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Live updates: UN urges restraint at Ukraine nuke facilities


By The Associated Press

The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis:

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VIENNA — The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency says it has been informed by Ukraine that “unidentified armed forces” have taken control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant, adding that there had been “no casualties or destruction at the industrial site.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi called for “maximum restraint” to avoid actions that could put Ukraine’s nuclear facilities at risk.

“In line with its mandate, the IAEA is closely monitoring developments in Ukraine with a special focus on the safety and security of its nuclear power plants and other nuclear-related facilities,” he said in a statement.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. aviation regulators widened the area of eastern Europe and Russia where U.S. airlines and pilots are barred because of the conflict.

In a new directive Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibited U.S. airlines from flying over any part of Ukraine or Belarus and the western part of Russia.

Earlier restrictions had barred U.S. airlines from flying over the eastern part of Ukraine. The restrictions cover both passenger and cargo flights, but not military ones.

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MOSCOW — A Russian military plane crashed in the country’s Voronezh region that borders with Ukraine, the Russian military said Thursday night.

The An-26 plane was carrying out a planned flight transporting military equipment and crashed because of technical failure, military officials said, adding that the plane’s entire crew died in the crash.

They didn’t specify how many crew members were on board of the plane.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden says the sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine will not disrupt the global oil and natural gas markets.

Biden says, “Our sanctions package is specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue.”

The president announced a series of sanctions at a White House speech Thursday. The sanctions include restrictions on exports to Russia and sanctions on Russian banks and state-controlled companies.

Biden also says that U.S. oil and gas companies should not exploit the geopolitical risks to hike their prices and raise their profits.

A key concern has been preserving Russian oil and natural gas exports, which are vital sources for Europe and other countries. Financial markets already view the Russian invasion in Ukraine as straining energy supplies with the soon to expire futures contract for Brent crude increasing more than 5% to top $100 a barrel.

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UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations has asked the president of the 193-member General Assembly to prepare for an emergency session in the coming days in light of Russia’s military aggression.

Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted Thursday that the meeting should be held under the so-called “Uniting for Peace” resolution. The resolution gives the General Assembly the power to call emergency meetings to consider matters of international peace and security when the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia in the strongest terms possible for attacking Ukraine and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces — knowing that Russia will veto the legally binding measure, according to a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

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ROME — Addressing fellow G-7 leaders, Italian Premier Mario Draghi warned that the crisis over Ukraine “could last for a long time, we must be prepared.”

He thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for sharing intelligence in recent weeks. He also had praise Thursday evening for the European Commission for putting what he called “a good proposal of sanctions on the table.”

Italy is “completely aligned with France, Germany and the European Union” on sanctions, he said.

“We must be united, firm, decisive and we must re-affirm in every possible moment our full support to Ukraine,’ Draghi said in his G-7 remarks, according to the premier’s office.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli police say they arrested four people suspected of scrawling anti-Putin graffiti on the gate of the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv during a protest.

Several hundred people staged a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Another smaller protest was held outside the Russian consulate in the northern port city of Haifa.

Israel is home to a large population of immigrants former Soviet Union and their descendants who arrived in the 1990s and 2000s.

Israel maintains good relations with both Ukraine and Russia and has tried to avoid involvement in the conflict. Earlier on Thursday Israel’s foreign minister condemned Russia’s invasion.

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UNITED NATIONS — Repeating a plea for Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine, the U.N. chief said Thursday the world body was freeing up $20 million for urgent humanitarian needs in the country.

“Stop the military operation. Bring the troops back to Russia,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at U.N. headquarters. He called the offensive wrong and unacceptable, but not irreversible.

“It’s not too late to save this generation from the scourge of war,” Guterres said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the assault is meant to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting the government for nearly eight years. The U.S., however, said ahead of time that Russia would try to justify an invasion by falsely claiming that the rebel-held areas were under attack.

The U.N. said Thursday it was relocating some of its roughly 1,500 staffers in Ukraine. However, Guterres reiterated that the U.N. will continue providing aid to people in the country, “regardless of who or where they are.”

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BRUSSELS — Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said European Union leaders need to adopt sanctions that will be strong enough to impact the Russian economy and the country’s military industrial complex.

“We don’t need sanctions that bark, we need sanctions that bite,” De Croo said upon his arrival at an urgent meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to discuss a new package of measures targeting Russia.

De Croo said the main goal of the sanctions should be to make it hard for Russian financial institutions to access international markets.

Asked whether Russia should be expelled from the Swift payment system financial system that moves money from bank to bank around the world, De Croo said he is open for discussions on that topic.

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he spoke with President Zelenskyy and says Canada is imposing more severe sanctions.

The sanctions will target 58 people and entities connected to Russia, including members of that country’s elite and their families, the paramilitary organization known as the Wagner Group and major Russian banks.

