Live updates: UN human rights body sets up panel on Ukraine
By The Associated Press
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
GENEVA — The U.N.’s top human rights body has voted overwhelmingly to appoint a three-person panel of experts to monitor human rights in Ukraine, where Russian forces are invading.
The Human Rights Council voted 32-2, with 13 abstentions, to pass a resolution that was presented by many Western countries and others who have spoken out against Moscow’s attack on its neighbor.
Only Russia and Eritrea opposed the resolution, with China abstaining.
The vote Friday was the culmination of an urgent debate called by Ukraine, during which most council members lambasted Russia.
Many Western envoys sported blue or yellow ties, scarves, jackets or ribbons on their lapels, in a reference to the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Far-flung countries such as Gambia and Malaysia spoke out against the invasion.
The result testified to growing international isolation of Russia: On Monday, five countries — including China — had voted against Ukraine’s effort to convene the urgent debate.
Ukraine’s ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko, her eyes red with emotion, told delegates after the vote: “I thank all those who voted for the right course.”
BERLIN — Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Germany and its partners have determined there is currently no risk to the public from a fire at a Ukrainian nuclear plant.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to German troops Friday, Scholz said Germany had immediately performed measurements and exchanged information with other nations following the incident at the Zaporizhzhia plant, where Russian forces attacked late Thursday.
Scholz said the incident shows how dangerous the situation in Ukraine is.
Scholz said it is “completely clear” that NATO will not participate in the conflict in Ukraine, where the country’s president wants a no-fly zone to be imposed.
“Together we are ensuring that nobody attacks NATO territory,” Scholz said, noting that the alliance has positioned additional troops in its eastern member states for this purpose.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s pharmaceutical authorities say customers are asking whether they should take iodine to protect against radiation, after a nuclear plant in neighboring Ukraine was targeted by invading Russian troops.
Tomasz Leleno, spokesman for Poland’s Main Pharmaceutical Chamber, said Friday that pharmacists and doctors are advising against that, because iodine may cause more harm than good if used without consulting a doctor.
The United Nations atomic watchdog said there has been no release of radiation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after a building on the site was hit by Russian shelling.
But the development has alarmed Poles. Sale of iodine solution had already surged last week, after Russian troops took control of Ukraine’s idled Chernobyl nuclear plant, where there was an accidental meltdown in 1986.
After Chernobyl, many people in Poland, especially the young, took iodine, as some experts claimed it could shield against radiation.
VIENNA — The head of the UN atomic agency says a Ukrainian nuclear plant was hit by a Russian “projectile” but that the building it struck was a training center and there has been no release of radiation.
Initial reports were unclear about what part of the plant was affected by a fire that broke out after the shelling late Thursday, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Friday that the building was “not part of the reactor.”
He said Ukrainians are still in control of the reactor and the fire has been extinguished.
The Ukrainian state nuclear company said three Ukrainian troops were killed and two wounded in the Russian attack.
The UN says only one reactor at the plant is operating, at about 60% of capacity.
MOSCOW — Russia’s state media regulator Roskomnadzor is blocking access to the websites of five international media organizations.
State news agency RIA Novosti reported Friday that the blocked websites include those of the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The sites were blocked for hosting what Roskomnadzor told RIA was “false information” about Russian military actions in Ukraine, including reports of attacks on civilians and the Russian military’s losses.
The five named organizations, also including Latvia-based Russian-language website Meduza and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, are among the largest foreign news outlets with Russian-language news operations.
On the early afternoon in Moscow, the BBC Russian service and Radio Free Europe Russian-language content were not reachable, but Voice of America content remained accessible.
BERLIN — UNICEF says that about 500,000 children have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine over the past week due to Russia’s invasion, calling the exodus “unprecedented in scale and speed.”
“If the violence (doesn’t) stop, many, many more children will be forced to flee their country in a very short space of time,” James Elder, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund, said Friday. “And we fear many more will be killed.”
He said UNICEF is sending large amounts of humanitarian supplies to Ukraine to help those in need and also providing emergency training to pediatricians who are being sent to the region.
“They’re preparing for a mass casualty of children,” he said, adding that the training included a triage system for treating children.
The International Organization for Migration said Friday that so far 1.25 million people have fled Ukraine, including almost 80,000 third-country nationals.
