By The Associated Press
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
MOSCOW — Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division, was killed in fighting in Ukraine earlier this week.
His death was confirmed by a local officers’ organization in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear.
Sukhovetsky, who was 47, began his military service as a platoon commander after graduating from a military academy and steadily rose through the ranks to take a series of leadership positions. He took part in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.
He was also a deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army.
A funeral ceremony will be held in Novorossiisk, but further details weren’t immediately announced
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him, salting the proposal with sarcasm.
“Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 meters,” he said Thursday, apparently referring to recent photos of Putin sitting at one end of an extremely long table when he met with French President Emmanuel Macron.
“I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?” Zelenskyy said at a Thursday news conference.
Zelenskyy said it was sensible to have talks: “Any words are more important than shots.”
KHERSON, Ukraine — Zainish Hussain, a Pakistani citizen who moved to Kherson after marrying a Ukrainian woman, spoke to The Associated Press from his home, showing a nearly empty street outside.
For the past week they have struggled to hide the war from their 3-year-old daughter, trying to have her watch cartoons with headphones on to keep out the sounds of bombs or gunfire, but on Wednesday it became harder.
During what he described as the “scariest day of this life,” Hussain said that Russian tanks rolled down the street in front of his home and soldiers fired into the air to get civilians off the street. The city now has a curfew from 6 p.m. until 10 a.m.
Hussain said he is getting help from his family with cryptocurrency and hopes to hire a driver to escape to Romania.
BRUSSELS — With close to a million of refugees fleeing Ukraine already in the eastern nations of the European Union, the EU member states decided Thursday to grant them temporary protection and residency permits.
EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Thursday that millions more were expected to move into the 27-nation bloc to seek shelter, employment and education for the young.
Johansson called the quick adoption of the protection rules a “historic result” and said “the EU stands united to save lives.”
The EU Commission has already promised at least 500 million euros ($560 million) in humanitarian aid for the refugees. Johansson pointed to nations like Poland, where the population has gone out of its way to be welcoming to the refugees, as an example for others to follow.
“They need financial support now because they’re going to have to find accommodation for people to have to find schools for the children,” she said.
GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says its latest count of casualties in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last week has risen to 249 civilians killed and 553 injured.
That was only a small increase from its previous tally a day earlier, when it counted 227 civilian deaths and 525 people injured, likely a testament to the difficulty it has had in confirming deaths amid the continued fighting and bloodshed. Seventeen of those killed were children, and 27 were women, the latest count found.
The rights office admits that its figures so far are a vast undercount. It uses a strict methodology and counts only confirmed casualties. The latest count is as of midnight local time from Tuesday to Wednesday. Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers.
The U.N. office acknowledged that many reports are pending corroboration, such as in the town of Volnovakha in the government-controlled part of eastern Ukraine, “where mass civilian casualties have been alleged.”
STOCKHOLM — The eight-nation Arctic Council said its representatives will not travel to Russia for the body’s meetings and are temporarily “pausing participation in all meetings.”
In a statement, the members of the council, which include Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, said they “condemn Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and note the grave impediments to international cooperation, including in the Arctic, that Russia’s actions have caused.”
Russia currently holds the chairmanship of the intergovernmental forum that was created in 1996. Its aim is to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction, Indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
The Arctic regions are home to more than 4 million people.
ENERHODAR, Ukraine — The mayor of Enerhodar, site of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, says Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the edges of the city.
Enerhodar is a major energy hub on the left bank of the Dnieper River and the Khakhovka Reservoir that accounts for about one quarter of the country’s power generation due to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is Europe’s largest.
Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, said Thursday that a big Russian convoy was approaching the city and urged residents not to leave homes.
CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s state emergencies agency says that at least 22 civilians have been killed in a Russian strike on a residential area in the city of Chernihiv, a city of 280,000 in Ukraine’s north.
It said the casualties could be higher as rescuers are continuing to look through debris for more bodies.
GENEVA — The U.N. human rights chief says military operations in Ukraine are “escalating further as we speak” and warned of “concerning reports” of the use of cluster bombs.
Michelle Bachelet said the Ukrainian town of Volnovakha in the eastern Donetsk region, where pro-Russian separatists seized territory in 2014, leading to a drawn-out military conflict, “has been almost completely destroyed by shelling,” with residents hiding in basements.
