Live updates: Biden OKs $800M in military aid to Ukraine
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday approved $800 million in new military assistance to Ukraine, including artillery and helicopters, to bolster its defenses against an intensified Russian offensive in the country’s East.
Biden announced the aid after a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to coordinate the delivery of the assistance, which he said included artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored personnel carriers, as well as helicopters.
“This new package of assistance will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden said the U.S. will continue to work with allies to share additional weapons and resources as the conflict continues.
“The steady supply of weapons the United States and its Allies and partners have provided to Ukraine has been critical in sustaining its fight against the Russian invasion,” Biden said. “It has helped ensure that Putin failed in his initial war aims to conquer and control Ukraine. We cannot rest now.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Biden approves $800M in artillery, helicopters for Ukraine— France’s Le Pen warns against sending weapons to Ukraine
— Polish, Baltic presidents visit Ukraine in show of support
— Biden: Russia war a ‘ genocide,’ trying to ‘wipe out’ Ukraine
— Russia has yet to slow a Western arms express into Ukraine
— Forced into a basement in Ukraine, residents began to die
— Finland, Sweden move ahead toward possible NATO membership
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there is no chance at the moment for a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine, as the United Nations was seeking.
But he told reporters Wednesday that the U.N. has made a number of proposals to Russia on the possibility of local cease-fires, humanitarian corridors, and the evacuation of civilians, “and we are waiting for an answer.”
Guterres sent U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths to Moscow and Kyiv as his special envoy to seek a humanitarian cease-fire, but he said, “at the present moment, a global cease-fire in Ukraine doesn’t seem possible.”
He said the U.N. proposals to Russia are aimed at minimizing “the dramatic impact” of Russia’s war against Ukraine on civilians and include creating “a mechanism” involving Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and eventually other humanitarian bodies to permanently manage local cease-fires, humanitarian access and evacuations to avoid incidents and failures.
As for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reported comment Tuesday that negotiations with Ukraine are at a “dead end,” Guterres said, “I will remind you that we are in an Easter period and the Easter period is about resurrection.”
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official has rejected Russia’s claims that more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered in the besieged southeastern port of Mariupol. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that 1,026 troops from the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade surrendered at a metals plant in the city.
But Vadym Denysenko, advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, denied the claim in comments to the Current Time TV channel, saying that they haven’t heard anything like that and the battle over the sea port is ongoing.
“According to official data of (Ukraine’s) Defense Ministry and the General Staff, we haven’t heard anything like that,” Denysenko said. “Moreover, I will say … that the battle over the sea port is still ongoing today.”
PARIS — French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen warned Wednesday against sending any more weapons to Ukraine, and called for a rapprochement between NATO and Russia once Moscow’s war in Ukraine winds down.
Le Pen, an outspoken nationalist who has long ties to Russia and has supported Vladimir Putin in the past, also confirmed that if she unseats President Emmanuel Macron in France’s April 24 presidential runoff, she will pull France out of NATO’s military command and dial back French support for the whole European Union.
Macron, a pro-EU centrist, is facing a harder-than-expected fight to stay in power, in part because the economic impact of the war is hitting poor households the hardest. France’s European partners are worried that a possible Le Pen presidency could undermine Western unity as the U.S. and Europe seek to support Ukraine and end Russia’s ruinous war on its neighbor.
Asked about military aid to Ukraine, Le Pen said she would continue defense and intelligence support.
“(But) I’m more reserved about direct arms deliveries. Why? Because … the line is thin between aid and becoming a co-belligerent,” the far-right leader said, citing concerns about an “escalation of this conflict that could bring a whole number of countries into a military commitment.”
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has urged China to use its “special relationship with Russia” to persuade Russia to end the war in Ukraine.
Speaking at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank, on Wednesday, Yellen said Beijing “cannot expect the global community to respect its appeals to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity in the future if it does not respect these principles now.”
Yellen’s speech comes a week before the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group Spring Meetings in Washington. Her direct appeal to China underscores an increasing frustration that the United States and its allies have with a country that has only deepened its ties with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
“The world’s attitude towards China and its willingness to embrace further economic integration may well be affected by China’s reaction to our call for resolute action on Russia,” she said.
Yellen said that countries that undermine the sanctions the U.S. and its allies have imposed on Russia will face consequences for their actions. Leaving open the question of what the consequences for flouting the sanctions could be, Yellen said Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has “redrawn the contours” of the global economy, which includes “our conception of international cooperation going forward.”
