The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 7. Click here for updates from April 6.
US Speeds Entry for Ukrainians as More Reach Mexico Border
The United States has sharply increased the number of Ukrainians admitted to the country at the Mexican border as even more refugees fleeing the Russian invasion follow the same circuitous route.
A government recreation center in the Mexican border city of Tijuana grew to about 1,000 refugees Thursday, according to city officials. A canopy under which children played soccer only two days earlier was packed with people in rows of chairs and lined with bunk beds.
Tijuana has suddenly become a final stop for Ukrainians seeking refuge in the United States, where they are drawn by friends and families ready to host them and are convinced the United States will be a more suitable haven than Europe.
Word has spread rapidly on social media that a loose volunteer coalition, largely from Slavic churches in the western United States, is guiding hundreds of refugees daily from the Tijuana airport to temporary shelters, where they wait two to four days for U.S. officials to admit them on humanitarian parole. In less than two weeks, volunteers worked with U.S. and Mexican officials to build a remarkably efficient and expanding network to provide food, security, transportation, and shelter.
U.S. officials began funneling Ukrainians Wednesday to a pedestrian crossing in San Diego that is temporarily closed to the public, hoping to process 578 people a day there with 24 officers, said Enrique Lucero, the city of Tijuana’s director of migrant affairs.
Sanctions on Russia’s Shipbuilding, Mining
The Biden administration on Thursday announced it is levying sanctions against Russia’s largest military shipbuilding and diamond mining companies.
The move blocks their access to the U.S. financial system as the United States looks to exact more economic pain on President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.
Alrosa is the world’s largest diamond mining company and accounts for about 90 percent of Russia’s diamond mining capacity, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Alrosa generated over $4.2 billion in revenue in 2021. Diamonds are one of Russia’s top 10 non-energy exports by value.
The State Department also said it was blacklisting the United Shipbuilding Corporation, as well as its subsidiaries and board members.
The moves against the two state-owned companies come a day after the United States announced it was targeting the two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin, two of Russia’s largest banks, and banning new American investment in Russia.
Zelenskyy Says Situation in 2nd Ukraine Town ‘More Dreadful’ Than Bucha
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday that the situation in the town of Borodyanka was “significantly more dreadful” than in nearby Bucha.
Local officials have said more than 300 people were killed by Russian forces in Bucha, around 22 miles northwest of the capital Kyiv, and around 50 of them were executed.
Moscow has denied targeting civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha were staged by the Ukrainian government to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace negotiations.
“The work to clear the rubble in Borodyanka has begun … It’s significantly more dreadful there. Even more victims from the Russian occupiers,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted on the Telegram messaging service.
The town is about 15 miles from Bucha.
He did not provide any further detail or evidence that Russia was responsible for civilian deaths in the town.
Zelenskyy Asks Cyprus to Shut Ports to Russian Ships
Zelenskyy asked Cypriot lawmakers to ratchet up the pressure on Russia by shutting the country’s ports to all Russian ships and stop granting Russian businessmen privileges, including Cypriot citizenship.
In his address to the Cypriot Parliament on Thursday, Zelenskyy thanked the east Mediterranean island nation for its humanitarian and financial aid.
He also spoke of the destruction and death the Russian invasion has wrought on his country, including the 167 children that have been confirmed killed.
He warned that the killings of civilians in the town of Bucha may be happening elsewhere.
Zelenskyy also pleaded for backing from war-divided Cyprus in Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union, which he said Russia was trying to fragment and sow discord among its members.
US Moves to Choke Off Exports to 3 Russian Airlines
The Biden administration moved Thursday to choke off U.S. exports to three Russian airlines as part of what officials described as an unprecedented enforcement action.
The Commerce Department said the move would prevent the airlines—Russian national flag carrier Aeroflot, Utair, and Azur Air—from receiving items from the United States, including parts to service their aircraft.
