Live updates: Russia trying to prevent foreign divestment

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By The Associated Press

The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

MOSCOW – Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Tuesday the government has readied measures to temporarily restrict foreign investors from divesting Russian assets, saying the step would help them make “a considered decision” rather than succumb to political pressure of sanctions.

Mishustin said a presidential decree had been prepared imposing “temporary restrictions on exiting from Russian assets.” He did not provide details or say if the restrictions would apply to some forms of investment or to all.

Major Western corporations have come under pressure to divest stakes in Russian companies. Oil company BP said Sunday it would seek to dispose of its stake in Russian oil producer Rosneft and Shell said Monday it would exit all its Russian businesses. Other companies with major stakes include France’s TotalEnergies, which holds 19.4% of natural gas company Novatek.

Russian officials have taken steps to cushion the impact of massive economic sanctions, with the central bank raising interest rates to defend the ruble’s exchange rate, requiring companies to sell foreign exchange earnings, and making unlimited short term credit available to banks.

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WASHINGTON – A Ukraine-born U.S. congresswoman delivered an emotional plea for President Joe Biden to step up to save her country from Russia’s invasion.

Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana spoke Tuesday alongside other GOP lawmakers ahead of Biden’s first State of the Union address.

“This is not a war, this is a genocide of the Ukrainian people by a crazy man,” Spartz said, without naming Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The congresswoman wore the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine and said she still has family in the region, including her 95-year-old grandmother. She said Ukrainians “want to be with the United States of America. They want to be free people.”

Biden “must act decisively, fast, or this blood of many millions of Ukrainians will be on his hands, too,” she said.

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FRANKFURT, Germany — The International Energy Agency’s 31 member countries have agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves – half of that from the United States.

Tuesday’s decision by the board of the Paris-based IEA is meant “to send a strong message to oil markets” that there will be “no shortfall in supplies” after Russia invaded Ukraine.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement that President Joe Biden approved a commitment of 30 million barrels and that the U.S. is ready to “take additional measures” if needed.

Russia plays an outsized role in global energy markets as the third-largest oil producer.

While Western sanctions have not targeted Russia’s energy industry so far, the invasion has still shaken markets worldwide. Oil prices soared Tuesday. with U.S. benchmark crude surpassing $100 per barrel – the highest price since 2014.

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KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces fired at the Kyiv TV tower and Ukraine’s main Holocaust memorial, among other civilian sites targeted Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukraine’s State Service for Emergency Situations said the strikes on the TV tower killed five people and left five more wounded.

Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, posted a photo of clouds of smoke around the TV tower, which is a couple miles from central Kyiv and a short walk from numerous apartment buildings. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said an electrical substation powering the tower and a control room on the tower were damaged from the hit.

The head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, Andriy Yermak, said on Facebook that a “powerful missile attack on the territory where the (Babi) Yar memorial complex is located” is underway.

Babi Yar, a ravine in Kyiv, is where nearly 34,000 Jews were killed within 48 hours in 1941 when the city was under Nazi occupation. The killing was carried out by SS troops along with local collaborators.

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GENEVA – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the U.N.’s top human rights body to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.

The top U.S. diplomat also singled out Russia in recorded remarks delivered to the Human Rights Council for repression within the country, citing reports that thousands of protesters in Russia who were opposed to the invasion had been detained.

Blinken urged the council Tuesday to send a message that Russian President Vladimir Putin should unconditionally stop the “unprovoked attack” and withdraw its forces from Ukraine.

“We must condemn firmly and unequivocally Russia’s attempt to topple a democratically elected government and its gross human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, and we must take steps to hold the perpetrators accountable,” he said.

The comments came as the United States returned to its seat at the council, which had been abandoned under President Donald Trump, who alleged that the 47-member-state body was too accepting of autocratic governments and too biased against Israel.

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MOSCOW – Russian nuclear submarines sailed off for drills in the Barents Sea and mobile missile launchers roamed the taiga on Tuesday following President Vladimir Putin’s order to put the nation’s nuclear forces on high alert amid soaring tensions with the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s Northern Fleet said in a statement that several of its nuclear submarines were involved in exercises to “train maneuvering in stormy conditions.” It said several warships tasked with protection of the area near the Russian naval bases on the Arctic Kola Peninsula will also join the maneuvers.

And in the Irkutsk region in eastern Siberia, units of the Strategic Missile Forces moved the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launches to disperse in forests to practice secret deployment, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The military didn’t say whether the drills were linked to Putin’s order on Sunday to put the country’s nuclear deterrent on high alert amid the war in Ukraine and it was unclear whether they represented any change in the country’s normal nuclear posture.

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BRUSSELS – A senior Western intelligence official briefed by multiple intelligence agencies estimated Tuesday that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers have been captured or killed so far, and that Ukrainian forces have eliminated significant numbers of Russian aircraft and tanks and some air defense systems.