HELSINKI — European Union nations Finland and Sweden reached important stages Wednesday on their way to possible NATO membership as the Finnish government issued a security report to lawmakers and Sweden’s ruling party initiated a review of security policy options.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 triggered a surge in support for joining NATO in the two traditionally militarily non-aligned Nordic countries, with polls showing a majority of respondents willing to join the alliance in Finland and supporters of NATO in Sweden clearly outnumbering those against the idea.
Finland, a country of 5.5 million, shares the EU’s longest border with Russia, a 1,340-kilometer (833-mile) frontier. Sweden has no border with Russia.
Russia, for its part, has warned Sweden and Finland against joining NATO, with officials saying it would not contribute to stability in Europe. Officials said Russia would respond to such a move with retaliatory measures that would cause “military and political consequences” for Helsinki and Stockholm. One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reasons for invading Ukraine was that the country refused to promise that it would not join NATO.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, speaking Wednesday in Stockholm in a joint news conference with her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson, said Finland is ready to make a decision on NATO “within weeks” rather than months following an extensive debate in the 200-seat Eduskunta legislature.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization slammed the global community Wednesday for its almost singular focus on the war in Ukraine, arguing that crises elsewhere, including his home country of Ethiopia, don’t receive equal consideration, possibly because those suffering aren’t white.
In a press briefing, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he didn’t know “if the world really gives equal attention to black and white lives,” given that the ongoing emergencies in Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria have garnered only a “fraction” of the global concern for Ukraine.
Tedros said the siege of the Tigray region of Ethiopia by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces was one of the longest in modern history and noted that a recent truce had still not allowed in significant amounts of humanitarian aid. Tedros acknowledged that the situation in Ukraine was globally significant, but questioned if other crises were being accorded enough attention.
“I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way,” he said. “Some are more equal than others.”
Tedros noted that there are about 6,000 people living in Tigray with HIV, but authorities have lost track of where they are and that “many of them, we assume they have already died.” Tedros described the situation in Tigray as “tragic” and said he “hopes the world comes back to its senses and treats all human life equally.” He also critiqued the press for its failure to document the ongoing atrocities in Ethiopia, noting that people had been burned alive in the region.
“I don’t even know if that was taken seriously by the media,” he said
GENEVA — Switzerland is joining a raft of new sanctions targeting people and companies in Russia over President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in Ukraine, including his two adult daughters.
The Federal Council on Wednesday adopted new measures against Russia and Belarus, a key ally of Moscow, that mirror similar measures adopted last week by the European Union. Switzerland, which has long prided itself on its neutrality, is not among the EU’s 27 member states.
Switzerland had already lined up with previous EU sanctions. The fifth and latest package of measures focuses on finance, transport, and trade — notably bans on imports of coal, wood, cement, seafood, and vodka that “serve as important sources of revenue for Russia,” the government said.
An extra 200 people or entities were also sanctioned including Russian oligarchs and their families, as well as Putin’s adult daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova.
MILAN — Italian energy company ENI said it has a deal to import up to 3 billion cubic meters of liquid natural gas from Egypt this year as Europe seeks to wean itself from Russian natural gas over its invasion of Ukraine.
ENI signed the deal Wednesday with EGAS (Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company), just days after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi secured a deal to increase gas imports from Algeria to help replace the 29 billion cubic meters Italy imports annually from Russia.
The Algeria deal will add up to 9 billion cubic meters of gas by 2023-24 to the 21 billion cubic meters it already receives, with the increased flows starting in the fall. Russia is Italy’s top supplier of natural gas, which is used to generate electricity, heat and cool homes and power industry.
LONDON — The Channel Island of Jersey says it is freezing assets connected to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich estimated to be worth over $7 billion.
The Law Offices Department of Jersey, a tax haven long known for drawing large amounts of foreign direct investment, said Wednesday that the assets being targeted were either located in Jersey, or owned by Jersey-incorporated entities.
It said that police also executed a search warrant Tuesday at addresses suspected to be connected to Abramovich’s business activities. It didn’t provide details.
Abramovich, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been sanctioned by the U.K. government and the European Union. The 55-year-old tycoon has assumed an unofficial role in the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia aimed at ending the war.
KYIV, Ukraine — The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia traveled by train to Kyiv on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The presidents of the four NATO countries on Russia’s doorstep planned to deliver “a strong message of political support and military assistance,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.
Nauseda, Estonian President Alar Karis, Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Egils Levits of Latvia also planned to discuss investigations into alleged Russian war crimes, including the massacre of civilians. Nauseda said the leaders had visited Borodyanka, one of the towns near Kyiv where evidence of atrocities has been found.
“This is where the dark side of humankind has shown its face,” he wrote on Twitter. “Brutal war crimes committed by the Russian army will not stay unpunished.”