“Those restrictions are significant because it’s obviously difficult to keep flying if you can’t service your planes,” Matthew Axelrod, an assistant Commerce secretary for export enforcement, told reporters.
The effect, he said, is that the sanctioned airlines “and their fleet of aircraft will, over time, largely be unable to continue flying, either internationally or domestically, as they are now cut off from the international support and the U.S. parts and related services they need to maintain and support their fleets.”
The actions, known as temporary denial orders, do allow the Commerce Department to grant exceptions when the safety of a flight would be at risk. The orders extend for 180 days, though they can be renewed.
The three airlines that were singled out had already violated U.S. government restrictions, and the actions were taken to prevent expected violations in the future, officials said.
EU Nations Approve New Sanctions Against Russia
European Union nations have approved new sanctions against Russia, including an EU embargo on coal imports in the wake of evidence of torture and killings emerging from war zones outside Kyiv.
The ban on coal imports will be the first EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine, said an official on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not yet been made.
The EU ban on coal is estimated to be worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year. In the meantime, the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.
UN Suspends Russia From Human Rights Council, Moscow Then Quits
The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” by invading Russian troops in Ukraine.
The U.S.-led push garnered 93 votes in favor, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member General Assembly in New York—abstentions do not count—was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
“The rare decision this assembly has taken today sends a strong signal of accountability and hopefully will help preventing and discouraging more violations of human rights,” said the European Union’s U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog.
Speaking after the vote, Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin described the move as an “illegitimate and politically motivated step” and then announced that Russia had decided to quit the Human Rights Council altogether.
“The Russian Federation made a decision about ending or suspending its right, its membership in the Human Rights Council before the end of its term on the 7th of April of this year,” Kuzmin said. “In today’s conditions, the council is in fact monopolized by one group of states who use it for their short term aims.”
“You do not submit your resignation after you are fired,” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told reporters.
Russia was in its second year of a three-year term. Under Thursday’s resolution, the General Assembly could have later agreed to end the suspension. But that cannot happen now Russia has quit the council, just as the United States did in 2018 over what it called chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform.
The United States was last year reelected to the council.
Turkey Says Bucha Incident ‘Cast a Shadow’ on Russia–Ukraine Peace Talks
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says scenes that have emerged from the Ukrainian town of Bucha have “cast a shadow” over negotiations between Russia and Ukraine but says the sides must continue to talk under all circumstances.
Speaking after a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting on Thursday, Cavusoglu said he told his Ukrainian counterpart that Turkey was prepared to host possible peace talks.
“The only way is diplomacy,” he told Turkish journalists in Brussels.
Turkey, which has maintained its close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, has hosted a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers as well as talks between the two negotiating teams.
US Withdraws From Cybersecurity Dialogue: Moscow
The United States has unilaterally closed communication channels with Russia regarding cybersecurity, Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Oleg Khramov has said.
The two nations previously exchanged lists of critical internet infrastructure under the auspices of the Russian Security Council and the US National Security Council, after Moscow sent Washington proposals aimed at taking joint measures to protect both countries’ critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.
EU Parliament Approves Total Russian Energy Ban
The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday demanding “an immediate full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas.” The bloc’s legislature also demanded Russia be completely cut off from the SWIFT banking network and booted from international organizations.
The resolution passed by 513 votes to 22 and 19 abstentions. The total embargo on Russian energy that it demands goes well beyond the EU’s existing plan to reduce its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds before the end of the year, and to phase out Russian fossil fuels before 2030.
Senate Votes to End Normal Trade Relations, Oil Imports With Russia
The Senate on Thursday morning voted to end normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus and to bar Russian oil imports into the United States in response to the nations’ invasion of Ukraine.
The bill to end normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus passed in a 100–0 vote, a rare event in increasingly divided Washington. The bill to ban Russian imports of oil also was approved in a 100–0 vote.
“It’s a big, big deal that we are finally getting them done,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday after he announced the legislation. “Now, I wish this could have happened sooner, but after weeks of talks with the other side, it’s important that we have found a path forward.”