LONDON — Google is suspending sales of online ads in Russia after the country’s communications regulator demanded the tech giant stop spreading through its advertising what Moscow called false information about the Russian military in Ukraine.
The company said late Thursday that the suspension covers YouTube, search and display ads.
Google is one of the world’s biggest sellers of online ads.
The Russian regulator, Roskomnadzor, issued several notices to Google this week warning the company about spreading false information or demanding it ease restrictions on YouTube channels operated by Russian media.
Separately, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted that the short-stay booking site is suspending all operations in Russia and its neighboring ally Belarus. Chesky did not elaborate.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants a no-fly zone to be imposed over his country in the wake of Russian shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
The attack on the Zaporizhzhia plant did not produce elevated radiation levels, but Zelenskyy on Friday evoked the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion and fire to raise alarm about further attacks.
The plant “could be like six Chernobyls. The Russian tanks knew what they were shelling … This is terror on an unprecedented level,” he said.
Any attempt by European air forces to impose a no-fly zone would likely severely escalate the conflict.
Zelenskyy also called on Russian civilians to express outrage about the plant attack.
“Radiation does not know where the Russian border is,” he said.
BERLIN — The shelling of a large Ukrainian nuclear power plant by invading Russian forces has brought a chorus of outrage from top European officials.
European leaders on Friday expressed dismay and anger at the incident, with Italian Premier Mario Draghi condemning the strike on the nuclear plant as “an attack against everyone.”
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that “attacking nuclear facilities is a criminal act to terrorize the public.”
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics on Twitter called the shelling “insane.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused the Kremlin of attacking its neighbor Ukraine with “undiminished force and brutality, carrying out wanton destruction, besieging entire cities and trying to grind down the civilian population.”
Speaking ahead of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels, Baerbock said efforts would continue to put political and economic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin and to isolate Russia for as long as the war continues.
“With his war against Ukraine (Putin) is also driving his own country into ruin,” Baerbock said.
TOKYO — Japanese electronics company Panasonic Group says it has stopped shipments to Russia because of logistical and other challenges.
The Osaka-based company said Friday it is donating about 20 million yen ($174,000) to the Polish Red Cross, in support of those who evacuated from Ukraine, and to Peace Winds Japan, an NGO that gives aid to Ukraine.
“We hope that the world will return to peace and security as soon as possible,” the company said in a statement expressing condolences for the victims.
Panasonic makes household gadgets that are exported around the world. Panasonic also has research and energy businesses.
MOSCOW — The Russian parliament has passed a bill introducing sentences of up to 15 years in prison for intentionally spreading “fake” information about military action.
Russian state news agencies reported Friday the passing of the bill in the third and final reading.
The development came amid a crackdown by Russian authorities on independent media and criticism of last week’s invasion of Ukraine.
The bill now heads to the upper house of parliament, whose approval is expected to be a formality, before President Vladimir Putin can sign it into law.
Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin says it may enter into force as early as Saturday.
Spreading what Russian authorities deem to be false information is punishable by up to three years in prison, or 15 years if it is deemed to have “severe consequences.” The bill also bans calling for sanctions to be implemented against Russia.
Less than two hours after the bill was passed, news website Znak said it was shutting down, citing “the large number of restrictions which have appeared recently affecting the work of media in Russia.”
Russia’s top independent radio station Ekho Moskvy was closed Thursday and independent TV station Dozdh ceased operations after receiving a threat of closure from the authorities.
BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned Russia’s attack on a nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine and is urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull his invading troops out of the country.
Stoltenberg says the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant “just demonstrates the recklessness of this war, the importance of ending it, and the importance of Russia withdrawing all its troops and engaging in good faith in diplomatic efforts.”
Russian forces have seized control of the nuclear site, the largest of its kind in Europe.
Stoltenberg’s remarks came before he chaired a meeting Friday of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his NATO counterparts to take stock of the West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Blinken is set to meet later Friday with foreign ministers from the European Union.
BERLIN — The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross says the humanitarian group is “seeing a devastating humanitarian crisis unfold in Ukraine.”
Peter Maurer called Friday for all parties in the conflict to adhere to the rules of war, sparing civilians from military operations and allowing them safe passage.
Maurer said Red Cross teams are “receiving a flood of calls from people desperate for safety.”
