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Live updates: Diplomats walk out of UN meetings in protest


By The Associated Press

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GENEVA — Scores of diplomats have walked out of two meetings at the United Nations in Geneva in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was beamed in for a video statement, as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov spoke by video to the Conference on Disarmament and the Human Rights Council, which he had planned to attend before closure of airspace to Russian planes by several European countries prevented his travel to the Swiss city.

“What you have seen is strong support for Ukraine,” said Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. Undersecretary of State for arms control and international Security, after the walkout from the disarmament meeting.

Shortly afterward, in a conference room two floors higher, scores of diplomats — including Ukraine’s ambassador in Geneva and the foreign ministers of Canada and Denmark —poured out of the Human Rights Council chamber.

A spokesman for the council said about 100 people left the room.

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NEW DELHI, India — A 21-year-old Indian student died in shelling in Kharkiv on Tuesday morning, as Russian attacks intensified in Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to India’s foreign ministry.

Around 8,000 Indian nationals in Ukraine have made it back home in recent weeks, with nearly 1,400 of them evacuated on six special flights from border countries since last week’s invasion. An estimated 12,000 are believed to still be stuck as efforts continue to evacuate them.

India has sent a group of high-ranking ministers to Ukraine’s neighboring countries to help evacuate the thousands still stranded.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in contact with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But India has refrained so far from condemning Russia or acknowledging Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. Last week, it abstained from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding Russia stop its invasion.

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LASK AIR BASE, Poland — NATO’s chief says the alliance sees no need to change its nuclear weapons alert level, despite Russia’s threats.

NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, spoke to The Associated Press following talks on European security with Polish President Andrzej Duda an air base in Poland where NATO’s Polish and U.S. fighter jets are based.

“We will always do what is needed to protect and defend our allies, but we don’t think there is any need now to change the alert levels of NATO’s nuclear forces,” Stoltenberg said.

The Kremlin has raised the specter of nuclear war, reporting on Monday that its land, air and sea nuclear forces were on high alert following President Vladimir Putin’s weekend order. NATO itself has no nuclear weapons, but three of its members, the United States, Britain and France, do.

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BRUSSELS — The president of the European Commission has committed at least half-billion euros of the bloc’s budget to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the unfolding war in Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen told a special session of the EU legislature on Tuesday that the $560 million in funds would be used to deal with the crisis both in Ukraine itself and the hundreds of thousands of refugees getting out of the country as they flee the Russian invasion.

Even if she had held out the perspective of EU membership to Ukraine, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had signed an official application, she cautioned that “there still is a long path ahead. We have to end this war. And we should talk about the next steps.”

Any process from application to actually becoming an EU member takes many years as applicant nations must meet strict conditions and benchmarks including on trade, judicial independence and corruption.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russian shelling has pounded the main central square in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and other civilian targets.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, a convoy 65 kilometers (40 miles) long of tanks and other vehicles threatened the capital, Kyiv, on the sixth day of the Russia invasion of its neighbor.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of resorting to terror tactics to press Europe’s largest ground war in generations.

In strategic Kharkiv, videos posted online showed explosions hitting the region’s Soviet-era administrative building and residential areas. A maternity ward moved to a shelter amid shelling.

Zelenskyy called the attack on Kharkiv’s main square “frank, undisguised terror,” blaming a Russian missile and calling it a war crime.

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MOSCOW — A senior Russian official has launched a new stark warning over its sanctions against his country for its war in Ukraine.

Dmitry Medvedev, a deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, was retorting to a comment by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday that the European Union was going to unleash an all-out economic and financial war against Russia.

“Today, some French minister has said that they declared an economic war on Russia,” said Medvedev, who served as placeholder president in 2008-2012 when Vladimir Putin had to shift into the prime minister’s post because of term limits. “Watch your tongue, gentlemen! And don’t forget that in human history, economic wars quite often turned into real ones.”Medvedev said on Twitter.

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WARSAW — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin is using “barbaric and indiscriminate tactics against innocent civilians” in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking on a visit to Poland, Johnson said Putin was prepared to “bomb tower blocks, to send missiles into tower blocks, to kill children, as we are seeing in increasing numbers.”