The measures have already won the support of President Joe Biden, who has long called for Congress to take up such legislation. In March, Biden announced an oil ban, which is now codified by the support of the Senate.
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Pentagon Confirms ‘Complete Withdrawal’ of Russian Troops
Russian soldiers have “completely” vacated areas around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and another city nearby, the Pentagon has said, following a pledge from the Kremlin to “drastically” reduce military activity in the region as negotiators attempt to bring an end to the fighting.
The Pentagon has observed a full withdrawal from the formerly besieged areas, a senior military official told reporters on Wednesday during a background briefing.
US Senate Approves World War 2-Era Policy to Help Ukraine Fight Russia
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted to re-implement a lend-lease program that hasn’t been used since World War II to allow the United States to send weapons to Ukraine.
The bill, known as the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, was approved unanimously by the upper congressional chamber late on April 6 to give enhanced authority to the federal government to enter into agreements with Ukraine’s government to lend or lease equipment and weapons amid the conflict with Russia. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sponsored the measure.
It was last used during World War II when the United States provided assistance to allied countries against Nazi Germany, namely to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.
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Moscow Reacts to Latest US Move on Ukraine
Russia has said that Washington’s plan to send more weapons to Ukraine will not help with the peace process. Western countries have been increasingly arming Kyiv after Moscow attacked the country in late February.
“Flooding Ukraine with weapons doesn’t contribute to the success of the Russian–Ukrainian talks. Instead, obviously, it will have a negative effect,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.
Peskov’s statement came a day after the U.S. Senate passed legislation that revives a World War II-era land-lease program allowing Washington to expedite the shipment of arms to Kyiv. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba thanked senators for their support and said he was expecting a “swift passage” of the bill in the House of Representatives.
Moscow Accuses Kyiv of Backpedaling in Peace Talks
Russia’s top diplomat has accused Ukraine of derailing talks with Moscow by changing its negotiating stance.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Ukraine had walked back its proposal that international guarantees of its security don’t apply to Crimea.
Lavrov also accused Ukraine of modifying a provision in a draft deal it had submitted earlier that said that military drills on Ukrainian territory could be organized with the consent of all guarantor countries, including Russia.
Lavrov added that Russia intends to continue the talks despite the Ukrainian “provocations.”
There was no immediate response to his claims from the Ukrainian government.
Kremlin Responds to Poland’s Nuclear Proposal
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has warned that Moscow would view the transfer of nuclear weapons to Poland as highly provocative, after a top official said Warsaw is willing to host foreign missiles as a deterrent.
Speaking with French broadcaster LCI, on Wednesday, Peskov said any such deployment would likely trigger a response in kind from Russia, suggesting it would alter its own nuclear posture.
“For us, this would be a big threat,” he said, adding “In this case, the deployment of Russian nuclear missiles on the western border would be inevitable,” also stressing that Moscow is “a responsible nuclear power.”
Peskov’s comments come after Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a German newspaper last weekend that his country “would be open” to hosting U.S. nuclear weapons, arguing that a missile deployment on NATO’s eastern flank “makes sense” and would “significantly increase deterrence towards Moscow.”
Moscow Vows Response to Latest US Sanctions
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia intends to respond to U.S. sanctions against President Vladimir Putin’s daughters as it sees fit.
“Russia will definitely respond, and will do it as it sees fit,” Peskov said Thursday.
The U.S. on Wednesday announced that it is sanctioning Putin’s two adult daughters as part of a new batch of penalties on the country’s political and economic systems in retaliation for its alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
Peskov told a conference call with reporters that the sanctions “add to a completely frantic line of various restrictions” and the fact that the restrictions target family members “speaks for itself.”
“This is something that is difficult to understand and explain. But, unfortunately, we have to deal with such opponents,” Peskov said.
