ruins of an apartment building destroyed during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Borodyanka, Ukraine on Tuesday.VADIM GHIRDA/Associated Press

Weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops have faced resistance from Ukrainian forces as they threaten major cities and drive Ukrainian residents to flee to neighboring countries.

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April 5, 2022


EU expels 19 Russian diplomats from Belgium — 1:25 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The European Union says 19 Russian diplomats are being expelled from Belgium.

The move comes amid blistering criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine and discussions on a new set of sanctions targeting the Kremlin for the Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbor.

“I decided to designate persona non grata a number of officials of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the EU for engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a video statement Tuesday.


He said the Russian envoy was being summoned to the EU to explain the move.

German foreign minister supports giving Ukraine more weapons — 12:22 p.m.

By The Associated Press

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.

Zelensky accuses Russian military of war crimes, demands accountability in address to UN Security Council — 11:35 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday alleged violent and gruesome killings of Ukrainian civilians and called for the Russian military to be brought to justice for war crimes.


Zelensky’s address to the United Nations Security Council came amid global outrage over evidence of atrocities in Bucha.

By Bloomberg News

US coal miners including Peabody Energy Corp. and Arch Resources Inc. surged as the European Union is proposing banning imports of the fuel from Russia. Peabody, the biggest US coal producer, jumped as much as 7.1 percent before the start of regular trading in New York. Arch, the second-biggest miner climbed as much as 6.3 percent, while Consol Energy Inc. gained as much as 8.6 percent as prices spiked in Europe.

Russia supplied about 18 percent of global coal exports in 2020, with Europe as the largest buyer. The prospect of restrictions on Russian coal has already upended international energy markets, driving prices to record highs, though in recent weeks they have erased some of those gains. However, it may be hard for US suppliers to take advantage of surging international prices, said Ernie Thrasher, chief executive officer of Xcoal Energy & Resources LLC., the biggest US exporter. Miners have already sold most of their output under long-term contracts and have few spare tons to deliver to Europe. Increasing production will be difficult because the long-term prospects for the dirtiest fossil fuel are grim, and producers have had little incentive to invest in new capacity.

Those issues have been exacerbated by tight labor markets, while supply-chain bottlenecks would make it difficult to deliver additional tons to export terminals, Thrasher said. “I don’t see any ability for the industry to expand production,” he said. “It’s like looking at a sweet dessert that you just can’t reach.” Prices in the US have also been surging, surpassing $100 a ton last week for the first time in 13 years.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

The UN 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 UN 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. The tally marked an increase from IOM’s tally in mid-March of more than 9.7 million displaced internally in Ukraine or driven abroad.

By The Associated Press

The prime minister of Moldova says the poor eastern European nation needs major international support to cope with the influx of people fleeing neighboring Ukraine.

Natalia Gavrilita told a donor conference in Berlin on Tuesday that Moldova is hosting about 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, about a quarter of those who have entered since late February.

Gavrilita said Moldova, with a population of 2.5 million, has tried to provide refugees with decent conditions thanks to an “unprecedented mobilization” by the public and private sectors.

But she said “coping with this influx is one of the biggest challenges any Moldovan government has faced over the last three decades.”

She said that in addition to financial aid, Moldova also needs help building electricity interconnectors to Romania. She asked the European Union to open its market to agricultural imports from her country as it pivots away from Russia.

By The Associated Press

Sweden’s foreign minister says the Scandinavian country is expelling three Russian diplomats.

Foreign Minister Ann Lindeannouncement on Tuesday came after Denmark and Italy said they were expelling 15 and 30 Russians, respectively. On Monday, France and Germany announced that they wer kicking out dozens of Russians with diplomatic status.

Last month, Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency, SAPO, said that “every third Russian diplomat in Sweden is an intelligence officer.”

By The Associated Press

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday that there is a “total determination” from all 27 European Union countries for sanctions against Russia that could target oil and coal over evidence its troops deliberately killed Ukrainian civilians.

Europe’s dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal means finding unanimity on energy measures is a tall order, but the reports of the killings outside Kyiv have increased pressure for tougher EU sanctions.

By The Associated Press

The Italian Foreign Ministry says Italy is expelling 30 Russian diplomats.

Tuesday’s announcement followed expulsions by several other European countries. Germany said Monday that it was expelling 40 Russians with diplomatic status and France kicked out 35.

Germany’s interior minister said authorities attribute those who are being kicked out to Russian intelligence services. And Denmark said on Tuesday that it is expelling 15 Russian intelligence officers who worked at Russia’s Embassy in Copenhagen.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive Commission, will travel to Kyiv this week to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Her spokesman, Eric Mamer, said Tuesday that her trip will come to ahead of a special pledging meeting in Warsaw over the weekend. It is the second high-level such trip from EU officials. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola went to Ukraine last week.

Red Cross team held overnight, can’t enter Mariupol — 5:09 a.m.

By The Associated Press

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.

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.”

Denmark expels Russian intelligence officers — 5:07 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Denmark’s Foreign Ministry says the country is expelling 15 Russian intelligence officers who worked at Russia’s Embassy in Copenhagen.

The ministry said the Russian ambassador was informed of the decision on Tuesday. It said Denmark strongly condemned “Russia’s brutality against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha” and stressed that “deliberate attacks on civilians are a war crime.”

The officers have two weeks to leave Denmark. Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said “they pose a risk to our national security that we cannot ignore.”

The move came after France and Germany on Monday announced the expulsion of dozens of Russians with diplomatic status.

France plans to expel 35. The French Foreign Ministry cited national security reasons for the expulsions, saying the Russian diplomats were conducting “activities contrary to our security interests.” It gave no details.

Ukraine opens corridors out of Mariupol — 4:10 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Seven humanitarian corridors will be open on Tuesday, including from the besieged port city of Mariupol and the Russian-controlled Berdyansk, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the messaging app Telegram.

According to Vereshchuk’s post, residents of Mariupol and Berdyansk will be able to leave to Zaporizhzhia on their own transport. Corridors will also be open from the city of Tokmak in the Zaporizhzhia region and cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna and Hirske in the Luhansk region.

A view of the Mariupol theater damaged during fighting in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022.Alexei Alexandrov/Associated Press

Vereshchuk said in the same post that the Russian troops “don’t allow anyone to enter Mariupol,” and that the Russians “blocked the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross” in the settlement of Manhush just west of Mariupol.

Vereshchuk said that, after negotiations, the Red Cross representatives “were released at night and sent to Zaporizhzhia.”

It was not immediately clear from Vereshchuk’s statement whether Russia has agreed to halt the fighting along the announced corridors. Some of the Ukrainian efforts to evacuate civilians via humanitarian corridors had previously failed as fighting along them continued even despite agreements with Russia.

Ukraine takes back more territory, Russians retreat in North, says British defense officials — 4:08 a.m.

By The Associated Press

British defense officials say Ukrainian forces have taken back more territory as Russian troops continue to retreat in Ukraine’s north.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense says Ukrainian forces “have retaken key terrain” after forcing Russian units to retreat north of Kyiv and around the northern city of Chernihiv. The ministry says “low-level fighting is likely to continue in some parts of the newly recaptured regions, but diminish significantly over this week as the remainder of Russian forces withdraw.”

In an intelligence update posted online, the U.K. says many of the Russian units “are likely to require significant re-equipping and refurbishment before being available to redeploy for operations in eastern Ukraine.”

Ukrainian and Western officials say Russia is refocusing its offensive on the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine: Russia prepping for offensive in Donbas — 2:51 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Ukraine’s General Staff reports Tuesday morning that Russia is regrouping its troops and preparing for an offensive in Donbas.

“The goal is to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” the update posted on the General Staff’s Facebook page says.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the Russian military are focusing their efforts on taking control of Popasna and Rubizhne cities, as well as establishing full control over Mariupol, the General Staff said. Other towns and settlements in the two regions are subject to continued shelling.

The Russian troops also continue to block Kharkiv, according to the General Staff.

World Bank report says war to slow Asia economies — 2:49 a.m.

By The Associated Press

A report by the World Bank says disruptions to supplies of commodities, financial strains and higher prices are among the shocks from the war in Ukraine that will slow economies in Asia in coming months.

The report released Tuesday forecasts slower growth and rising poverty in the Asia-Pacific region this year. Growth for the region is estimated at 5%, down from the original forecast of 5.4%. It anticipates that China, the region’s largest economy, will expand at a 5% pace.

The report says “multiple shocks” are adding to troubles for people and for businesses and that governments whose finances have been stretched by the pandemic have less capacity to help.


April 4, 2022


Russia urged to stop using land mines in its war in Ukraine — 11:54 p.m.

By The Associated Press

A top official in the global campaign against the use of land mines urged Russia on Monday to stop its troops in Ukraine from laying the weapons that too often kill and maim civilians.

Alicia Arango Olmos, Colombia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and this year’s president of the state parties to the 1997 convention banning the production and use of land mines, expressed deep concern at media reports that Russia is using land mines in its war in Ukraine.

By The Associated Press

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the U.N. Security Council for the first time at a meeting Tuesday that is certain to focus on what appear to be deliberate killings in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv.

The discovery after the withdrawal of Russian troops has sparked global outrage and vehement denials from the Russian government.

Videos and photos of streets in Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians, some with their hands tied behind their back, have led to global revulsion, calls for tougher sanctions, and Russia’s suspension from the U.N.’s premiere human rights body, the Human Rights Council.

According to Ukraine’s prosecutor-general Iryna Venediktova, the bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces.

Associated Press journalists have reported seeing dozens of bodies in various spots around Bucha, northwest of the capital.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused Ukraine and the West on Monday of “a false flag attempt” to blame Russian troops for atrocities in Bucha. He said Russia will present evidence at Tuesday’s council meeting.

By The New York Times

The images of dead Ukrainians, some with their hands tied and others haphazardly buried in pits, spurred shocked Western leaders Monday to promise even tougher sanctions against Russia, including possibly on energy, as the Kremlin dug in and showed signs of preparing a new assault.

The growing evidence that Russian soldiers killed scores of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha prompted President Joe Biden to call for President Vladimir Putin of Russia to face a “war crime trial.” Germany and France expelled a total of 75 Russian diplomats, and President Emmanuel Macron of France said the European Union should consider sanctions against Russian coal and oil.

New York Times

While Russian troops have battered Ukraine, officials in China have been meeting behind closed doors to study a Communist Party-produced documentary that extols President Vladimir Putin of Russia as a hero.

The humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union, the video says, was the result of efforts by the United States to destroy its legitimacy. With swelling music and sunny scenes of present-day Moscow, the documentary praises Putin for restoring Josef Stalin’s standing as a great wartime leader and for renewing patriotic pride in Russia’s past.

To the world, China casts itself as a principled onlooker of the war in Ukraine, not picking sides, simply seeking peace. At home, though, the Chinese Communist Party is pushing a campaign that paints Russia as a long-suffering victim rather than an aggressor and defends China’s strong ties with Moscow as vital.

Washington Post

Europe is united in its outrage over evidence of alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine. But the European Union is not sure what it is willing to do about it, especially when it comes to energy.

As photographs of bodies in the streets of the town of Bucha circulated online over the weekend, horrified Ukrainian and European officials called for the EU to finally stop buying Russian oil and gas.

Every barrel of oil and ton of gas is “soaked in the blood” of those killed, the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament said. Lithuania’s foreign minister warned other EU countries not to become “accomplices.”

By The Associated Press

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 ceasefire planned in order to facilitate evacuations there.

By The Associated Press

The US government on Monday seized a 254-foot yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a first by the Biden administration under sanctions imposed after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and targeting pricey assets of Russian elites.

Spain’s Civil Guard and US federal agents descended on the Tango 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.

The US Justice Department, which obtained a warrant from a federal judge in Washington, alleges the yacht should be forfeited for violating US bank fraud, money laundering, and sanctions statutes.

By The Associated Press

A US security adviser says Russia is revising its plans after realizing that the “West will not break.” Instead, troops are shifting focus to the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.

By The Associated Press

A Ukrainian ballerina who fled the war in her homeland and a Russian ballerina who quit the Bolshoi Ballet over the Russian invasion rehearsed on a stage in Naples ahead of a sold-out benefit performance Monday night to raise funds for the Red Cross and champion the cause of peace in Ukraine. Naples’ San Carlo Theater billed the event “Stand with Ukraine — Ballet for Peace.”

Despite that description, the prospect of Russian dancers dancing on the same stage with Ukrainians reportedly angered Ukraine’s consul in Naples. The Italian daily La Repubblica quoted the consul as telling fellow Ukrainians in the southern Italian city to shun the performance. Among the stars in the event is prima ballerina Olga Smirnova, who quit the Bolshoi last month and is now dancing with the Dutch National Ballet. Another headliner is Anastasia Gurskaya, a top ballerina in Kyiv’s Opera, who fled the fighting in Ukraine. “I think it’s important in this situation, in this time, to be together on the stage. To do little things, the smallest things, what we can do for Ukraine,” Smirnova told reporters in the theater ahead of the final rehearsal. “This is the main goal for all of us. That’s why we are here, that’s why we are dancing tonight.”

Fellow prima ballerina Gurskaya said her performance is one way to help Ukraine. “My life is upside down now. And I’ve never been in Italy in this city, and I’ve never danced with stars like today, with world ballet stars, and I am so excited about it. And I don’t know why this happened to me,” the Ukrainian dancer told The Associated Press. “I am really happy I am here and I can help and support my country with my dancing today.” The theater’s artistic director, Alessio Carbone, hailed Smirnova’s participation. “Olga is a very strong image for us, because obviously she was the first dancer who publicly opposed the (Putin) regime. So to have her with us tonight is an inspiration of courage,” Carbone said. No one responded to telephone calls Monday at Ukraine’s consulate in Naples. Calls to the mayor’s press office went unanswered.

About a dozen protesters, some holding Ukrainian flags, demonstrated outside the theater before the event to show discontent over the participation of Russian dancers. Before the rehearsal, one of the Ukrainian dancers spoke about a small town near Kyiv where the chilling discoveries of civilian bodies have emerged. According to Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, the bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people around Bucha, northwest of the capital. Stanislav Olshanskyi, who has danced at the Kyiv Opera House since 2018, says he had lived in Bucha for five years. “It’s my city. I know this city, I walked in the streets,” he told the AP. “These photos ... it’s horrible. I can’t think about this, it’s like it’s not in this world, it can’t be true. But I know it’s true and we’ll never forgive this.”

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.”

By Bloomberg News

Lithuania has become the first member of the European Union to end its dependence natural gas from Russia, the bloc’s biggest supplier of the fuel, according to the Baltic country’s energy minister. Lithuanian companies cut their gas flows via Russian pipelines to zero over the weekend, without the need for a ban from the government, Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys said. He added that the government would impose such a measure if needed.

Last year, Russia directly supplied about 26 percent of Lithuania’s gas needs and another 12 percent came from storage in Latvia, according to Lithuania’s pipeline operator. The country, which is studying options to expand its liquefied natural gas terminal on the Baltic sea, will now rely on LNG imports from the U.S. and Norway, according to Kreivys.

EU members are racing to end their reliance on Russian energy, following the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The EU said it’s also working on additional sanctions on Russia for what appear to be war crimes in Ukraine. “Dear EU friends, pull the plug,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, said on Twitter on Sunday. “Don’t be an accomplice.”

Just eight years ago, Lithuania fully relied on Russia’s Gazprom PSJC for its gas supplies. The government in December recommended that the country switch to LNG when the first warnings of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine emerged. Lithuania has long called on fellow EU member states to wean themselves off Russian gas. Baltic officials warned in January of potential energy-supply disruptions after a Russian LNG vessel unexpectedly appeared in the region, stoking speculation about whether Russia was preparing for a cutoff in gas supply.

By The Washington Post

China’s top liquefied natural gas importers are cautiously looking to purchase additional Russian shipments that have been shunned by the market in a bid to take advantage of cheap prices. State-owned companies including Sinopec and PetroChina are in discussions with suppliers to buy spot cargoes from Russia at a deep discount, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Some importers are considering using Russian firms to participate in LNG purchase tenders on their behalf to hide their procurement plans from overseas governments, the people said.

Most LNG importers around the world won’t buy Russian cargoes out of fear of future sanctions or damage to reputation, as the war in Ukraine drags on and the European Union ratchets up pressure against Moscow. Chinese firms are emerging as some of the only companies willing to take on that risk. PetroChina declined to comment. Sinopec didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment during a holiday. This mimics a similar move by China’s oil refiners, which are also discreetly purchasing cheap Russian crude that the rest of the world doesn’t want. Several LNG shipments were already purchased by Chinese importers in the last few weeks, traders said.

Russian LNG is trading at more than a 10 percent discount to normal North Asia shipments in the spot market, according to traders. Spot prices for the super-chilled fuel surged to a record last month due to the war in Ukraine, which is tightening supplies just as global consumption rebounds. To be sure, China isn’t in dire need of LNG as milder weather and COVID-19 lockdown fears have curbed spot demand. Still, Russian gas at a deep discount can help top up storage tanks before prices rise again this summer.

China’s LNG buyers are looking for the cargoes via bilateral discussions in order to keep a low profile in the spot market, according to the traders, who requested anonymity as the talks are private. And the companies remain cautious, choosing to withhold from buying large quantities. Instead of participating directly in a Russian LNG sales tender, Chinese companies are looking to use so-called “sleeves,” or firms to buy on their behalf to mask their procurement, traders said. This will help mask their spot activity, and instead look like the Chinese company may be accepting a delivery of Russian gas from a long-term contract, which firms around the world have continued doing despite the war in Ukraine. They are also avoiding participation from satellite offices from London to Singapore, to skirt any potential trouble with those governments. Most LNG trading desks for Chinese firms are located overseas. There are still hurdles. Smaller Chinese LNG buyers are struggling to get credit guarantees from banks to purchase additional spot cargoes from Russia, with most institutions in Singapore unwilling to provide support. Only the top Chinese importers can use so-called open-credit schemes, which are pre-approved lines of credit from banks.

By The Associated Press

Russia faced a fresh wave of condemnation on Monday after evidence emerged of what appeared to be deliberate killings of civilians in Ukraine. Some Western leaders called for further sanctions in response, even as Moscow continued to press its offensive in the country’s east.

Western allies, though united in outrage, appeared split on how to respond. Poland, which is on Ukraine’s border and has taken in large numbers of refugees, angrily singled out France and Germany for not taking more strident action and urged Europe to quickly wean itself off Russian energy, while Berlin said it would take a longer-term approach.

