The Latest: US urges Ukraine war crimes investigation
By The Associated Press
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
WARSAW – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris has embraced calls for an international war crimes investigation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and the bombing of civilians, including a maternity hospital.
Speaking Thursday in Warsaw, where she is demonstrating U.S. support for NATO’s eastern flank allies, Harris expressed outrage over the bombing of the maternity hospital on Wednesday and scenes of bloodied pregnant women being evacuated.
“Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching,” said Harris.
Standing alongside Harris, Polish President Andrzej Duda said, “It is obvious to us that in Ukraine Russians are committing war crimes.”
ANTALYA, Turkey – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Turkey was conducted “in a civilized manner despite the difficulties.”
Cavusoglu, who took part as a facilitator in the highest-level Russian-Ukrainian talks since the start of the war in Ukraine, said he had not expected “miracles” from the first meeting, which ended without a breakthrough.
Even so, he welcomed the fact that Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Dmotry Kuleba of Ukraine spoke of the possibility of a meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents – with Russia agreeing “in principle” to such a meeting.
The Turkish minister said that during the three-way talks he pushed for a “sustainable cease-fire.”
“Until that can be established, we stressed the need for humanitarian corridors to remain open… We especially stressed the need for humanitarian corridors in Mariupol,” he said.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia – Germany’s foreign minister says her country has “a historic responsibility” to protect peace in the Balkans, as she drew a parallel between the bloody breakup of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“I am aware that many people here are reminded of the terrible time in the 1990s seeing the pictures from Kiev, from Mariupol,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday in Sarajevo, referring to Ukrainian targets of Russian attacks.
Baerbrock added that growing up alongside some of close to 350,000 Bosnian refugees sheltering in Germany “shaped my generation of politicians.”
“We want to live together in the European house,” said Baerbrock on the first day of her four-day tour of the politically fragile region that will also include stops in Serbia, Kosovo and Moldova.
MILAN, Italy – Russian cultural officials have asked for the return of 25 works of art on loan to two shows in Milan this month.
Italian officials said Thursday the two shows are still open and the request for a return comes ahead of agreed terms.
The works include two on display at a show on the Renaissance artist Titian at the city-run Palazzo Reale, including Titian’s “Young woman with the feathered hat,” that belongs to the Hermitage Museum.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said that “it seems evident that when the owner asks for their works to be returned, they must be returned.”
The ministry said it is currently doing a survey of what Italian works of art are on loan to Russian museums
ANTALYA, Turkey – Ukraine’s foreign minister says talks between the top diplomats of Moscow and Kyiv produced no breakthrough on ending the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he attended the meeting Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Turkey to discuss humanitarian corridors and a cease-fire.
Kuleba said there are “other decision-makers” in Russia who need to be consulted, adding that he agreed with Lavrov to continue to seek a solution to humanitarian issues caused by the war.
He said Moscow is not ready to offer a cease-fire. He said: “They seek Ukraine’s surrender. This is not going to happen.”
Kuleba said “the last thing” he wanted was to kill hope for Ukrainians seeking safe passage out of cities besieged by Russian bombardments and attacks.
WARSAW, Poland – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is praising the Polish people for taking in more than 1 million refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Harris made the comments Thursday as she met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and hours after the U.S. House passed a massive spending bill that includes aid for Ukraine and its European allies. The legislation includes $6.8 billion to care for refugees and other economic help.
“I’ve been watching or reading about the work of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and so I bring you thanks from the American people,” Harris said.
Harris also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda. They were scheduled to hold an afternoon news conference.
Harris is also scheduled to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while in Warsaw. The Canadian leader has been in Europe in recent days meeting with allies about Ukraine.
PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have called for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A statement from the French presidency Thursday said that any solution to the crisis must be negotiated between Russia and Ukraine.
The three leaders agreed to stay in close contact in the coming days, the statement said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the main issue at a summit of European Union heads of states and government at the Versailles Palace, in France on Thursday and Friday.
BEIJING – China is easing government exchange rate controls to let the Russian ruble fall faster in value against the Chinese yuan and help insulate Beijing from economic sanctions on Moscow.