Finland, Estonia Eye Floating LNG Terminal to Ensure Supply
Finland and Estonia say they are jointly planning to rent a floating liquefied natural gas, or LNG, terminal to ensure gas supply in the two countries in efforts to break energy dependence on neighboring Russia.
Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintila and his Estonian counterpart Taavi Aas said in a statement Thursday that a movable off-shore LNG terminal would offer a quick solution in guaranteeing gas supply in the two European Union members separated by the Baltic Sea.
“Due to the war in Ukraine, we must prepare for possible interruptions of gas import” through pipelines from Russia, Lintila said, adding that a floating LNG terminal “is an efficient way to secure gas supply, including in industry.
Russia Responds to Seizure of Valuable Artworks
Finland will not be able to escape responsibility when it comes to the return of paintings and sculptures worth $46 million that belong to the Tretyakov Gallery, the Hermitage, and other museums in Russia, Moscow warned on Thursday. The statement came one day after Finnish Customs confirmed the seizure of the works, which were returning home from Italy and Japan.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Finnish Ambassador Antti Helantera and expressed “strong protest” over the actions.
Ukraine President Seeks More Military Assets
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country needs anti-aircraft defense systems, artillery systems, munitions, and armored vehicles to hold Russia’s invasion at bay.
“The sooner Ukraine receives this help, the more lives we can save in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in an address to the Greek parliament Thursday.
The Ukrainian president called for sanctions on all Russian banks and a ban on Russian ships from entering ports as a way of hindering Russia’s ability to finance the war.
“Russia is absolutely confident in its invincibility and that they could do whatever they want without going unpunished. We have to stop it. We must bring Russia to justice,” Zelenskyy said.
G7 Nations Vow to Keep Pressure on Russia
The Group of Seven major world powers are warning Russia they will keep ramping up sanctions until its troops leave Ukraine and that those responsible for alleged war crimes will be prosecuted.
G7 foreign ministers vowed Thursday to “sustain and increase pressure on Russia by imposing coordinated additional restrictive measures to effectively thwart Russian abilities to continue the aggression against Ukraine.”
Western nations have already slapped several rounds of sanctions on Russia, including on President Vladimir Putin, his family, and associates, but have been reluctant to hit the country’s energy sector.
The G7 ministers, meeting on the sidelines of NATO talks in Brussels, say they “are taking further steps to expedite plans to reduce our reliance on Russian energy, and will work together to this end.”
Russian Energy Paid for in Yuan Is Heading to China: Reports
Russian coal and oil paid for in yuan is about to start flowing into China, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
According to the media outlet, citing Chinese consultancy Fenwei Energy Information Service, several Chinese firms used local currency to buy Russian coal in March, and the first cargoes will arrive this month.
These will be the first commodity shipments paid for in yuan since the United States and Europe hit Moscow with unprecedented sanctions, cutting several Russian banks off from the international financial system.
Russia Takes Steps to Punish Google Over Youtube ‘Fakes’
Russia’s communications watchdog said on Thursday it was taking punitive measures against Google, including a ban on advertising the platform and its information resources, for violating Russian law.
Roskomnadzor accused Google’s YouTube video-sharing platform, which has shut out Russian state-funded media globally, of becoming “one of the key platforms spreading fakes (fake images) about the course of (Russia’s) special military operation on the territory of Ukraine, discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
Roskomnadzor said the measures against Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., which include a warning in search engines saying it is violating Russian law, would remain in place until it complied with legislation.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last month, Russia demanded that Google stop spreading what it called threats against Russian citizens on YouTube.
The regulator also blocked Google’s news aggregator service in March, accusing it of allowing access to fake material about the military operation in Ukraine.
Russia’s parliament last month passed a law providing for jail terms of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “fake” news at variance with government accounts about the military.
Outraged that Meta Platforms was allowing social media users in Ukraine to post messages such as “Death to the Russian invaders”, Moscow blocked Instagram in March, having already cut off access to Facebook because of what it said were the platform’s restrictions on Russian media.