By The Associated Press

President Joe Biden on Monday called for war crimes trial against Russia President Vladimir Putin and said he’d seek more sanctions after reported atrocities in Ukraine. “You saw what happened in Bucha,” Biden said. He added that Putin “is a war criminal”

Biden’s comments to reporters came after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Bucha, one of the towns surrounding Kyiv where Ukrainian officials say the bodies of civilians have been found. Zelensky called the Russian actions “genocide” and called for the West to apply tougher sanctions against Russia.

The bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova, said. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various spots around Bucha, northwest of the capital.

By The Washington Post

The United States and European countries are threatening to impose more financial and political consequences on Russia in response to scenes of horror emerging as Ukraine recaptures more territory near the capital. As Russian troops pull out of northern areas in apparent efforts to refocus on Ukraine’s south and east, the scope of devastation is coming into grim focus and sparking a global call for war-crime probes - fueled by the discovery of alleged mass graves and images of dead civilians lining the streets in the Kyiv suburb Bucha.

The Biden administration is discussing new sanctions as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will visit Brussels this week, vowed to use “every tool available” to pursue and hold those responsible accountable for the “apparent atrocities by Kremlin forces.”

The US ambassador to the United Nations said Monday she would seek to expel Russia from the body’s Human Rights Council as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russian forces “butchers, rapists and looters” who committed genocide. Ukraine’s prosecutor general said a task force has found the bodies of more than 400 civilians in the Kyiv region.

In southern Ukraine, missile strikes were reported in the port city of Mykolaiv - with the governor detailing some 2,000 buildings damaged including homes, hospitals and other health facilities. A Ukrainian official said members of a team from the Red Cross tasked with escorting evacuation buses to the battered port city of Mariupol were detained Sunday after failing to reach the city for several days, and that Kyiv is working to secure their release. The Red Cross told The Washington Post via email on Monday that “due to security conditions, our team has not been able to reach Mariupol today.”

By The Associated Press

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.

“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 in a statement 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 and 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.

By The Associated Press

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,” Zelensky 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.”

Zelensky added that “the longer the Russian Federation drags it out, the worse it will exacerbate its own situation and this war.” Zelensky 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.”

By The Associated Press

The United Nations’ top human rights official is calling for “independent and effective investigations” into what happened in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

UN 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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — The U.S. government seized a mega yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to the Russian president on Monday, the first in the government’s sanctions enforcement initiative to “seize and freeze” giant boats and other pricey assets of Russian elites.

Spain’s Civil Guard and U.S. federal agents descended on 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.

The seizure was confirmed by two people familiar with the matter. The people could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity. A Spanish Civil Guard spokesman confirmed that officers from the Spanish police body and from the FBI were at the marina searching the vessel Monday morning and said further details would be released later.

A Civil Guard source told The Associated Press that the immobilized yacht is Tango, a 78-meter (254-feet) vessel that carries Cook Islands flag and that Superyachtfan.com, a specialized website that tracks the world’s largest and most exclusive recreational boats, values at $120 million. The source was also 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 of Russian 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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian authorities are reporting more civilian casualties from the Russian barrage.

At least seven people were killed and 34, including three children, were wounded in a Russian rocket attack on Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv late Sunday, according to the regional prosecutor’s office. It said that 10 buildings were destroyed.

In the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv, regional Gov. Vitaliy Kim said at least one resident was killed and 14 others were wounded by Russian shelling late Sunday. Local authorities also reported more Russian strikes on Mykolaiv early Monday, but there was no immediate word of casualties.

By The Associated Press

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Monday that he strongly condemned the reported attacks on civilians in Ukrainian towns on the outskirts of Kyiv “as violation to international law.”

European leaders have already condemned the reported attacks, responding to images of bodies in the streets, including some with their hands tied behind their backs.

Kishida said “Japan will firmly carry out what it should do” while cooperating with the international society in possible further sanctions against Russia.

“We must strongly condemn human rights problems and actions that violate international law,” Kishida added.

Japan has imposed a series of sanctions against Russia in line with the United States and other Western nations.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared in a video message at the Grammy Awards to ask for support in telling the story of Ukraine’s invasion by Russia.

During the message that aired on the show Sunday, he likened the invasion to a deadly silence threatening to extinguish the dreams and lives of the Ukrainian people, including children.

“Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals, even to those who can’t hear them,” he said. “But the music will break through anyway.”

The Recording Academy, with its partner Global Citizen, prior to the ceremony highlighted a social media campaign called “Stand Up For Ukraine” to raise money and support during the humanitarian crisis.

“Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about the war on your social networks, on TV, support us in any way you can any, but not silence. And then peace will come to all our cities,” Zelenskyy said.

Following Zelenskyy’s message, John Legend performed his song “Free” with Ukrainian musicians Siuzanna Iglidan and Mika Newton, and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk, as images from the war were shown on screens behind them.

By The New York Times

Growing evidence of atrocities against civilians has brought home the horrific toll of the war in Ukraine, prompting world leaders Sunday to threaten even harsher sanctions, including a lockout of Russia’s vital gas industry, a step some had been loath to take.

In Bucha, a newly liberated suburb northwest of the capital, residents were still finding bodies in yards and roadways days after Russian troops withdrew. A man in a bright blue fleece lay hunched over the steering wheel of a crushed car at an intersection in the center of town. Another man lay on his back beside the road, a large bullet hole in the back of his head and his green bicycle toppled beside him.

But it was the discovery of corpses with their wrists bound, images of which quickly proliferated online, that sparked the most international outrage.

By The New York Times

Russia’s retreat from Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv offered a clearer picture of the devastating civilian toll from the war, sparking global outrage against Moscow and calls by Western leaders for war crimes investigations.

The retreat comes after weeks of intense fighting around Kyiv and signals what appears to be a repositioning of troops to expand on territory that Russian forces have captured in the south. On Sunday, Russia attacked key infrastructure on the southern coastline; fighting also has continued elsewhere across the country.

The attacks in the south came as Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of executing some civilians before their retreat from the areas around Kyiv. Footage posted by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and photographs from news agencies showed the bodies of men in civilian clothes on the streets of Bucha, a town northwest of Kyiv. Images showed some corpses with hands bound behind their back. Russia’s Defense Ministry dismissed the Bucha photos as “fake.”

Outrage over the civilian deaths could move the needle for the European Union, which has so far rebuffed mounting calls from Ukraine, and by President Joe Biden, to impose sanctions on Russian oil and gas, citing its dependency on Russian fuels. But Sunday, in what would mark a significant shift in her country’s position, Germany’s defense minister, Christine Lambrecht, said that in light of the Bucha atrocities, the bloc should consider banning Russian gas imports.

By The Washington Post

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the self-exiled Russian oligarch and vocal Kremlin opponent, has called on Russian billionaires and officials who have fled Russia to publicly denounce President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine as criminal.

“Public figures cannot leave quietly and then sit quietly. If you have left, then you should publicly dissociate yourself or we should be forced to suspect that you are acting on [the Kremlin’s] behalf,” Khodorkovsky said in an interview last week in his London office. “You should step up to the microphone and say that Putin is a war criminal and that what he is doing is a crime, that the war against Ukraine is a crime. Say this, and then we’ll understand that Putin doesn’t have a hold over you.”

Khodorkovsky - who was Russia’s richest man before he was arrested in 2003 and imprisoned for 10 years while his Yukos oil company was taken over by the Russian state - was referring in particular to the high-profile Russian oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven of Alfa Group. They were once his comrades among Russia’s seven original oligarchs of the 1990s, who then controlled much of the country’s economy. Fridman and Aven left Russia in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine only to be put under sanctions by Britain and the European Union over alleged close ties to the Putin regime.

By The New York Times

The last three Russian soldiers in this Ukrainian town are in the morgue, their uniforms bloodied and torn. The first one’s face is frozen in pain. The second has his wooden pipe in his lap. The third is stuffed in his sleeping bag.

These dead are not all that was left behind in Trostyanets, a strategically located town in the country’s northeast, where Russian forces fled several days ago in the face of an orchestrated Ukrainian assault. A monthlong Russian occupation reduced much of the town to rubble, a decimated landscape of mangled tank hulks, snapped trees, and rattled but resilient survivors.

There are also stories, impossible to verify, highlighting the kind of hate left in an occupation’s wake and sharing a common thread of brutality: children held at knifepoint; an old woman forced to drink alcohol as her occupiers watched and laughed; whispers of rape and forced disappearances; and an old man found toothless, beaten in a ditch and defecated on.

New York Times

Luis, a Mexican army veteran, saw a photo of a wounded pregnant woman being carried out of a Ukrainian maternity hospital after a Russian airstrike and was reminded of his sister.

Will, a Marine veteran from North Carolina, was shaken by a video showing a Russian tank firing several rounds into a car with an older Ukrainian couple inside. Martin, a farmer who had defused explosives in the German army, was angered by a week of television footage documenting Russia’s invasion.

They were among several foreign military volunteers waiting Friday at a hostel in Lviv, in western Ukraine, where the Ukrainian government had put them up before training. After the Russian invasion in February, Ukraine announced it was creating a foreign legion, inviting non-Ukrainians with military experience to come and join the fight.

None of the small group of volunteers interviewed by The New York Times had received a response when they contacted the Ukrainian embassies in their home countries, but they decided to make the trip anyway. Many of the foreigners said they had been inspired by what they saw on social media and TV.

The foreign volunteers asked to be identified by only their first names because of concerns they could be prosecuted upon returning home for fighting for a foreign army. A U.S. law dating to the 18th century bans citizens from fighting countries not at war with the United States, but it is rarely enforced.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said more than 20,000 people from 52 countries have volunteered to fight, a number that could not be verified.

Luis, 29, said he served with the Mexican army fighting drug cartels a decade ago, but until last week, he was an events photographer in Chihuahua City, Mexico, photographing mostly weddings. Then, scrolling through Reddit, he found an Associated Press photo showing an unidentified pregnant woman on a stretcher, being carried out by rescue workers after a Russian strike against a maternity hospital in Mariupol. Russian officials said Ukrainian forces had been using the hospital as a base and said the images were fake.

“I saw the face of my sister in that woman,” Luis said. “I do not have children yet, but I imagined how the baby’s father felt, how the woman and her family felt.”

Washington Post

Biden administration officials have discussed intensifying their sanctions campaign against Russia as evidence emerges of the apparent execution of civilians in a suburb near Kyiv, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Reports of civilian massacres in Bucha led to swift international condemnation and claims of war crimes from world leaders, as well as pledges to escalate the West’s economic measures against Russia. Ukrainian officials have asked for an investigation of the International Criminal Court of mass graves in Bucha that NATO’s Secretary General called “brutality against civilians we haven’t seen in Europe for decades.”

The scope of the potential U.S. retaliatory measures was not exactly clear, but senior Biden officials have previously discussed potentially devastating “secondary sanctions” that would target countries that continue to trade with Russia.

The Biden administration could also impose sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy that they have not hit so far, including mining, transportation, and additional parts of the Russian financial sector. The world continues to buy billions of dollars worth in Russian oil and gas, giving the Kremlin a direct financial lifeline. Officials stressed planning was preliminary and no decisions had been made about potential responses.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday that the U.S. and its European partners are discussing new sanctions to impose on Russia “every single day.” Blinken stressed that the measures so far are already projected to cause Russia’s economy by 10 percent this year, but condemned Russia’s “brutality” and said more measures are likely necessary.

New York Times

A leading human rights group said it had documented “apparent war crimes” by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians in the occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions in Ukraine.

The report, which was published by Human Rights Watch on Sunday, is based on a series of interviews with eyewitnesses, victims and local residents of Russia-occupied territories between Feb. 27 and March 14. It documents with chilling detail numerous cases of laws-of-war violations, including repeated rape, two summary killings as well as other incidents of unlawful violence and threats against civilians.

“The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division. “Rape, murder and other violent acts against people in the Russian forces’ custody should be investigated as war crimes.”

The report’s findings did not include reports of actions in recent weeks in towns like Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, where Russian troops have been pulling back in recent days as part of their retreat from the capital.

War crimes cases can be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but successful prosecution would be challenging, experts say.

“It would likely be difficult to prove in court,’’ said David Scheffer, an international law expert. “The circumstances are unknown. Who executed them. Who bound their hands. This would require a very difficult and detailed investigation.’’

Accusations can also be brought before the International Court of Justice, but the United Nations Security Council would be responsible for enforcing any ruling against Russia; as one of five members of the Security Council, Russia would have veto power over any decision.

The Human Rights Watch report comes as global outrage against Moscow mounted Sunday following allegations that Russian forces had executed civilians in Ukraine, and as the retreat of Russian troops from the suburbs of Kyiv offered a stark picture of the devastating toll of President Vladimir Putin’s 6-week-old war.

Washington Post

Ukrainian officials say they have asked the International Criminal Court to visit the mass graves seen in Bucha, a suburb northwest of the capital in Kyiv, so that experts can gather evidence of possible Russian war crimes.

The request comes as Kyiv’s Mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said the discovery of the graves - made as Ukrainian troops recaptured territory and Russian forces pulled back from towns they had seized in the war’s earliest days - could “only be described as genocide.”

And on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “Indeed. This is genocide.”

He continued: “We are the citizens of Ukraine, and we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of Russian invasion. This is the reason that we are being destroyed and exterminated, and this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century.”

International condemnation of the alleged assault on civilians resounded around the world, with numerous countries demanding investigations and repercussions, while Russia’s Defense Ministry dismissed some of the photos from Bucha as “fake.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, in a tweet Sunday accusing Russia of carrying out a “massacre,” requested that the ICC visit the scene “to collect all the evidence of these war crimes” and use it to prosecute those responsible.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said “you can’t help but see these images [of Bucha] as a punch to the gut,” but avoided calling it genocide.

“I think the most important thing is we can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalize this,” Blinken said, noting that the United States will help ensure relevant institutions have the evidence they need to determine what happened.

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, on the same show, said the Bucha scenes reflected “brutality against civilians we haven’t seen in Europe for decades. And it’s horrific and it’s absolutely unacceptable that civilians are targeted and killed.”

Lithuania’s president says Mantas Kvedaravicius, a prominent film director, was killed in Ukraine — 7:30 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Lithuania’s president says Mantas Kvedaravicius, a prominent film director in the Baltic country, has been killed in Ukraine, reportedly in the besieged port city of Mariupol where he was working on a documentary.

President Gitanas Nauseda said Sunday “we have lost a creator who worked in Ukraine and was attacked by aggressor Russia.”

The 45-year-old filmmaker was killed in Ukraine on Saturday according to news outlets. The circumstances of his death couldn’t immediately be confirmed.

Kvedaravicius was known for his documentaries on military conflicts in Chechnya and Ukraine. His film “Mariupol” premiered at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.

News of Kvedaravicius death were met with grief and shock in Lithuania’s artist community.

“Terrible loss to the Lithuanian film community and the whole world. Our hearts are broken,” Giedre Zickyte, Lithuanian documentary film director and producer, wrote on Facebook.

Zelensky said Ukrainian troops retaking areas around Kyiv and Chernihiv — 5:00 a.m.

By The Associated Press

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian troops retaking areas around Kyiv and Chernihiv are not allowing Russians to retreat without a fight, but are “shelling them. They are destroying everyone they can.”

Zelenskyy, in his Saturday night video address to the nation, said Ukraine knows Russia has the forces to put even more pressure on the east and south of Ukraine.

“What is the goal of the Russian troops? They want to seize the Donbas and the south of Ukraine,” he said. “What is our goal? To defend ourselves, our freedom, our land and our people.”

He said a significant portion of the Russian forces are tied up around Mariupol, where the city’s defenders continue to fight.

“Thanks to this resistance, thanks to the courage and resilience of our other cities, Ukraine has gained invaluable time, time that is allowing us to foil the enemy’s tactics and weaken its capabilities,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy appealed again to the West for more modern weaponry, such as anti-missile systems and aircraft.

Russian troops have continued shelling Kharkiv — 3:45 a.m.

By The Associated Press

The regional governor in Kharkiv said Russian troops have continued shelling the city in northeast Ukraine.

Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said Sunday that Russian artillery and tanks carried out over 20 strikes on Kharkiv and its outskirts over the past 24 hours.

Synyyehubov said four people were wounded in a Russian missile strike on Lozova in the south of the Kharkiv region.

He said that in the town of Balakliia Russian tanks hit a local hospital, damaging the building and prompting the authorities to evacuate patients.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian troops retaking areas around Kyiv — 12:30 a.m.

By The Associated Press

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian troops retaking areas around Kyiv and Chernihiv are not allowing Russians to retreat without a fight, but are “shelling them. They are destroying everyone they can.”

Zelenskyy, in his Saturday night video address to the nation, said Ukraine knows Russia has the forces to put even more pressure on the east and south of Ukraine.

“What is the goal of the Russian troops? They want to seize the Donbas and the south of Ukraine,” he said. “What is our goal? To defend ourselves, our freedom, our land and our people.”

He said a significant portion of the Russian forces are tied up around Mariupol, where the city’s defenders continue to fight.

“Thanks to this resistance, thanks to the courage and resilience of our other cities, Ukraine has gained invaluable time, time that is allowing us to foil the enemy’s tactics and weaken its capabilities,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy appealed again to the West for more modern weaponry, such as anti-missile systems and aircraft.


April 2, 2022


Ukraine blogger video fuels false info on Mariupol bombing — 9:52 p.m.

By The Associated Press

A Ukrainian beauty blogger whom Russian officials accused of being a crisis actor when she was interviewed and photographed by The Associated Press in a bombed out Mariupol maternity hospital has emerged in new videos that are fueling fresh misinformation about the attack.

A Russian government-linked Twitter account on Friday shared an interview with Marianna Vishegirskaya, in which the new mother says the hospital was not hit by an airstrike last month and that she told AP journalists she did not want to be filmed — assertions that are directly contradicted by AP reporting.

In the interview, conducted by Russian blogger Denis Seleznev and filmed by Kristina Melnikova, Vishegirskaya is asked to provide details about what occurred at the hospital on March 9, the day of the bombing. It is not clear where Vishegirskaya is, or under what conditions the interview was filmed.

With Ukraine invasion, Hungary’s leader softens his embrace of Russia — 8:18 p.m.

By The New York Times

The towering memorial, erected on the battlefield where the Russian imperial army routed Hungarian troops, mourns Russia’s 1849 victory over “brave homeland defenders.” It is a reminder of how, for centuries, the Hungarian psyche has been shaped and scarred by the specter of Russian domination.