The measures, announced Thursday after Trudeau attended a virtual G-7 meeting, will also affect members of the Russian Security Council, including key cabinet ministers.

Canada is also cancelling existing export permits for Russia and will not issue new ones.

Trudeau also says the federal government will be prioritizing immigration applications for Ukrainians who want to come to Canada and is launching a dedicated telephone line for anyone who has any urgent questions about immigrating from Ukraine.

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KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukrainian president says that Ukraine has lost control over the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant after a fierce battle.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the condition of the plant’s facilities, a confinement shelter and storage of nuclear waste is unknown.

A nuclear reactor in then-Soviet Ukraine exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe in the world’s worst nuclear disaster. The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.

Podolyak said that after “absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe.”

He charged that Russia may mount provocations there and described the situation as “one of the most serious threats to Europe today.”

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NEW DELHI, India — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin late Thursday night and appealed for an “immediate cessation of violence,” his office said in a statement.

Modi called for efforts to return to diplomatic discussions, saying the “differences between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue.”

Modi also expressed concern over Indian citizens in Ukraine – officials earlier in the day said some 4,000 out of the 20,000 Indian nationals had been evacuated with efforts on to bring the rest back home.

The conversation between the two leaders comes hours after the Ukraine envoy in New Delhi urged Modi to contact Putin, saying the country “has a special relationship with Russia and New Delhi can play a more active role in controlling the situation.”

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WARSAW — Some of the first refugees from Ukraine have arrived in European Union member Poland by road and rail.

A scheduled train from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine arrived Thursday afternoon in the Polish town of Przemysl, near Ukraine’s western border, carrying a few hundred passengers.

The passengers of various ages, arriving with bags and backpacks, told The Associated Press they were fleeing war. Some live in Poland and were returning urgently from visits to their homeland.

The chief of Poland’s border guards, Gen. Tomasz Praga, said there was a visible increase in the number of people wanting to cross into Poland.

Officials said Poland has prepared at least eight centers with food, medical care and places to rest.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that “innocent people are being killed” in Ukraine and appealed to the Poles to extend every possible assistance to the Ukrainians who have found themselves in need of help.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — The African Union chair is urging an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine “to preserve the world from the consequences of planetary conflict.”

The statement by Senegal President Macky Sall and AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat also calls on Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and international law, expressing “extreme concern at the very serious and dangerous situation.”

Few among Africa’s 54 countries have publicly reacted to the invasion.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo – Kosovo leaders on Thursday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim of similarities with Ukraine’s eastern rebel provinces.

Kosovo’s president, prime minister and other senior ministers issued a joint statement denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The massive and unprovoked attack against Ukraine’s cities and villages is one of the most dangerous hits made to the architecture of the international security built after World War II,” said the statement.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 after a bloody conflict with Serbia years earlier left more than 10,000 people dead and triggered a NATO intervention. Pristina’s government is recognized by the United States and most EU nations, but Belgrade has refused to recognize its independence and relies on support from Russia and China in its bid to retain claims on the territory.

“Dictator Putin’s effort to refer to the Kosovo case and draw parallel are totally unstable, abusive and an attempt to camouflage the lack of any base or reason for the barbarous attack of its forces against a sovereign state,” said the statement.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would aim to cut Russia off from the U.K.’s financial markets as he announced a new set of sanctions in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions include freezing the assets of all major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, the nation’s second-biggest bank, Johnson said Thursday. Britain also plans to bar Russian companies and the Russian government from raising money on U.K. markets.

Britain will also ban the export of a wide range of high-tech products, including semiconductors, to Russia and bar the nation’s flagship airline, Aeroflot, from landing at U.K. airports.

The slate of sanctions comes days after Johnson was criticized for acting too cautiously in response to Russian aggression earlier this week.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystaiko, earlier called on world leaders to ban trade in Russian oil and gas and block foreign investment in the country.

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MOSCOW — The Russian Defense Ministry has formally confirmed that its forces have moved into Ukraine from Crimea.

Until Thursday’s statement Russia had said only that it unleashed a barrage of air and missile strikes on Ukrainian air bases, air defense batteries and other military facilities.

The ministry said it has destroyed a total of 83 Ukrainian military facilities. Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov confirmed that Russian ground troops advanced toward the city of Kherson northwest of the Crimea peninsula.

Kherson sits on water reservoir used in the past to provide the bulk of fresh water for Crimea until Ukraine cut it with a dam in 2017 in response to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Konashenkov said Thursday’s move allows the resumption of the water supply to Crimea.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has made a televised address to the nation condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine sharply and vowed that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will not win.”

Scholz said Thursday evening that “we will not accept this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia” and vowed to imply severe sanction together with Germany’s allies.