UK: Russian Shelling Is Prelude to New Attack
Britain’s defense ministry claims Russia is bombarding infrastructure targets to wear down Ukraine’s government and military as it prepares for a renewed assault on the country’s east.
The ministry said in an intelligence update Thursday that “progressing offensive operations in eastern Ukraine is the main focus of Russian military forces.”
It says Russia is targeting the “line of control” between Ukrainian-held areas in the Donbass and those held by Russia-supporting separatists with artillery and airstrikes.
The Russian military is also targeting infrastructure in the Ukrainian interior “to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian military to resupply and increase pressure on the Ukrainian government,” the ministry claimed.
Shell Exit From Russia Could Cost up to $5 Billion in Losses, Oil Giant Says
Shell is set to take a $4 to $5 billion hit from exiting Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, the company announced on April 7.
The oil giant announced early in March that it planned to pull the plug on operations in Russia and would exit its joint ventures with Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy corporation, and its related entities, and withdraw from the 50 percent stake it holds in Salym Petroleum Development and the Gydan energy venture, two projects in Siberia.
The company would also depart with its 27.5 percent stake in the Sakhalin-II liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility off Russia’s east coast, it said.
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Russia Responds to Possible Expulsion From UN Body
The possible suspension of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council threatens to destroy “the basement of current multilateral system,” First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy said ahead of Thursday’s vote by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on the matter.
Polyanskiy wrote on Telegram that this is a “premeditated tactical move” which, in his opinion, has nothing to do either Russia’s attack on Ukraine nor with alleged human rights violations by Moscow, as these claims “are far from being verified and proven.” However, he warned, the motion, if accepted, “risks devastating consequences for the UN System.”
Zelenskyy Reveals Plans for Security Summit
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced a summit of countries ready to discuss security guarantees for Kyiv. The event would be part of the negotiations to end Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
“Such a meeting will certainly happen because it was confirmed by the representatives of future guarantors,” Zelenskyy told Turkish Haberturk TV on Tuesday.
Zelenskyy named the US, Britain, Turkey, Poland, Germany, France, and Israel as countries that are “ready to meet and discuss a list of security guarantees” for Ukraine.
EU Reveals When Oil Import Ban Will Be Discussed
Ban on Russian oil imports will be discussed at the summit of E.U. foreign ministers on April 11 as part of the next round of sanctions against Moscow, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Thursday.
Since the beginning of Russia’s military attack on Ukraine, the E.U. has come up with several rounds of hard-hitting restrictions on Moscow. At the moment European policy makers are discussing in Brussels a fifth package of sanctions which includes a ban on Russian coal imports.
Russian Stocks Gain, Rouble Steadies Despite Further Sanctions Planned From West
Russian stocks largely shrugged off threats of further sanctions from the West on March 6, making gains after previously sliding earlier in the day amid threats of further sanctions from the West, while the Ruble stabilized.
The dollar-denominated RTS index fell to 979.34 points before reducing losses and adding 0.4 percent on the day to 1,008.9 points by 07.49 am (GMT).
Its ruble-denominated MOEX Russian index also gained 0.4 percent to 2,674.1, although that figure is still significantly far off from an all-time high of 4,292.68 it reached in October.
Shares in Russia’s second-largest oil company, Lukoil, also jumped 3.5 percent higher, outperforming the broader market. The oil giant is the first major Russian firm to speak out against Putin’s decision to invade its neighbor.
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Putin Says Russia Will ‘Monitor’ Food Exports to ‘Hostile’ Countries, Be ‘Prudent’ With Supplies Abroad
Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed his government to “monitor” exports of food to countries that Moscow deems as “hostile” as the West weighs up levying more sanctions against Moscow.
Putin announced the move during a meeting on agriculture on Tuesday, just days after the European Union proposed sweeping new sanctions against the country in response to allegations of Russian forces committing war crimes in Ukraine.