“There has been a constant fear of Russia,” said Gyorgy Miru, a history professor in Debrecen, a Hungarian city near the border with Ukraine where the battle took place.

Under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, however, this fear has turned into a trusting embrace. Orban, a political bruiser who revels in defying what he scorns as liberal conventions, has for years looked to Russia as a reliable source of energy and its president, Vladimir Putin, as a beacon of no-nonsense nationalism and muscular leadership, emulating in a milder form the Kremlin’s stranglehold on media and its one-party system.

Russian space agency head threatens to end future ISS missions — 6:18 p.m.

By Bloomberg News

The director of Russia’s space program said economic sanctions aimed at the country threaten partnerships at the International Space Station and he supports a move to end future cooperation with other agencies.

In a series of social media posts Saturday, Roscosmos general director Dmitry Rogozin shared what he claimed were replies from the respective heads of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency to his demand that their countries lift sanctions against enterprises involved in the Russia space industry.

“NASA will continue to work with relevant U.S. Federal departments and agencies to facilitate continued cooperation on and operation of the ISS,” read one of the posted statements that appears to be signed by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. A phone call to NASA on Saturday to confirm the authenticity of the letter wasn’t returned.

Russia in broad retreat from Kyiv, seeking to regroup from battering — 5:17 p.m.

By The New York Times

Russian forces that were intent on overwhelming Kyiv, Ukraine, at the war’s start with tanks and artillery retreated under fire across a broad front Saturday, leaving behind them dead soldiers and burned vehicles, according to witnesses, Ukrainian officials, satellite images and military analysts.

The withdrawal suggested the possibility of a major turn in the six-week war: the collapse, at least for now, of Russia’s initial attempt to seize Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and the end of its hopes for the quick subjugation of the nation.

Moscow has described the withdrawal as a tactical move to regroup and reposition its forces for a major push in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. While there are early indications that the military is following through on that plan, analysts say it cannot obscure the magnitude of the defeat.

By The New York Times

Alongside the scenes of human suffering caused by five weeks of war, another scar has emerged: the leveling of Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

Churches, historic buildings and public squares across the country are being reduced to rubble by Russian rockets, missiles, bombs and gunfire, according to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. It has identified at least 53 Ukrainian historical sites, religious buildings and museums that have suffered damage during Russia’s invasion and said the damage is probably far more extensive given the continued assault.

“We are holding damage control meetings every day, and the list of damaged sites keeps growing,” said the agency’s director, Ernesto Ottone Ramírez. “We are very concerned about the situation, from a humanitarian point of view and for the protection of heritage. It is the heritage of humanity that is at risk.”

By The New York Times

A day after an attempt by the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, Ukraine, faltered over security concerns, a team was again trying to reach the besieged city.

“The operation to go to Mariupol is ongoing,” Ewan Watson, a spokesperson for the organization in Geneva, said Saturday. “It has not stalled. We’re moving slowly but surely.”

So far, the goal of transporting a large number of civilians safely out of the city has remained elusive, with tens of thousands of people trapped after weeks of intensive Russian bombardment, which has left bodies littering the streets, survivors cowering in basements and residents with limited access to food, water and electricity.

On Friday, a Red Cross team that had been on its way to Mariupol to escort a convoy of buses and cars carrying civilians had to turn back because it failed to receive guarantees of conditions that would ensure safe passage, the organization said.

New York Times

The signs of failure in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are readily apparent: the tarnished reputation of its military as a modernized, overpowering fighting force; its tattered economy; and a Western alliance more unified than at any time since the worst tensions of the Cold War.

But what is less appreciated is that this is only the latest and potentially the most spectacular in a series of failures suffered by President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Ukraine. If Afghanistan is the “graveyard of empires,” Ukraine is where Putin’s imperial ambitions consistently founder.

In fact, the main reason the Russian leader took such a potentially self-destructive step as a whole-scale invasion, some analysts believe, was to reverse a long line of fiascos dating back to Ukraine’s so-called Orange Revolution in 2004, during the early years of Putin’s presidency.

New York Times

Pope Francis on Saturday inched closer to blaming President Vladimir Putin of Russia for invading Ukraine and said that a trip to Kyiv, Ukraine, was possible as he arrived in Malta for a short visit emphasizing the plight of migrants, an issue that has long topped the pontiff’s agenda and that has become critical with the war in Ukraine.

On the flight to Malta from Rome, Francis responded to a reporter’s question about visiting Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, by saying that it was “on the table.” Then in his address to the dignitaries and officials in a frescoed government chamber in Malta, Francis blamed a “potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests,” for casting “dark shadows of war” from Europe’s east.

Washington Post

As recently as eight weeks ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, trading quips at a joint news conference and defending Russia’s security demands as “normal.”

“I have good hopes that for many [upcoming] years we can work together,” Orban said, standing next to Putin, in what by his count was their 12th meeting.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s quickly become dangerous to have a warm relationship with Putin - and a legion of European populist conservatives has been left chastened and weakened as a consequence.

But Orban is an exception.

He has angered his neighbors and triggered harsh blowback from Ukrainian leaders for what they see as a wishy-washy reaction to the war. Yet by portraying himself domestically as a steady hand navigating between larger world powers, he has gained ground on the political opposition in Hungary and increased his odds of winning a fourth consecutive term as prime minister in a parliamentary election Sunday.

That would allow Orban to maintain his position as Europe’s anti-immigration strongman provocateur, while deepening the sense among his critics that he can survive almost anything. It would also complicate the road ahead for the European Union, which is trying to maintain a hard line against Moscow - from all 27 members of the bloc - while also pressing Hungary on rule-of-law issues and democratic backsliding.

Associated Press

The former chief prosecutor of United Nations war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda has called for an international arrest warrant to be issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin is a war criminal,” Carla Del Ponte told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps in an interview published Saturday.

In interviews given to Swiss media to mark the release of her latest book, the Swiss lawyer who oversaw U.N. investigations in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia said there were clear war crimes being committed in Ukraine.

She said she was particularly shocked by the use of mass graves in Russia’s war on Ukraine, which recalls the worst of the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

“I hoped never to see mass graves again,” she told the newspaper Blick. “These dead people have loved ones who don’t even know what’s become of them. That is unacceptable.”

Other war crimes she identified in Ukraine included attacks on civilians, the destruction of civilian buildings and even the demolishing of entire villages.

By The Associated Press

At least 33 people have been killed and 34 injured in a Russian rocket strike on the regional government building in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv. Ukrainian officials gave the latest death toll in a statement Saturday, updating the numbers of the deadly strike that hit Mykolaiv on Tuesday.

Rescuers sent by the State Emergency Service have been searching the wreckage for survivors since Russian forces struck the building, which housed the office of regional governor Vitaliy Kim. The governor, who was not on the premises at the time of the attack, later posted social media images showing a gaping hole in the nine-story structure.

The confirmed death toll has risen steadily as the search and rescue operation continues.

Mykolaiv, a strategically important city en route to Ukraine’s largest port of Odesa, has withstood weeks of shelling by the Russian forces.

Russian official says future of ISS uncertain — 7:41 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Russia’s top space official says the future of the International Space Station hangs in the balance after the United States, the European Union, and Canadian space agencies missed a deadline to meet Russian demands for the lifting of sanctions on Russian enterprises and hardware.

The head of Russia’s Roscosmos state agency told reporters on Saturday morning that the agency was preparing a report on the prospects of international cooperation at the station, to be presented to federal authorities “after Roscosmos has completed its analysis.”

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin implied on Russian state TV that the Western sanctions, some of which predate Russia’s military action in Ukraine, could disrupt the operation of Russian spacecraft servicing the ISS.

He stressed that the Western partners need the ISS and “cannot manage without Russia, because no one but us can deliver fuel to the station.”

Rogozin added that “only the engines of our cargo craft are able to correct the ISS’s orbit, keeping it safe from space debris.”

Later on Saturday, Rogozin wrote on his Telegram channel that he received responses from his Western counterparts vowing to promote “further cooperation on the ISS and its operations.”

He reiterated his view that “the restoration of normal relations between partners in the ISS and other joint (space) projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting” of sanctions, which he referred to as illegal.

Responding to Western sanctions on Telegram last month, Rogozin warned at the time that without Russia’s help, the ISS could “fall down into the sea or onto land,” and claimed that the crash site was unlikely to be in Russia.

Space is one of the last remaining areas of cooperation between Moscow and Western nations. U.S.-Russian negotiations on the resumption of joint flights to the ISS were underway when Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine last month, prompting unprecedented sanctions on Russian state-linked entities.

Red Cross set to try Mariupol evacuation again — 7:08 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Pope says he’s studying possible trip to Kyiv — 6:41 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Pope Francis says he is studying a possible visit to Kyiv and he blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching a “savage” war, as he arrived in Malta and delivered his most pointed and personalized denunciation yet of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Francis didn’t cite Putin by name, but the reference was clear when he said that “some potentate” had unleashed the threat of nuclear war on the world in an “infantile and destructive aggression” under the guise of “anachronist claims of nationalistic interests.”

Speaking to Maltese authorities Saturday, Francis said: “We had thought that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past.” Francis has to date avoided referring to Russia or Putin by name. But Saturday’s personalization of the powerful figure responsible marked a new level of outrage for the pope.

Ukraine recaptures city of Brovary near Kyiv — 6:07 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian officials say their forces have recaptured the city of Brovary, 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the capital Kyiv.

Brovary’s mayor said during a televised address on Friday evening that “Russian occupants have now left practically all of the Brovary district.” He added that the Ukrainian forces would begin working to clear the region of remaining Russian soldiers there as well as “military hardware, and possibly from mines.”

The mayor said that many Brovary residents had already returned to the city, and that shops and businesses were reopening.

Earlier on Friday, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that satellite towns northwest of Kyiv were being targeted after Ukrainian fighters pushed back Russian troops, and that fighting had also taken place in Brovary.

Bulgaria expels Russian diplomat — 5:32 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Bulgaria has expelled a Russian diplomat over accusations of spying who could not be charged because of his diplomatic immunity.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Friday that it declared a Russian diplomat “persona non grata” and gave him 72 hours to leave the country after it was informed by the prosecutor’s office that the diplomat had been involved in “unregulated intelligence activities.”

The expulsion comes as relations between Russia and NATO member Bulgaria, once Moscow’s closest ally in the now defunct Warsaw pact, have cooled down following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last month alone, Bulgaria expelled 12 Russian diplomats, accused Russia’s ambassador to Sofia of “undiplomatic, sharp and rude” comments made in public, and called back its ambassador from Moscow for consultations.

Chinese diplomat suggests moves to end war — 2:32 a.m.

By The Associated Press

A Chinese diplomat has a suggestion for resolving the Ukraine conflict: US President Biden should call Russian President Vladimir Putin and promise there will be no further NATO expansion, no deployment of strategic weapons in Ukraine, and that the country will remain neutral.

“Then maybe the issue will get sorted,” director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of European Affairs Wang Lutong told reporters in Beijing on Saturday.

“What is the purpose of the Americans? Are they going to see a cease fire in Ukraine or they would like to weaken Russia? Or some people are talking about a change in the government,” Wang said, in an apparent reference to Biden’s remark that Putin cannot be allowed to remain in office.

“If they are intent about a cease fire, I think this issue could be sorted very easily,” Wang said. His remarks followed talks between Chinese and EU leaders at which Beijing reiterated its opposition to punishing economic sanctions against Russia.

Beijing has refused to criticize the Russian invasion, or even refer to it as such, opposes sanctions and rebroadcasts Russian misinformation about the conflict and unfounded claims such as that the U.S. is operating bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine.

New radio station helps Ukrainian refugees adapt in Prague — 2:30 a.m.

By The Associated Press

A new Prague-based internet radio station has started to broadcast news, information, and music tailored to the day-to-day concerns of some 300,000 refugees who have arrived in the Czech Republic since Russia launched its military assault against Ukraine.

In a studio at the heart of the Czech capital, radio veterans work together with absolute beginners to provide the refugees with what they need to know to settle as smoothly as possible in a new country.

The staff of 10 combines people who have fled Ukraine in recent weeks with those who have been living abroad for years. No matter who they are, their common goal is to help fellow Ukrainians and their homeland facing the brutal Russian invasion.

Russians create ‘complete disaster’ with mines, Zelensky says — 12:26 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned his people early Saturday that retreating Russian forces were creating “a complete disaster” outside the capital as they leave mines across “the whole territory,” including around homes and corpses.

He issued the warning as the humanitarian crisis in the encircled city of Mariupol deepened, with Russian forces blocking evacuation operations for the second day in a row. Meanwhile, the Kremlin accused the Ukrainians of launching a helicopter attack on a fuel depot on Russian soil.

Ukraine denied responsibility for the fiery blast, but if Moscow’s claim is confirmed, it would be the war’s first known attack in which Ukrainian aircraft penetrated Russian airspace.

A man removed debris from buildings destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine on April 1, 2022. VADIM GHIRDA/Associated Press
A damaged school was in ruins following a Russian mid-March attack, on the outskirts of Mykolaiv, Ukraine on April 1, 2022. Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press
Zina, 65, stood alongside a crater created after a bomb hit the ground behind her house on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine on April 1, 2022. Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declined to comment on whether he ordered an attack on a Russian fuel depot.

In an interview with FOX News, Zelensky said he does not discuss any orders he issues as commander in chief.

Earlier, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security council denied allegations from Moscow that two Ukrainian helicopter gunships had struck the facility in the city of Belgorod north of the border at around dawn Friday.

The regional governor in Belgorod said two workers at the depot were injured, but Russian media cited a statement from state oil company Rosneft that denied anyone was hurt.

But if Moscow’s claim is confirmed, it would be the war’s first known attack in which Ukrainian aircraft penetrated Russian airspace.


April 1, 2022


US gives Ukraine $300 million more in military gear — 10:56 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The US Defense Department says it is providing an additional $300 million in military equipment to Ukrainian forces defending the country from Russian troops.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Friday evening that the gear in the new package includes laser-guided rocket systems, unmanned aircraft, armored vehicles, night vision devices and ammunition. Also included are medical supplies, field equipment, and spare parts.

Kirby said the new package “represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide new capabilities” to Ukraine, rather than delivering equipment drawn from US military stockpiles.

The US has provided more than $1.6 billion in security assistance since Russia’s invasion, Kirby said.

Russian missiles fired at Odesa region — 10:53 p.m.

By The Associated Press

A Ukrainian official said there were casualties after at least three Russian ballistic missiles were fired late Friday at the Odesa region on the Black Sea, but he did not give specifics.

Regional leader Maksim Marchenko said the missiles were fired from the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has held since seizing it from Ukraine in 2014.

The Ukrainian military said the Iskander missiles were intended for critical infrastructure but did not hit their targets because of the response of Ukraine’s air-defense forces. It was unclear where they hit.

Odesa is Ukraine’s largest port and the headquarters of its navy.

Ukraine denies attack on Russian fuel depot — 10:52 p.m.

By The Associated Press

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 Governor 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 Zelensky’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.

US will help transfer Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine — 10:07 p.m.

By The New York Times

The Biden administration will work with allies to transfer Soviet-made tanks to bolster Ukrainian defenses in the country’s eastern Donbas region, a US official said Friday.

The decision to act as an intermediary to help transfer the tanks, which Ukrainian troops know how to use, comes in response to a request from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the official said. It marks the first time in the war that the United States has helped transfer tanks.

The official said the transfers would begin soon, but declined to say how many tanks would be sent or from which countries they would come. They will allow Ukraine to conduct long-range artillery strikes on Russian targets in Donbas, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Despite Russian assurances, aid still blocked for hard-hit Mariupol — 8:36 p.m.

By The Washington Post

Treacherous ground conditions tempered hopes of humanitarian relief on Friday for the bomb-ravaged southern city of Mariupol, where tens of thousands of Ukrainians remained trapped under Russian siege as aid workers tried desperately to reach them.

About 6,200 civilians, many of whom apparently had fled Mariupol on their own in recent days and weeks, were transported Friday from Russian-held territory outside the city into the relative safety of a Ukrainian-controlled area. But the International Committee of the Red Cross said its nine-person team was unable to enter Mariupol itself, despite earlier assurances from Moscow of a cease-fire and safe passage for civilians. The team would try again Saturday, the Red Cross said.

Ukrainian officials said the proposed humanitarian corridor was “essentially not operational” and accused Russia of breaking its promise to allow aid into the sealed-off port city, where witnesses have described families starving and buried in rubble.

Talks resume as Ukraine denies hitting depot on Russian soil — 7:35 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Talks to stop the fighting in Ukraine resumed Friday, as another desperate attempt to rescue civilians from the encircled city of Mariupol failed and the Kremlin accused the Ukrainians of launching a helicopter attack on a fuel depot on Russian soil.

Ukraine denied responsibility for the fiery blast, but if Moscow’s claim is confirmed, it would be the war’s first known attack in which Ukrainian aircraft penetrated Russian airspace.

“Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, five weeks after Moscow began sending upwards of 150,000 of its own troops across Ukraine’s border.

By The New York Times

The stream of anti-war letters to a lawmaker in St. Petersburg, Russia, has dried up. Some Russians who had criticized the Kremlin have turned into cheerleaders for the war. Those who publicly oppose it have found the word “traitor” scrawled on their apartment door.

Five weeks into President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, there are signs that the Russian public’s initial shock has given way to a mix of support for their troops and anger at the West. On television, entertainment shows have been replaced by extra helpings of propaganda, resulting in a round-the-clock barrage of falsehoods about the “Nazis” who run Ukraine and American-funded Ukrainian bioweapons laboratories.

Polls and interviews show that many Russians now accept Putin’s contention that their country is under siege from the West and had no choice but to attack. The war’s opponents are leaving the country or keeping quiet.

By The Associated Press

Russia’s foreign minister lauded India for not judging in a “‘one-sided way” as he discussed Moscow’s military involvement in Ukraine with his Indian counterpart on Friday, after Washington urged New Delhi to use its leverage with Russia to end the war.

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said ties between the two countries have sustained them through difficult times in the past.

Jaishankar emphasized the importance of a cessation of violence but avoided condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

By The Associated Press

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!”

By Carlos R. Muñoz, Globe Staff

Veronica Convery, of Providence, who emigrated to the US from Ukraine about 20 years ago, considers her sister Elena Velikaya to be a hero.

