Live updates: Space Agency: Mission with Russia “unlikely”
By The Associated Press
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
BERLIN — The European Space Agency says the planned launch of a joint mission with Russia to Mars this year is now “very unlikely” due to sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine.
Following a meeting of officials from its 22 member states Monday, the agency said in a statement that it was assessing the consequences of sanctions for its cooperation with Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.
“Regarding the ExoMars program continuation, the sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 very unlikely,” it said.
The launch was already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak and technical problems.
The mission’s goal is to put a lander on the red planet to help determine whether there has ever been life on Mars.
On Saturday, Roscosmos said it was pulling its personnel from the European space port in Kourou, French Guiana.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations General Assembly opened an extraordinary emergency session Monday with pleas for peace in Ukraine, starting a day of frenzied diplomacy at the U.N.
Assembly President Abdulla Shahid asked envoys from the U.N.’s 193 member nations to stand for a moment of silence at the start of the session, the assembly’s first emergency meeting in decades. Shahid repeated calls for an immediate cease-fire, maximum restraint by all parties and “a full return to diplomacy and dialogue.”
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council was due to meet later Monday to discuss the spiraling humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
With Russian and Ukrainian officials holding talks on the Belarus border, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said told the assembly he hoped those discussions could lead to a halt in the fighting.
“The guns are talking now, but the path of dialogue must always remain open,” he said. “We need peace now.”
ROME — The Order of Malta has set up an emergency shelter with 250 field beds for displaced persons in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine.
From its Rome-based headquarters, the charitable order also said field kitchens, a common tent and another tent for “psychosocial support” have been erected, and a medical station was set up in that city’s center.
Some 80 volunteers were deployed. In another city in western Ukraine, Lviv, food for 1,000 people is being distributed at the train station, where people in recent days have been crowding platforms in desperate bids to get a place aboard trains headed to Hungary and Poland.
The sovereign Order of Malta is an ancient lay Catholic religious order that runs hospitals and clinics worldwide.
CAIRO — The Arab League has voiced concerns about the war in Ukraine, but it refrained from demanding an end to the Russian invasion.
The pan-Arab organization says in a communique Monday it supports all ongoing efforts to resolve the crisis “through dialogue and diplomacy.”
The communique comes after a meeting of representatives of the 22-member Arab League in Cairo.
The communique didn’t mention Russia, which has close ties with regional powers like Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Most governments in the Arab regions have avoided criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UAE, which holds a temporary seat at the U.N. Security Council, has joined China and India in abstaining during a vote on a U.S. resolution condemning the invasion.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say at least 44 people have been wounded in fighting in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, and that seven of them died in hospitals.
It wasn’t clear if the casualties, which covered the past 24 hours, were all civilians. The state emergencies agency said the casualties could be higher because the damage from Monday’s shelling of residential areas is still being assessed.
Ukrainian social networks featured videos showing residential quarters hit by a series of powerful explosions amid fighting with Russian forces.
The Russian military has consistently denied targeting residential areas despite abundant evidence of shelling of residential buildings, schools and hospitals.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s interior Ministry said the country has asked the European Union border agency Frontex to help it guard its border with Ukraine as thousands of Ukrainian refugees flee after the Russian military invasion.
Slovakia’s 98-kilometer (61-mile) border with Ukraine is also the outer border of the EU’s visa-free Schengen zone.
The Slovak government has already agreed to deploy up to 1,500 soldiers to help the border police deal with lrge numbers of refugees. Some 30,000 Ukrainians have crossed the border since Russia attacked Ukraine on Thursday and their numbers are on the rise.
GENEVA — The Swiss president says Russia’s attack on Ukraine is “unacceptable” and Switzerland will adopt European Union sanctions, including asset freezes, targeting Russians – all but depriving well-heeled Russians of access to one of their favorite havens to park their money.
Ignazio Cassis told a news conference Monday that Russia’s invasion was intolerable on moral and political grounds. Switzerland’s government has been trying to balance its condemnation of Russia’s actions with its history of neutrality and as an intermediary between opposing countries.
Referring to the Swiss executive body, he added: “The Federal Council has decided to take up fully the sanctions of the European Union, including the asset freezes.”
Switzerland is not a European Union member but is all but surrounded by four EU countries: Austria, France, Germany and Italy.
LONDON — Russia-born media mogul Evgeny Lebedev has used the pages of a British newspaper he owns to implore Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the invasion of Ukraine.
London’s Evening Standard on Monday features a front-page statement by Lebedev headlined “President Putin, please stop this war,” alongside an Associated Press photo of medics battling to save a 6-year-old girl killed by shelling in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Lebedev wrote: “As a Russian citizen I plead with you to stop Russians killing their Ukrainian brothers and sisters. As a British citizen I ask you to save Europe from war.”
Lebedev, whose oligarch father Alexander Lebedev once worked for the KGB, was made a member of the House of Lords in 2020.
Oligarchs Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Putin, and Mikhail Fridman, who is on a U.S. sanctions list, have also urged an end to the violence.