“Against the backdrop of global food shortages, this year we will have to be prudent with supplies abroad and carefully monitor such exports to countries that are clearly hostile towards us,” Putin said at a meeting on agriculture.
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Ukraine Seeks ‘Ruinous’ Sanctions on Russia as Europe Frets About Energy
Ukraine wants sanctions crippling enough to force Russia to end its war after accusing some countries of putting economic wellbeing above punishment for alleged civilian killings that the West condemns as war crimes.
The democratic world must stop buying Russian oil and completely block Russian banks from the international finance system, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily video address early on Thursday.
“Some politicians are still unable to decide how to limit the flow of petrodollars and oil euros to Russia so as not to put their own economies at risk,” Zelenskyy said.
Washington announced new measures including sanctions on President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and a major bank. However, the European Union failed to approve a new round of sanctions including on Russian coal on Wednesday. Top E.U. diplomat Josep Borrell said the package could be passed on Thursday or Friday.
Speaking at a NATO meeting, Borrell also said the E.U. will discuss an embargo on Russian oil, which he said he hoped would come soon.
Moscow has denied targeting civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace talks.
Washington’s new steps on Wednesday included sanctions top state-run lender Sberbank and Alfa Bank, Russia’s fourth-largest financial institution.
It also banned Americans from investing in Russia and called for Russia to be expelled from the Group of 20 major economies forum, saying it will boycott G20 meetings where Russian officials will show up.
Britain also froze Sberbank’s assets, and said it would ban imports of Russian coal, but not until the end of the year.
But Ukraine says its allies must go further to stop Moscow by ending all energy imports from Russia and blocking supplies of technology and materials used for weapons production.
“Sanctions against Russia must be ruinous enough for us to end this terrible war,” the head of Ukraine’s presidential office Andriy Yermak said late on Wednesday.
Ukraine’s foreign minister called NATO allies to send more planes, air defense systems, missiles, and military vehicles.
Macron Calls Polish Prime Minister’s Recent Statements ‘Scandalous’
French President Emmanuel Macron has lashed out at Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, calling his recent statements “scandalous.” Morawiecki had slammed the French leader’s efforts aimed at maintaining dialogue with Moscow amid the ongoing military attack on Ukraine.
“These statements are both baseless and scandalous,” Macron told French TF1 TV on Wednesday, in reference to the Polish prime minister’s comments from earlier this week. Morawiecki slammed several European leaders, including Macron, for supposedly achieving little through dialogue with the Kremlin.
“I take full responsibility for having spoken to the president of Russia, in the name of France, to avoid the war and to build a new architecture for peace in Europe several years ago,” Macron said, adding that he was neither “naïve” nor “complicit” like “others,” without elaborating on who he had in mind.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to Meet EU’s Von Der Leyen on Friday: Spokesman
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will have talks in Kyiv on Friday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukrainian presidential spokesman Sergii Nykyforov said on national television.
He said other details of the talks would not be announced for security reasons. A European Union spokesman said on Tuesday that the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, would also travel to Kyiv this week.
Ten Humanitarian Corridors Agreed for Thursday: Ukraine
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says Russian forces have agreed on 10 humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians in three eastern regions of Ukraine on Thursday.
Russia is expected to intensify its military campaign for control of Ukraine’s industrial east in coming days and weeks, and Ukraine has appealed to NATO for more weapons to help stop it.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said civilians from the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions will be able to evacuate to the cities of Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut.
Vereshchuk said on the messaging app Telegram that it would be possible to travel from Mariupol and Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia by car and from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Melitopol by car and on buses.
Evacuations to Bakhmut, a city in the Donetsk region, will take place in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Girske and Rubizhne of the Luhansk region.
Ukraine Accuses Hungary of Undermining Unity of EU
Ukraine is accusing Hungary of undermining the unity of the European Union by supporting Moscow as Russia presses its invasion.
Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko claimed Thursday that “Hungary’s reluctance to acknowledge Russia’s responsibility for atrocities in Bucha strengthens Russia’s sense of impunity and encourages it to commit new crimes.”