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has reopened its embassy in the Ukrainian capital that was closed after Russian troops invaded the country.
The Foreign Ministry said the diplomats have returned to Kyiv and the Czech flag is flying again at the embassy.
It said Wednesday’s move is “one of the steps to show our support for Ukraine.”
BERLIN — Experts commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say they found “clear patterns” of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in Ukraine.
OSCE member countries authorized a study in early March, and the three professors chosen to conduct it — Wolfgang Benedek, Veronika Bílková and Marco Sassòli — were selected by Ukraine.
Their report, issued Wednesday, said that if the Russian forces had respected their obligations “in terms of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack and concerning specially protected objects such as hospitals, the number of civilians killed or injured would have remained much lower.”
The experts found “some violations and problems” in Ukrainian practices, voicing concern about the treatment of prisoners of war.
The report said Russia responded by saying it considered the mechanism under which the experts were appointed “largely outdated and redundant” and declined to appoint a liaison person, referring them to official government statements and briefings.
LONDON — Britain has announced a new round of sanctions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, targeting 178 individuals who have helped prop up Kremlin-backed breakaway regions in the eastern part of the country.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Wednesday that the sanctions were coordinated with the European Union. The move comes after rocket attacks that targeted civilians in eastern Ukraine.
Those sanctioned include Alexander Ananchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and Sergey Kozlov, the chair of government in the Luhansk People’s Republic. Also targeted are Pavel Ezubov, cousin of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, and Nigina Zairova, executive assistant to Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman.
Truss says Britain is sanctioning “those who prop up the illegal breakaway regions and are complicit in atrocities against the Ukrainian people. We will continue to target all those who aid and abet Putin’s war.”
BERLIN — The German government is defending the country’s president after a diplomatic snub by Ukraine.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the largely ceremonial head of state, said Tuesday that his presence apparently “wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.” He said his Polish counterpart had suggested that they both travel to Ukraine along with the presidents of the three Baltic countries.
German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat as saying that Steinmeier is not welcome in Kyiv at the moment because he had close relations with Russia in the past. Steinmeier was previously Germany’s foreign minister and recently admitted mistakes in policy toward Russia.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Wednesday she regrets that Steinmeier was unable to visit.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany said Chancellor Olaf Scholz would be welcome, but some German lawmakers said the snub to Steinmeier would complicate that.
Government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner defended Steinmeier, saying that he “has clearly taken a stand on Ukraine’s side.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Sweden said Wednesday that the Scandinavian country’s customs will donate 8,000 respiratory protection, 263 chemical and gas protection suits and 88 protective suits to Ukrainian colleagues as well as vests and helmets.
The Swedish government said that Swedish Customs has asked for consent to send the equipment to Ukraine.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Latvia says it will train Ukrainian troops to handle drones.
“At the moment, we must do everything we can to promote Ukraine’s victory and to defend its principles of self-determination and sovereignty,” Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said.
He added that two Latvian companies had delivered unmanned aerial vehicles.
Latvia already has provided, among other supplies, Stinger anti-air systems to Ukraine but also weapons, personal equipment, dry food supplies, ammunition, anti-tank weapons, worth more than 200 million euros ($222 million), the defense minister said.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ government spokesman says the country is moving to revoke citizenship for four Russians and 17 of their family members, who are included among those sanctioned by the European Union after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Marios Pelekanos confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that procedures are underway to strip citizenship from 21 persons. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had said earlier that the government had authorized the Interior Ministry to begin revocation procedures for the four Russians, who have not been named.
The four received Cypriot passports under the country’s once lucrative citizenship-by-investment program that was scrapped in 2020.
The program’s end came in the wake of an undercover TV report that allegedly showed the parliamentary speaker and a powerful lawmaker claiming that they could skirt rules to issue a passport to a fictitious Chinese investor who had supposedly been convicted of fraud at home.
A 2021 report found that more than half of a total 6,779 passports were issued unlawfully to relatives of wealthy investors over the program’s 13-year run that generated over 8 billion euros.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has steered clear of calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine genocide.
Asked on France-2 television Wednesday about U.S. President Joe Biden’s use of the term, Macron said:
“I would say that Russia has unleashed an excessively brutal war in a unilateral way. It has been established that war crimes have been committed by the Russian army,” Macron said. “We must find those responsible and bring them to justice.”
“I am prudent with terms today….Genocide has a meaning. The Ukrainian people and Russian people are brotherly people. It’s madness what’s happening today. It’s unbelievable brutality and a return to war in Europe,” the French president said.
“But at the same time I look at the facts, and I want to continue to try the utmost to be able to stop the war and restore peace. I’m not sure if the escalation of words serves our cause.”
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