Velikaya, 46, fled Kyiv with her husband, Andrei Dzyurak, her elderly mother, and her three children on the day of the Russian invasion. They drove for three days through fields and on small roads to avoid traffic and explosions in the distance, only to arrive at the western border and realize that they had not brought documentation showing that her husband was the father of their kids.

Velikaya left Dzyurak at his sister’s house in the central Ukrainian city of Cherkasy Oblast, and took her mother and the kids to Bulgaria. She left her mother there and went back to her husband in Ukraine.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

Pope Francis heads to the Mediterranean island nation of Malta on Saturday for a pandemic-delayed weekend visit, aiming to draw attention to Europe’s migration challenge has only become more stark with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Francis is likely to encourage Europe’s embrace of Ukrainian refugees while also urging countries to extend the same welcome to migrants coming from Libya and elsewhere.

Malta, the European Union’s smallest country with a half-million people, has long been on the front lines of the flow of migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean. It has frequently called upon its bigger European neighbors to shoulder more of the burden receiving would-be refugees. Francis has frequently echoed that call, and will certainly link it this weekend to the welcome the Maltese once gave the Apostle Paul, who according to the biblical account, was shipwrecked off Malta in around A.D. 60 while en route to Rome and was shown unusual kindness by the islanders.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said migration will top the agenda for Francis’ trip and said Europe’s reception of Ukrainian refugees was “truly admirable.” “I hope that this tragic experience can also really help to grow, to increase sensitivity also towards the other migration, the one that comes from the south,” he told Vatican Media. Although short, the two-day visit could be challenging for the 85-year-old Francis, who has had increasing trouble walking due to an inflamed ligament in his right knee. He has struggled in recent days to stand up from his chair and climb stairs, and his limping gait from sciatica has appeared more pronounced. Aside from getting on and off his plane, Francis is due to board a catamaran Saturday afternoon for a sailing trip to the island of Gozo, and on Sunday plans to descend the steps into the Grotto of St. Paul in Rabat. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni has said no extra mobility measures were being taken beyond the norm.

Francis had been due to visit Malta in May 2020, but postponed the visit after the coronavirus pandemic hit. The rescheduled trip comes as the Catholic Church in the overwhelmingly Catholic country is preparing for its first in-person Easter Week celebrations in two years. Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who is also a top Vatican official, asked for prayers for the visit, not least because of Francis’ catamaran trip Saturday. “That should be lovely if he has the right weather for it, but the last two weekends before the pope’s trip have been an unmitigated disaster weather-wise,” Scicluna told The Associated Press. “So we pray for something we cannot organize … the weather.”

By Bloomberg News

OPEC struggled to deliver even a modest scheduled increase in oil supplies last month, when major consumers were urging the cartel to fill in the gap left by Russia.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries rebuffed calls to open the taps even as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine roiled markets and propelled prices as high as $139 a barrel. The group has insisted it will stick to the regimen of careful supply hikes agreed last year. But OPEC failed to manage even that, adding just 90,000 barrels a day in March, or roughly a third of the volume planned, according to a Bloomberg survey. The organization’s inability -- and refusal -- to do more helped trigger the release of emergency oil stockpiles announced by the US and other consumers this week.

While group leader Saudi Arabia and its neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, largely increased production in line with their targets, most other nations pumped far below quota as diminished investment and operational outages eroded their capacity. Angola and Nigeria are particularly badly hit. Governments urged the Persian Gulf heavyweights to open the taps faster last month to help refiners replace Russian supplies, as legal barriers made dealing with Moscow undesirable for many customers. But Riyadh and Abu Dhabi demurred, partly from an insistence that markets weren’t yet experiencing a shortage, and partly out of loyalty to Moscow, with which they lead the broader OPEC+ coalition of producers.

OPEC’s 13 members pumped an average of 28.6 million barrels a day in March, according to the survey. The figures are based on ship-tracking data, information from officials and estimates from consultants including Rystad Energy AS and JBC Energy GmbH.

By The Associated Press

Talks to stop the fighting in Ukraine resumed Friday, as another desperate attempt to rescue civilians from the shattered and encircled city of Mariupol failed and Russia accused the Ukrainians of launching a helicopter attack on a fuel depot on Russian soil.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said a fiery cross-border raid by two helicopter gunships left two people wounded, though state oil company Rosneft denied anyone was hurt.

“Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, five weeks after Moscow began sending upwards of 150,000 of its own troops across Ukraine’s border.

By The Washington Post

On this April Fools’ Day, a Russian dictator is waging war on a Ukrainian comedian. The incongruity of that European tragedy is hard to fathom. Even as Volodymyr Zelensky resists Vladimir Putin’s assault on the battlefield, Americans are watching his comedy, “Servant of the People,” on Netflix.

Several factors have thwarted Russia’s plan for quick victory, but one of them is surely the witty spirit of the Ukrainian people. Amid the images of Putin’s atrocities, we’ve all seen evidence of the Ukrainians’ adamantine humor. Millions have watched YouTube videos of Ukrainian farmers taking joyrides on abandoned Russian military equipment. Valeria Shashenok attracted more than 1 million followers to her TikTok page where she laughed in the face of the deprivations of war. (Shashenok is now a refugee in Italy; on Thursday she reported that her brother had been killed in Ukraine.)

By Bloomberg News

The Ukrainian government raised more than $600,000 through non-fungible token sales that will be used to rebuild museums, theaters and other cultural institutions destroyed since Russia’s invasion in February.

Ukrainian MetaHistory NFT-Museum sold 1,282 artworks on its first day of sales, raising 190 Ether cryptocurrency tokens for the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, the museum said in an email. The NFTs are meant to document the war through artwork that features rubble and destruction, Ukrainian soldiers, fires burning, and the Ukrainian flag. The NFT sales are part of the Ukrainian government effort to raise crypto donations and funds needed to rebuild, and to finance the country’s military effort. The tokens, which combine the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain with the realm of creative pursuits, have become fodder for both retail traders and professional investors.

The Ukrainian government has already raised about $70.2 million in crypto donations, according to its official website. Some of the money has been spent on medical supplies and protective gear for soldiers. The museum is also preparing to auction off four artworks, which only owners of the museum NFTs will be able to bid for. The government has also received hundreds of NFTs, which it plans to sell at a later point.

By The Associated Press

Several US allies will join President Joe Biden’s unprecedented deployment of oil stockpiles in an effort to ease the economic damage from high energy prices.

Members of the International Energy Agency agreed on Friday to make another round of releases from their emergency fuel reserves, said Hidechika Koizumi, the director of the international affairs division at Japan’s trade ministry. The timing and volumes of the releases from each country will be decided at a later date. Biden said on Thursday that his administration will sell 1 million barrels of oil a day from US crude stockpiles for six months to ease the surging cost of gasoline in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine -- something he described as “Putin’s price hike.”

The president said he expects allies in the IEA to agree to release an additional 30 million to 50 million barrels from their own reserves. In addition to Japan, the UK will also tap its stockpiles, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will be the second coordinated deployment of oil stockpiles in just a few weeks. A month ago, IEA members agreed on a 61.7-million barrel release, with 30 million coming from the US and 2.2 million from the UK. It had a limited effect on prices as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatened to trigger one of the biggest oil-supply disruptions in history.

The Paris-based IEA said it will provide further details early next week on the stockpile deployment, the fifth co-ordinated intervention since the agency’s creation in 1974. “Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to put significant strains on global oil markets,” it said in a statement. “This is taking place against a backdrop of commercial inventories that are at their lowest level since 2014 and a limited ability of oil producers to provide additional supply in the short term.” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol has expressed disappointment with the inaction of Saudi Arabia and other members of the OPEC+ coalition, which has rebuffed calls to fill in the gap left by Russia. While indicating that it sees no immediate shortage, the kingdom appears to be acting out of loyalty to Moscow, with which it jointly leads the OPEC+ cartel.

By The Associated Press

Talks to stop the fighting in Ukraine resumed Friday, as another attempt to rescue civilians from the shattered and encircled city of Mariupol was thrown into jeopardy and Russia accused the Ukrainians of a cross-border helicopter attack on an oil depot.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said an airstrike on Russian soil by a pair of helicopter gunships caused fires and wounded two people. Several nearby businesses were also reported hit.

“Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, five weeks into the war that has left thousands dead and driven more than 4 million refugees from Ukraine.

By Bloomberg News

European Union leaders said they told China in a virtual summit Friday that they expect Beijing to help end Russia’s war in Ukraine and at the very least not to interfere with international sanctions imposed on Moscow. “We expect China, if not supporting the sanctions, at least to do everything not to interfere in any kind,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters after the meeting. “On that point we were very clear.” She added that the EU expected China to use its influence on Russia to end to the war.

Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel held separate sessions by videoconference with Chinese President Xi Jinping and its prime minister, Li Keqiang on Friday where they discussed the war in Ukraine, as well as a series of trade and human-rights issues. The long-scheduled summit was an important opportunity for EU leaders to set out their expectations for Beijing, which has sought to avoid taking a clear position on the invasion. But it’s not clear that they won any new commitments from China on Ukraine.

Europe is trying to strike a difficult balance: giving China a stern warning over Ukraine, human rights and trade issues, while still trying to maintain the EU’s objective of re-engaging with the Asian giant. “We called on China to help end the war in Ukraine,” Michel said at a news conference in Brussels. “China cannot turn a blind eye to Russia’s violation of international law.”

Beijing, for its part, has sought to keep the conflict from pushing the two sides further into opposing blocs, sparing European officials the criticism it levels at their American counterparts and urging them to assert their strategic autonomy from Washington. In the meeting Friday, Xi said the current situation risks erasing the benefits of global economic cooperation and that Beijing and Brussels should commit to preventing spillover from the crisis, according to China’s foreign ministry.

The EU leaders also warned their Chinese counterparts against helping Russia either on avoiding sanctions, or by supplying weapons, underlying this would only serve to prolong the war and hurt global tra“Prolongation of the war and the disruptions it brings to the world economy is in no one’s interests, certainly not in China’s,” von der Leyen said.

The Chinese side told the EU chiefs that Beijing was doing what it could to ensure parties negotiate and arrive at a solution, according to a person familiar with the meeting who declined to be named. The Chinese leaders said they had an obvious interest in the war not destabilizing the global economic order any further, and insisted on their great attachment to the Charter of the United Nations, as well as their respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the person said.

China focused most of its readouts on trade and a range of other topics, but a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson tweeted that Xi told EU leaders that the current situation in Ukraine is “deeply regrettable” and that Beijing “stands on the side of peace.” Xi called on Europe to “form its own perception of China” and to adopt an independent China policy, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Xi also said that peace talks were the only way out and that Europe must address security concerns of all sides in the conflict. In the first meeting of the summit, the prime minister told the EU leaders that China is willing to play a constructive role with the international community on Ukraine.

“China has been promoting talks for peace in its own way, and will continue to work with the EU and the international community to play a constructive role for early easing of the situation, cessation of hostilities, prevention of a larger-scale humanitarian crisis, and the return of peace at an early date,” Li said, according to a readout from the official Xinhua News Agency.

The EU leaders said they raised contentious issues including coercive trade measures against Lithuania, human rights in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The EU leaders, however, offered to continue to cooperate on a range of issues from the COVID-19 pandemic to biodiversity and climate change.

By The Washington Post

Ukraine and Russia accused each other of raising radiation-exposure risks at the defunct nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 meltdown from which Kremlin troops are currently withdrawing.

Russians who began leaving the Chernobyl nuclear plant got “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches at the highly contaminated site, Ukraine’s state power company said Friday. Moscow’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Thursday that Ukraine workers at the site have sabotaged transmission lines used to monitor radiation safety. Neither account could be independently verified by IAEA monitors. The agency’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi returns to Vienna on Friday after consultations with senior nuclear officials in Ukraine and Russia. The Argentine diplomat will give a press briefing at 2:30 p.m. Vienna time.

The 2,600-square-kilometer (1,000-mile) Chernobyl exclusion zone contains long-lived radioactive material that will take thousands of years to decay. It also houses a nuclear-waste facility, where spent fuel from Ukraine’s reactors is encased for safe, long-term storage.

Nuclear authorities have been warning for weeks that the relative risks at Chernobyl are low - compared to the dangers of bullets, bombs and the threats to functioning nuclear power plants - but that the site of the deadly accident continues to stoke a visceral reaction among people. Russia’s retreat from the site provides new ammunition in the information war that’s run parallel to the armed conflict now in its second month.

The more immediate radiation concerns in Ukraine are located at the country’s 15 other reactors which are operating in a warzone. Vadim Chumak, head of the external exposure dosimetry lab at Ukraine’s National Research Center for Radiation Medicine, told MIT Technology Review this week that he’s more concerned by the risk posed by Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the southeast of the country. “In Zaporizhzhia they have six reactors, plus spent fuel storage,” he said. “If there was any damage to the spent fuel assemblies stored at Zaporizhzhia, it could result in an enormous radiological emergency, comparable to what happened in Chernobyl.”

By Bloomberg News

The European Union is seeking to speed up a push for new cryptocurrency rules amid concerns that the digital tokens could be used to circumvent sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

The European Parliament and member states discussed on Thursday the possibility of shortening the two-year implementation period for proposed EU rules known as the markets in cryptoassets (MiCA) during the first round of talks to finalize it, an EU official said. When EU officials proposed shortening the timeframe to implement new crypto rules earlier this week, countries including Ireland, Spain, Poland and Luxembourg were open to the idea, according to people familiar with the discussion.

EU countries and Group of Seven allies are concerned that crypto assets could be used by Russian oligarchs to evade sanctions imposed since President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. Although there hasn’t been a significant increase in the volume of transactions, the European Central Bank and governments insist that the proposed MiCA regulation would help to avoid the risk.

EU negotiators are on board with the need for a quick agreement, people familiar with the discussion said. But the sides disagree over some important issues that may prolong the talks, an EU official said. MiCA was proposed in September 2020 to regulate cryptoassets, with the aim of ensuring financial stability and consumer protection across the bloc with the same rules. The European Commission has said that the current absence of EU regulations on the crypto sector leaves consumers and investors exposed to substantial risks.

By Bloomberg News

Latin America is emerging as an oasis of stability amid the global bond rout spurred by the Ukraine war, benefiting from a 6,600-mile distance from the conflict. The region’s dollar-denominated sovereign and corporate bonds returned 0.4 percent since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, compared to a 9.8 percent loss in Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and African notes and an almost 3 percent slide in Asian debt, according to Bloomberg indexes. It was also a brutal period for US Treasuries (Treasury securities), which went through their worst quarter of modern times.

Investors have flocked to Latin America over the past month, steering away from securities directly affected by the war. Unlike most European-developing nations, the region’s major economies don’t have strong trade links to Russia and still benefit from the massive rally in commodity prices as big raw material producers. The recent outperformance marked a U-turn from the first two months of the year, when Latin American bonds were hit by a selloff in developing-world assets caused by fears of the Federal Reserve tightening. While the region’s notes have since rebounded, a big portion of the global debt market continued to suffer as traders braced for a more aggressive series of US interest-rate hikes.

The surge in commodity prices triggered by supply-shock concerns since the war started made investors particularly interested in bonds from the region’s resource behemoths. The debt market is the only way to invest in state-run companies including Petroleos Mexicanos and Corporacion Nacional del Cobre de Chile, which don’t have publicly-listed stocks. “Quasi-sovereign oil companies from Colombia to Brazil to Mexico are investment picks we like at this current juncture,” said Kathryn Rooney Vera, head of global macro research at Bulltick LLC, who recommends a buy-and-hold approach to energy credits since “there is more room for upsides.”

While higher commodity prices benefit raw material producers, it also contributes to already elevated inflation in the region. For that reason, investors are also favoring inflation-linked bonds, seeking protection against rising consumer prices. “We hold onto our real-rate overweights in Mexico and Brazil,” Citigroup analysts led by Andrea Kiguel wrote in a March 29 report. The bank is long on Mexico’s inflation-linked bonds, known as Udibonos, due November 2023 and Brazil’s NTN-B notes maturing on August 2024. Goldman Sachs also recommends wagers on Udibonos, favoring those due 2031. Brazil and Mexico’s inflation rates are expected to finish 2022 above the upper bound of their central bank target ranges, according to a Bloomberg survey. In comparison, inflation expectations in other key emerging markets such as South Africa and Indonesia are well contained.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.

EU crime agency sends teams to help refugees — 5:02 a.m.

By The Associated Press

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.

Ukrainians seek asylum in Norway — 4:59 a.m.

By The Associated Press

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.

Japan FM to assess refugee needs in Poland — 2:50 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi says he is heading to Poland later Friday to assess the need for the war-displaced Ukrainians in that country and assist those who seek refuge in Japan.

Hayashi, during his five-day trip through Tuesday, is set to meet with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other top officials, as well as international organizations. Officials are still making arrangements for the possibility of his government plane bringing some Ukrainians on his way back, Hayashi said.

“In order to support the Ukrainian people facing the difficulty and to show our solidarity with Ukraine, Japan is pursuing our effort to accept those who fled to a third country,” Hayashi said.

Japan’s government last month launched a taskforce to prepare accepting Ukrainian war-displaced as part of humanitarian support — a rare move for a country known for its strict and reluctant refugee policy. Several municipalities, including Tokyo, Kanagawa, Ibaraki and Osaka, have offered to be their host towns and provide support for medical needs, education, jobs and housing.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky told reporters Friday that some 300 relatives of Ukrainian residents in Japan have been granted entry, and more arrivals are expected from next week.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks during a joint press availability with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong following their meeting in Honolulu, on Feb. 12, 2022. KEVIN LAMARQUE/Associated Press

War in Ukraine fuels fears among draft-age Russian youths — 2:25 a.m.

By The Associated Press

As Moscow’s forces bog down in Ukraine, many young Russians of draft age are increasingly jittery about the prospect of being sent into combat. Making those fears particularly acute is an annual spring conscription that begins Friday and aims to round up 134,500 men for a one-year tour of military duty.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu pledged at a meeting of the military brass this week that the new recruits won’t be sent to front lines or “hot spots.”

But the statement was met with skepticism by many in Russia who remember the separatist wars in the southern republic of Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s, when thousands of poorly trained young men were killed.

By The Associated Press

The European Union will seek China’s assurances that it won’t assist Russia in circumventing economic sanctions leveled over the invasion of Ukraine at an annual summit Friday.

EU officials say they will also look for signs Beijing is willing to cooperate on bringing an end to the war at the virtual meeting.