Nikolenko also blasted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s statement about Hungary’s readiness to pay for the Russian gas in rubles, describing it as unfriendly and flying in the face of the EU’s rejection of Moscow’s currency demand.
In a statement, Nikolenko dismissed Orban’s offer to host talks between Russia and Ukraine as cynical, saying that “if Hungary wants to help end the war, it must stop damaging E.U. unity, support new sanctions, offer military assistance to Ukraine, and stop creating additional resources to finance the Russian war machine.”
However, Hungary has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has sent humanitarian aid to the country.
NATO Countries Asked to Provide More Weapons
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is calling on members of the organization to provide more weapons for Ukraine and not just defensive anti-tank and anti-craft arms.
As NATO defense ministers gathered in Brussels on Thursday, Stoltenberg said “I have urged allies to provide further support of many different types of systems, both light weapons but also heavier weapons.”
Stoltenberg says that NATO countries, but not NATO as an organization, are supplying many kinds of arms and other support to Ukraine but that the 30 allies can do more.
He says that “Ukraine is fighting a defensive war, so this distinction between offensive and defensive weapons doesn’t actually have any real meaning.”
Stoltenberg is insisting that it is also important for NATO not to be dragged into a wider war with Russia.
“NATO is not sending troops to be on the ground. We also have a responsibility to prevent this conflict from escalating beyond Ukraine, and become even more deadly, even more dangerous and destructive,” he said.
Ukraine to Press West for Full Energy Embargo on Russia
Ukraine will keep up demands for an oil and gas embargo on Russia after its invasion of the country, the Ukrainian foreign minister said on Thursday, as the E.U. promised a fifth round of sanctions by Friday.
Dmytro Kuleba will address NATO’s 30 allies, as well as the European Union, Finland, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, in a special session of foreign ministers to maintain international support for sanctions and weapons supplies.
“We will continue to insist on full oil and gas embargo,” he told reporters at NATO, speaking alongside Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Kuleba called on Germany in particular to speed up weapons’ deliveries to Ukraine, asking for planes, land-based anti-ship missiles, armoured vehicles and air defence systems. He claimed procedures were taking too long in Berlin.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who offered to hold another meeting of NATO foreign ministers in May in Berlin, said she would discuss more arms sales to Ukraine with allies on Thursday in Brussels.
After more than 40 days of war, Ukraine claims Russia continues to shell its cities, particularly in the eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk after Russian forces withdrew from around Kyiv.
Stoltenberg on Wednesday warned of a war that could last months or even years and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pledged support to Ukraine for the longer term.
But while a possible E.U. ban on Russian oil and gas would cut off a significant source of revenue for Moscow’s war, it would also hit Europe’s economy and push up soaring gas prices.
Hungary Receives Nuclear Fuel From Russia by Air: Foreign Minister
Hungary received the first shipment of nuclear fuel for its Paks nuclear plant from Russia by air on Wednesday, after the war in Ukraine made shipping by rail impossible, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Thursday.
Szijjarto reiterated that Hungary rejected any sanctions on Russian oil and gas, adding that imposing any sanctions on activities related to nuclear energy was also a “red line” for Hungary.
“Fuel (for the Paks plant) has always come from Russia by rail via Ukraine, unfortunately … this is no longer possible so we had to find an alternative way for shipping,” Szijjarto said in a Facebook video from Brussels.
He said the fuel shipment had arrived via the airspace of Belarus, Poland, and Slovakia to Hungary with all three countries’ approval, as nuclear energy is not subject to any European Union sanctions.
Hungary wants to expand its Russian-built 2-gigawatt Paks nuclear power plant with two Russian-made VVER reactors, each with a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts.
The project, awarded in 2014 without a tender to nuclear giant Rosatom has been often cited as a sign of warm ties between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The project has suffered delays.