Meanwhile Roman Abramovich, the billionaire Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club, has offered to help broker peace. A spokesman said Abramovich “was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since.” It was unclear what help he could provide.
GENEVA — Russia’s diplomatic mission says a planned visit by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the United Nations in Geneva has been cancelled after EU countries closed their airspace to flights from Russia.
Lavrov had been expected to attend high-level meetings at the Human Rights Council and the Conference on Disarmament, followed by a planned news conference.
The mission tweeted that the cancellation of the trip to landlocked Switzerland was due to an “unprecedented ban” on Lavrov’s flight by “a number of EU countries that have imposed anti-Russian sanctions.”
PARIS — French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire says France is getting ready to seize all assets of Russian officials and business leaders who are being targeted by EU sanctions.
Le Maire said France is in the process of listing property including financial assets, real estate, yachts and luxury cars.
French authorities are also seeking to identify other Russian individuals who could be added into the EU list of people targeted by sanctions due to “their proximity with the Russian leadership,” he added.
“We will get legal means to seize all these assets,” Le Maire said, speaking after a special defense meeting on Ukraine at the Elysee presidential palace.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed France will take part in the European effort to bring military equipment to Ukraine, to be sent via a hub in Poland. France will also provide more humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the coming days, he said.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says Japan is stepping up sanctions against Russia by joining the United States and other Western nations in restricting transactions with the Russian central bank.
Kishida announced the measures after speaking on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Kishida said Japan will also freeze assets of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and other Belarusian individuals and organizations, while restricting exports, because of the country’s “evident involvement in the invasion (of Ukraine).”
Kishida said his government will also allow visa extensions for Ukrainian residents in Japan who fear returning to their country amid the conflict. Earlier Monday, Japan announced plans to allow Ukrainians fleeing their country to temporarily stay in Japan without proper refugee status.
MOSCOW — Russia has closed its airspace to carriers from 36 nations, including European countries and Canada, responding in kind to their move to close their respective airspaces to all Russian aircraft.
The move, announced Monday by the state aviation agency, follows a decision by the EU and Canada over the weekend to close their skies to the Russian planes in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
It added that planes from those countries could only enter Russia’s airspace with special permission.
WASHINGTON, D.C — The State Department has closed the U.S. Embassy in Belarus and is allowing nonessential staff at the U.S. Embassy in Russia to leave the country due to the war in Ukraine.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the suspension of operations at the Minsk embassy and the authorized departure from Moscow in a statement on Monday.
“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” he said.
MOSCOW — Websites of several Russian media outlets were hacked on Monday, with a message condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine appearing on their main pages.
The state news agency TASS, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, St. Petersburg news isite Fontanka, and a number of others suffered from the hacking attack on Monday afternoon. The independent news site Meduza posted screenshots of a message, signed by the hacker group Anonymous and “indifferent journalists in Russia”, that appeared on the main pages of some of the hacked websites.
The developments may reflect a growing anti-war sentiment among Russians, though it’s unknown who was responsible. Protests against the devastating attack on Ukraine have been taking place all across the country for days, and nearly 1 million people signed an online petition demanding an end to the war.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian oil giant Equinor ASA says it has decided to stop new investments into Russia and divest from its joint ventures in Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Norway-based energy group has been in Russia for over 30 years and made a cooperation agreement with state-controlled Russian oil and gas company Rosneft in 2012.
CEO Anders Opedal said the company was “deeply troubled by the invasion of Ukraine, which represents a terrible setback for the world, and we are thinking of all those who are suffering because of the military action.”
He added that “we regard our position as untenable” and added that the company was exiting “in a manner that is consistent with our values.”
MOSCOW — The Russian military says its nuclear deterrent forces have been put on high alert in line with President Vladimir Putin’s order.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has reported to Putin that command posts of all of Russia’s nuclear forces have been boosted with additional personnel. The Defense Ministry said that the high alert status applies to all components of Russian nuclear forces — the Strategic Missile Forces that oversee land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Northern and Pacific Fleets that have submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the long-range aviation that has a fleet of nuclear-capable strategic bombers.
Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert Sunday, citing Western sanctions and “aggressive statements” by NATO powers. It’s not immediately clear what specific steps the measure implies, but it has raised fears that the war in Ukraine could lead to a bigger and even more dangerous confrontation.
BERLIN — Scientists involved in writing the latest U.N. climate change report fear that the war in Ukraine will divert much-needed government funding away from efforts to tackle global warming.
“This conflict very clearly feels anachronistic when you consider the existential concerns humanity actually has in the context of climate change,” said Hans-Otto Poertner, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group that produced the report.
“To see here that financial resources are tied up, there is of course competition in the implementation,” he said, saying the delays are counterproductive especially coming during a decisive decade of climate policy.
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea says it will ban exports of strategic materials to Russia, including weapons and missile-related technologies, and support international efforts to exclude major Russian banks from a key global payment system as it joins a global push to economically pressure Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
The plans drew an angry response from Russian Ambassador Andrey Kulik, who warned of a major setback in bilateral relations.
