Biden Delivers Speech in Warsaw
President Joe Biden said on Saturday his country stands with Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion, in a speech capping off a visit to Europe.
Biden’s speech was delivered at Warsaw’s Royal Castle before hundreds of Polish elected officials, students, and U.S. embassy staff.
Biden said NATO was a defensive security alliance that never sought Russia’s demise, adding that Ukrainians “are on the frontlines” in the fight for democratic principles.
He said the invasion was a strategic failure for Russia, but that it was nevertheless a challenge to the rules-based international order that threatened to return Europe to “decades of war.”
Lviv Mayor Reports Further Strike After Rockets Hit Outskirts of Western Ukrainian City
The mayor of Lviv said another rocket had hit the city of Lviv in western Ukraine on Saturday, not long after two rockets struck its outskirts in what appeared to be the first attacks within the city’s limits since the start of the war with Russia.
Lviv, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the Polish border, has so far escaped the bombardment and fighting that has devastated some Ukrainian cities closer to Russia since Moscow launched its invasion on Feb. 24.
But on Saturday, Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said two rockets had struck the city’s eastern outskirts in the mid-afternoon and ordered residents to take shelter.
Later, Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said there had been another strike. “One more rocket strike on Lviv,” he said in an online post.
He did not share details of the location. He said the strike had damaged infrastructure but not residential buildings.
The first strikes set fire to an industrial facility storing fuel, but had not hit residential areas, Sadoviy said earlier.
Kozytskyy said five people had been wounded in that attack, citing preliminary figures.
“Stay in shelters! Do not go out into the streets!” he warned.
Heavy black smoke was seen rising from the northeast side of the city.
Ukrainian Officials ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ After Talks With Biden
Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov said he was feeling “cautiously optimistic” following talks with key U.S. government figures, led by President Joe Biden in Warsaw, on Saturday.
Biden met with Ukraine’s foreign and defense ministers Saturday in Poland on the final leg of his trip to Europe. Biden’s talk with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was the first face-to-face meeting with Ukrainian officials during his tour.
Kuleba also said his country had received “additional promises from the United States on how our defense co-operation will evolve.” He also revealed that Kyiv and Washington had agreed on possible ways to put pressure on European Union states to impose more sanctions on Russia.
Biden Meets With Ukrainian Officials in Poland
President Joe Biden met with Ukraine’s foreign and defense ministers Saturday in Poland on the final leg of his trip to Europe. Biden’s talk with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was the first face-to-face meeting with Ukrainian officials during his tour.
Russian Oligarchs Welcome in Turkey, Foreign Minister Says
Russian oligarchs are welcome in Turkey but must abide by international law in order to do any business, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday.
Turkey has strongly criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but opposes sanctions imposed by its NATO allies on principle.
“If Russian oligarchs … or any Russian citizens want to visit Turkey of course they can,” Cavusoglu said in response to a question at the Doha Forum international conference.
“If you mean whether these oligarchs can do any business in Turkey, then of course if it is legal and not against international law, I will consider it,” he said, adding: “If it is against international law then that is another story.”
Ukraine Conflict Could Lead to Food Riots in Poor Countries: WTO
The head of the World Trade Organization said rocketing global food prices as a result of the war in Ukraine could spark food riots from those going hungry in poor countries.
Biden’s speech in Warsaw to Urge Western ‘Unity and Resolve’ in Face of Russian Offensive
President Joe Biden is scheduled to give a speech in Warsaw on Saturday, with the White House saying the president will issue a call for Western unity and determination in the face of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Biden is now in Poland, where at the time of reporting he was in a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Later in the day, Biden will meet with other Polish officials and Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw to get a first-hand look at U.S. humanitarian efforts in the face of a massive wave of refugees fleeing the war.
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Russia Warns West: Gas Bills in Rubles Are Just Days Away
Russia warned the West on Friday that billing in rubles for billions of dollars of natural gas exports to Europe could be just days away—Moscow’s toughest response yet to crippling sanctions imposed by the West for the invasion of Ukraine.
With the Russian economy facing its gravest crisis since the years that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union, President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday hit back at the West, ordering that Russian gas exports should be paid for in rubles.
The Kremlin on Friday said Putin had ordered Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural gas company and which supplies 40 percent of Europe’s gas, to accept export payments in rubles, and that it had just four days left to work out how.
“There is an instruction to Gazprom from the president of the Russian Federation to accept payments in rubles,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This information will be brought to the purchasers of Gazprom products.”