Regarding the military attack on Ukraine, Scholz stressed that Putin “is on his own. It was not the Russian people who decided to go to war. He alone bears full responsibility for it. This war is Putin’s war.”

The chancellor said that “Putin should not underestimate NATO’s determination to defend all its members. That applies explicitly to our NATO partners in the Baltic States, in Poland and in Romania, in Bulgaria and in Slovakia. Without ifs and buts. Germany and its allies know how to protect themselves.”

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UNITED NATIONS — A senior U.S. official says the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia in the strongest terms possible for attacking Ukraine and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces — knowing that Russia will veto the legally binding measure.

The United States believes it is very important to put the resolution to a vote to underscore Russia’s international isolation, and emphasizes that the veto will be followed quickly by a resolution in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly where there are no vetoes, the official said Thursday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

“This is a first step in how the U.N. responds to this premeditated war of choice that Russia has chosen to take, and we will see action in the General Assembly in the coming days,” he said, adding that it is part of a much broader, coordinated response that includes steps the Biden administration and its allies are taking.

The resolution is drafted under Article 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced militarily, according to the official.

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By Edith M. Lederer

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says he was “forced” to order a military action in Ukraine because of the Western refusal to heed Russian security demands.

Speaking at a Kremlin meeting with businesspeople Thursday, Putin said the military action was a “forced measure” that stemmed from rising security risks for Russia.

He said that he was surprised by the West’s “intransigence” regarding Moscow’s security demands. “I was surprised that didn’t move a millimeter on any issue,” he said. “They have left us no chance to act differently.”

Turning to Western sanctions, he said “Russia remains part of the global economy and isn’t going to hurt the system that it is part of as long as it remains there.”

“Our partners should realize that and not set a goal to push us out of the system,” he said in an apparent warning to the West.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensnkyy has urged Moscow to end hostilities, adding that Russian airborne troops have been checked outside Kyiv.

“It wasn’t Ukraine that chose the path of war, but Ukraine is offering to go back to the path of peace,” he said Thursday.

He said a Russian airborne force in Hostomel airport outside Kyiv, which has a big runway, has been stopped and is being destroyed.

The Ukrainian leader said many Russian warplanes and armored vehicles were destroyed but didn’t give numbers. He also said an unspecified number of Russian troops was captured.

He said a difficult situation is developing in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city just over 20 kilometers from the Russian border. In the north the Russians are slowly advancing toward Chernihiv, Zelenskyy said.

He appealed to global leaders, saying that “if you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer strong assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door.”

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BERLIN — Group of Seven leaders have strongly condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The German government, which currently heads the G7, put out a joint statement after a virtual leaders’ meeting Thursday, vowing to bring “forward severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions.”

It called “on all partners and members of the international community to condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms, to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, and raise their voice against this blatant violation of the fundamental principles of international peace and security.”

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HELSINKI — Baltic NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have received the first batches of U.S. military troops and equipment promised this week by U.S. President Joe Biden in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

An undisclosed number of U.S. F-35 fighters landed Thursday afternoon at NATO’s air base in Amari, near Estonia’s capital Tallinn, Estonian media reported. F-35 fighters were reported to have arrived also at NATO’s air base in Lithuania.

On Wednesday evening, the first 40 American soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in Latvia, Latvian media reported.

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A senior U.S. defense official says Thursday’s attack by Russia appears to be the first phase in what will likely be a multiple phased, large-scale invasion.

The official said it began around 9:30 p.m. U.S. eastern time, with land- and sea-based missile launches. The official said that roughly more than 100 missiles, primarily short-range ballistic missiles, but also medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and sea-launched missiles, were launched in the first few hours of the attack.

The official said the Russians are moving on three axes: From Crimea to Kherson, from Belarus toward Kyiv, and from the northeast to Kharkiv.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it’s not clear how many Russian troops are in Ukraine now, and the main targets of the air assault have been barracks, ammunition warehouses, and 10 airfields. The official said Russian ground forces began to move in to Ukraine from Belarus around 5 a.m. Eastern time.

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By Lolita C. Baldor in Washington D.C.

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LONDON — Hundreds of protesters have gathered in London to urge Britain and other democracies to step up action against Russia.

Ukrainians living in the U.K. and activists gathered outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office Thursday, singing the Ukrainian national anthem.

Natalia Ravlyuk, who helped organize the protest, said they wanted the “toughest sanctions and total isolation of Russia now.”

“We … feel betrayed by democratic states because we have been talking about this war for eight years,” she said. “They just need to wake up and stop Putin now.”

Earlier dozens of protesters also gathered outside the Russian embassy in London.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations migration agency says it’s ready to respond to emerging humanitarian needs in Ukraine.

Antonio Vitorino, director general of the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, said: “IOM … is committed to staying and delivering vital assistance to the people of Ukraine.”

