Live updates: US to welcome up to 100,000 from Ukraine

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By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A U.S. official says the United States will welcome up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine as 3.5 million flee Russia’s invasion.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement later Thursday.

The White House has been saying for weeks that the U.S. would accept refugees from Ukraine, but officials had expected most would want to remain in Europe to stay close to their homeland or to family members around Eastern Europe.

Refugee agencies had urged the Biden administration to do more, saying the U.S. could expedite the entry of Ukrainians who had already been in the process of applying to enter the United States through the country’s refugee program or expanding the total number of Ukrainians who could come into the country under the cap that the administration sets in consultation with Congress.

Previously, the Biden administration set the refugee cap for budget year 2022 at 125,000 after it had been cut to a record low of 15,000 under former President Donald Trump.

— By AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

– Ukraine president to press Biden, NATO for more support

– Biden, Western allies gather in Brussels as Ukraine war enters second month

– UN to vote on blaming Russia for Ukraine humanitarian crisis

– Russian stock market, crushed by war, partially reopens

– Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president has pleaded with NATO to provide his embattled nation with military assistance.

In a video address to the NATO summit Thursday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs “military assistance without limitations,” as Russia is “using its entire arsenal” against the country.

Zelenskyy urged NATO to provide Ukraine with “1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks.” “We can’t just buy those,” Zelenskyy said. “When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100% security.”

Ukraine is also in dire need of multiple launch rocket systems, anti-ship weapons and air defense systems, Zelenskyy said. “Is it possible to survive in such a war without this?,” he asked.

Zelenskyy said Russia used phosphorous bombs on Thursday morning, killing both adults and children. He reminded NATO leaders that thousands of Ukrainians have died in the past month, 10 million people have left their homes, and urged NATO to give “clear answers.”

“It feels like we’re in a gray area, between the West and Russia, defending our common values,” Zelenskyy said emotionally. “This is the scariest thing during a war — not to have clear answers to requests for help.”

Zelenskyy did not reiterate his request for a no-fly zone or ask to join NATO, according to a senior Biden administration official.

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BERLIN – Germany says it has sent about 10,000 metric tons of essential aid to Ukraine using a recently created “rail bridge” of trains shuttling back and forth between the two countries.

Transport minister Volker Wissing told the Funke media group in an interview published Thursday that the rail link was established two weeks ago to bring much-needed food, drink and hygiene products from Germany to Ukraine.

Speaking at a Berlin cargo terminal Thursday, Wissing said many of the goods being sent to Ukraine by train had been donated.

“We hope this war is over soon and will do everything to ease the suffering,” he said.

German rail company Deutsche Bahn has separately organized additional trains to bring refugees from the Polish-Ukrainian border to Germany.

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PRAGUE – The Czech Republic’s Parliament has approved a plan to deploy up to 650 Czech service members to Slovakia as part of an multinational NATO force set up in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Parliament’s lower house approved the deployment Thursday after the upper house gave the green light last week.

The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia will also contribute troops to the unit, expected to include up to 2,100 soldiers.

The plan is part of the NATO initiative to reassure member countries on the alliance’s eastern flank.

The alliance stationed troops in the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and Poland after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by Russia. After Russia attacked Ukraine, NATO decided to boost its presence along the entire eastern flank by deploying forces in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

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STOCKHOLM – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited Sweden to help rebuild his country as he marked one month of the Russian invasion during an address to the Swedish parliament.

“This is a month now,” Zelenskyy said during a speech by video link Thursday. “We have not seen a destruction of this scale since World War II.”

“Just look at what the Russian army has done to our country … A month of bombings similar to what we have seen in Syria,” Zelenskyy said, adding 10 million people have been displaced.

He called on “Swedish companies and state to come rebuild” the country.

Zelenskyy, speaking through an interpreter, also raised an alarm about the possibility of Russia using nuclear and chemical weapons.

His speech was broadcast live before members of the 349-seat Riksdagen which gave him a standing ovation.

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BEIJING – China is rejecting accusations of helping Russia spread disinformation over Washington’s involvement in Ukraine, while repeating Moscow’s baseless claims about secret American biological warfare labs in Ukraine.

“Accusing China of spreading disinformation on Ukraine is disinformation in itself,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily Briefing Thursday. He said China has acted in “an objective and just manner.”

Wang claimed the international community continues to have “grave concerns” about U.S. biolabs in Ukraine, despite rebuttals from independent scientists.

“The U.S. cannot muddle through with silence or claiming that as disinformation. The U.S. should make serious clarifications on whether that is disinformation or not,” Wang said.

The lab claims have also taken root in the U.S., uniting COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, QAnon adherents and some supporters of ex-President Donald Trump.

China claims it is neutral in the conflict, although it maintains what it calls a limitless friendship with Russia, which it calls its “most important strategic partner.” China has refused to criticize Russia over its invasion – or even to refer to it as such – and Chinese state media repeatedly regurgitate Moscow’s false claims over the conflict.

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NEW YORK – The Russian stock market has resumed limited trading under heavy restrictions, almost one month after prices plunged and the market was shut down following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Trading of a limited number of stocks including energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft took place under curbs that are meant to prevent a repeat of the massive selloff that took place Feb. 24 in anticipation of Western economic sanctions. Foreigners cannot sell and traders are barred from short selling, or betting prices will fall. The benchmark MOEX index gained 8% in the first minutes of trading.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Two Norwegian media report that Jens Stoltenberg is getting his job as NATO Secretary-General extended for a year.