The official said that Russian forces have increased use of artillery north of Kyiv and around the eastern city of Kharkiv and northern city of Chernihiv, and have been using heavier weapons over the last 48 hours.

The official also said that Russian forces are bogging down in the Donbas region in the east, where most Ukrainian forces are concentrated after eight years fighting Russian-backed separatists there. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence assessment.

Overall death tolls from the fighting remain unclear.

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TORONTO – Canada is closing its waters and ports to Russian-owned or registered ships.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says Russia must be held accountable for its invasion of Ukraine and Canada will continue to take action.

Canada already closed its airspace to Russian aircraft and is sending anti-tank weapons and rockets to Ukraine. Canada has also announced a barrage of sanctions and is banning all crude oil imports from Russia.

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LONDON – Britain is vowing to end London’s status as a haven for oligarchs and their ill-gotten gains with a law intended to prevent the real owners of businesses and properties being hidden from view.

The government said the Economic Crime Bill will force anonymous foreign owners of U.K. property to reveal their real identities “to ensure criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies.” Those who don’t comply face being unable to sell their property or a five-year prison sentence.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the measure, which has to be approved by Parliament, would help “tear back the facade that those supporting (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s campaign of destruction have been hiding behind for so long.”

Successive British governments have promised for years to end London’s status as a safe haven for dirty money, with little effect.

The anti-corruption group Transparency International says Russians linked to the Kremlin or accused of corruption own 1.5 billion pounds’ ($2 billion) worth of London property, and 90,000 properties in Britain are owned by shell companies.

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PODGORICA, Montenegro – Montenegro, a former ally that turned its back on Russia to enter NATO in 2017, has joined Western sanctions imposed against Moscow because of the war in Ukraine.

Montenegro’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said that by joining the sanctions Montenegro continues with full harmonization of its policies with those of the European Union.

Additionally, “we are showing solidarity with Ukraine and determination to help … re-establish peace in Europe,” said the statement.

Montenegro is seen as the next in line in the Western Balkans to join the EU. The country is divided among those favoring pro-Western policies and the pro-Serbian and pro-Russian camps.

A pro-Serbian government recently fell in a parliamentary no-confidence vote with talks underway for the formation of a pro-Western one soon.

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LONDON – Britain’s Prince Charles offered words of support for Ukraine on Tuesday, saying he stands with residents who are “resisting brutal aggression.”

Charles, 73, was speaking in Southend-on-Sea in eastern England, where he drew parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the murder of a local member of Parliament who was stabbed to death last year while meeting with constituents.

“What we saw in the terrible tragedy in Southend was an attack on democracy, on an open society, on freedom itself,” Charles said.

“We are seeing those same values under attack today in Ukraine in the most unconscionable way,” he said. ”In the stand we take here, we are in solidarity with all those who are resisting brutal aggression.”

The comments came as Charles attended a ceremony officially conferring city status on Southend. The government last year pledged to make Southend a city in honor of the slain lawmaker David Amess, who had campaigned for cityhood for his community.

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ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey’s defense minister has called for a ceasefire in the conflict in Ukraine during a telephone discussion with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, according to the Turkish defense ministry.

During their conversation, Hulusi Akar “emphasized the urgent need for a ceasefire” to improve the humanitarian situation and to allow the evacuation of people caught up in Russia’s military attacks on Ukraine, according to a ministry statement.

The Turkish minister also told Shoigu that Turkey would continue to work to restore peace in the region and to help provide humanitarian aid.

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PARIS – French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the word “war” he used earlier Tuesday to describe economic and financial sanctions against Russia was “inappropriate.”

Le Maire said in a written statement “we are determined to impose massive and efficient sanctions on Russia but we are not in a conflict against the Russian people.”

He added the word “war” is not in line with France’s “strategy of de-escalation.”

Le Maire’s statement comes after his initial comments prompted a stark warning from a senior Russian official. Dmitry Medvedev, a deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said on Twitter : “Watch your tongue, gentlemen! And don’t forget that in human history, economic wars quite often turned into real ones.”

Tuesday morning on France Info radio, Le Maire had vowed to “to deliver a total economic and financial war against Russia,” adding the sanctions are “going to cause the Russian economy to collapse.”

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KYIV, Ukraine – The leadership of Ukraine’s main Holocaust memorial has asked the International Criminal Court to speak out against Vladimir Putin’s false claims of a genocide in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

In a letter to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial’s academic council said Putin’s claims that Ukraine committed genocide “is a lie.” Putin has sought to justify his invasion of Ukraine by claiming he is protecting residents in the Donbas region, where separatists have fought Ukrainian forces.

The letter asks Khan to make a “legal statement about this so-called genocide.”