The margin by which the ruble is allowed to fluctuate against the yuan in state-controlled daily trading will be doubled in size to 10% above or below the day’s opening price starting Friday, the China Foreign Exchange Trade System announced.
The ruble has lost about 40% of its value since Western governments cut off some Russian banks from the international SWIFT payment system in retaliation for President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Russia’s central bank was blocked from using its foreign currency reserves to defend the exchange rate.
China has avoided joining other governments in criticizing Putin’s attack and has criticized Western sanctions. Chinese companies are giving no sign they are joining Western counterparts in pulling out of Russia, but economists say they are likely to take advantage of pressure on Moscow to strike better deals.
ANTALYA, Turkey – Russia’s foreign minister is dismissing concerns about Russian military attacks on civilians, including on a maternity hospital, as “pathetic shrieks” from its enemies.
Sergey Lavrov met his Ukrainian counterpart in Turkey on Thursday in the highest-level Russian-Ukrainian talks since the war began last month.
In the Russian government’s first public comment on Wednesday’s strike on a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol, Lavrov didn’t deny or shy away from responsibility for the attack.
He claimed the site had earlier been seized by Ukrainian far-right radical fighters who were using it as a base. Even though there were many images of civilians wounded in the attack and the city council said a child was among the three people killed, Lavrov claimed all the patients and nurses were moved of the hospital before the assault.
Lavrov said Russia was ready for more negotiations but showed no sign of softening Moscow’s stance in the dispute.
LONDON – Britain’s government says it is introducing a new system letting Ukrainians into the United Kingdom, after coming under heavy criticism for not doing enough to help those fleeing the Russian invasion.
Fewer than 1,000 visas have been granted so far, out of more than 22,000 applications for Ukrainians to join their families in the U.K.
Many people, including Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.K., have complained that refugees face a cumbersome visa application process to enter Britain. Some people have needed to travel between visa offices in different European cities.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Thursday that from next Tuesday, Ukrainians with passports no longer need to travel to a visa application center to provide fingerprints. They can instead apply to enter the U.K. online and give their fingerprints after arrival.
HELSINKI – Finland’s president says he is due to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone on Friday.
Sauli Niinisto said Thursday it is important to keep talking with Moscow to achieve peace in Ukraine through diplomacy and prevent the conflict from spreading elsewhere in Europe.
He referred to recent phone calls and efforts by the French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to keep touch with Putin.
The Finnish leader, however, noted that Putin is keen to engage in discussions mainly with the United States rather than with European leaders and that most messages from the Kremlin are directed to Washington, not to European capitals.
Finland, which is a member of the European Union but not NATO, shares a 1,340-kilometer (833-mile) border with Russia. A nationwide poll last week showed that for the first time a majority of those questioned said the Nordic nation should join NATO.
GENEVA – The World Economic Forum, best known as the host of an annual meeting of elites in Davos, Switzerland, says it’s freezing all its relations with Russian entities following the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last participated in the event at a virtual “Davos Agenda” meeting in January 2021. Previously, he attended the event in person.
The forum said in a statement Thursday that it “will not engage with any sanctioned individual or institution in any of our activities,” including the annual meeting.
Russia and Belarus were also suspended Thursday from another international forum: the Northern Dimension, which includes the European Union, Iceland and Norway.
LONDON – Two British directors on the board of Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei’s British subsidiary have quit, with news reports saying the resignations were prompted by the company’s failure to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sir Andrew Cahn and Sir Ken Olisa resigned on Wednesday.
Sky News, citing unidentified sources, said Cahn and Olisa had urged Huawei to criticize Putin “but the company refused.” The British Broadcasting Corp. said the company’s silence “made their positions untenable” but gave no indication whether they asked Huawei to criticize the Russian attack.
The Chinese government has declined to join other governments in criticizing the Kremlin and blames Washington for the Feb. 24 invasion.
Huawei Technologies Ltd. is the world’s biggest maker of switching equipment for phone and internet carriers.
LONDON – German fashion brand Hugo Boss and U.S. hotel chain Hilton are the latest brands to pause their Russian businesses over the Ukraine invasion.
Hugo Boss said Thursday that it has temporarily closed its stores and suspended its own retail and e-commerce business activities in Russia. The company said it will give all affected employees “financial and operational support.”
