By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is expected to announce it will send Ukraine a small number of high-tech, medium-range rocket systems.
That’s a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders have been begging for as they struggle to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The U.S. plan tries to strike a balance between the desire to help Ukraine battle ferocious Russian artillery barrages while not providing arms that could allow Ukraine to hit targets deep inside Russia and trigger an escalation in the war.
President Joe Biden said Monday that the U.S. would not send Ukraine “rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”
Any weapons system can shoot into Russia if it’s close enough to the border. The aid package expected to be unveiled Wednesday would send what the U.S. considers medium-range rockets — they generally can travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers).
The expectation is that Ukraine could use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Sievierodonetsk.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Sievierodonetsk mayor says Russian forces seize half of city
— In big bid to punish Moscow, EU bans most Russia oil imports
— A ‘terrible nightmare’: Treating Ukraine’s wounded civilians
— War crimes meeting held at Hague over Russia-Ukraine war
— Hungary’s Orban wins exemption in EU Russian oil embargo
— Turkish leader writes on ‘risks’ of Sweden, Finland in NATO
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine — A regional governor on Tuesday said Russian troops have won control over most of a city that has been the epicenter of fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said “most of Sievierodonetsk is under the Russian control.” He added in a messaging app statement that Ukrainian forces continued to fight the Russians in fierce street battles and said the city has not yet been surrounded.
Sievierodonetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region, has been the focus of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas. It has come under relentless Russian bombardment.
Haidai said that Tuesday’s Russian air strike hit a tank with nitric acid at a chemical factory, releasing toxic fumes.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday said the Biden administration supports the shipment of Russian grain and fertilizer to address increasing global food insecurity sparked by the war in Ukraine.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters at U.N. headquarters that there are no U.S. sanctions on Russian shipments of grain and fertilizer, but she said companies are “a little nervous” and have been holding back.
Thomas-Greenfield said the United States is prepared to give “comfort letters” to grain and fertilizer exporters and insurance companies in an attempt to get badly needed agricultural products out of Russia.
She said the Biden administration is “very supportive” of efforts by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to allow grain exports out of Ukraine by train and the Black Sea, as well as his work to ensure Russian food and fertilizer have unrestricted access to global markets.
A U.N. spokesman said Tuesday that Rebeca Grynspan, the secretary-general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, visited Moscow on Monday and held “constructive discussions” with First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov on facilitating Russian grain and fertilizer exports.
Grynspan was in Washington on Tuesday meeting with U.S. officials, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Global hunger levels are at a new high, Guterres said. He said Ukraine and Russia together produce almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil, while Russia and its ally Belarus are the world’s number two and three producers of potash, a key ingredient of fertilizer.
KYIV, Ukraine — A regional Ukrainian governor on Tuesday said the Russian bombardment has caused a leak of toxic nitric acid from an industrial facility.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said a Russian air strike on Sievierodonetsk hit a tank with nitric acid at a chemical factory, causing a massive leak of its fumes.
He posted a picture of a huge rose cloud hanging over the city and urged residents not to leave their homes and wear gas masks or make improvised masks from fabric soaked in soda solution.
Sievierodonetsk has been the focus of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas.
It has come under intensive artillery barrage and airstrikes as the Russian forces fought Ukrainian troops for control of the city in violent street battles.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday said the country is on a “good path” to receive new financing from the European Union to support Ukrainian refugees and compensate for weapons Poland gave to Ukraine.
More than 3 million refugees have entered Poland from Ukraine. While some passed through and others returned home, most are still in Poland and receiving government support.
Poland has also been supplying various weapons to Ukraine.
“Albeit slowly, but this (EU) support for Poland is coming … and we are on the good path to receive new means for the help for the refugees as well as linked to the weapons that we have handed to Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.
BRUSSELS — Italian Premier Mario Draghi said Tuesday that Italian energy company ENI is able to pay Russia for gas without violating sanctions because Russia considers the payment completed as soon as the euro payment goes through.
“Then it is converted to rubles on the market by an agent of Gazprom, not through the Russian central bank,’ Draghi said.
He said it appears that Russia has imposed different conditions on different countries, and “in some cases where there were suspensions they asked payments in rubles, period.”