“Casualty figures keep rising while health facilities struggle to cope,” he said. “Civilians staying in underground shelters tell us that they fled shells falling directly overhead. They have no extra clothes, supplies or their needed medication. They need assistance now.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the Russian shelling that led to a fire at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant was “in line with madness.”
The fire was put out early Friday and Ukrainian officials said that radiation levels in the area weren’t at dangerous levels.
If there were a leak, “it will take about 48 hours before it arrives in Norway,” Gahr Støre told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
In Lithuania, President Gitanas Nauseda described the attacks by Russian forces on Ukraine’s nuclear power plants as “nuclear terrorism” and called for an immediate international response to “Russia’s nuclear crimes.”
The world learned of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union only after heightened radiation was detected in Sweden. Norway, which neighbors Sweden, was also able to measure higher-than-normal level of radioactivity 36 years ago.
In recent days, there have been reports that sales of iodine tablets in Sweden and Denmark have increased sharply since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with authorities saying there is no reason for people to be taking iodine tablets linked to events in Ukraine.
BEIJING — China says it is “seriously concerned about the safety and security” of nuclear facilities in Ukraine following a blaze at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant ignited by Russian artillery fire.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters Friday that China will continue to follow developments at the Zaporizhizhia plant in the city of Enerhodar and “calls on all parties concerned to maintain calm and restraint, prevent further escalation of the situation and ensure the safety of the nuclear facilities concerned.”
“China attaches great importance to nuclear safety and is seriously concerned about the safety and security situation of nuclear facilities in Ukraine,” Wang said.
The spokesperson’s comments marked a rare Chinese sign of unease over the war in Ukraine, in which Beijing has largely sided with its neighbor and close security partner Russia. Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in early February, after which the sides issued a lengthy joint statement pledging mutual support.
China has abstained on votes at the United Nations on sanctioning Russia and demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops, and blamed the unprovoked Russian invasion on NATO’s eastern advance and a lack of attention to Russia’s security concerns.
LONDON — Britain’s deputy prime minister says Russia’s shelling of a nuclear power plant is an example of the ever more brutal tactics Russian President Vladimir Putin is resorting to as his invasion of Ukraine faces greater resistance than expected.
Dominic Raab’s comments came after shelling triggered a fire at the Zaporizhzhia power plant overnight. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the attack.
“It was clearly a reckless bombardment of a very sensitive and precarious and dangerous facility,” Raab told Sky News on Friday. “And the fact that the Russians kept bombarding it after there was the fire and the Ukrainian emergency rescue team were trying to get to that makes it doubly reprehensible.” ___
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia’s parliament has adopted a declaration condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calling on Moscow to immediately stop its “unprovoked military aggression.”
The 120-member parliament voted 100-3 in favor of the resolution. Two lawmakers from the small left-wing party Levitsa and a member of a small ethnic Serbian party voted against it.
North Macedonia traditionally has had friendly ties with Russia, but Moscow vehemently opposed the country’s accession to NATO in 2020.
Approved late Thursday, the resolution is “a small act of solidarity that strongly condemns the unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine,” said Monika Zajkova, a lawmaker of the Liberal Democratic party, which proposed the motion.
“If the world does not stop it immediately, we will witness a huge disaster and loss of human lives,” she said.
CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s foreign minister says 45 million Australian dollars ($33 million) have been frozen in an Australian financial institution under new sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Friday declined to identify the institution or who owned the money.
Australia has imposed sanctions against more than 350 Russian individuals including President Vladimir Putin. Australia has also targeted with sanctions 13 Belarus entities and individuals including Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities said Friday that a fire at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant ignited by Russian shelling has been extinguished, and that Russian forces have taken control of the site.
The regional military administration said in a statement that the fire at the Zaporizhzhia plant in Enerhodar was extinguished, and that there is damage to the compartment of reactor No. 1 but it does not affect the safety of the power unit.
No information was immediately available about casualties.
The military administration said Russian forces took control of the site and that operational personnel are ensuring its safe operation.
Earlier, plant officials had said that shelling hit an administrative building and reactor No. 1.
The town mayor and state emergency service also said the fire was extinguished.
KYIV, Ukraine — A Russian air strike on Thursday destroyed the power plant in Okhtyrka, leaving the city without heat or electricity, the head of the region said on Telegram. In the first days of the war, Russian troops attacked a military base in the city, located between Kharkiv and Kyiv, and officials said more than 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed.