Other topics include China’s travel ban on members of the European Parliament, Beijing’s economic boycott of EU member Lithuania over its Taiwan relations, the fate of a stalled investment agreement and civil and political rights under China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime.

The summit takes place amid sharply rising negative sentiment toward China within the bloc, fueled by China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policies and trade practices.

By The Associated Press

Russian troops left the heavily contaminated Chernobyl nuclear site early Friday after returning control to the Ukrainians, authorities said, as eastern parts of the country braced for renewed attacks and Russians blocked another aid mission to the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Ukraine’s state power company, Energoatom, said the pullout at Chernobyl came after soldiers received “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches in the forest in the exclusion zone around the closed plant. But there was no independent confirmation of that.

The exchange of control happened amid growing indications the Kremlin is using talk of de-escalation in Ukraine as cover to regroup, resupply its forces and redeploy them for a stepped-up offensive in the eastern part of the country.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has stripped two generals of their military rank.

Zelensky said “something prevented them from determining where their homeland was” and they “violated their military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people.”

According to Zelensky, one of the generals had headed internal security at the SBU, the main intelligence agency.

He said the other general had been the SBU head in the Kherson region, the first major city to fall to the Russians.

Zelensky didn’t say anything about the fates of the two generals other than them being stripped of their rank.

By The Associated Press

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday it will send armored Bushmaster vehicles to Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelensky specifically asked for them during a video appeal to Australian lawmakers for more help in its war against Russia.

Zelenskyy addressed the Australian Parliament on Thursday and asked for the Australian-made, four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Morrison told reporters the vehicles will be flown over on Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport planes. He didn’t specify how many would be sent or when.

“We’re not just sending our prayers, we are sending our guns, we’re sending our munitions, we’re sending our humanitarian aid, we’re sending all of this, our body armor, all of these things and we’re going to be sending our armored vehicles, our Bushmasters, as well,” Morrison said.

By The Associated Press

The Ukrainian government said Russian forces blocked 45 buses that had been sent to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol, and only 631 people were able to get out of the city in private cars.

Twelve Ukrainian trucks were able to deliver humanitarian supplies to Mariupol, but the supplies were seized by Russian troops, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said late Thursday.

According to Ukrainian officials, tens of thousands of people have made it out of Mariupol in recent weeks along humanitarian corridors, reducing the prewar population of 430,000 to about 100,000 by last week.

Vereshchuk said about 45,000 Mariupol residents have been forcefully deported to Russia and areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Russians leave Chernobyl site as fighting rages elsewhere — 9:18 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The last Russian troops left the Chernobyl nuclear plant early Friday, according to the Ukrainian government agency responsible for the exclusion zone around the plant.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian troops who dug trenches in the forest were exposed to radiation, but that could not be confirmed.

The Ukrainian nuclear operator company Energoatom said Thursday that Russian troops were headed toward Ukraine’s border with Belarus.

Energoatom said that the Russian military was also preparing to leave Slavutych, a nearby city where power plant workers live.

A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows the Chernobyl nuclear facilities in Ukraine on Thursday, March 10, 2022. MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/NYT

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after Russian troops withdrew from the north and center of the country, the situation has been heating up in the southeast where Russian forces are building up for new powerful attacks.

In his nighttime video address to the nation Thursday, Zelensky said it was heartening for all Ukrainians to see Russian troops retreating from north of Kyiv, from around the northern town of Chernihiv and from Sumy in the northeast. By he urged Ukrainians not to let up, saying the withdrawal was just a Russian tactic.

Zelenskyy said he spoke Thursday with European Council President Charles Michel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while his adviser spoke with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“We need more support from our partners right now when Russian troops are concentrating additional forces in certain areas,” Zelensky said.

By The Associated Press

The top-ranking Ukrainian Catholic cleric in the United States warned Thursday that religious minorities in the Eastern European country stand to be “crushed” if Moscow gains control, as fighting raged on more than a month after the Russian invasion began.

Archbishop Borys Gudziak said groups at risk include Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox who have broken away from the patriarch of Moscow.

Gudziak also cited reports that Russian forces have damaged two Holocaust memorials and Moscow’s false portrayal of Ukraine as a “Nazi” state although Ukraine overwhelmingly elected a Jewish president in Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“What is at stake for the people of faith is their freedom to practice their faith,” Gudziak said during an online panel discussion on the war, hosted by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

Gudziak is head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and president of Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine. He also oversees external relations for the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

By The New York Times

Facing deeper isolation by the day over the Ukraine war, Russia seemed to slightly recalibrate its stance Thursday, allowing greater humanitarian access to the devastated port city of Mariupol and apparently retreating from a payment confrontation with European gas customers.

But Western officials said they saw little evidence to support Russia’s claims that it was greatly reducing its military presence around Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and fighting continued unabated in areas around the city on Thursday. In Dnipro, the central city that has become a hub for humanitarian aid to other parts of Ukraine, a Russian attack overnight destroyed an oil terminal, a local official said.

“Russia maintains pressure on Kyiv and other cities, so we can expect additional offensive actions, bringing even more suffering,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference.

By The New York Times

Russia is running its military campaign against Ukraine out of Moscow, with no central war commander on the ground to call the shots, according to U.S. officials who have studied the five-week-old war.

That centralized approach may go a long way to explain why the Russian war effort has struggled in the face of stiffer-than-expected Ukrainian resistance, the officials said.

The lack of a unifying military leader in Ukraine has meant that Russian air, ground and sea units are not in sync. Their disjointed battlefield campaigns have been plagued by poor logistics, flagging morale and between 7,000 and 15,000 military deaths, senior U.S. officials and independent analysts say.

It has also contributed to the deaths of at least seven Russian generals as high-ranking officers are pushed to the front lines to untangle tactical problems that Western militaries would leave to more junior officers or senior enlisted personnel.

By The Washington Post

Over the last month, Russian forces have assaulted the people of Ukraine. In addition to news of attacks on civilians and families displaced, there are now initial reports that Russian forces have committed sexual violence.

This month, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba claimed that Russian soldiers had committed “numerous” rapes against Ukrainian women. Last week, Ukrainian MPs charged that Russian forces were targeting women and girls specifically and that elderly women had been raped.

No hard evidence for these allegations has yet come to light. But evidence from recent conflicts along with certain aspects of the current invasion suggest cause for great concern.

By The New York Times

Two weeks after Valeriy, an actor and amateur photographer, settled in western Ukraine after fleeing his home in Kyiv, he was stopped and questioned by the local police.

Someone had reported him as he strolled around the city photographing its squares, churches, and other landmarks — many now buttressed with sandbags.

The police officers took him to their car and scrolled through the recent photos on his mobile phone, leafed through his sketchbook, and checked what channels he subscribed to on the social messaging app Telegram.

By The Associated Press

The Pentagon says an initial half-dozen shipments of weapons and other security assistance have reached Ukraine as part of the $800 million package of aid that President Joe Biden approved on March 16.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that the shipments included Javelin anti-tank weapons, Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems, body armor, medical supplies and other material. He said the 100 Switchblade armed drones that Biden approved as part of the package have not yet been delivered.

Kirby said the $800 million in assistance is likely to be fully delivered within about two weeks. It also includes Mi-17 helicopters, small arms, ammunition, vehicles, secure communications systems, and satellite imagery and analysis capability.

Separately, Kirby said U.S. troops are not training Ukrainian troops in Poland but are acting as liaisons with Ukrainian personnel who cross the border into Poland to take possession of U.S. security assistance. He noted that the standard U.S. military training mission that had existed in Ukraine for years was suspended shortly before Russia invaded.

By The Associated Press

Ukraine’s ombudsperson says that at least one person has been killed and four others have been wounded in the Russian shelling of a humanitarian convoy.

Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioner Lyudmyla Denisova said those who came under the shelling on Thursday were volunteers accompanying a convoy of buses sent to the northern city of Chernihiv to evacuate residents.

She said that the Russian forces besieging Chernihiv have made it impossible to evacuate civilians from the city that has been cut from food, water and other supplies.

The Russian shelling continued two days after Moscow announced it would scale back military operations around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

By The Associated Press

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his offer to host a meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian leaders during a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

A statement from Erdogan’s office said the Turkish president also told Zelenskyy Thursday that a meeting between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators who met in Istanbul earlier this week had given “a meaningful impetus” to efforts to end the fighting.

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s delegation laid out a framework under which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by an array of nations, including Turkey.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with a top Turkish Cypriot official that Erdogan also is expected to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

By The Associated Press

US President Joe Biden on Thursday said there’s “no clear evidence” that Vladimir Putin is scaling back military operations around Kyiv and suggested that the Russian president may have ordered some of his advisers fired or placed under house arrest.

Biden told reporters that “there’s some indication” that Putin has taken those steps against some of his advisers. He added, “But I don’t want to put too much stock in that at this time because we don’t have that much hard evidence.” The White House on Wednesday released unclassified intelligence findings that Putin is being misinformed by his advisors about how badly the Russian military is performing.

The president made the comments after formally announcing that the US would release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve in hopes of easing surging gasoline prices. Biden also reiterated that his administration remains skeptical that Russia will scale back operations around Kyiv as Moscow announced earlier this week.

Russian forces continued to shell Kyiv suburbs Thursday, two days after the Kremlin announced it would significantly scale back operations near both the capital and the northern city of Chernihiv.

By The Associated Press

The UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine says the United Nations and its partners have delivered supplies for thousands of people in the country’s northeast but have been unable to reach some encircled cities in the south.

Osnat Lubrani said Thursday that food rations from the humanitarian organization People in Need and the UN World Food Program will benefit nearly 6,000 people in Sumy and areas including Trostianets and Okhtyrka. In addition, she said, basic household items including blankets and kettles from the UN refugee agency will support 1,500 people and sanitation kits will help 6,000 people with hygiene and drinking water.

Lubrani said medical supplies and trauma kits from the UN World Health Organization will treat 150 patients needing intensive care for serious injuries while other medical supplies will support 10,000 people for three months.

Shei said the UN-facilitated humanitarian notification system with Ukraine and Russia enabled safe passage for the convoy to Sumy on Thursday “but this is clearly not enough.” Efforts over the past month to reach Mauripol, Kherson and other encircled cities in the south have been unsuccessful because of safety concerns.

By The Associated Press

The UN nuclear watchdog says its director-general has arrived in Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad for talks with senior Russian officials.

The International Atomic Energy Agency didn’t specify in a tweet whom exactly Rafael Mariano Grossi will meet on Friday or give further details of his agenda. He arrived in Kaliningrad Thursday following a visit to Ukraine, where he visited a nuclear power plant and conferred with the energy minister and other officials on efforts to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

Ukraine has 15 active nuclear reactors at four plants -- one of which, at Zaporizhzhia, is under the Russian military’s control.

By The Associated Press

Russian troops are 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 is 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.

By Bloomberg News

The US announced new sanctions on Russia’s economy, targeting what it said was Russia’s biggest chipmaker and largest exporter of microelectronics, as the Biden administration pledges to keep raising the pressure on Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

Joint Stock Company Mikron, which the Treasury Department said is Russia’s largest chipmaker as well as a key manufacturer of integrated circuits and electronic components, was one of 21 entities hit with penalties on Thursday. Mikron also produces the domestic chip used for Russia’s National Payment Card System, known as Mir, Treasury said. In addition, 13 people were also sanctioned. “Russia not only continues to violate the sovereignty of Ukraine with its unprovoked aggression but also has escalated its attacks striking civilians and population centers,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “We will continue to target Putin’s war machine with sanctions from every angle, until this senseless war of choice is over.”

Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that half of Russia’s 20 richest people had not been sanctioned, leaving a group of super-rich, powerful billionaires free to operate around the world without legal restriction. Those individuals didn’t appear to be targeted by the latest sanctions. A previous round of restrictions was announced by President Joe Biden a week ago -- full blocking sanctions on more than a dozen Russian elites and 328 members of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, as well as 48 Russian defense companies.

With signs that Russia is shifting to focus its war effort in Ukraine’s east, US officials say they intend to continue to tighten or expand existing penalties against Moscow in coordination with European allies. But many European nations are still reluctant to consider restrictions on oil and gas purchases, Moscow’s biggest source of revenue, because of their dependence on Russian energy. Instead, Europe is working to reduce energy demand. In early March, the Biden administration sanctioned eight wealthy Russians and their families, imposed US visa restrictions on an additional 19 Russians and 47 of their family members, and announced a Justice Department task force to seize luxury assets belonging to Russia’s wealthiest citizens.

By Bloomberg News

Soaring costs for food staples in import-dependent Middle Eastern and North African countries are putting people’s resilience at a “breaking point,” according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a major crop exporter, has added to surging costs for flour and vegetable oil, which are central to the region’s diets, it said in a statement Thursday. A gauge of global food prices reached an all-time high in February, and the crisis is hitting at the onset of Ramadan, when people would typically gather for meals with friends and relatives to break the daily fast.

“We are extremely concerned about the millions of people in this region who are already struggling to access enough food because of a toxic combination of conflict, climate change and the economic aftermath of Covid-19,” said Corinne Fleischer, WFP regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “This crisis is creating shock waves in the food markets that touch every home in this region. No one is spared.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent the cost of even basic foods like bread soaring in the region, especially for wheat dependent nations like Egypt. Saudi Arabia this week pledged $15 billion in support to Egypt, the latest Gulf state to back an economy under increasing pressure from the war.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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 percent 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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.”

By The Associated Press

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.

Red Cross ready for Mariupol evacuation Friday — 6:11 a.m.

By The Associated Press

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.

EU antitrust regulators raid offices of several companies in Germany — 6:10 a.m.

By The Associated Press

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.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, center, speaks at the start of the European Commission weekly College Meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, March 30, 2022. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/Associated Press

Turkey offers to host more Ukraine talks — 5:47 a.m.

By The Associated Press

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 had not fully been put into effect on the ground.

“After this meeting some decisions were taken, especially concerning the reduction of tensions,” Cavusoglu said. “But we do not see these decisions being reflected on the field - for example, the removal of Russian soldiers from some areas.”

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.

Turkey's Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu looks on during a press conference at an European Union (EU) summit at EU Headquarters in Brussels on March 24, 2022.KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

Number of Ukraine refugees passes worst-case UN estimate — 5:31 a.m.

By The Associated Press

The number of people who have fled Ukraine since Russian troops invaded has surpassed 4 million, the United Nations reported Wednesday as shelling continued in places where Moscow had vowed to ease its military operations.

“I do not know if we can still believe the Russians,” refugee Nikolay Nazarov, 23, said as he crossed Ukraine’s border into Poland with his wheelchair-bound father.

Despite Russia’s announcement during talks on Tuesday that its forces would ease their assault near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and elsewhere, Nazarov said he expects “more escalation” in the country’s east, including the city he and his father fled.

A refugee from Ukraine sleeps among others in the hall of the main railway station in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, near the Polish-Ukrainian border on March 31, 2022, following Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP via Getty Images
A woman carrying a baby arrives with other refugees from Ukraine at the main railway station in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, near the Polish-Ukrainian border on March 31, 2022, following Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP via Getty Images

By The Associated Press

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.

Mariupol, home to some 430,000 people before the war, has seen intense fighting for weeks amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. Russian attacks have struck a maternity hospital, fire department locations and civilian homes.

By The Associated Press

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.

Russia, Ukraine help civilians flee Mariupol — 3:12 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Russia and Ukraine both say they are making efforts to help civilians evacuate westwards out of the besieged port city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian military said it committed to a local cease-fire along the route from Mariupol to the Ukraine-held city of Zaporizhzhia from Thursday morning.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday that Ukraine was sending 45 buses to collect people. She said the International Committee of the Red Cross was acting as an intermediary between the two sides.

Similar evacuation efforts have been planned before and collapsed amid recriminations over fighting along the route. Ukraine accused Russian forces last week of seizing bus drivers and rescue workers headed to Mariupol.

Civilians who have managed to leave the city for Ukraine-held territory have typically done so using private cars, but the number of drivable vehicles left in Mariupol has dwindled and fuel stocks are low.

Russia has operated its own evacuations from territory it has captured in Mariupol. Ukraine alleges Russia is sending its citizens to “filtration camps” in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine and then forcibly taking people to Russia.

Ukrainians in US mobilize to help 100,000 expected refugees — 12:26 a.m.

By The Associated Press

As the United States prepares to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees following Russia’s invasion of their country, existing communities in cities like Sacramento and Seattle are already mobilizing to provide food, shelter and support to those fleeing the war.

The federal government hasn’t said when the formal resettlement process will begin, but Ukrainian groups in the U.S. are already providing support to people entering the country through other channels, including on visas that will eventually expire or by flying to Mexico and crossing over the border.

People, mainly women and children, make their way through Przemysl railway statio after journeying from war-torn Ukraine on March 30, 2022 in Przemysl, Poland. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
People, mainly women and children, make their way through Przemysl railway statio after journeying from war-torn Ukraine on March 30, 2022 in Przemysl, Poland. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
People, mainly women and children, make their way through Przemysl railway statio after journeying from war-torn Ukraine on March 30, 2022 in Przemysl, Poland. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

By The Associated Press

The Ukrainian president said his country’s defense against the Russian invasion is at a “turning point” and again pressed the United States for more help in the hours after the Kremlin’s forces reneged on a pledge to scale back some of their operations.

Russian forces bombarded areas around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv and intensified attacks in other parts of the country Wednesday, adding to already deep doubts about any progress toward ending the punishing war. Talks between Ukraine and Russia were set to resume Friday by video, according to the head of the Ukrainian delegation, David Arakhamia.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has recalled Ukraine’s ambassadors to Georgia and Morocco, suggesting they hadn’t done enough to persuade those countries to support Ukraine and punish Russia for the invasion.

“With all due respect, if there won’t be weapons, won’t be sanctions, won’t be restrictions for Russian business, then please look for other work,” Zelensky said in his nighttime video address to the nation Wednesday. “I am waiting for concrete results in the coming days from the work of our representatives in Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa.”

Zelenskyy also said he was expecting results from Ukraine’s military attaches in embassies abroad.

He said “the diplomatic front is one of the key fronts” in Ukraine’s battle to win the war against Russia.

By The Associated Press

The talks between Ukraine and Russia will resume on Friday by video, according to the head of the Ukrainian delegation, David Arakhamia.

The delegations met in-person on Tuesday in Istanbul, after two weeks of meeting by video, and the faint outlines of a possible peace agreement seemed to emerge.

The Ukrainian delegation offered a framework under with the country would declare itself neutral – dropping its bid to join NATO, as Moscow has long demanded – in return for security guarantees from a group of other nations.