Russia, along with Ukraine, accounted for about 3% of Hugo Boss’s total sales last year.
The Hilton hotel chain said it’s closing its corporate office in Moscow and suspending new hotel development in Russia. Russian workers will continue to be paid, the company said.
Hilton’s 26 hotels in Russia remain open. They are owned and operated by franchisees, but Hilton said it is donating any profits from those hotels to relief efforts in Ukraine. Hilton said it has also donated up to 1 million room nights to support Ukrainian refugees.
Wall Street titan Citigroup also said Wednesday it would wind down its Russian banking business and will be “operating the business on a more limited basis” until a sale happens.
TOKYO – Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo is temporarily closing in Russia, following a social backlash over reported comments by a top executive that its 49 stores will stay open.
Earlier this week, Fast Retailing Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai was quoted as saying in Japanese business daily Nikkei that Uniqlo would stay open in Russia because Russians had as much right to everyday clothes as anyone else.
That comment, coming after other major consumer brands like Zara, Coca-Cola, Apple and McDonald’s left Russia, prompted public criticism, including calls for a boycott on social media.
“Uniqlo has made everyday clothing available to the general public in Russia, too, as part of our mission. However, we have recently faced a number of difficulties, including operational challenges and the worsening of the conflict situation,” said Fast Retailing Co., the holding company for several clothing brands, including Uniqlo.
Fast Retailing has donated clothing and $10 million through the UN refugee program.
NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus’ government says it rescinded clearances for four Russian warships to dock in the east Mediterranean island nation’s ports last week.
Cyprus Foreign Ministry Spokesman Demetris Demetriou told The Associated Press on Thursday that the Cypriot government made the decision “given the current political context and the military invasion of the Ukraine by Russia.”
Demetriou said the clearances for the ships to refuel and resupply had been issued prior to Russia’s invasion.
“No particular issues were raised by the Russian side” once the clearances were rescinded, Demetriou said.
ISTANBUL – Talks between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine are underway on the sidelines of a diplomatic summit in Turkey.
An official photograph showed Russia’s Sergey Lavrov flanked by two advisers sitting across from his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and his officials on Thursday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu sat at the head of a U-shaped table in a wood-paneled hotel conference room near the Mediterranean city of Antalya.
The talks are the first high-level talks between the two countries since Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago. Cavusoglu has said the aim of the meeting is to pave the way for a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents that would be facilitated by Turkey’s president.
NATO member Turkey, which has cultivated close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, is trying to balance relations with both nations. It has positioned itself as a neutral party, seeking to facilitate negotiations between the warring sides.
JERUSALEM – The Israeli parliament is trying to arrange an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Israeli lawmakers.
Officials say the Ukrainian ambassador requested an address to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, by Zelenskyy, but those plans have been complicated because the Knesset is in spring recess and the building is undergoing repairs.
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy offered to hold a virtual conference between Israeli legislators and Zelenskyy over Zoom, but his office has yet to receive an official reply.
Israel maintains good relations with both Russia and Ukraine and has emerged as a mediator between the two countries in the two weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Three major newspapers in the Nordic region are to translate some of their articles on the invasion of Ukraine into Russian.
The plan is to inform people in Russia about what is happening, after independent media there were shut down.
The translated newspaper articles also will be posted on social media.
Denmark’s Politiken newspaper Politiken said Thursday that “our goal is to provide the Russians with impartial and reliable news coverage.”
It added that “democracy dies in the dark. The free dissemination of independent information is essential for maintaining the hope of peace and the hope of humanity.”
Other newspapers participating in the initiative include Sweden’s daily Dagens Nyheter and Finland’s largest newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat.
LONDON – Britain has imposed a travel ban and asset freezes on seven more wealthy Russians, including Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Premier League soccer club Chelsea.
The government said Thursday that Abramovich’s assets are frozen, he is banned from visiting the U.K. and he is barred from transactions with U.K. individuals and businesses.
Abramovich said last week he was trying to sell Chelsea as the threat of sanctions loomed.
Also added to the U.K. sanctions list are industrialist Oleg Deripaska and Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin.
The sanctions are being imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
LONDON – Britain’s armed forces minister says Russia’s strike on a hospital in Mariupol is a war crime, and warned President Vladimir Putin that using chemical weapons in Ukraine could draw “an international response.”