“We are trying to figure out how to get people out of the city urgently because in a day the apartment buildings will turn into a cold stone trap without water, light or electricity,” Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said.
LONDON — The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will seek an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting after Russian troops in Ukraine attacked a nuclear power plant and sparked a fire.
Johnson’s office says he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the early hours of the morning. He says Britain will raise the issue immediately with Russia and close partners.
Johnson’s office says he and Zelenskyy agree Russia must immediately cease attacking and allow emergency services unfettered access to the plant. The two agree a ceasefire is essential.
“The Prime Minister said the reckless actions of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe,” Johnson’s office said in a statement. “He said (the United Kingdom) would do everything it could to ensure the situation did not deteriorate further.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he also spoke with Zelenskyy about the attacks on the power plant.
“These unacceptable attacks by Russia must cease immediately,” he said on Twitter.
KYIV — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he has informed the leaders of the U.S., Britain, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency about the dire threat of nuclear disaster after Russian troops shelled a nuclear power plant.
“If there is an explosion – that’s the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe,” he said in an emotional speech in the middle of the night.
“Only urgent action by Europe can stop the Russian troops. Do not allow the death of Europe from a catastrophe at a nuclear power station,” he said
He’s calling on politicians and citizens to pressure Russian leadership to stop Russian troops.
WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy updated U.S. President Joe Biden about the fire at a nuclear power station shelled by Russian troops.
The White House said Biden and Zelenskyy urged Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site.
Biden also got another update on the situation from the undersecretary for nuclear security at the U.S. Department of Energy and the administrator of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration.
VIENNA — The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Twitter that it’s been informed by Ukraine’s nuclear regulator that “there has been no change reported in radiation levels” at a nuclear power station shelled by Russian troops.
The agency says Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi was in touch with Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Schmygal and the Ukrainian regulator and operator about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
Grossi “appeals for halt of use of force and warns of severe danger if reactors hit,” the IAEA said in another tweet.
The agency says Ukraine told it the fire hasn’t affected “essential” equipment and plant personnel are taking mitigatory actions.
An official in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, not authorized to speak publicly and speaking on condition of anonymity, says the reactors have not yet been damaged and radiation levels are normal.
ENERHODAR, Ukraine — Russian troops in Ukraine are shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power station.
“We demand that they stop the heavy weapons fire,” Andriy Tuz, spokesperson for the plant in Enerhodar, said in a video posted on Telegram. “There is a real threat of nuclear danger in the biggest atomic energy station in Europe.”
The plant accounts for about one quarter of Ukraine’s power generation.
Tuz told Ukrainian television that shells were falling directly on the Zaporizhzhia plant and had set fire to one of the facility’s six reactors. That reactor is under renovation and not operating, but there is nuclear fuel inside, he said.
Firefighters cannot get near the fire because they are being shot at, Tuz said.
A live-streamed security camera linked from the homepage of the nuclear power plant showed what appeared to be armored vehicles rolling into the facility’s parking lot and shining spotlights on the building where the camera was mounted. There are then what appear to be bright muzzle flashes from vehicles and then nearly simultaneous explosions in the surrounding buildings. Smoke then rises and drifts across the frame.
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea says it won an exemption from recently expanded U.S. sanctions against Russia in exchange for strengthening its own export restrictions against the country over an escalating invasion of Ukraine.
South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy confirmed the agreement on Friday after Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo traveled to Washington this week for meetings with senior U.S. officials.
The Biden administration last week announced a series of sanctions aimed at cutting off Russia’s access to foreign technology products like semiconductors, lasers, aircraft and communications equipment in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
To enforce the measures, Washington has imposed a regulation called the foreign direct product rule, which allows American officials to restrict the sales of foreign-made products to Russia from any country if the items are produced with U.S. technology.
The South Koreans had sought an exemption from the regulation to minimize the impact of U.S. sanctions on major South Korean companies, whose technology exports drive the country’s trade-dependent economy.
South Korea had already banned the export of strategic materials to Russia and joined international efforts to cut off key Russian banks from global payment systems. U.S. officials also told their South Korean counterparts that consumer goods such as smartphones, passenger cars and washing machines aren’t subject to American sanctions as long as they are used by private Russian citizens or companies and not military users.
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