Russian diplomats responded positively to Ukraine’s proposal.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the White House for pledging an additional $500 million in direct aid, but said he was open with US President Biden about Ukraine needing more to resist the Russian invasion.

“If we really are fighting for freedom and in defense of democracy together, then we have a right to demand help in this difficult turning point,” Zelensky said in his nighttime video address to the nation Wednesday. “Tanks, aircraft, artillery systems. Freedom should be armed no worse than tyranny.”

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement of $500 million in aid, the Biden administration had sent Ukraine about $2 billion in humanitarian and security assistance since the start of the war last month. That’s all part of the $13.6 billion that Congress approved earlier this month for Ukraine as part of a broader spending bill.

Zelenskyy said the negotiations with Russia were continuing but for now, they were only “words without specifics.”

About the supposed withdrawal of Russian forces from Kyiv and Chernihiv, Zelenskyy said: “We know that this is not a withdrawal but the consequences of being driven out. But we also are seeing that Russia is now concentrating its forces for new strikes on Donbas and we are preparing for this.”

White House adds $500 million in Ukraine aid — 10:02 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The White House has pledged an additional $500 million in direct aid for Ukraine as the Russian invasion grinds on.

U.S. President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a 55 minute call Wednesday that the additional aid was on its way. The leaders also reviewed security aid already delivered to Ukraine and the effects that weaponry has had on the war, according to the White House.

Zelesnkyy has pressed the Biden administration and other Western allies to provide Ukraine with military jets. The U.S. and other NATO countries have thus far been unwilling to accommodate that request out of concern it could lead to Russia broadening the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement of $500 million in aid, the Biden administration had sent Ukraine about $2 billion in humanitarian and security assistance since the start of the war last month.

The $500 million could come from $13.6 billion that Congress approved earlier this month for Ukraine as part of a broader spending bill. The White House is also looking at possibly using funding authorized prior to approval of the spending bill.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, a US nonprofit shifted its mission — 9:19 p.m.

New York Times

Jim Hake began working in Ukraine in 2015, the year after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. His nonprofit, Spirit of America, supplied medical kits to the Ukrainian military and assisted US programs to counter Russian propaganda.

But when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, the group put aside those efforts and focused on providing basic, nonlethal military supplies — and figuring out how to get the items into the country quickly.

A variety of groups have given millions of dollars in nonlethal aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded. Several in addition to Spirit of America, like Direct Relief, Mercy Corps, and Save the Children, have years of experience in the country. Others, including some of the veterans’ organizations that helped evacuate Afghans after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, are newer and just started working in Ukraine.

New York Times

The shelling begins in earnest a little before midnight, well after the sky has turned oily black, the cell towers have powered down, and the stray dogs bark into the night.

There is no electricity or running water in Huliaipole. There is just darkness and long minutes of silence when the ticking of battery-powered wall clocks or the grating of open gates in the cold wind are anxiously scrutinized until the next explosion thuds somewhere nearby, rattling windows — and bones.

And then it happens again. And again. A high-pitched screech and then a boom. Sometimes the shells get closer. Or farther away. Maybe, for a few hours, they stop altogether. But it has been the same routine for almost a month in this town along the front lines in eastern Ukraine, with each night bringing the same question: Where will the next one land?

New York Times

In the last month, oil markets have been shaken by a war that has sparked a jump in prices and threatened a critical shortfall in crude and other petroleum products.

But when most of the world’s largest oil producers meet by teleconference Thursday to discuss supplies, analysts don’t expect much action. Officials from OPEC and Russia are likely to do little more than announce their usual modest monthly production increases, leading to questions about how much oil the group really does have in the tank.

Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine are likely to lead to the loss of substantial quantities of both crude and oil products, especially diesel fuel, from the market. Already, major buyers of Russian oil, like Shell and TotalEnergies, have said they will gradually purge petroleum of Russian origin from their vast networks.

“These losses will be enduring as Russia will likely remain the most sanctioned country on earth for the foreseeable future,” wrote Helima Croft, head of commodities at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank, in a note to clients Wednesday.

Russia is one of the world’s top three oil producers, along with the United States and Saudi Arabia, and exports about 8 million barrels a day in crude and products. The International Energy Agency, the Paris-based group, estimates that as much as 3 million barrels a day of Russian oil, or about 3% of world supplies, could soon be shut down in what “could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades.”

By Ryan Huddle and Christina Prignano, Globe Staff

More than 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the Russian invasion began in late February, according to UN estimates, a sizable portion of the country’s prewar population of 44 million.

The chart below shows where the refugees are going. The vast majority have fled to Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine and is a member of the European Union. They’re also fleeing to Hungary and Slovakia, also EU member states.

By The New York Times

Mark Vande Hei, a NASA astronaut, returned to Earth on Wednesday with two Russian counterparts, landing in Kazakhstan after he spent 355 days in space. Vande Hei and his Russian crewmates, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, flew home together in a Russian spacecraft, guided by Russian flight controllers. After touching down on a grassy plain at 5:28 p.m. local time, Vande Hei was met by a contingent of NASA and Russian personnel, a close collaboration between the two space agencies that has continued despite Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine and the tensions it has caused between Moscow and the West. The three men emerged in a world where cooperation between Russia and the United States to preserve the future of the International Space Station can no longer be taken for granted.

NASA has tried to stay above the fray for the past month with minimal statements saying that operations on the space station are unaffected. And the astronauts say publicly that they are inclined to steer around the rupture between their governments. But the ongoing military conflict could test NASA’s ability to continue working with Roscosmos, the state corporation that runs Russia’s space activities. In Kazakhstan on Wednesday, the Soyuz capsule landed upright, but as often happens, winds dragged the parachute and pulled the capsule over on its side. Within a half-hour, recovery teams helped all three astronauts out of the Soyuz. After a journey of 5,680 orbits of Earth that stretched more than 150 million miles, Vande Hei was greeted by NASA flight doctors and public affairs officials.

The astronauts first sat outside, drinking tea during initial medical tests. Vande Hei smiled broadly and gave a thumbs-up. He took off a pair of sunglasses, commenting that it was a beautiful day. As he and the two Russian crew were carried into an inflatable tent for more medical checks, Vande Hei spoke with someone on a satellite phone. The astronauts were to take a two-hour flight on Russian helicopters to the city of Karaganda. There, Vande Hei and the American delegation will a board a NASA Gulfstream jet and head back to the United States. On Tuesday, Shkaplerov, one of the returning Russian astronauts, turned over command of the space station to Tom Marshburn of NASA. “We are one crew,” Shkaplerov said during the ceremony, which ended with hugs.

By The Associated Press

The Pentagon said Wednesday that over the last 24 hours it has seen some Russian troops in the areas around Kyiv moving north toward or into Belarus.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the US does not view this as a withdrawal, but as an attempt by Russia to resupply, refit and then reposition the troops. “We don’t know exactly where these troops are going to go,” he said. But he noted that Russia has talked about prioritizing the Donbas region. Kirby was speaking on CNN and Fox Business.

Kirby also said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have continued to try to speak with their Russian counterparts but they have “not answered and they have not replied with a willingness to do so.”

By The Associated Press

US intelligence officials have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about his nation’s forces’ poor performance in Ukraine, according to a US official.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity Wednesday to discuss the recently declassified intelligence, added that the finding says Putin is aware of the situation and there is now persistent tension between him and senior Russian military officials.

The Biden administration is hopeful that divulging the finding could help prod Putin to reconsider his options in Ukraine. The war has ground to a bloody stalemate in much of the country, with heavy casualties and Russian troop morale sinking as Ukrainian forces and volunteers put up an unexpectedly stout defense.

By The Associated Press

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Western nations shouldn’t lift sanctions on Russia until all Moscow’s troops have left Ukraine.

Johnson said a cease fire would not be enough, and the G-7 should “intensify sanctions with a rolling program until every single one of (President Vladimir Putin’s) troops is out of Ukraine.”

Speaking to a committee of British lawmakers on Wednesday, Johnson also said Britain was discussing “going up a gear” in support to help Ukraine defend itself. He said sending armored personnel carriers was something the UK was “looking at.”

The UK has sent anti-tank weapons and other military equipment to Ukraine but wants to avoid anything that could be seen as escalating the conflict.

By The Associated Press

The UN human rights chief says her office is looking into allegations that some residents of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol have been forcibly evacuated to areas controlled by Russian forces or to Russia itself.

Speaking to the UN’s Human Rights Council on Wednesday, Michelle Bachelet decried life of “sheer terror” for people in the southeastern port city since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24. Ukraine has charged that Russian forces were forcibly taking people from Mariupol and other areas to Russia. Moscow has denied the claims, saying about 500,000 Ukrainians left for Russia voluntarily.

Bachelet said her office also is reviewing “credible allegations” that Russian forces have used cluster munitions 24 times and allegations that Ukrainian forces also have done so.

She says the office also received allegations that two civilians affiliated with Russian armed forces, or backing pro-Russian views, had been killed. She criticized “widespread” detention of civilians who openly support Ukraine in areas under Russian control.

By The Associated Press

Hungary’s foreign minister on Wednesday accused Ukraine’s leadership of attempting to interfere in the upcoming Hungarian election, a charge later denied by his Ukrainian counterpart in an episode that put further strain on relations between the two countries.

In a video on social media, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto claimed that there was “ongoing coordination between the Hungarian left and representatives of the Ukrainian government,” and that Ukraine was attempting to influence Hungary’s April 3 election in favor of a coalition of opposition parties. Szijjarto didn’t provide any evidence supporting the claim. The statements came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made several recent comments that were harshly critical of the Hungarian government’s approach to the war.

Hungary, in contrast with most of its allies in the European Union and alone among Ukraine’s EU neighbors, has refused to supply Ukraine with weapons or allow for their transfer across its borders. Its government has also actively opposed levying sanctions against Russian energy imports, arguing that doing so would deeply damage its economy. This policy prompted Zelensky on Friday to make a direct appeal to nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, widely seen as the Kremlin’s closest ally in the European Union, to take a clearer stance on the war and support his besieged country. “I want to stop here and be honest, once and for all. You have to decide for yourself who you are with,” Zelensky said, addressing Orban, in a video call with EU leaders.

In Hungary’s election on Sunday, Orban will seek a fourth consecutive term in a contest that polling suggests will be the closest since he took power in 2010. During his 12-year rule, Orban’s government has forged deep economic and diplomatic ties with Russia under President Vladimir Putin, and deepened Hungary’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and nuclear energy technology. Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party has campaigned as the guarantor of Hungary’s peace and security as the war rages in neighboring Ukraine, while falsely portraying the opposition parties as aiming to drag Hungary into the conflict on Ukraine’s behalf.

On Wednesday, Szijjarto claimed that Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, had contacted the Ukrainian ambassador in Budapest to discuss how to influence Hungary’s election. Szijjarto suggested, again without providing evidence, that the opposition parties seeking to defeat Orban had promised to supply Ukraine with weapons and to cut off imports of Russian gas and oil if elected. But speaking to the Evropeiska Pravda newspaper on Wednesday, Kuleba denied the charges. “In contrast to the behavior of Hungary in Ukraine, we have never interfered in Hungary’s internal affairs and especially not ahead of an election,” Kuleba said. “It is a pity to see how, for the sake of a short-term pre-election advantage, minister Szijjarto is prepared to think up nonsense and destroy our relationship with him which we had spent so long building.”

By The Washington Post

The economic damage from the war in Ukraine is worsening across Europe as already-record inflation soars further and Germany faces a danger of recession because of its dependence on Russian energy. President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has sapped euro-area confidence and sent consumer-price expectations to their highest level since records began in 1985.

In Spain, inflation surged by almost 10 percent in March -- the most in nearly four decades -- while it also topped expectations in Germany. In the continent’s biggest economy, advisers to Chancellor Olaf Scholz slashed the growth outlook and said there could be a contraction if natural gas supplies are shut off. “The longer the war lasts, the greater the costs are likely to be,” European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said Wednesday in Cyprus. She reiterated that any increases in record-low interest rates will be gradual, describing “significant risks to growth” and “considerable uncertainty” over the economic outlook. ECB officials have dismissed talk of stagflation, saying expansion in the 19-member eurozone will still top 2 percent even in their “severe” scenario for 2022. But the latest data show increasing traction for the forces that would produce such an outcome. What’s more, several policymakers are pushing for a rate hike this year that could weigh on output.

Slovakia’s Peter Kazimir on Wednesday joined a growing group of policymakers saying a rate increase in 2022 is possible, while Estonia’s Madis Muller said an increase is “likely,” if not definite. “We’ve reached a point where there’s no longer a need for the central bank to give additional support to the economy via asset purchases and actually it’s right to ask whether such low interest rates are still appropriate,” Muller said in an interview.

Austria’s Robert Holzmann -- one of the Governing Council’s leading hawks -- backed quarter-point moves in September and December. At its March meeting, the ECB indicated that its primary focus is on tackling inflation that’s almost three times the 2 percent official target. Investors are looking carefully at prices too, reacting to Wednesday’s unexpectedly large jump in Spain by bringing forward bets on the central bank’s deposit rate returning to zero to October from December. Germany data released later Wednesday showed inflation reached 7.6 percent, with a national gauge hitting the highest level since records began after reunification in the early 1990s. In Lithuania, a preliminary reading indicated that prices shot up by 15.6 percent this month.

Everything will feed through to Friday’s inflation number from the eurozone, where analysts predict a new record in the single currency’s history. Looking ahead, energy costs, food prices and persistent bottlenecks “are likely to take inflation higher,” according to Lagarde. “The best way that monetary policy can navigate this uncertainty is to emphasize the principles of optionality, gradualism and flexibility,” she said.

By Bloomberg News

Glencore, the world’s biggest commodity trader, said it won’t seek new deals in Russia but will continue its long-standing business ties in the country. The company at the start of March announced it was reviewing its shareholdings in two large Russian firms -- En+ Group International PJSC and Rosneft PJSC -- as well as its wider trading operations in the country. “Glencore will not enter into any new trading business in respect of Russian origin commodities unless directed by the relevant government authorities,” it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. It will continue to honor legal obligations under pre-existing contracts, subject to meeting any sanctions and where it’s “feasible and safe” to do so, it said.

As a growing list of the world’s biggest companies -- from blue-chip banks to consumer giants -- announce plans to leave Russia, commodity-trading houses have quietly continued their business of buying and selling the country’s raw materials. The traders have historically been willing to operate in the most difficult jurisdictions and only a handful, including Gunvor Group and now Glencore, have announced they will stop new business in Russia.

While pressure to exit Russia has forced energy giants including BP Plc and Shell Plc to withdraw from their operations in Russia, both companies are yet to detail how they’ll divest their stakes. Glencore currently owns a 10.55 percent stake in En+ Group, the controlling shareholder of aluminum giant United Co. Rusal International PJSC. It also holds a small stake of less than 1 percent in oil major Rosneft. The fair value of the investments at the end of 2021 was $789 million and $485 million respectively, Glencore said last month.

Glencore also said in the statement that there’s “no realistic way” to exit its stakes. Its shares rose 2.2 percent on Wednesday, and have rallied about 70 percent in the past year on the back of higher raw-material prices. The Swiss trader and miner had secured lucrative relationships in Russia, buying aluminum and oil from one of the world’s most important natural resource producers. It secured the oil offtake after the Russian government was scrambling in 2016 to complete the planned sale of a 19.5 percent stake in Rosneft to help narrow the budget deficit. Aluminum is one of the few commodities traded by Glencore that’s not underpinned by large-scale production from its own industrial assets. Glencore and Rusal have been long-time partners in the business, and its supply from Russia helped strengthen its position as the world’s largest metals trader.

Rusal announced a $16 billion deal to sell aluminum to Glencore in 2020, which would allow it to sell about one-third of its production to the trader. The deal would run until 2024, with an option to extend it through 2025, Rusal said at the time. It also buys some oil from Rosneft, though it doesn’t publicly disclose the volumes it trades.

By The Associated Press

The Kremlin says there was no breakthrough in the latest round of talks with Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday it was a “positive factor” that Ukraine submitted its written proposals, but added that “we can’t say there has been something promising or any breakthroughs.”

He emphasized in a call with reporters that there is still a lot of work ahead following Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul.

On 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. It said it would also be willing to hold talks over a 15-year period on the future of the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Peskov said Russia’s chief delegate in the talks, Vladimir Medinsky, has reported their results to President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin spokesman didn’t discuss details of the negotiations. Asked about the Ukrainian offer of talks over the status of Crimea, he said there is nothing to discuss because Crimea is part of Russia under the country’s constitution.

By The Associated Press

The U.N.’s top human rights body has chosen a Norwegian former judge at the European Court of Human Rights to head a three-member panel to investigate possible abuses and violations in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Erik Møse, formerly president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, will be joined by Jasminka Dzumhur, the human rights ombudsperson in Bosnia, and Pablo de Greiff of Colombia, a political theorist who has specialized in justice issues, on the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.

The U.N.-backed Human Rights Council created the commission earlier this month.

The three panel members will lead a team that has a one-year mandate to “to establish the facts, circumstances and root causes” of any human rights violations and abuses in Ukraine that could eventually contribute to international justice over the war.

By The Associated Press

Ukraine’s state agency for emergencies says that the death toll in a Russian strike on the regional administration building in the southern city of Mykolaiv has risen to 14.

Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces blasted a gaping hole in a nine-story government building in a strike on Tuesday morning. The regional governor has charged that they waited for people to go to work before striking it.

The emergencies agency said Wednesday that rescuers removed one more body from the rubble and another person died of wounds at a hospital, bringing the death toll to 14.

By The Associated Press

An adviser to Ukraine’s president says that the Russian military has redeployed some of its forces to the east of the country.

Oleksiy Arestovych said in televised remarks Wednesday that Russia has moved some of its troops from areas near Kyiv to the east in an effort to encircle the Ukrainian forces there.

He said Russia has left some of its forces near Kyiv to tie up Ukrainian troops there and prevent them moving to other areas. Arestovych said Russia hasn’t yet pulled back any of its troops from the northern city of Chernihiv.

Russian military officials have said they will focus their efforts on eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. Russia also announced after talks Tuesday with Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul that it will scale down its activities around Kyiv and Chernihiv to help the talks succeed.

Chernihiv governor Viacheslav Chaus said that Russian strikes against civilian infrastructure continued overnight despite the Russian claim.

By The Associated Press

The Russian military has reported a new series of strikes on Ukrainian arsenals and fuel depots.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that the military used air-launched long-range cruise missiles to target a fuel depot in Starokostiantyniv and Khmelnytskyi in central Ukraine.