Johnson thanked Poland for taking in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the violence. He said the U.K. would send more humanitarian aid and would take in refugees “in considerable numbers.”

The British government has been criticized for not matching the European Union, which says it will let Ukrainians stay for up to three years without applying for asylum. Britain says it will allow Ukrainians in the country to bring their immediate family members to the U.K. That applies to partners and children, but not parents or siblings

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LIMASSOL, Cyprus — A French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has docked in Cyprus’ main port of Limassol as part of a two-month deployment to the eastern Mediterranean. .

The Charles de Gaulle leads a strike group composed of two destroyers and a frigate tasked with anti-submarine and air defense duties, as well as a supply ship and a nuclear-powered submarine.

The French navy said the carrier’s deployment was intended to project France’s military might in the region and to support the fight against the remnants of the Islamic State group on Iraqi soil that “still constitute a threat.”

The carrier’s 20 Rafale marine fighter aircraft had been set to conduct flights over the Black Sea and hold joint air exercises with the Romanian Air Force. But it was unclear how the ongoing war in Ukraine could alter the strike group’s mission.

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GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency says that about 660,000 people have fled Ukraine for neighboring countries since the Russian invasion began.

The number, given on Tuesday, was up from a count of more than 500,000 a day earlier.

Shabia Mantoo, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Geneva that “at this rate, the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century.”

She said the agency is urging governments to continue allowing access to all those who are fleeing, including third-country nationals living in Ukraine who are forced to escape the violence. She added: “We stress that there must be no discrimination against any person or group.”

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BERLIN — The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says some of its observers in Ukraine are trapped in Kharkiv and Kherson due to fighting in those cities.

The Vienna-based organization announced Friday it was evacuating members of the monitoring mission from Ukraine.

In its latest report, published late Monday, the OSCE said that “due to ongoing kinetic activity, including continued shelling and reports of fighting, as well as the dynamic movement of front lines, the monitoring teams located in the cities of Kharkiv and Kherson continue to shelter in place.”

“The teams are conducting dynamic security risk assessments to establish a window to allow them to move safely,” it added.

The OSCE said its chief Monitor and senior management would remain in Ukraine until the evacuation process was complete. The mission comprising some 500 observers was tasked with monitoring the line of contact between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

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GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office called Tuesday for the release of all peaceful protesters who were arrested after taking part in Russia in demonstrations protesting the war in Ukraine.

The Geneva-based office said reports suggested about 6,400 people have been arrested in Russia since last week for taking part in peace protests.

“We understand the vast majority are released within hours, many after paying an administrative fine, while some are given prison sentences ranging from seven to 25 days under various laws,” it said. “There are also reports of unnecessary and excessive use of force by police during and after the arrests.”

“Arresting people solely for exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of liberty,” it added. “We call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained and for the authorities to abide by their international obligations to respect and ensure the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”

Separately, it also urged the release of some 744 people detained in neighboring Belarus, saying some had been arrested for chanting “no war” and expressing support for Ukraine.

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GENEVA — The Red Cross is appealing for 250 million Swiss francs ($272 million) to help people affected by the war in Ukraine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Cross federation said in a statement Tuesday they fear “millions of people face extreme hardship and suffering without improved access and a rapid increase in humanitarian assistance.”

“Casualty figures keep rising while health facilities struggle to cope,” said the head of the ICRC, Robert Mardini.

“We already see long-term disruptions in regular water and electricity supplies,” he added. “People calling our hotline in Ukraine are desperately in need of food and shelter.”

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ROME — The Italian ambassador to Ukraine has been sheltering 87 Italians, including children and newborns, in his home in Kyiv.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi told Parliament on Tuesday said most of those being sheltered should be leaving today for Lviv, a city in western Ukraine.

Unlike several other Western countries, Italy kept its embassy services functioning in Ukraine’s capital in the run-up to the invasion by Russia but moved the embassy to the ambassador’s residence.

There are some 2,300 Italians in Ukraine, more than half of them residents of the country.

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin has denied that the Russian military has used cluster munitions in Ukraine and insisted that the Russian forces only have struck military targets.

Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted Tuesday that “the Russian troops don’t conduct any strikes against civilian infrastructure and residential areas.” Peskov’s claim contradicts abundant evidence documented by the VFAB of indiscriminate shelling of homes, schools, and hospitals across Ukraine.

Peskov also rejected the accusations that the Russian military has used cluster munitions and devastating vacuum weapons, dismissing them as fabrications.

Speaking in a conference call with reporters, he wouldn’t respond to questions about whether the Kremlin is happy with the pace of the offensive and wouldn’t comment on Russian military casualties.

The Russian Defense Ministry said for the first time Monday that it has suffered losses but didn’t name any numbers.

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GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says it has recorded the deaths of 136 civilians, including 13 children, in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, but warned the toll may be far higher.

The Geneva-based office said Tuesday that it has also recorded 400 civilians injured in the conflict, among them 26 children.

“Most of these casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and air strikes,” it said. “These are only the casualties we were able to cross-check, and the real toll is likely to be much higher.”

It urged parties to the conflict not to use explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas because of the “very high risks of indiscriminate and disproportionate impact on civilians.”

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MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says that the military will keep pressing its offensive in Ukraine “until it achieves its stated goals,” charging that the attack is intended to “protect” his country from a military threat from Western countries, “which are trying to use the Ukrainian people in the fight against our country.”

Shoigu reaffirmed on Tuesday that the Russian military “strikes only military facilities and uses exclusively precision weapons” despite abundant evidence documented by the VFAB of indiscriminate shelling of homes, schools and hospitals across Ukraine.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Separatist forces in Donetsk say they have established two corridors for the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, an indication that a large attack on the key Azov Sea port could be imminent.

Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the separatists ’military, said on Tuesday that civilian safety of movement is guaranteed until Wednesday in the corridors.

Mariupol, an industrial center, is seen as a key target for Russian forces for its economic value and its location, which would help Russia establish a land corridor between Crimea and the Russian mainland.

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PARIS — French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday on France Info radio that Western sanctions are “going to cause the Russian economy to collapse.”

“Russia’s foreign exchange reserves are disappearing into thin air and Vladimir Putin’s notorious war chest is all but empty,” Le Maire said Tuesday on France Info radio. “The market is collapsing. Inflation is rising. We’re going to see lines of Russian people trying to withdraw cash from their banks.”

Le Maire also said that the Russian Central Bank having to raise interest rates “means that companies won’t have access to loans, or at very high rates” and therefore won’t be able to invest and develop the Russian economy.

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BERLIN — Google is blocking the YouTube channels of Russian broadcasters RT and Sputnik in Europe due to the war in Ukraine.

Google said in a statement Tuesday on Twitter that the decision will be “effective immediately.” But the company added that “it’ll take time for our systems to fully ramp up.”

“Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action,” Google said.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The world’s biggest shipping company A.P. Moller – Maersk says that all new bookings to and from Russia “will be temporarily suspended, with exception of foodstuffs, medical and humanitarian supplies.”

The move came because “the stability and safety of our operations is already being directly and indirectly impacted by sanctions,” the Copenhagen-based group said in a statement Tuesday adding the suspension applies to “all Russian gateway ports.”

The group said it is “deeply concerned by how the crisis keeps escalating in Ukraine.”

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BERLIN — The city of Munich said Tuesday it has fired Valery Gergiev as the chief conductor of the city’s philharmonic orchestra because of his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mayor Dieter Reiter said in a statement that Gergiev had failed to respond to a Monday deadline to distance himself from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I had expected him to rethink and revise his very positive assessment of the Russian leader,” said Reiter.

“After this didn’t occur the only option is the immediate severance of ties,” he added.

Gergiev has already been dropped as conductor of the Verbier Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Vienna Philharmonic’s five-concert U.S. tour and other engagements in recent days.

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ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi is asking the country’s Parliament to step up military aid to Ukraine, a day after his Cabinet approved supplying arms like anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Draghi told lawmakers on Tuesday that Russia’s attack on Ukraine “obligates us to make choices that were unthinkable” until recently. Some lawmakers in parties in his wide-ranging pandemic unity government have voiced opposition to sending lethal military aid. But both chambers of Parliament are expected to approve the aid in votes this week.

Just last week, the government said it would be sending only “non-lethal” aid to Italy’s military forces, such as equipment to disable land mines.