Stoltenberg’s tenure at NATO is due to end later this year. Norwegian broadcaster TV2 and the Dagens Naeringsliv newspaper reported that there was complete unity within NATO to have Stoltenberg continue as secretary-general for another year. They gave no source for the report.

In February, Norway’s government announced Stoltenberg’s appointment as head of the Scandinavian country’s central bank and said it hopes he can start in his new role around Dec. 1.

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NEW YORK – The Russian stock market has resumed limited trading under heavy restrictions, almost one month after prices plunged and the market was shut down following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Trading of a limited number of stocks including energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft took place under curbs that are meant to prevent a repeat of the massive selloff that took place Feb. 24 in anticipation of Western economic sanctions. Foreigners cannot sell and traders are barred from short selling, or betting prices will fall. The benchmark MOEX index gained 8% in the first minutes of trading.

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BRUSSELS — U.S. President Joe Biden and world leaders have opened the first in a trio of summits in Brussels focused on pressuring Russia to end its war in Ukraine.

Europe’s diplomatic capital is hosting an emergency NATO summit as well as a gathering of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and a summit of the 27 members of the European Union.

Biden is attending all three meetings, beginning with the NATO.

The president and the leaders of other NATO countries met for a group photo memorializing their urgent gathering before they went into the meeting, which was expected to last for several hours.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg opened Thursday’s meeting by saying the alliance is determined to continue to ratchet up the costs on Russia.

Biden arrived in Brussels on Wednesday with the hopes of nudging allies to enact new sanctions on Russia, which has already seen its economy crippled by a steady stream of bans, boycotts and penalties over the past four weeks.

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BRUSSELS – NATO leaders are refusing to rule out retaliation against Russia should it launch a chemical weapons attack on Ukraine – but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson thinks Moscow has already gone too far.

“The reality is that (President) Vladimir Putin has already crossed the red line into barbarism,” Johnson told reporters Thursday as he arrived for summit of NATO leaders.

Johnson says that “it’s now up to NATO to consider together the appalling crisis in Ukraine, the appalling suffering of the people of Ukraine, and to see what more we can do to help the people of Ukraine to protect themselves.”

As an organization, NATO is not providing weapons to Ukraine. The 30-nation alliance refuses to send troops to Ukraine, either for combat or peacekeeping, and has said it will not deploy aircraft to protect civilians or police any no-fly zone.

But member countries are providing weapons and other assistance, individually or in groups.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo describes Putin as “a Russian leader who has lost any sense of what is reasonable these days.”

De Croo warns that “if chemical weapons or anything else could be used, that would have definitely grave consequences.” No NATO leader has elaborated yet on what that might mean.

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PARIS – French carmaker Renault announced Wednesday night it is suspending “activities at the Renault Moscow plant” with immediate effect.

The move came hours after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke virtually to the French parliament, calling on Renault and other French companies with a Russian presence to stop indirectly supporting the war against Ukraine.

The Renault Group board of directors met Wednesday to decided to halt production at the plant that produces Arkana, Kaptur, Duster and Nissan Terrano SUVs amid mounting criticism of its foothold in the Russian Federation.

However, the lion’s share of the group’s Russian presence goes through its subsidiary AvtoVAZ, through which it sold nearly 500,000 vehicles in Russia in 2021.

Renault said that AvtoVAZ is not immediately withdrawing, but it’s “assessing the available options, taking into account the current environment, while acting responsibly towards its 45,000 employees in Russia.”

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PARIS – France’s defense ministry announced Wednesday the country successfully tested the modernized version of its nuclear missile, the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée.

In a statement, it said that it was tested “without a military payload” and was fired from a Rafale twin-engine, multirole fighter aircraft that took off from Cazaux Air Force Base 120 in southwestern France.”

The medium-range air-to-ground nuclear ASMP missile, developed by arms manufacturer MBDA, represents part of the air component of the French nuclear deterrence. The announcement comes at the height of the war in Ukraine, as some observers fear the potential for a military escalation by Russia.

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BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says any chemical attack by Russia on Ukraine would change the course of the war but he is not saying whether NATO would take military action.

Asked whether a chemical weapons attack is a red line for NATO, Stoltenberg said, “I will not speculate beyond the fact that NATO is always ready to defend, to protect and to react to any type of attack on a NATO-allied country.”

Stoltenberg says “any use of chemical weapons would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. It would be a blatant violation of international law, and it will have widespread and severe consequences.”

His remarks Thursday came as he arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels to chair a summit of the military organization’s 30 national leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden.

NATO allies are worried about Russian rhetoric and fears that Moscow might want to create a pretext to use chemical weapons in Ukraine. The leaders are likely to agree to send equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

They’re also set to endorse a move to set up four new multinational battlegroups in eastern Europe to deter Russia from attacking any NATO members.

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LVIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s navy on Thursday reported destroying Russia’s large landing ship, Orsk, near the port city of Berdyansk.

A short Facebook statement about the ship was accompanied with photos and videos of fire and thick plumes of smoke in the port.

The Russian military has not commented on what happened to the ship.

Berdyansk has been under Russian control since Feb. 27.

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

3/24/2022 8:03:05 AM (GMT -5:00)

Categories: Regional and US News