ENI also intends to go to a tribunal in Sweden and ask if this form of payment violates the contract. So far the court has not made a ruling, as this just changed last week, Draghi said.
BRUSSELS — The European Union urged its international partners to avoid placing trade barriers on farm products as Russia’s war on Ukraine risks further fueling a possible global food crisis.
“We call on all partners not to restrict trade on agricultural products,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after an EU summit Tuesday in Brussels.
Ukraine has said Russia is blocking the export of 22 million tons of its grain, some of it destined for Africa. African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to the U.N.
Von der Leyen said the EU is trying to help get food out by road and rail, but land transport assistance might only provide for a fifth of Ukraine’s usual monthly exports.
“It is of course more tedious and expensive, but it is necessary to get this wheat out,” she said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the EU’s sanctions are making things worse. Putin said he’s willing to help ease concerns if the restrictive measures are lifted.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine has welcomed the European Union’s decision to block most imports of Russian oil.
“The oil embargo will speed up the countdown to the collapse of the Russian economy and war machine,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry estimated the ban could cost Russia “tens of billions of dollars” and praised the European Union for “not only making it harder for the Kremlin to finance the (Russian Federation’s) aggression but also shoring up its own energy security.”
BRUSSELS — French President Emmanuel Macron vowed France will continue to “fight against impunity” after a French journalist was killed by shell shrapnel while covering a Ukrainian evacuation operation.
The French national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office opened an investigation for war crimes.
Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, 32, was killed Monday as he was covering a humanitarian operation near Sievierodonetsk, a key city in the Donbas region that is being hotly contested by Russian and Ukrainian forces, according to his employer, French news broadcaster BFM TV.
Macron, speaking after a European summit in Brussels, said “journalists, humanitarian workers must be protected in war zones. Civilians must be protected.”
Russia “is breaching all international laws,” he said.
BRUSSELS — Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Germany is working on a deal with Greece that would see Athens deliver old military equipment to Ukraine and get armored personnel carriers from Germany to fill the gap.
Germany has faced criticism for a perceived reluctance to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, which the government rejects. It points among other things to arrangements for NATO allies to deliver older equipment — particularly of Soviet design — to Kyiv and then have modern material supplied by Germany.
Scholz pointed Tuesday to an arrangement already made with the Czech Republic. He said he had agreed with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to draw up a similar deal after a European Union summit. He didn’t give details, but said it will be finalized by the countries’ defense ministries and can be implemented quickly.
Scholz said he also spoke to his Polish counterpart about such arrangements.
BRUSSELS — The chair of the African Union, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, has told European Union leaders that Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports is paving the way for a “catastrophic scenario” of widespread shortages and price hikes across his continent.
In an address to leaders gathered in Brussels Tuesday for a summit focused on helping Ukraine, Sall said that a halt to grain and fertilizer exports via the Black Sea is very worrying for a continent hosting 282 million undernourished people. He said that the price of fertilizer across Africa has already tripled compared to 2021.
“According to some estimates, cereal yields in Africa will fall by 20 to 50 percent this year,” Sall said. “We would like to see everything possible done to free up available grain stocks and ensure transportation and market access.”
Charles Michel, the EU Council president, said that “the EU is sparing no efforts to free Ukraine’s exports over land and exploring alternative sea routes.”
African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures. The African Development Bank is already reporting a 45% increase in wheat prices on the continent.
Russia’s top diplomat has again blamed the hampering of exports of Ukrainian grain and a global food crisis on Kyiv and the West.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia guarantees “free export of Ukrainian grain by ships that are now locked in Ukrainian ports,” but first Ukraine needs to “de-mine the coastal waters that are in the territorial sea of Ukraine.”
Lavrov told a news conference after meeting with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani that if that is done, “in the open sea … Russia’s naval forces will ensure the unimpeded passage of these ships to the Mediterranean Sea and further to their destinations,”
He also blamed Western nations for creating “a flurry of artificial problems with closing their ports for Russian vessels, with cutting logistical and financial chains.” He added that they must “seriously think what is more important for them — to do PR on the issue of the food security or solve the problem with concrete steps.”