“Eight years of conflict in Ukraine have displaced over 1.4 million people who now rely on assistance to meet their daily needs,” he said in a statement. “This escalation will only deepen the humanitarian needs and compound the suffering of millions of families.”

BUCHAREST, Romania — The interior ministry in Moldova, which shares a long border with Ukraine, says the country has set up two temporary centers to manage an influx of refugees.

The ministry said the centers, in Palanca and Ocnita in northern Moldova, are meant to “provide basic humanitarian, legal and food assistance to immigrants” for a period of 72 hours.

It said that the border has “been crossed by 6,937 people, of which 3,000 are Ukrainian citizens,” but didn’t specify over what period.

BOSTON — Ukraine’s cybersecurity service has reported continuing cyberattacks and said cellular networks were saturated with voice calls, suggesting people used text-messaging.

A distributed-denial-of-service attack that knocked some government websites offline Wednesday continued and there were sporadic internet outages across the country, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for the U.S. network management firm Kentik Inc.

Measures to blunt the attacks were having some success, however, as major government websites including the defense and interior ministries were reachable Thursday.

Madory said Ukraine’s internet was “under severe stress presently.” Some cybersecurity experts said prior to the invasion that it might be in the Kremlin’s intelligence — and information war — interests not to try to take down Ukraine’s internet during a military attack.

Ukraine’s cybersecurity service published a list on its Telegram channel of known “active disinformation” channels to avoid.

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and for the first time laid responsibility directly on Moscow for the tensions and violence in Hungary’s eastern neighbor.

A member of the European Union and NATO that borders Ukraine, Hungary under Orban has pursued close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a point of concern for many of Hungary’s western partners.

Orban said Thursday that the number of Ukrainian refugees approaching Hungary’s borders was likely to grow. He said Hungary is “prepared to care for them and will be able to meet this challenge quickly and effectively.”

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister has offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but stopped short of issuing a public condemnation of Russia’s attack.

Naftali Bennett said “our hearts go out to the citizens of Ukraine, who got into this situation without any wrongdoing on their part” during a speech Thursday.

Earlier in the day Israel’s foreign minister issued a formal condemnation of Russia’s attack.

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is still holding out hope for negotiations after Russia attacked Ukraine.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said in a statement that “there is still time for good will, there is still room for negotiation, there is still room for the exercise of a wisdom that prevents the prevalence of partisan interests, protects the legitimate aspirations of each and saves the world from the madness and horrors of war.”

The Vatican has been loth to call out Russia by name, for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church, a key focus of Francis’ ecumenical efforts.

The Vatican issued Parolin’s statement as the head of the largest eastern rite church in communion with Rome, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was in a bomb shelter under the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kiev along with many other people, his office in Rome said.

MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Ministry says the Russian military has destroyed 74 Ukrainian military facilities, including 11 air bases.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered that Ukrainian servicemen be treated “with respect” and those who lay down their weapons offered safe corridors.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the loss of a Su-25 attack jet due to “pilot error.”

BERLIN — The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has expanded its recommendations following the Russian attack on Ukraine to warn operators against flying over Moldova and Belarus and “exercise caution” over large parts of Russia.

EASA already had warned of high risks to civilian aircraft over Ukraine early Thursday morning. In an update, it cited a notice issued by Moldova closing its airspace for all flights due to the Ukrainian crisis.

It pointed to “a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft.”

It said operators also should “exercise caution” when operated in airspace controlled by Moscow and Rostov-on-Don in Russia “due to heightened military activity which may include launches of mid-range missiles penetrating into controlled airspace.”

BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister says the country is putting in place additional measures to safeguard its energy supply amid the escalating tensions with Russia.

Germany gets about half of its natural gas and coal and about a third of its oil from Russia.

Robert Habeck told reporters in Berlin Thursday that measures already taken to fill gas reserves would ensure that “we will get safely through the winter.”

“Further measures have been put in place for the next winter”, he said, including legally requiring the owners of gas storage facilities in Germany to fill them during the summer.

Habeck said Germany’s national oil reserve would be sufficient for 90 days, should that need to be tapped.

BRUSSELS — A top European Union official is pledging to make Russia suffer with “massive and targeted sanctions” that will particularly hit the country’s elite.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the package of EU measures will include financial sanctions that will severely limit Russia’s access to the capital markets and have a severe impact on all sectors of its economy.

She said ahead of an EU summit Thursday that “these sanctions will suppress Russia’s economic growth, increase the borrowing costs, raise inflations, intensify capital outflow and gradually erode its industrial basis.”

Von der Leyen said the package also will aim to limit Russia’s access to crucial technologies.

She said that “our measures will weaken Russia technological positions in key areas, actually from which the elite makes most of their money.” She cited high-tech components and “cutting-edge software.”

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