James Heappey said whether it was “indiscriminate” fire into a built-up area or a deliberate targeting, “It is a war crime.”
The Biden administration has warned that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine. Russia has claimed, without evidence, that Ukraine is running chemical and biological weapons labs with U.S. support.
Heappey told the BBC “that when other countries have used chemical weapons it has caused an international response.”
BRUSSELS – The top U.S. military commander in Europe is thanking Poland for its offer of fighter jets for Ukraine but says that sending the MiG-29 planes would be a “high-risk and low-gain” venture.
Poland had said it was prepared to supply MiG-29 planes – which Ukraine’s pilots are trained to fly – to NATO if all 30 allies agreed to send them on to the war-ravaged country.
Gen. Tod D. Wolters, the commander of U.S. European Command, said, “The most effective way to support the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia is to provide increased amounts of anti-tank weapons and air defense systems.”
Wolters is also NATO’s top military commander and responsible for beefing up the organization’s defenses to deter Russia from attacking any member country. NATO is wary of getting embroiled in Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
Wolters says Ukraine already has enough warplanes and that sending MiG-29s “will not appreciably increase the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force.”
Wolters says intelligence estimates suggest that sending the planes “may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in Russian escalation with NATO…producing a high-risk scenario.”
He told Poland that U.S. European Command will “evaluate ways to best support and assist our Ukraine friends.”
ANTALYA, Turkey – The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine have begun meeting at a Turkish Mediterranean resort for the first high-level talks between the two countries since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The meeting between Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Dmotry Kuleba of Ukraine is taking place on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum near the city of Antalya on Thursday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is also participating in the meeting.
Cavusoglu has said the aim of the meeting is to pave the way for a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents that would be facilitated by Turkey’s president. Kuleba has also said that he would propose direct talks between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents when he meets Lavrov.
NATO-member Turkey, which has cultivated close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, is trying to balance relations with both nations. It has positioned itself as a neutral party, seeking to facilitate negotiations between the warring sides.
Turkey has criticized Russia’s military actions in Ukraine as “unlawful” and “unacceptable” but it has also said Ankara would not give up on either Russia or Ukraine.
BERLIN – The head of the U.N. nuclear agency says he’s en route to Turkey for talks on ensuring the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.
Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was invited to Antalya, Turkey by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Also in Antalya on Thursday, the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are scheduled to hold talks on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum.
Grossi didn’t give details of his own planned meetings in a tweet that showed him sitting on a plane.
The IAEA chief has been pressing for an agreement with Ukraine and Russia on the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.
A growing list of concerns includes a power cut at the decommissioned Chernobyl plant as well as limited communications between Ukraine’s nuclear regulator and both Chernobyl and the Zaporizhzhia power plant, which Russian forces seized last week.
In addition, the IAEA says it has lost direct transmission of data from systems installed to monitor nuclear material at both Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia. It says the reasons for the disruption aren’t immediately clear.
Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors, eight of which were operating as of Wednesday.
STOCKHOLM – The Swedish government said Thursday it suggests that the country, which is not a member of NATO, should boost its military spending to 2% of gross domestic product by 2025.
“Between 2014 and 2025, expenditure on defense will have increased by 85%,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said. “Sweden’s defense capability must be greatly strengthened.”
The move follows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has profoundly changed Europe’s security outlook, including for Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden, where support for joining NATO has surged to record levels.
The Social Democratic-led government’s proposal is likely to get support in the 349-seat Riksdag.
Andersson said that “more young people need to prepare in the long run to do military service and contribute to the military defense.”
In 2017, Sweden instituted a military draft for both men and women because of a deteriorating security environment in Europe and around Sweden. Seven years earlier, Sweden had abolished compulsory military service for men because there were enough volunteers to meet its military needs. It has never had a military draft for women.
On Sunday, neighboring Scandinavian country Denmark, which is member of NATO, said it would also boost military spending to meet the NATO target of 2% of gross domestic product by 2033.
The 27-member Western military alliance has a target that its members spend 2% of gross domestic product on defense.
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3/10/2022 7:12:20 AM (GMT -6:00)