MOSCOW — The deputy head of Russia’s Security Council is alleging that sanctions against the country, including new measures targeting oil exports, are aimed at hurting ordinary Russians and motivated by hatred.
Dmitry Medvedev, who is also a former president and prime minister, wrote on Telegram Tuesday that sanctions don’t affect the Russian political elite and won’t be “fatal” for big business, but are “directed precisely against the people of Russia.”
He claimed that measures affecting oil and gas are aimed at forcing the government to introduce budget cuts.
“An embargo on buying oil and gas from Russia? The same thing: to reduce the budget incomes and force the state to abandon its social obligations” such as raising payments in line with inflation, he wrote.
The European Union has agreed on a ban affecting all Russian exports of oil by sea to the EU, but not by a key pipeline to some Central and Eastern European countries including Hungary. The EU hasn’t introduced an embargo on Russian gas.
After listing sanctions in various sectors, Medvedev wrote, “They hate us all! The basis for these decisions is hatred for Russia, for Russians and for all its inhabitants.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian Refugee Council says thousands of civilians caught in Sievierodonetsk are “in dire need of aid.” It is calling for humanitarian organizations to be allowed to access the eastern Ukrainian city “with lifesaving assistance and to enable safe evacuations of civilians who wish to leave.”
The council’s secretary-general, Jan Egeland, said Tuesday: “We fear that up to 12,000 civilians remain caught in crossfire in the city, without sufficient access to water, food, medicine or electricity.” He added that “the near-constant bombardment is forcing civilians to seek refuge in bomb shelters and basements,” with “only few precious opportunities” to escape.
He added that the organization “cannot save lives under the hail of grenades.”
KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of Sievierodonetsk says Russian forces have taken around half of the city in eastern Ukraine.
Oleksandr Striuk told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday that heavy fighting is ongoing and artillery bombardments threaten the lives of the thousands of civilians still sheltering in the ruined city.
“Half of the city has been captured by the Russians and fierce street fighting is under way,” Striuk said. “The situation is very serious and the city is essentially being destroyed ruthlessly block by block.”
He added that “the Ukrainian military continues to resist this frenzied push and aggression by Russian forces.”
Striuk estimated that around 13,000 people remained in the city out of a pre-war population of around 100,000 but said it was impossible to keep track of civilian casualties amid round-the-clock shelling. He said more than 1,500 people in the city who died of various causes have been buried since the war began in February. Evacuation efforts have been halted because of the danger of shelling.
He said that “civilians are dying from direct strikes, from fragmentation wounds and under the rubble of destroyed buildings, since most of the inhabitants are hiding in basements and shelters.”
ISTANBUL – Turkey’s foreign minister says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Turkey on June 8 for talks that will address among other things opening a Black Sea corridor for Ukrainian grain exports.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said in a video interview Tuesday with the state-run Anadolu news agency that the French and German ambassadors had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry over demonstrations in their countries by groups considered to be terrorist by Ankara.
Turkey has said activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, are one of its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by the European Union and U.S.
KYIV, Ukraine — A court in Ukraine has convicted two Russian soldiers of war crimes for the shelling of civilian buildings and sentenced both to 11 1/2 years in prison. Tuesday’s verdict concluded the country’s second war crimes trial since the Russian invasion started.
Russian servicemen Alexander Bobykin and Alexander Ivanov were charged with violating the laws and customs of war over the shelling of civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region on the first day of the Russian attack on Ukraine. They both stood trial in a court in Ukraine’s Poltava region and pleaded guilty to the charges.
Earlier this month, a court in Kyiv sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison for fatally shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the first war crimes trial since Russia invaded.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark says its embassy in Moscow will no longer accept applications for visas or residence permits. It’s citing a staff shortage after Russia expelled four diplomats and three other employees earlier this month.
The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that “it is not possible to maintain the usual level of activity.” It said it wants to prioritize giving assistance to Danish citizens. It said that the move was temporary, but didn’t specify how long it will last.
Moscow’s tit-for-tat move came after Denmark in April expelled 15 Russian embassy employees, identified as intelligence officers, from the diplomatic mission in Copenhagen in line with similar steps taken by other European Union countries.
The Netherlands also shut down its visa department in Moscow because staff were expelled.
Source: Read Full Article