Orban, who was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term in elections on Sunday, told a news conference on Wednesday that Budapest wanted to strengthen its Western alliances, as Hungary’s future was in the E.U. and firmly within NATO.
Maldives Shelters Sanctioned Russian Billionaires’ Yachts
A day after coal and fertilizer billionaire Andrey Melnichenko was placed on the European Union’s sanctions list on March 9, his superyacht Motor Yacht A stopped broadcasting its location while in Maldives’ waters, maritime data shows.
In Italy, four days later, authorities seized another of Melnichenko’s vessels—the world’s largest sailing yacht, estimated by Italian financial police to be worth $578 million.
Switching off devices that allow authorities to track a ship’s whereabouts can help keep yachts out of their sight.
Melnichenko’s vessel is one of six Russian-linked yachts that have glided between Maldives’ atolls, southwest of India, since Western nations hit some oligarchs with sanctions in response to the Feb 24 invasion.
Three of the yachts obscured their live locations, changed reported destinations, or moved into international waters, according to data supplied by MarineTraffic, a marine analytics provider.
The idea of seizing yachts is “far-fetched,” because Maldives legal system is not robust enough, the country’s chief prosecutor, Hussain Shameem, said in an interview, adding that authorities could not easily confiscate visiting vessels unless a crime was committed under local law.
Last month, Melnichenko’s spokesperson told Reuters the businessman would dispute the sanctions, adding that he had no political affiliations.
Moscow Doesn’t Rule out Breaking Off Relations With Western Countries
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that if Western countries continue to expel Russian diplomats, Russia may cut ties with those countries, RT reported.
“There is such a potential risk, since every day we are faced with such hostile actions. The expulsion of diplomats is a decision that closes the window of diplomatic relations,” Peskov said.
Italy, Spain, Denmark, Germany, and France expelled a total of 145 Russian diplomats in two days.
These diplomats were expelled shortly after reports that Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, were allegedly killed by the Russian military.
US Senate to Vote on Revoking Russia’s Trade Status, Oil Ban
The U.S. Senate will take up legislation Thursday to end normal trade relations with Russia and to ban the importation of its oil, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Wednesday.
Both bills have been bogged down in the Senate, frustrating lawmakers who want to ratchet up the U.S. response as the Ukraine war enters a gruesome new phase.
It’s been three weeks since the House passed the trade suspension measure that paves the way for President Joe Biden to enact higher tariffs on certain Russian imports. At the time, the legislation was billed as sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies about the economic isolation Russia will face for invading Ukraine.
The House also passed the oil ban about a month ago. The bill would codify restrictions on Russian oil that Biden has already put in place through executive action.
US House Passes Legislation on Documenting War Crimes in Ukraine
The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed legislation Wednesday calling for a federal government report on evidence of war crimes committed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Lawmakers backed the measure amid gruesome reports of atrocities in towns around Kyiv, particularly Bucha, and new accounts of the civilian death toll in the besieged port city of Mariupol.
The legislation calls for the U.S. president to submit to Congress a report on efforts to preserve evidence related to war crimes.
Last month, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution seeking an investigation of Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes.
In his daily nighttime video address to the nation late Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to hide evidence of war crimes to interfere with the international investigation.
UN to Vote Thursday on Suspending Russia From Rights Council
The U.N. General Assembly will vote Thursday on whether to suspend Russia from the U.N.’s premier human rights body. The move was initiated by the United States in response to the discovery of hundreds of bodies after Russian troops withdrew from towns near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, sparking calls for its forces to be tried for war crimes.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the call for Russia to be stripped of its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council in the wake of videos and photos of streets in the town of Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians. The videos and reporting from the town have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions on Russia, which has vehemently denied responsibility.
General Assembly spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said Wednesday the assembly’s emergency special session on Ukraine will resume at 10 a.m. EDT on Thursday when the resolution “to suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of the Russian Federation” will be put to a vote.
Alan Chueng, Jack Phillips, Katabella Roberts, Joseph Lord, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report