Gas buyers have been seeking guidance on how they could get the rubles to make any such payments, given the extent of the sanctions on Russia.
“Ruble payments are somewhere between very difficult and not possible for the majority of European buyers to organize, and certainly not at short notice,” Jonathan Stern, distinguished research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, told Reuters.
Payments in rubles would shore up the Russian currency, which has plummeted since the invasion on Feb. 24. Putin’s speech lifted the rouble 9 percent against the dollar on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Dutch gas prices, the European benchmark, have spiked due to concerns over whether countries will be willing or even able to pay in rubles.
Putin’s move, announced just as the European Union was debating additional sanctions on Russia, amounts to one of the sharpest turns in Russian gas politics since the Soviets built gas pipelines to Europe from Siberia in the early 1970s.
‘Hungary Is on Hungary’s Side,’ Orban Responds to Zelenskyy
“Hungary is on Hungary’s side,” its prime minister, Viktor Orban, said in a statement on Saturday, in response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for Budapest to choose who it supports in the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow.
Orban added that his country could not “be indifferent” to the ongoing conflict in his neighborhood, but Hungary would look after its own interests first. He added that however, Hungary had provided aid to those in need during the conflict.
Russian Forces Take Chernobyl Workers’ Town; Fighting in Center of Mariupol
Russian forces have taken control of a town where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, the governor of Kyiv region said on Saturday, and fighting was reported in the streets of the besieged southern port of Mariupol.
Russian troops seized the town of Slavutych, which is close to the border with Belarus and is where workers at the Chernobyl plant live, the governor of Kyiv region, Oleksandr Pavlyuk, said.
Slavutych sits just outside the so-called exclusion zone around Chernobyl—which in 1986 was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster—where Ukrainian staff have continued to work even after the plant itself was seized by Russian forces soon after the start of the Feb. 24 invasion.
On the other side of the country, in Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation in the encircled city remained critical, with street fighting taking place in the center.
Zelenskyy late on Friday pushed for further talks with Moscow after the Russian Defence Ministry said a first phase of its operation was mostly complete and that it would now focus on the Donbass region bordering Russia, which has pro-Moscow separatist enclaves.
Moreover, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said an agreement had been reached to set up 10 humanitarian corridors on Saturday to evacuate civilians from front line hotspots.
Russia Conducts Military Drills on Isles Disputed With Japan: Media
Russia was conducting drills on islands claimed by Tokyo, Japanese media said on Saturday, days after Moscow halted peace talks with Japan because of its sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Eastern Military District said it was conducting military drills on the Kuril islands with more than 3,000 troops and hundreds of pieces of army equipment, Russia’s Interfax news agency said Friday.
It did not say where on the island chain, connecting Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula and Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, the drills were taking place. Japanese media said they were on territory the Soviet Union seized at the end of World War Two that is claimed by Tokyo.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office could not be reached outside business hours to comment on the exercises.
The territorial dispute over the four islets—which Russia says are part of its Kuril chain and which Japan calls its Northern Territories—has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from reaching a peace treaty formally ending hostilities.
Japan reacted angrily on Tuesday after Russia withdrew from long-running treaty talks and froze joint economic projects related to the islands, in retaliation for Japan joining Western sanctions over Moscow’s month-old invasion.
Russia’s exercises involved repelling amphibious warfare, including destroying defense aircraft carrying troops and testing skills to operate fire control systems of anti-tank guided missiles, Interfax said.
“In addition to this, units of the Air Defense Forces are carrying out a set of measures to detect, identify and destroy aircraft of a mock enemy that would carry out an airborne assault,” the agency cited the District’s press service as saying.
Ukraine Says 10 Humanitarian Corridors Agreed for Front Line Areas
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said agreement has been reached on the establishment of 10 humanitarian corridors on Saturday to evacuate civilians from front line hotspots in Ukrainian towns and cities.
Speaking on national television, she said civilians trying to leave the besieged southern port of Mariupol would have to leave in private cars as Russian forces were not letting buses through their checkpoints around the southern port city.
Reuters could not independently verify this information.
Ukraine and Russia have traded blame when humanitarian corridors have failed to work in recent weeks.
Ukraine’s Capital Announces New 35-hour Curfew
Authorities in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, have announced a new 35-hour curfew in the city.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the curfew will run from 8 p.m. local time on Saturday to 7 a.m. on Monday, with local residents allowed to leave their homes only to get to a bomb shelter.
Klitschko said that shops, pharmacies, gas stations, and public transport will not be operating during the curfew.