She spoke Thursday during an “urgent debate” at the Human Rights Council, where country after country spoke out against Russia’s invasion. Many Western envoys sported blue or yellow ties, scarves, jackets or ribbons on their lapels – colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Delegates will vote Friday on a resolution that would create a three-person panel of experts to monitor human rights and report on rights abuses and violations in Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador Sheba Crocker said her country was “deeply alarmed” by reports of “Russia’s deployment of weapons such as cluster munitions and thermobarics against cities where innocent people are sheltering.” She urged countries to vote for the resolution.
Chen Xu, China’s ambassador, hailed diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine but said his country opposed efforts to “politicize” human rights. He said China would vote against the resolution.
BERLIN — German officials have denied that a superyacht allegedly owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has been seized in the port city of Hamburg.
Business magazine Forbes reported Thursday that German authorities had impounded the “Dilbar,” citing unnamed sources.
But a spokesperson for Hamburg state’s economy ministry said no such decision had yet been taken because it was unclear who the luxury yacht belonged to.
Susanne Meinecke told The Associated Press that the ship is registered to a holding company in Malta.
Still, the yacht is currently being serviced at a Hamburg shipyard and could not be moved even if the owner wanted it to, a German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Germany’s Economy Ministry said it was in the process of “swiftly and effectively implementing the Russia sanctions” but declined to say publicly which assets had been seized, if any.
Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.
RUKLA, Lithuania — Germany’s president has praised Russians who are speaking out against their country’s attack on Ukraine, saying they deserve respect and support.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose position is largely ceremonial, said Thursday that “many Russians in science, business and culture know what the Russian army is doing in Ukraine and condemn the war.”
“They are demanding an end to fighting and peace,” Steinmeier said. “We admire their bravery, they too deserve our respect and our support.”
Speaking during a visit to German troops in Lithuania, Steinmeier said he expected the sanctions against Russia to prompt businesspeople in the country to consider “when this war can have any advantages for Russia in the long-term.”
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda said the war would have “painful consequences” for Russia” and called for European Union members to support Ukraine joining the bloc.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office says a second round of talks with Russia about the war in Ukraine has begun in neighboring Belarus.
A video released by Zelenskyy’s office Thursday showed the informally dressed Ukrainian delegation walking into the meeting room where they shook hands with Russian delegates in suits and ties.
The talks are aimed at stopping the fighting that has sent more than 1 million people fleeing over Ukraine’s borders, but the two sides appeared to have little common ground.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that it must quickly accept the Kremlin’s demand for its “demilitarization” and declare itself neutral, formally renouncing its bid to join NATO. Putin has long contended that Ukraine’s turn toward the West is a threat to Moscow, an argument he used to justify last week’s invasion.
The talks came as the Russian military made significant gains in the south of Ukraine as part of an effort to sever the country’s connection to the Black and Azov seas.
PARIS — A French official says French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken for 90 minutes by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who told Macron that military operations in Ukraine are “going according to plan.”
The official at the French Elysee presidential palace said Putin told Macron the conflict would continue “until the end” unless negotiations meet his terms.
Putin said negotiations must center on the “neutralization and disarmament of Ukraine,” according to the French official. Putin reportedly said he would attain that goal by military means, if not by political and diplomatic means.
The official said the two leaders spoke at Putin’s request. The French official could not be named in keeping with Elysee practice.
__By Elaine Ganley
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s most powerful politician says his country will raise its defense spending to 3% of GDP starting next year, amid the new security threat following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is deputy prime minister for security and the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, told parliament that Poland needs a strong army.
“The army should have deterrent power. We want peace, we do not want war,” Kaczynski said.
Poland is already one of the handful of NATO countries whose defense spending exceeds the alliance’s target of 2% of GDP, now at 2.2%. The country had already planned to increase spending to 2.5% in 2030 but now plans to increase spending to 3% in 2023, Kaczynski said.
BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister has spoken out against an embargo on Russian energy imports, saying it could endanger social cohesion in the country.
Germany gets about half of its coal and gas from Russia, and a third of its oil.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, said Thursday that his country needs to “free itself from imports of Russian energy” but acknowledged that doing so will take time.
Habeck told reporters in Berlin that the government is working on a series of measures to quickly increase energy independence, including securing new suppliers and ramping up the use of renewables.
He played down the suggestion that Germany should extend the lifetime of its three remaining nuclear power plants, which are scheduled to be shut down this year. But he left open the possibility that this might be considered, “if it helps.”