In a news conference , Kulick said Seoul’s move could jeopardize its aspirational plans to bring Russian gas through North Korea to South Korea’s industrial hubs through cross-border pipelines.
GENEVA — The head of the United Nations refugee agency says more than a half a million people had fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on Thursday.
Filippo Grandi of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees conveyed the latest update in a tweet Monday, saying more than 500,000 people had fled to neighboring countries.
Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson for the Geneva-based agency, said she had no details about the numbers by country.
BEIJING — China is criticizing the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine, saying that will harm the chances of finding a political settlement.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Monday reiterated China’s standard opposition to “unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law,” despite Beijing’s own use of such measures against countries such as Lithuania over its stance on Taiwan.
“Facts have long proven that sanctions could not help solve problems but create new issues,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing. “It will not only result in a lose-lose or multi-lose situation economically, but also disrupt the process of political settlement.”
China, along with India and the United Arab Emirates, abstained in Friday’s 11-1 vote on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine.
GENEVA — U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet says her office has confirmed that 102 civilians, including 7 children, have been killed, and 304 others injured in violence in Ukraine since Thursday, as she cautioned that the tally was likely a vast undercount.
She cited updated U.N. figures that more than 420,000 people have fled the country in the last several days.
“Most of these civilians were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and air strikes,” Bachelet told the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. “The real figures are, I fear, considerably higher.”
MOSCOW — The Kremlin has denied that the Russian military targeted populated areas in Ukraine despite abundant evidence that residential buildings, schools and hospitals have been hit during the Russian invasion.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov alleged Monday that civilian casualties have resulted from members of right-wing Ukrainian nationalist groups using civilians as shields and putting military equipment in populated areas. Peskov’s claims couldn’t be independently confirmed and they contradicted statements from Ukrainian officials who accused Russia of targeting civilians.
Peskov did not comment on Russian demands in planned talks with Ukrainian officials, saying it’s necessary to allow negotiations to proceed before making public comment. He also declined to spell out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to put Russian nuclear forces on high alert.
WARSAW, Poland – The prime ministers of the three Baltic states and Poland are calling on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google to restrict the spread of misinformation by Russia about its invasion of Ukraine.
In a letter dated Sunday the prime ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland directly called on Mark Zuckerberg, Susan Wojcicki, Parag Agrawal and Sundar Pichai to take action immediately, saying the steps they’ve been taking so far are “not enough.”
“The Russian government seeks to spread lies, confusion and doubt about what is happening and to undermine the morale and unity of the democratic world,” the letter read.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says 16 Ukrainian children have been killed and another 45 have been injured in the Russian invasion.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message Monday that “every crime, every shelling by the occupiers bring our partners and us even closer.”
He hailed the sanctions that the West slapped on Russia, saying they have brought the Russian currency down. Zelenskyy asked the European Union a special quick path to membership.
Zelenskyy said that over 4,500 Russian troops have been killed and called on Russian soldiers to lay down their guns and leave. “Don’t trust you commanders, don’t trust your propaganda, just save your lives,” he said.
LONDON — Britain’s defense secretary says President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he was putting Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert was largely an effort to distract the world from the troubles facing his invasion of Ukraine.
Ben Wallace told the BBC that while he understood concerns about the warning, Britain sees no evidence of a change in Russia’s nuclear deployment or readiness to use the weapons.
“This is him reminding the world that he’s got a (nuclear) deterrent,” Wallace said. “But secondly, it’s part of a distraction as well. He’s put it out there and we’re all talking about it, rather than the lack of success they’re currently having in Ukraine.”
PRZEMYSL, Poland — Trains continue to bring refugees fleeing war in Ukraine to safety in Poland and in other countries.
Poland’s Border Guard says around 213,000 people have entered Poland from Ukraine since Thursday, when Russia waged war on Ukraine.
Another train carrying hundreds of refugees from Ukraine arrived early Monday in the town of Przemysl, in southeastern Poland.
In winter coats to protect them against near-freezing temperatures, with small suitcases, they lined at the platform to the exit. Some waved at the camera to show they felt relief to be out of the war zone.
MOSCOW — Russia’s Central Bank has sharply raised its key rate from 9.5% to 20% in a desperate attempt to shore up the plummeting ruble and prevent the run of banks amid crippling Western sanctions over the Russian war in Ukraine.
The bank’s action follows the Western decision Sunday to freeze its hard currency reserves in an unprecedented move that could have devastating consequences for the country’s financial stability. It was unclear exactly what share of Russia’s estimated $640 billion hard currency coffers will be paralyzed by the move, but European officials said that at least half of it will be affected.
The move will dramatically raise pressure on the ruble by undermining the financial authorities’ ability to conduct hard currency interventions to prevent the ruble from sinking further and triggering high inflation. The ruble has sharply dived in early Monday trading.
The Central Bank also ordered a slew of measures to help the banks cope with the crisis by infusing more cash into the system and easing restrictions for banking operations.