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BEIJING — China is urging restraint from “all parties” in Russia’s war on Ukraine, continuing its efforts to express support for its northern ally without outright endorsing the invasion.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday reiterated China’s call for the “reasonable security concerns” of all countries to be respected, and assertion that the Ukraine issue has “a complex reality.”

Russia’s “legitimate security demands should be taken seriously and properly addressed” in the face of NATO’s expansion eastward, Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.

“We express regret over the casualties. The current situation is not something we want to see,” Wang said.

“It is imperative that all parties maintain the necessary restraint to prevent the situation on the ground from further deteriorating or even going out of control, and make efforts to effectively safeguard civilians’ lives and property, especially to prevent a large-scale humanitarian crisis.”

During a visit by Putin to Beijing early last month, Beijing endorsed Putin’s objections to further NATO expansion and Russia backed China’s claim to the self-governing island democracy of Taiwan.

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LONDON — Britain’s deputy prime minister again rejected calls for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying it would risk widening the war by putting the alliance in direct conflict with Russian forces.

Dominic Raab told Sky News on Tuesday that Britain instead is pressuring Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course by working with other countries to ratchet up sanctions and investigate war crimes during the conflict.

“We’re not going to (impose a no-fly zone) because it would put us in a position where we would have to enforce it by, in effect, shooting down Russian planes,” Raab said in an interview with Sky.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had asked NATO to impose a complete no-fly zone for Russian airplanes, helicopters and missiles.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say the center of the country’s second-largest city has been hit by renewed Russian shelling.

Oleh Sinehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said the administration building in the center of Kharkiv came under Russian shelling Tuesday along with residential buildings. Sinehubov didn’t give any specific numbers of casualties from the latest shelling.

Previously, Sinehubov said at least 11 people were killed and scores of others were wounded in the shelling in Kharkiv on Monday.

He said Ukrainian troops are fending off Russian attempts to advance on the city of 1.4 million people.

Videos posted on Ukrainian social networks and media showed a massive explosion next to the towering Soviet-era administrative building on Kharkiv’s central square hitting several cars parked in front of it, shattering windows but leaving the building largely intact.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel has begun sending 100 tons of humanitarian aid to assist people caught up in the fighting in Ukraine.

An El Al plane was loaded with dozens of cardboard boxes Tuesday at the country’s main international airport. Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it is sending medical equipment and medicine, water purification systems, thousands of tents, blankets, sleeping bags and coats. The planes will land in Poland and the aid will be sent to Ukraine from there.

Israel has repeatedly pledged its support for the people of Ukraine in the war. But it has been cautious in joining the West in condemning Russia.

Israel relies on Russia for security coordination in Syria, where Russia has a military presence and where Israel over recent years has repeatedly struck weapons caches destined for its enemies and other targets.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan says it sent 27 tons worth of medical supplies to Ukraine via a flight to Germany late Monday.

Foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told reporters Tuesday that Taiwan was happy to assist as “a responsible member of the international community, and a member of the democratic camp.”

Taiwan has strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and had said it would impose economic sanctions against Russia. It has yet to reveal what those sanctions were, but the island is a dominant manufacturer of semiconductor chips, which are crucial to tech products ranging from smartphones to cars.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia will provide Ukraine with $50 million in missiles, ammunition and other military hardware to fight Russian invaders.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison elaborated on his country’s plans Tuesday after revealing his government would provide Ukraine with lethal military equipment. Morrison had promised only non-lethal military equipment last week.

“President Zelenskyy said: ‘Don’t give me a ride, give me ammunition,’ and that’s exactly what the Australian government has agreed to do,” Morrison said.

Australia had committed $50 million to provide both lethal and non-lethal defensive support for Ukraine through NATO, he said, adding the overwhelming majority will be “in the lethal category.”

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WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. is telling senators her country needs more military weapons as it fights the Russian invasion.

Senators emerged from a Monday evening meeting with Ambassador Oksana Markarova at the Capitol as Congress is preparing supplemental funding to help Ukraine during the crisis. The White House is seeking at least $6.4 billion in military and humanitarian aid.

“They need more arms,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

“It’s David versus Goliath,” said Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

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