Russian Tension Risk Seen in Finnish NATO Bid
Finland’s president says his country would likely be targeted by Russian cyber warfare and could face border violations if it decides to apply for membership in NATO.
Several polls in recent weeks have shown a majority of Finns now supporting NATO membership, up from 25 percent at most before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview Saturday with public broadcaster YLE that the biggest benefit would be “gaining a preventive effect.”
But he pointed to a risk of disruptive behavior by Russia during an accession process, which would take at least months.
He said an application would lead to tensions at Finland’s 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, including the possibility of “robust” border and territorial violations—not just by Russian aircraft, as Finland has experienced in the past.
Niinisto said: “We don’t even know all the [possibilities] for [hybid] influencing that someone may invent. The entire world of information technology is vulnerable. Even some important society functions can be disrupted.”
Moscow has said it would consider European Union members Finland and neighboring Sweden joining NATO a hostile move that would have serious military and political repercussions.
Mine-Like Object Found at Bosphorus Neutralised, Turkish Defense Ministry
Turkey’s defense ministry says a “mine-like” object has been “neutralized” at the northern entrance to the Bosporus Strait.
The sighting on Saturday of a possible naval mine followed warnings that mines laid at the entrances to Ukrainian ports could break free in bad weather and cross the Black Sea.
Broadcaster NTV showed images of an object bobbing in the waves off Istanbul’s Sariyer district, on the Bosporus’ European coast. A Coast Guard vessel was stationed nearby.
A Defense Ministry statement said divers were dispatched to deal with the object. According to Demiroren News Agency, it was noticed by fishermen.
On March 18, Turkey advised ships to keep a “sharp lookout” and report any possible mines that had drifted from Ukrainian ports.
Last year some 38,500 ships passed through the Bosporus, which links the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ankara closed the strait to military vessels.
Zelenskyy Makes Surprise Appearance at Doha Forum, Calling on Energy Producers to Hike Output
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made a surprise video appearance at Qatar’s Doha Forum.
Zelenskyy in his video address Saturday criticized Russia’s ongoing war on his nation. He called on the United Nations and world powers to come to his aid.
“They are destroying our ports,” Zelenskyy said. “The absence of exports from Ukraine will deal a blow to countries worldwide.”
He added: “The future of Europe rests with your efforts.” He called on countries to increase their exports of energy—something particularly important as Qatar is a world leader in the export of natural gas.
He criticized Russia for what he described as threatening the world with its nuclear weapons.
He also noted Muslims in Ukraine would have to fight during the upcoming holy fasting month of Ramadan.
“We have to ensure this sacred month of Ramadan is not overshadowed by the misery of people in Ukraine,” he said.
Erdogan Talks With Zelenskyy, Raising Turkey’s Support for Ukrainian Territorial Integrity
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy by telephone, discussing the situation in Ukraine and negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, Erdogan’s office said late Friday.
Erdogan told his counterpart that he had raised Turkey’s support for Ukrainian territorial integrity at a recent NATO summit, where he had relayed the diplomatic efforts made by Turkey in one-on-one meetings with other leaders, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency.
Ankara, which has close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, has positioned itself as a neutral party, seeking to facilitate negotiations between the warring sides.
Russian Forces Appear to Shift Focus From Kyiv Offensive
Russian forces in Ukraine appear to have shifted their focus from a ground offensive aimed at Kyiv to instead prioritizing what Moscow calls the liberation of the contested Donbass region, suggesting a new phase of the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday again appealed to Russia to negotiate an end to the war, but he said Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.
The deputy chief of the Russian general staff said on Friday that his forces had largely achieved the “main objectives” of the first phase of what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Ukraine Is Calling on West to Create a New Lend-lease Program
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff is calling on the West to create a new lend-lease program for Ukraine, referring to the World War II effort that sent U.S. supplies to the Soviet Union to help it fight Nazi Germany.
He said what Ukraine needs most is real-time intelligence and heavy weapons.
Yermak also repeated the Ukrainian president’s calls for help in closing the skies over Ukraine to stop Russian bombing and missile attacks. The West has refused to impose a no-fly zone for fear of widening the war.
He said options include supplying Ukraine with air defense systems or fighter jets, or creating an “air police force to protect civilian infrastructure.”
Spotify Says It Will Suspend Service in Russia
Spotify is halting its services in Russia in light of the country’s new media law.
The Swedish music streaming company’s move comes after other companies pulled out of Russia due to its new media law. The statute imposes prison sentences of up to 15 years for those spreading information that goes against the Russian government’s narrative on the war.
Tom Ozimek, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.