Habeck said the government would also work on energy efficiency measures to reduce demand and encouraged Germans to do their bit, too.
“If you want to hurt Putin a bit, then save energy,” he said.
AMSTERDAM — An Amsterdam museum says it has cut its close links to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Hermitage Amsterdam said Thursday that it has long distanced itself from politics in Russia under President Vladimir Putin as it built close ties with the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, giving the Amsterdam museum “access to one of the world’s most famous art collections, which we could draw from” for exhibitions.
“Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine makes keeping this distance no longer tenable,” the museum said in a statement.
The Amsterdam museum says that, “Like everyone else, we hope for peace. Also for changes in the future of Russia that will allow us to restore ties with the Hermitage Saint Petersburg.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Russia has declined to attend as an observer a NATO drill in Norway with about 30,00 troops from 27 nations later this month.
Norway is scheduled to host the Cold Response exercise from March 13. The drill, which has been planned for months, is aimed at training in cold-weather conditions in case of attack. Russia had been invited to observe it.
The Norwegian Armed Forces said in a statement to The Associated Press that they want “to be open and transparent about this exercise, so that there will be no misunderstandings,” and stressed that the drill was “of a defensive nature, where we practice and train with our allies and partner countries.”
“With the tension that is in Europe, it is important that we practice and train to be able to defend ourselves,” the statement said, adding that the Norwegians “would have preferred Russia to send observers, but at the same time we respect their decision.”
The Scandinavian country shares a nearly 200-kilometer (124-mile) land border with Russia.
PARIS — The United Nations’ cultural agency says it is assessing the damage to Ukraine’s educational and cultural institutions and its heritage sites amid Russia’s invasion.
UNESCO’s director general Audrey Azoulay is calling on the Russian forces and the international community to protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage.
She said in a statement Thursday that the UN agency is coordinating efforts with Ukrainian authorities to mark as quickly as possible key historic monuments and sites across Ukraine with an internationally recognized sign for the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict.
UNESCO will also organize a meeting with the country’s museum directors to help them safeguard collections and cultural property as the war rages.
Ukraine has seven World Heritage sites, located in the western city of Lviv; in the capital, Kyiv; in the Black Sea port city of Odesa; and in the second largest city of Kharkiv. All four cities have been subjected to artillery attacks and air bombardment by the invading Russian forces.
At least seven educational institutions have been damaged in attacks over the past week, including the Karazin National University in Kharkiv on Wednesday, the UNESCO statement said.
The nationwide closure of schools and education facilities since the assault on Ukraine began has affected the entire school-aged population: 6 million students between ages of 3 and 17, and more than 1.5 million enrolled in higher education institutions, according to the statement.
TORONTO — Canada is announcing a 35% tariff on any imports from Russia or Belarus.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is removing those countries’ “most favored nation” status as a trading partner, which is normally extended to fellow World Trade Organization member countries.
Freeland said Thursday that Canada is encouraging its allies to take the same step.
Russia and Belarus join North Korea in being downgraded for trade.
LVIV, Ukraine — As Russian forces advance on strategic points in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities on Thursday called on compatriots to launch a guerrilla war against Russian forces.
In a video message posted online, Ukrainian presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovich urged men to cut down trees and destroy rear columns of Russian troops.
“We urge people to begin providing total popular resistance to the enemy in the occupied territories,” Arestovich said.
“The weak side of the Russian army is the rear – if we burn them now and block the rear, the war will stop in a matter of days,” he said.
Arestovich said that such tactics are already being used in Konotop in northeast Ukraine and Melitopol near the Azov Sea, which were captured by Russian troops.
He called on the civilian population to build barricades in cities, hold rallies with Ukrainian flags, and create online networking groups. “Total resistance … this is our Ukrainian trump card and this is what we can do best in the world,” Arestovich said, recalling guerrilla actions in Nazi-occupied Ukraine during World War II.
HELSINKI — A Panama-flagged cargo vessel belonging to an Estonian shipping company has reportedly driven into a mine and sank off the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.
The m/v Helt was built in 1985 and is owned by the VISTA Shipping Agency AS, Estonian media outlets reported Thursday, adding that two crew members have been rescued, while four others are missing.
Ukrainian authorities said earlier this week that Russian sailors had captured the ship.
Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets said Estonian officials are currently dealing with the issue and the ministry would give details on the incident as soon as possible.
STOCKHOLM — The organization that awards the Nobel Prize in literature broke a long-standing practice of not making political statements by condemning “in the strongest possible terms the Russian regime’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
The Swedish Academy said Thursday that its history and mission “are deeply rooted in the traditions of freedom of expression, freedom of belief and freedom of inquiry,”
“We therefore join the legion of our fellow academies, literary and cultural institutions, places of higher learning, defenders of a free press, human rights organizations and nation states in expressing our abhorrence of the Russian government’s unjustified attack on Ukraine and its people,” the academy said in a statement.
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces have taken a strategic Ukrainian seaport and set siege to another as Moscow tries to cut its neighbor off from the Black Sea.
The Russian military said Thursday it had control of Kherson, which has a population of 280,000 people, making it the first major city to fall since a Russian invasion began last week.
Russian armored vehicles were seen in the otherwise empty streets of Kherson, in videos shared with The Associated Press by a resident
Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in Mariupol, in the outskirts of the strategic the Azov Sea port city. Electricity and phone connections are mostly not working in Mariupol, which faces food and water shortages.
The Russians are pressing their offensive on a variety of fronts, even as the Kremlin says it is ready for talks to end the fighting that has triggered more than 1 million refugees.
LONDON — The British government is defending its sanctions against rich Russians amid criticism it is lagging compared to its American and European allies.
The U.K. has slapped sanctions on only a handful of wealthy Russians accused of links to the Kremlin who have assets in Britain. That is fewer than the European Union or the U.S.
The Conservative government is under pressure to add more names, including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who has announced plans to sell the team.
The government says more individuals will be sanctioned but it has not said when. It denies the delay is giving oligarchs time to move assets out of the U.K., long a favored haven for Russian wealth.
Opposition lawmakers are also urging the government to seize oligarchs’ properties in Britain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, denied the government was dragging its feet. He said penalizing individuals was only part of the picture and it was sanctions on large banks and companies that would put the most pressure on the Russian government.
LONDON — The British satellite company OneWeb says it is cancelling all launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which is run by the Russian Aerospace Forces and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.
The firm said in a one-line statement that “the Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur.”
OneWeb had been due to launch a batch of its internet satellites Friday on Russian rockets from the base.
The launch was put in doubt after Russia demanded the British government sell its stake in OneWeb, which it partly owns. It also wanted a guarantee from the company that none of its satellites would have military uses.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown international space cooperation into turmoil and put a planned Europe-Russian mission to Mars this year on hold.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says his country will freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs close to President Vlaimir Putin as Tokyo steps up sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kishida said Thursday that Japan is adding oligarchs to the list of sanctions as part of a collective effort by the United States and European countries. The step adds to Japan’s freezing of the assets of Putin and top officials in his government.
Kishida also said that Japan has taken steps to disconnect seven Russian banks from the SWIFT international financial messaging systems.
Japan, which wants to regain control over some Russian-held islands in a dispute that still prevents the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities, used to be reluctant to impose strict sanctions on Russia.
MADRID — Spain’s prime minister says the 27 European Union countries will be strict about applying sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his circle, aiming to asphyxiate the Russian economy over the invasion of Ukraine.
“Putin has to know that we are not going to stop applying the sanctions against him and the oligarchy that has prospered within his regime, to isolate it and choke it economically to end an unjustified and unfair invasion,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Thursday.
Spain’s defense ministry announced that two planes loaded with Spanish offensive military material will depart for Ukraine on Friday.
The cargo includes 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers and 700,000 rounds of ammunition for rifles and machine guns, as well as an unspecified number of light machine guns.
GENEVA — The U.N.’s top human rights body is holding an urgent debate on the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of creating a panel to investigate any abuses during Russia’s war with its neighbor.
The Human Rights Council meeting is set to culminate in a vote Friday on whether to set up a three-person expert panel, following Russia’s invasion last week.
The vote by the 47-member-state body, which counts Ukraine and Russia as members, offers a bellwether of international sentiment about the Kremlin’s invasion. It comes a day after the U.N. General Assembly in New York voted 141-5, with 35 abstentions, to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
The panel would seek to collect and analyze evidence that could be used by a court, such as the International Criminal Court, which has already launched its own investigation over Russia’s invasion.
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