“If President Putin wants to denounce genocide, he should reach out to those in the system of international justice, not begin a war against the people of Ukraine under false pretenses,” it says.

Babi Yar, a ravine in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, is where nearly 34,000 Jews were killed within 48 hours in 1941 when the city was under Nazi occupation. The killing was carried out by SS troops along with local collaborators.

The memorial was inaugurated at a ceremony last October attended by the leaders of Ukraine, Israel and Germany. One of the leading donors to the project is Mikhail Fridman, a Ukrainian-born Russian oligarch. Fridman has spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo – Fearing Russia’s intervention through its regional ally Serbia, Kosovo leaders on Tuesday called on NATO to accelerate Kosovo’s membership into the alliance.

Kosovo has joined the United States, European Union and other global powers in slapping ever-tougher sanctions on Russia, a move which has not been done by neighboring Serbia.

Defense Minister Armend Mehaj said that after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “Kosovo’s accelerated membership to NATO is an immediate need to guarantee security and stability in the region and beyond,” adding that, “we should not wait for the worst to take decisions.”

Kosovo relations with Serbia are still tense despite an 11-year long EU-facilitated dialogue.

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 U.S. 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.

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GENEVA – The U.N.’s refugees chief is warning that many more vulnerable people will begin fleeing their homes in Ukraine if Russia’s military offensive continues and further urban areas are hit.

Filippo Grandi told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that his agency has so far recorded 677,000 people fleeing from Ukraine to neighboring countries, with about half of those currently in Poland.

Queues along the border are now tens of kilometers (miles) long and some people are having to wait days to cross.

“It is likely that if the military offensive continues and urban centers are hit one after the other, that we will see more and more people with less resources, with less connections, more vulnerable in every respect,” he said.

Grandi criticized instances where non-Ukrainians fleeing the country had reportedly suffered discrimination, but said this did not appear to be the result of government policies.

He spoke at the launch of the U.N.’s humanitarian appeal for Ukraine for $1.1 billion to help six million people in Ukraine over the next three months.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths said shelling and bombing have already damaged water pipes, electricity lines, basic services. “Hundreds of thousands of families are without drinking water,” he said.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The commander of the Dutch defense forces says that a shipment of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons has been handed to Ukrainian forces so they can be used to defend the country against the Russian invasion.

Gen. Onno Eichelsheim told Dutch radio station NPO 1 on Tuesday that the 50 anti-tank systems and 200 Stinger anti-aircraft rockets “have been moved toward Ukraine and are at this moment being handed over to the Ukrainian armed forces.”

He did not elaborate on where the weapons were given to the Ukrainians but said he expected they would be immediately deployed.

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GENEVA – Scores of diplomats have walked out of two meetings at the United Nations in Geneva in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was beamed in for a video statement, as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov spoke by video to the Conference on Disarmament and the Human Rights Council, which he had planned to attend before closure of airspace to Russian planes by several European countries prevented his travel to the Swiss city.

“What you have seen is strong support for Ukraine,” said Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. Undersecretary of State for arms control and international Security, after the walkout from the disarmament meeting.

Shortly afterward, in a conference room two floors higher, scores of diplomats – including Ukraine’s ambassador in Geneva and the foreign ministers of Canada and Denmark -poured out of the Human Rights Council chamber.

A spokesman for the council said about 100 people left the room.

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NEW DELHI, India – A 21-year-old Indian student died in shelling in Kharkiv on Tuesday morning, as Russian attacks intensified in Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to India’s foreign ministry.

Around 8,000 Indian nationals in Ukraine have made it back home in recent weeks, with nearly 1,400 of them evacuated on six special flights from border countries since last week’s invasion. An estimated 12,000 are believed to still be stuck as efforts continue to evacuate them.

India has sent a group of high-ranking ministers to Ukraine’s neighboring countries to help evacuate the thousands still stranded.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in contact with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But India has refrained so far from condemning Russia or acknowledging Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. Last week, it abstained from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding Russia stop its invasion.

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LASK AIR BASE, Poland – NATO’s chief says the alliance sees no need to change its nuclear weapons alert level, despite Russia’s threats.

NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, spoke to The Associated Press following talks on European security with Polish President Andrzej Duda an air base in Poland where NATO’s Polish and U.S. fighter jets are based.

“We will always do what is needed to protect and defend our allies, but we don’t think there is any need now to change the alert levels of NATO’s nuclear forces,” Stoltenberg said.

The Kremlin has raised the specter of nuclear war, reporting on Monday that its land, air and sea nuclear forces were on high alert following President Vladimir Putin’s weekend order. NATO itself has no nuclear weapons, but three of its members, the United States, Britain and France, do.

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3/1/2022 11:37:03 AM (GMT -6:00)

Categories: Regional and US News