Konashenkov said in a statement that the Russian forces also hit the Ukrainian special forces headquarters in Bereznehuvate in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Konashenkov also said that the Russian military used mobile land-based Iskander missile launchers to hit two ammunition depots in the eastern Donetsk region. The Russian military said that it has shifted focus to Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, where Moscow-backed rebels have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014.

By The Associated Press

A spokesman for the World Food Program says it welcomes talk of a possible pullback of Russian forces in parts of Ukraine but the process of negotiating aid access has not improved.

Tomson Phiri told The Associated Press on Wednesday that “we expect faster clearances, faster guarantees of access.”

He spoke after a WFP convoy reached the hard-hit city of Kharkiv with supplies for bakeries and emergency food rations.

“People had gone for days without finding food,” he said. “These are people who’ve never experienced hunger in their lives.”

He says WFP has already reached 1 million people with assistance. The goal is to reach 4 million in the coming months.

“Mariupol is top of mind,” he said, as well as Sumy and other partly encircled areas

By The Associated Press

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is visiting a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on a trip meant to help bolster the security of the country’s nuclear facilities.

Rafael Mariano Grossi arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he tweeted that he was at the South Ukraine power plant to meet Ukrainian government officials and staff, and start IAEA technical assistance.

He said it is “vital to be on the ground to provide effective support to (Ukraine) in these extremely difficult times” and that the IAEA’s presence “will help prevent the danger of a nuclear accident that could have severe public health and environmental consequences in Ukraine and beyond.”

The nearest major city to the plant is Mykolaiv.

Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four plants -- one of which, at Zaporizhzhia, is under the Russian military’s control. It also is home to the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, the site of the 1986, which the Russian military seized early in the war.

As of Tuesday, eight reactors were operating, including two at South Ukraine, while the rest were shut down for regular maintenance.

UN says over 4 million have fled Ukraine — 4:42 a.m.

By The Associated Press

The UN refugee agency says more than 4 million people have now fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, a new milestone in the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees posted Wednesday on a website that tracks refugee flows around the world that 4.01 million people have now fled Ukraine. Of those, 2.3 million have entered Poland.

Aid workers say the flow has eased in recent days as many people await developments in the war. An estimated 6.5 million people have also been displaced from their homes within Ukraine.

Refugees waited in a queue, after fleeing the war from neighboring Ukraine at the border crossing in Medyka, southeastern Poland, on March 29, 2022. Sergei Grits/Associated Press
Ukrainian evacuees queued as they waited for further transport at the Medyka border crossing, after they crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border, southeastern Poland, on March 29, 2022.ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian evacuee waited to board a train en route to Warsaw at the rail station in Przemysl, near the Polish-Ukrainian border, on March 29, 2022.ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey says no 2nd day of face-to-face talks — 4:15 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Turkey says Ukrainian and Russian delegations have decided to return home for consultations after making progress in negotiations.

The talks on Tuesday hosted by Turkey sketched out what could end up being a framework for ending the war. The talks had been expected to resume on Wednesday, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two sides were bringing the proposals back to their capitals.

At the conference in Istanbul, Ukraine’s delegation laid a framework under which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by an array of other nations.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow would in the meantime cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”

Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky said negotiators would take Ukraine’s proposals to Russian President Vladimir Putin and then Moscow would provide a response, but he did not say when.

Cavusoglu said he expected a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers at an unspecified time. He said another meeting between the presidents of the two countries is also on the agenda.

Russian state news agency Tass reported that Moscow’s delegates arrived back in Russia late Tuesday.

Poland plans to cut Russian oil imports by end of year — 4:11 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Poland will take steps to cut Russian oil imports by the end of 2022, the prime minister said Wednesday.

Poland has already largely reduced its dependence on Russian oil, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Morawiecki told a news conference that Poland was launching the most radical plan among European nations to wean off Russian energy sources.

Poland said Tuesday it was banning imports of Russian coal. Morawiecki said he expects gas imports will be cut in May and called on other European countries to follow suit.

Poland is arguing that money from oil and gas exports are fueling Russia’s war machine and that that should stop.

UK says Russia relying on mercenaries — 4:02 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Britain says Russia’s increasing reliance on mercenaries to fight in Ukraine is a sign of the war’s heavy toll on Moscow’s forces.

Western officials say up to 1,000 combatants from the private Wagner Group have been sent to eastern Ukraine. Moscow is also trying to recruit Syrians to fight in the country.

British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said “it is a worrying sign but it also probably shows you how dependent they have become on other fighters because of the weakness and fragility of the professional forces.”

He told Sky News that “the Russian war machine, which had a pretty fearsome reputation, has been found to stutter and stumble, in at least the early stages of this campaign.”

The UK Defense Ministry says some Russian units have withdrawn from Ukraine to Russia and Belarus after suffering heavy losses.

Ukraine reports more Russian attacks in north — 3:59 a.m.

By The Associated Press

The governor of Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region says Russian attacks continued overnight despite Moscow saying it would reduce military activity in the area.

Viacheslav Chaus said in a video message on social media that houses and infrastructure including libraries and shopping centers had been damaged in the cities of Chernihiv and Nizhyn.

Chaus didn’t say if anyone had been killed or injured.

Of Russia’s statement that it would cut back its military activity, he said: “Do we believe that? Of course not.”

During talks in Istanbul on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow would cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”

Germany triggers warning over gas amid Russian ruble demand — 2:44 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Germany’s economy minister said Wednesday he was triggering the early warning level for gas supplies amid Russia’s continued demand to be paid in rubles.

Robert Habeck told reporters that this was the first of three warning levels and entails the establishment of a crisis team in his ministry that will heighten monitoring of the gas supply situation.

Habeck said he took the measure after Moscow indicated it would pass a bill to require payment in rubles despite the Group of Seven countries rejecting this demands on Monday.

He said that Germany’s gas storages are currently filled to about 25% capacity.

UK says Russia’s shift proves it has problems — 2:24 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Britain’s Ministry of Defense says Russia’s stated focus on the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine “is likely a tacit admission that it is struggling to sustain more than one significant axis of advance.”

In a daily war assessment, the ministry said Wednesday that Russian units suffering heavy losses have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganize and supply. It says such activity is placing further pressure on Russia’s already strained logistics and demonstrates the difficulties Russia is having reorganizing its units in forward areas within Ukraine.

It noted, however, that the shift is unlikely to mean relief for civilians in cities that have been subjected to relentless Russian bombardments. It expects Moscow will continue to compensate for reduced ground maneuvers through mass artillery and missile strikes.


March 29, 2022


Zelensky says Ukrainians are ‘not naive’ people amid negotiations — 11:12 p.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Following a pledge from Russia to scale back military operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv amid peace talks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukrainians are “not naive people” and urged the country to “not lose vigilance” during his daily evening address.

“The situation has not become easier. The scale of the challenges has not diminished. The Russian army still has significant potential to continue attacks against our state,” he said. “They still have a lot of equipment and enough people completely deprived of rights whom they can send to the cauldron of war.”

Ukraine will not be reducing its defense efforts amid the ongoing invasion, Zelensky said, both “in the north of our state and in all other regions of Ukraine, where Russian troops have temporarily entered. The defense of Ukraine is the number one task now, and everything else is derived from it.”

“It is on this basis that I consider the messages on the negotiation process, which is underway at various levels with representatives of the Russian Federation,” he continued. “The enemy is still in our territory. The shelling of our cities continues. Mariupol is blocked. Missile and air strikes do not stop. This is the reality. These are the facts.”

While the signals being sent from Russia during the negotiating process can be viewed as “positive,” Zelensky said, “these signals do not silence the explosion of Russian shells.”

“Of course, we see all the risks. Of course, we see no reason to trust the words of certain representatives of a state that continues to fight for our destruction. Ukrainians are not naive people,” he said. “Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion and over the past eight years of the war in Donbas that only a concrete result can be trusted. The facts — if they change on our land.”

Ukraine ambassador: Russia being demilitarized — 9:06 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that the “demilitarization of Russia is well under way.”

Since the beginning of the invasion into Ukraine, Kyslytsya said the Russian occupiers have lost more than 17,000 military personnel, over 1,700 armored vehicles and almost 600 tanks.

He also said Russia also has lost 300 artillery systems, 127 planes and 129 helicopters, almost 100 rocket launchers systems, 54 air defense systems and seven ships.

Kyslytsya said that is “an unprecedented blow to Moscow, where the numbers of Soviet losses in Afghanistan pale in comparison.”

Earlier Tuesday, Russia announced it will significantly scale back military operations near Ukraine’s capital and a northern city, as the outlines of a possible deal to end the grinding war came into view at the latest round of talks.

Negotiations are expected to resume Wednesday, five weeks into what has devolved into a bloody war of attrition, with thousands dead and almost 4 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.

Ukraine distrusts announced Russian withdrawal — 8:27 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian military officials said they distrust Russia’s announced withdrawal from around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

Earlier Tuesday, Russia announced it will significantly scale back military operations near Ukraine’s capital and a northern city, as the outlines of a possible deal to end the grinding war came into view at the latest round of talks.

“There are indications that the Russian forces are regrouping to focus their efforts on eastern Ukraine,” the Ukrainian general staff said in a statement late Tuesday. “At the same time, the so-called ‘withdrawal of troops’ is most likely a rotation of individual units and is aimed at misleading the Ukrainian military leadership” by creating the misconception that the Russians have decided not to try to encircle Kyiv.

Ukraine’s delegation at the conference, held in Istanbul, laid out a framework under which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by an array of other nations.

Negotiations were expected to resume Wednesday, five weeks into what has devolved into a bloody war of attrition, with thousands dead and almost 4 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.

Biden says he is not convinced Russia will scale back military operations — 8:27 p.m.

By The Associated Press

President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he wasn’t yet convinced that Russia’s announcement that it would scale back military operations near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv will lead to a fundamental shift in the war.

During an appearance with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong following bilateral talks at the White House, Biden said he was waiting to see what Russia offers in ongoing talks with Ukraine and how Moscow readjusts its troop presence.

U.S. and Western officials have expressed skepticism about Russia’s announcement earlier on Tuesday that it would dial back operations in an effort to increase trust in ongoing talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials in Turkey.

“We’ll see,” Biden said. “I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are.”

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield later expressed an even greater skepticism, saying the administration views any movement of Russian forces as a “redeployment and not a withdrawal” and “no one should be fooled by Russia’s announcement.”

Once the children got hungry, ‘the fire was gone from their eyes’ — 6:49 p.m.

By The New York Times

After Russian forces surrounded the city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, cutting off its water and fuel and preventing aid convoys from entering, Yulia Beley sheltered in a neighbor’s basement with her three daughters and struggled to survive.

Her husband was off defending the city, so she ventured out as bombs rained down to fetch water from a distant well and tried to comfort her children while the shelling shook the walls and ceiling. In time, the family’s food dwindled and Beley, a baker, said she fed her hungry children one bowl of porridge a day to share between them. Her 6-year-old daughter, Ivanka, dreamed of the poppy seed sweet rolls her mother had made before the war.

By The New York Times

The crime first came to light last week, when Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said in a Facebook post that a Russian soldier had killed an unarmed civilian and then repeatedly raped his wife. Days later, the White House said it was concerned about emerging reports of sexual violence in Ukraine.

Then, on Monday night, The Times of London published the woman’s chilling account. Using the pseudonym Natalya, she told a reporter she had been in her home in a village near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, when she heard footsteps, and a shot rang out. Moments later, her husband lay dead outside her front door, and two Russian soldiers were at her side, one holding a gun to her head.

By The Washington Post

An important aspect of the ongoing negotiations between Russia and Ukraine is that the latter adopt a “neutral state” status in exchange for a potential halt in Russian aggression. In the latest round of negotiations Tuesday in Turkey, Ukrainian representatives presented a number of proposals to their Russian counterparts, among them that Ukraine becomes a neutral state along with the promise to not host foreign military forces or bases in Ukrainian territory. In exchange, countries such as France, Turkey, and Israel would “guarantee” the country’s security. Russian negotiators said they would look into these proposals while Russia will “drastically reduce” military activity near the cities of Chernihiv and Kyiv “to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations.”

Here’s what you need to know about Ukraine’s proposed “neutral status.”

--What is ‘neutral status’?

In international law, a country’s neutral status means in broad terms that it won’t interfere in conflicts involving other belligerent parties. The subject of neutrality is regulated in two treaties adopted at The Hague’s second peace conference in the Netherlands in 1907, establishing rules for neutral and belligerent countries in times of conflict.

--What role could it play in a peace settlement between Ukraine and Russia?

One of the reasons Russian President Vladimir Putin has used to justify Ukraine’s invasion was Kyiv’s ambition to join NATO. Although Ukraine wasn’t in the process of joining NATO at the moment of the invasion, it has made being part of the alliance a priority, especially since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. In 2019, Ukraine added its aspirations to join NATO and the European Union to its Constitution. Putin has often decried NATO’s “aggressive actions” near its borders and views NATO’s expansion as a threat.

In a speech before the leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) on March 15, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seemed to acknowledge that joining the 30-country military alliance was no longer in the cards for his country. “It is clear that Ukraine is not a member of NATO; we understand this. ... For years we heard about the apparently open door but have already also heard that we will not enter there, and these are truths and must be acknowledged,” Zelensky said. Ukraine is also proposing to forgo hosting military bases or forces in its territory. However, the country is holding onto its aspirations to join the European Union. On Feb. 28, Zelensky signed a document publicly applying for EU membership and has discussed the possibility of Kyiv becoming a member with European leaders. Although EU leaders have signaled their openness to Ukraine joining the union, they dashed Zelensky’s hopes for a quick membership.

By Bloomberg News

The energy transition has become a weapon.

That’s one consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If war is a force that gives us meaning, this one is redefining the global energy system. What had until recently been Europe’s decades-long pursuit of a green agenda to replace coal and natural gas with wind turbines and batteries has become a matter of wartime urgency. Leaders in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and Warsaw woke up to a new reality in which spending up to $1 billion per day on Russian fossil fuels meant financing the missiles exploding in Kyiv. So, the transition accelerates.

Efforts to fight climate change often adopt the language of war. It’s aspirational, in a dark way. Scientific warnings and extreme weather haven’t yet spurred the global economy to fully mobilize against greenhouse gas. So those who want more urgency resort to combat metaphors. Now an actual war might turn, in part, on curbing or even embargoing one of the biggest sources of fossil fuels.

Clean energy isn’t waiting for a geopolitical shift. The world stands on the verge of installing its one-thousandth gigawatt of solar electricity. The road to that milestone — the first solar terawatt — started with the invention of primitive panels in the 1950s. The second terawatt will come in less than four years, according to BloombergNEF. It’s possible that India, with a new net-zero goal, will play a China-size role in the next stage.

The growing markets for renewables haven’t escaped the inequities that shape the fossil economy. Microfinance businesses bringing solar rigs to rural Africa end up turning off the lights on villagers and refugees when the payments stop, and mircogrids already built in Indonesia are shutting off for lack of funding. The planet’s cheapest energy source is, somehow, still unaffordable for those who need it most.

By The New York Times

Ukrainian and Russian officials discussed a potential cease-fire Tuesday in negotiations hosted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Gathering on the grounds of the 19th-century Dolmabahce Palace, one of Erdogan’s offices in Istanbul, the two delegations also discussed international security guarantees for Ukraine, according to Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Erdogan told the delegations that “having a cease-fire and peace as soon as possible will be to the benefit of everyone.” With the negotiators seated at a long table in front of him, he said, “We believe we are in a phase now to have concrete results from the talks.” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, told reporters that the talks, which he said could continue Wednesday, could be of great consequence, without offering details on the shape of any possible deal. “Today and tomorrow we will find out whether there is anything promising,” Peskov told reporters Tuesday. He added that Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian delegation, would let the public know “whether there is hope or not.” Medinsky told reporters in Istanbul around noon local time that an announcement would be made “in a few hours” on the results of the negotiations.

About the same time, Russia released video of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu telling senior military officials that Russia had largely accomplished its initial mission in Ukraine and would now focus on taking territory in the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donbas. It was an echo of a Russian general’s comments last week signaling that Moscow was recalibrating its war aims. “In general, the main goals of the first stage of the special operation have been completed,” Shoigu said. “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.”

Roman Abramovich, the Russian business tycoon who is reported to have shuttled between Kyiv and Moscow in recent weeks, was also in Istanbul. He was photographed speaking with Erdogan and Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, before Tuesday’s talks began. Reports emerged Monday that Abramovich and several of the Ukrainian negotiators may have been poisoned early this month, although the circumstances were murky, and those affected all recovered. Peskov described the reports of such a poisoning as part of Western countries’ “information war” and “certainly untrue.” Peskov said that Abramovich was not an official member of the Russian delegation but was in Istanbul “from our side” and had been “involved in ensuring certain contacts between the Russian and Ukrainian sides.”

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

The US will likely need to add more permanent or rotational forces in Europe in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US European Command leader told Congress Tuesday, without detailing when or how many.

General 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 US intelligence that suggested Russia would overwhelm Ukraine quickly, Wolters said that there may have been an “intel gap.” He said broader reviews of the US 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.

By The New York Times

The first sign of progress emerged in peace talks between Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday as a deputy Russian defense minister said Russia would sharply “reduce military activity” near Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Russia also said it was ready to set a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine once a draft peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia was ready. Speaking after the talks, held in Istanbul, Ukrainian officials outlined for the first time potential concessions over territory that Ukraine is all but certain to have lost to Russia. They proposed a 15-year process of negotiations about the status of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula seized and annexed by Russia in 2014. And they said control of the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donbas, which Russia no longer recognizes as part of Ukraine, could be discussed in talks between the two leaders.

The next step would be for the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine to meet to “give the latest shape to the common understanding” reached Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in televised remarks. “This war that caused thousands of people to die and millions of others to be displaced should stop,” he said.

By The Associated Press

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.

Meanwhile, 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.

By Bloomberg News

German industries such as steel, chemicals and paper would shut down within a matter of weeks if the country decided to cut off imports of energy from Russia, the nation’s biggest industrial unions said Tuesday.

“Exploding energy prices, but above all a possible gas embargo, would hit energy-intensive industry -- the mother of the industrial network -- hard,” Michael Vassiliadis, president of Germany’s IGBCE chemical workers union said in a statement. “The consequences would not only be reduced work hours and job losses, but also the rapid collapse of the industrial production chains in Europe -- with worldwide consequences.”

Germany has built up a dependency on Russia, the source of more than half its fossil fuel imports. For now, Moscow has given no indication that it may cut off supplies, while Germany opposes sanctions or political pressure that would prompt a full energy embargo. Vassiliadis delivered the warning on the fallout from possible energy sanctions at a joint press conference in Berlin with leaders from other major German industrial unions, including IG Metall and IG Bau.

Russia earned around 3 billion euros ($3.33 billion) from energy exports to Germany in January, the last full month before its armed forces invaded Ukraine, according to Germany’s federal statistics office. Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said his country can cut its reliance for Russian coal and oil by the end of 2022 and plans to build at least two LNG terminals on its North Sea shores to help reduce Germany’s reliance on Russian gas.

By The New York Times

A deputy Russian defense minister said Tuesday that Russia would sharply “reduce military activity” near Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, in the first sign of progress as diplomats from Ukraine and Russia discussed a possible cease-fire.

Russia also said it was prepared to accelerate the timeline of a possible meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Speaking after talks with Ukrainian officials in Istanbul, Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said the Kremlin was ready to hold such a meeting once a draft peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia was ready. As a Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed back Russian forces in a hard-fought area near Kyiv, the capital, the talks yielded the first glimmers of hope for a reduction in the violence that has leveled Ukrainian cities, killed untold numbers of civilians and driven more than 3 million people from the country in the five weeks since Russia’s invasion.

For the first time, Ukrainian officials outlined potential concessions over territory that is occupied by Russia, proposing a 15-year process of negotiations about the status of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. The issue of the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donbas, which Russia no longer recognizes as part of Ukraine, could be discussed in talks between the two leaders, said Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Zelensky.

The two delegations discussed international security guarantees for Ukraine, Podolyak said. “We have discussed all contentious issues, more or less,” he said. “Our proposals have been made.” Addressing the delegations before the talks began Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey urged both sides to find a way to end the conflict, saying, “It is in the hands of the parties to stop this tragedy.”

By The Associated Press

After most Olympic sports banned athletes and teams from Russia and Belarus, biathlon stepped up the isolation by banning its member federations from the countries on Tuesday. Russia and Belarus “have violated the humanitarian obligations for member federations,” the International Biathlon Union said in a statement.

The IBU also noted the Russian military invasion “has stopped the activities of the Ukrainian Biathlon Federation” so it would be unfair for the “attacking countries” to enjoy membership rights while biathlon in Ukraine is disrupted.

Russia has retained active membership in most sports governing bodies, including soccer’s FIFA which has its annual congress on Thursday in Doha, Qatar. It was unclear on Tuesday if Russian soccer officials will take up their rights to attend and speak to more than 200 fellow members. The IBU executive board moved to suspend its Russian and Belarusian members one week after the World Cup season ended.

The decisions, which can be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, will be reviewed “in the event of a change of circumstances” in Ukraine, and at the IBU congress in September, the governing body said.

By The Associated Press

Russia’s military claims it will “fundamentally cut back” operations near Kyiv, Chernihiv “to increase trust” in talks.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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.

By The Associated Press

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 nerve agent poisoning after attending peace 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.

By The Associated Press

HELSINKI — Finland’s main intelligence agency warns that Russia is likely to carry out cyber and information operations against the Nordic country in the coming months as the government and lawmakers debate possible NATO membership.

The Finnish Security and Intelligence Service said in its annual report published Tuesday that it considers “unlawful intelligence operations of Russia” to be among the main current threats to Finland’s national security.

Director Antti Pelttari said that “Finnish society as a whole should be prepared for various measures from Russia seeking to influence policymaking in Finland on the NATO issue.”

Several polls in recent weeks have shown a majority of Finns now supporting NATO membership, up from 25% at most before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Finland shares the longest border of any European Union member with Russia.

Moscow has said it would consider Finland and neighboring Sweden joining NATO a hostile move that would have serious military and political repercussions.

By The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s defense minister says the country is “on alert” against naval mines after authorities detected and deactivated two explosive devices floating in the Black Sea.

Hulusi Akar told journalists late Monday that authorities were still trying to determine whether the mines had drifted from Ukrainian waters. He had no information on the number of anti-ship devices that may be floating in the sea.

Akar said in comments released by his ministry Tuesday: “Whether the mines that were laid in Ukraine have arrived, or whether other mines were activated -- it would not be right to say anything without being certain about it.”

“Our mine-sweeping vessels and maritime patrol planes are on alert,” he said. “Detected mines are immediately destroyed in a safe manner.”

Akar added that Turkey was cooperating with Romania and Bulgaria to detect mines.

Turkish military teams disabled two naval mines in the past four days, including one on Saturday that forced the temporary closure of the Bosporus Strait. The sighting followed warnings that mines laid at the entrances to Ukrainian ports could break free in heavy weather and cross the Black Sea.

By The Associated Press

The U.N. nuclear watchdog says its director-general has arrived in Ukraine for talks with senior government officials on delivering “urgent technical assistance” to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that Rafael Mariano Grossi’s aim is to “to initiate prompt safety and security support” for Ukraine’s nuclear sites. That will include sending IAEA experts to “prioritized facilities” and sending “vital safety and security supplies” including monitoring and emergency equipment.

It said that Grossi will travel to one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants this week, but didn’t say which one. Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four active power plants, and also is home to the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Russian forces have taken control of Chernobyl and of the largest active power plant, at Zaporizhzhia.

Grossi said in a statement that “the military conflict is putting Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and other facilities with radioactive material in unprecedented danger.”

He added that “there have already been several close calls. We can’t afford to lose any more time.”

By The Associated Press

Ukraine’s foreign minister, called on countries to ban the use of the letter “Z” as a symbol of the Russian war on Ukraine.

In a tweet Tuesday, Dmytro Kuleba said the letter in some contexts “means Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians.”

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. He said the letter can under certain circumstances be considered a sign of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and could make people “criminally liable.” Several German states have said they will open investigations into the use of the symbol.

By The Associated Press

Germany’s foreign minister says her country is working toward a “de facto” embargo of Russian oil because of the war in Ukraine.

Germany has long relied on fossil fuels from Russia and Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned that suddenly halting imports could have severe economic consequences for his country.

But Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that Germany is nevertheless aiming for a “complete national exit from Russian fossil fuel dependence.”

She cited recent efforts to diversify Germany’s imports that aim to end the use of Russian oil and coal this year, and natural gas by mid-2024.

“You can (...) call it a national, step-by-step, de facto embargo particularly of oil,” Baerbock said at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue conference.

By The Associated Press

The Ukrainian government says it is operating three humanitarian corridors Tuesday to move civilians out of the besieged port of Mariupol and two Russian-occupied cities in the south.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says that besides Mariupol, evacuations will run from Enerhodar and Melitopol. Those cities have both been under Russian control for weeks and have seen protests and alleged kidnappings of pro-Ukraine local politicians.

The routes all converge in the Ukraine-controlled southern city of Zaporizhzhia.

Russia operates its own evacuation routes, which Ukraine has alleged are cover for forcibly deporting Ukrainian civilians to Russia. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of obstructing evacuations.

By The Associated Press

Within days of the Russian invasion, Western countries invoked international law, imposed crippling sanctions, began welcoming refugees with open arms and cheered on Ukraine’s armed resistance.

The response has elicited outrage across the Middle East, where many see a glaring double standard in how the West responds to international conflicts.

By The Associated Press

Bloomberg News says it has suspended its operations in Russia and Belarus, citing international condemnation and sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The financial news company said customers in both Russia and Belarus will be unable to access any of Bloomberg’s financial products including terminals, data licenses, data feeds and electronic trading platforms.

Trading functions for Russian securities were disabled in line with international sanctions, it said.

Earlier, Bloomberg suspended the work of its journalists in Russia and removed Russian stocks from its global equity indexes. Russian bonds will be removed with the month-end rebalancing, the company said in a statement.

It said Bloomberg Philanthropies had pledged $40 million to the International Rescue Committee and the World Central Kitchen to help Ukrainians and refugees in the region and elsewhere.

By The Associated Press

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a cease-fire as the Russian and Ukrainian delegations resumed their talks in Istanbul.

In a speech he delivered at the start Tuesday, Erdogan said progress in the talks could pave the way for a meeting between the two countries’ leaders.

“We believe that there will be no losers in a just peace. Prolonging the conflict is not in anyone’s interest,” Erdogan said. “As members of the delegations you have taken on a historic responsibility. The whole world is awaiting the good news that will come from you.”

The delegations are scheduled to hold two days of talks in a government building adjacent to the 19th-century Ottoman palace, Dolmabahce, on the shores of the Bosporus.

Earlier talks between the sides, held in person in Belarus or by video, failed to make progress on ending the monthlong war that has killed thousands and driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes — including almost 4 million from their country.

Ahead of the talks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his country is prepared to declare its neutrality, as Moscow has demanded, and is open to compromise on the fate of the Donbas, the contested region in the country’s east.

By The Associated Press

Ukraine’s military says Russia has destroyed more than 60 religious buildings across the country in just over a month of war.

In a post Tuesday, the military said the Orthodox church — the country’s majority religion — was the most affected but that mosques, synagogues, Protestant churches and religious schools were also destroyed.

In a map provided by the military, the destruction appears concentrated around Kyiv and in the country’s east.

By The Associated Press

Another round of talks aimed at stopping the war in Ukraine is scheduled for Tuesday as the fighting looks increasingly like a stalemate on the ground, with the two sides trading control of a town in the east and a suburb of the capital.

By The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday that Russian forces are still attacking Kyiv, despite being driven out of Irpin, a suburb northwest of the capital that has seen heavy fighting.

He said the Russians remain in control of northern suburbs and are trying to regroup after losing Irpin on Monday. He urged Ukrainians not to let up in the war.

“We still have to fight, we have to endure,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation. “We can’t express our emotions now. We can’t raise expectations, simply so that we don’t burn out.”

He said the situation remains tense in the northeast, around Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkhiv, and also in the eastern Donbas region and in the south around Mariupol, which remains blockaded by Russian troops.

The president said no humanitarian corridors could be opened Monday out of the besieged city.

Zelenskyy said he spoke Monday with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Britain, Canada and Germany, urging them to strengthen the sanctions against Russia.

By The Associated Press

The United Nations chief has launched an initiative to immediately explore possible arrangements for “a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine” in order to allow the delivery of desperately needed aid and pave the way for serious political negotiations to end the month-long war.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday he asked Undersecretary-General 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 said Griffiths has already made some contacts.

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly, by an overwhelming majority of about 140 nations, has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine twice -- on March 2 and on March 24 -- and Guterres told reporters he thinks “this is the moment” for the United Nations “to assume the initiative.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the secretary-general said there has been a “senseless loss of thousands of lives,” displacement of 10 million people, systematic destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure, “and skyrocketing food and energy prices worldwide.”

New York Times

A Russian missile strike Sunday in western Ukraine near the Polish border, which has become a transit point for weapons being sent to Ukrainian forces, raised new concerns about whether Russia might attack NATO territory to stop or destroy the shipments.

Such an attack could dramatically expand the conflict. The arms — which include machine guns, tactical drones, and antitank missiles — have passed through Poland and Romania, both NATO members, and an attack on either country would activate the alliance’s collective-defense provision, known as Article 5. Speaking in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, President Biden said the United States had a “sacred obligation” to honor Article 5.

Washington Post

The camera moves over a scene of misery. Men in Russian military uniforms lie bloody on the ground, stunned, with mangled legs. More men, their hands trussed behind their backs, step from a teal van, kneel to the ground and are shot behind the kneecap at point-blank range, screaming in pain. The muzzle of a gun, in the hand of a man who appears to be a Ukrainian soldier, emits a bright flash.

A voice accuses a Russian soldiers of “slamming” Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where civilians have borne the brunt of relentless Russian bombardments. Translators who examined the video said Kharkiv is pronounced with a “h,” the Ukrainian way. Everyone in the clip speaks in Russian.

The video, the content of which Ukrainian authorities say they cannot confirm but will investigate, began circulating on pro-Russian media channels and on social media Sunday. It was filmed near a dairy plant in the village of Malaya Rohan, in the Kharkiv region, according to geolocation by The Washington Post. It first appeared online on Sunday, two days after Ukrainian forces announced on Telegram that they had retaken the village.

According to the Ukrainian military, Russian soldiers were taken as prisoners in a town five miles north of Malaya Rohan on Friday.

New York Times

Ukrainians on Monday reported they had pushed back invading Russian forces in fierce fighting around Kyiv and in northeastern Ukraine, while the Russians moved to encircle and cut off Ukrainian forces in the east, making a diplomatic resolution to the war seem as far away as ever.

Ukrainian counterattacks around Kyiv reportedly retook more ground, with the mayor of Irpin, a fiercely contested suburb on the northwestern edge of the capital, saying that most Russian troops had retreated, though fighting continued in some districts. If Ukrainian soldiers can maintain control of Irpin, it would be strategically important to keeping their hold on Kyiv.

New York Times

Dutch brewer Heineken and its Danish rival Carlsberg said Monday that they were getting out of Russia, moves that highlighted the pressure on multinational firms to go beyond pausing operations in the country.

Their strategy in Russia has evolved as the war has stretched into a second month. Heineken, a Dutch company, first said it would stop new investments and exports to Russia, and then, about three weeks ago, it said it would stop making, advertising and selling Heineken products there.

On Monday, it signaled a more definitive break from Russia. “We have concluded that Heineken’s ownership of the business in Russia is no longer sustainable nor viable in the current environment,” the company said. Heineken will continue reduced operations in Russia — for the safety of its employees and to “minimize the risk of nationalization,” or being brought under state ownership, the beer maker said — until it can find a buyer for the business.

Facing sanctions and a corporate exodus, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has threatened to take control of Western businesses’ assets in the country.

Heineken’s departure also illustrates how companies are trying to balance fealty to shareholders, employees and society.

Heineken said it would guarantee pay for its 1,800 employees in Russia through the end of the year. Pulling out of Russia will cost Heineken, which has about 82,000 workers across the world, about 400 million euros, according to the company.

Danish brewer Carlsberg, which has a much bigger exposure to Russia than Heineken, took a similar path. Weeks ago, it had said it was running its Baltika Breweries business in Russia only to sustain the unit’s 8,400 employees. On Monday, Carlsberg said it would leave Russia.

By The Associated Press

A private Russian military contractor that has been accused of human rights abuses has deployed to Eastern Ukraine, according to Britain’s Defense Ministry.

The ministry’s Defense Intelligence said the Wagner Group was expected to bring up to 1,000 mercenaries to take part in combat operations in Ukraine after the regular Russian military experienced heavy losses.

Air Vice-Marshal Mick Smeath, London’s defense attaché in Washington, said in a statement that Russia has likely been forced to reprioritize Wagner personnel for Ukraine at the expense of its operations in Africa and Syria.

Smeath’s statement comes after Pentagon officials said recently that they expected Russia to look for ways to replace their combat losses with Russian troops based in other countries. Last Friday, the Pentagon said it appeared Moscow was drawing on Russian troops based in Georgia, but no details were available on their number or the timing of their expected deployment.

Thousands of mercenaries from Wagner Group have been deployed in Syria since 2015. The U.S. and EU consider the group to be a surrogate of the Russian military, but the Kremlin denies it even exists.

In December, the EU imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group and its founder, Dmitry Utkin, for fomenting violence and committing human rights abuses in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine.

By The Associated Press

A slowdown for good or a temporary lull during the storm of war?

While the number of refugees who have flooded out of Ukraine nears 4 million, fewer people have crossed the border in recent days. Border guards, aid agencies, and refugees themselves say Russia’s unpredictable war on Ukraine offers few signs whether it’s just a pause or a permanent drop-off.

Some Ukrainians are sticking it out to fight or help defend their country. Others have left their homes but are staying elsewhere in Ukraine to wait and see how the winds of war will blow. Still others are elderly or ill and need extra help moving anywhere. And some remain, as one refugee put it, because “homeland is homeland.”

By The Associated Press

A missile attack hit an oil depot in western Ukraine late Monday, Rivne’s regional governor said, marking the second attack on oil facilities in the region and the latest in a series of such attacks in recent days.

Western Ukraine has not seen ground combat, but missiles have struck oil depots and a military plant in Lviv, a major city close to Poland where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have gone to escape fighting elsewhere.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested in an interview with Russian journalists released on Sunday that the attacks on oil depots are intended to disrupt the planting season in Ukraine, which is a major grain producer.

By The Associated Press

President Joe Biden said Monday that he is “not walking anything back” after his weekend comment that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” although Biden insisted he’s not calling for regime change in Moscow.

“I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt toward this man,” he said. “I wasn’t articulating a policy change.”

Biden said he was not concerned that his comments would escalate tensions over the war in Ukraine. “This is just stating a simple fact, that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable,” he said.

The remark about Putin, which came at the end of a speech in Warsaw that was intended to rally democracies for a long global struggle against autocracy, stirred controversy in the United States and rattled some allies in Western Europe.

By Bloomberg News

The US is exporting more diesel than it has in years as buyers in Europe and Latin America vie to secure supplies that have tightened since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Waterborne diesel exports out of the US Gulf Coast have climbed to 1.04 million barrels per day so far this month, on track to hit the highest level since August 2019, according to estimates from oil-analytics firm Vortexa. Volumes to Europe have seen the biggest jump in the period to 84,700 barrels per day, on course for an eight-month high.

The overseas pull on diesel is straining U.S. stockpiles, which fell to their lowest level in eight years seasonally. Last week, in a rare reversal of trade flows, two diesel cargoes from New York sailed for Europe. Increased competition for U.S. diesel means American truckers and farmers must pay more to keep supplies at home, at a time when pump prices are back near historic highs set earlier this month.

Europe, which relied on Russia for about a fifth of its diesel imports in 2019, has been scrambling to find alternatives as concerns mount over the prospect of supplies running out. Meanwhile, buyers in Latin America, the preferred export destination for US refiners in recent years, have had to pay more to remain competitive in international markets. Petroecuador paid a hefty premium of $7.45 per barrel to US Gulf coast prices for 1.96 million barrels of diesel, more than 80 times what it paid for the same product in December. This is on top of already-rich prices on the US Gulf Coast, which are trading near their highest level since 2008 relative to Nymex futures.

Latin America has drawn around 700,000 barrels per day of diesel from the US Gulf Coast so far this month, which would mark a three-month peak, Vortexa data show.

By The Associated Press

Turkish Presiden