Latest on war in Ukraine: AP video shows tanks shelling apartment block
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
Zelenskyy warns against ‘pseudo-republics’
LVIV, Ukraine – Russia is trying to create new “pseudo-republics” in Ukraine to break his country apart, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address to the nation Saturday.
Zelenskyy called on Ukraine’s regions, including Kherson, which was captured by Russian forces, not to repeat the experience of Donetsk and Luhansk. Pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in those eastern regions in 2014.
“The occupiers on the territory of the Kherson region are trying to repeat the sad experience of the formation of pseudo-republics,” Zelenskyy said. “They are blackmailing local leaders, putting pressure on deputies, looking for someone to bribe.”
City council members in Kherson, a southern city of 290,000, on Saturday rejected plans for a new pseudo-republic, Zelenskyy said.
Russia recognized the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic before invading Ukraine in February. Moscow said it had to protect the separatist regions, and is demanding that Ukraine recognize their independence too.
“Ukraine will stand this test. We need time and strength to break the war machine that has come to our land,” Zelenskyy said.
7 Ukrainians die in shelling of refugee convoy
KYIV, Ukraine — Seven Ukrainian civilians, including a child, died when Russia shelled a humanitarian convoy of refugees and forced them to turn back, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said.
The seven were among hundreds of people who tried to flee the village of Peremoha, 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of Kyiv. An unknown number of people were wounded in the shelling, the report added.
Moscow has said it would establish humanitarian corridors out of conflict zones, but Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of disrupting those paths and firing on civilians.
On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said just nine of 14 agreed-upon corridors were open on Saturday, and that about 13,000 people were evacuated on them around the country.
At least 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion 17 days ago, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Retired tennis pro talks about fighting in Ukraine
Sergiy Stakhovsky is a recently retired professional tennis player from Ukraine who has left his wife and three young children at home in Hungary to go back to his birthplace to help how he can during Russia’s invasion.
Stakhovsky said in a video interview with the AP that he would never have imagined he would be in his home city with a gun in his hands.
He earned more than $5 million in prize money in tennis and upset Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013. Stakhovsky’s last match came in Australian Open qualifying in January.
Russia began attacking Ukraine on Feb. 24, and a few days later, he arrived in Kyiv.
Medical train carries Ukraine kids with cancer
MEDYKA, Poland — About 60 child cancer patients from Ukraine boarded a medical train in a Polish town Saturday, bound for hospitals in Warsaw and elsewhere.
Medical workers carried some young patients in their arms, on stretchers and in a wheelchair at a station in Medyka, near the Ukrainian border.
“Some of them will require oxygen, will require some form of intensive care,” and some have COVID-19 and have to be kept separate from others,” said Dominik Daszuta, an anesthesiologist from Warsaw Hospital. He said the train has transported 120 children with cancer so far.
The United Nations refugee agency says at least 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine in the two weeks since Russia invaded it.
Rabbi in Portugal arrested amid oligarch probe
LISBON — Portuguese police said Saturday that a rabbi in the city of Porto has been detained amid reports of an investigation into the granting of Portuguese nationality to Russian magnate Roman Abramovich.
Portugal’s criminal police office confirmed the arrest of Rabbi Daniel Litvak to The Associated Press after it was originally reported by Publico newspaper. Police did not specify the day of the arrest, which local media say occurred on Thursday.
Abramovich gained Portuguese citizenship in 2021 thanks to a law that offered to naturalize the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were forced to leave the Iberian peninsula centuries before.
Portuguese media reports that Litvak is being investigated on charges of corruption for allegedly providing illicit paperwork for some applicants seeking to take advantage of the citizenship opportunity.
Porto’s Jewish Community did not immediately respond to an email by The AP requesting comment on the arrest.
Like other oligarchs with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Abramovich is being targeted by sanctions for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich, 55, was on Saturday disqualified as owner of Premier League club Chelsea, the current European champion.
Abramovich has been without a British visa since 2018. Since then, he gained citizenship both in Portugal and Israel.
Sweden official dismisses Russian NATO warning
HELSINKI — Sweden’s foreign minister is dismissing fresh warnings from Russia that the Nordic country’s joining NATO would lead to retaliatory measures from Moscow.
Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish news agency TT on Saturday that “Russia has nothing to do with our independent decisions,” referring to the Stockholm’s possible move to join NATO.
Russia’s Interfax news agency on Saturday quoted a Russian Foreign Ministry official saying the possible accession of Sweden and neighboring Finland to NATO would have serious military and political consequences.
Sergei Belyayev, the head of department for Nordic countries at the Russian Foreign Ministry, said such a situation would require Russia to take “retaliatory measures” but didn’t specify what those measures could include.
He accused some NATO members, particularly the United States, of deliberately trying to drag the the two non-aligned Nordic countries into the military bloc.
Moscow has repeatedly warned both Finland and Sweden that their possible joining NATO would be seen as a hostile act from Moscow. Both countries have brushed off those warnings.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, polls in both Finland and Sweden have shown a substantially increased support for NATO membership.
AP video shows tanks shelling apartment block
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Video shot by an Associated Press journalist shows a Russian tanks firing shells at an apartment block in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
The video shows shells exploding as they hit the apartment block that was already severely damaged, sparking balcony fires. It also shows a tank emblazoned with a giant Z crashing into destroyed buses before letting loose a shell and before Ukrainian fighters destroyed it.
It was not possible to determine if the Russian positions had been fired on from the targeted locations before they opened fire.
The journalist was also among a group of medical workers who came under sniper fire. His video also shows a weeping medical worker named Anastasia Erashova, who had been shot in the hip by sniper fire. One of her children had been killed by shells. Erashova sat weeping as she held a surviving child who was asleep.
“We came to my brother’s (place), all of us together. The women and children went underground and then some mortar struck that building. We were trapped underground, and two children died. No one was able to save them,″ she said through tears. “I don’t know where to run to. Who will bring back our children? Who?”
Aeroflot leader resigns, leaves Russia
A deputy head of Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot says he has resigned and left the country.
Andrei Panov, Aeroflot’s deputy director in charge of marketing, wrote on Facebook on Saturday that “the old life is over.”
Earlier this month, Russian news reports claimed that Aeroflot’s CEO Mikhail Poluboyarinov also has left the country. Aeroflot has denied that.
Aeroflot has been badly hit by Western sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine. Western allies have barred Aeroflot planes from their skies and banned the supply of spare parts, among other measures taken against the airline. Aeroflot responded to the sanctions by cutting all flights abroad.
Zelenskyy willing to talk to Putin
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he’s open for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Israel ,but only if there is a cease-fire in place.
Zelenskyy said Saturday he told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he would be ready to meet Putin in Jerusalem. Bennett visited Moscow for a meeting with Putin and spoke repeatedly with Zelenskyy and the leaders of France and Germany as he sought to help mediate an end to the war.
Zelenskyy said Bennett informed him about his talks with Putin, adding that he can’t share details.
Putin has ignored numerous previous offers of talks from Zelenskyy.
Speaking at a news conference, Zelenskyy said the Russians could take the Ukrainian capital “only if they kill us all.”
“If that is their goal, let them come,” he said. “If they carry out carpet bombings and wipe off the historic memory of the entire region, the history of Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe, they could enter Kyiv but they will have to leave on that land alone, certainly without us.
“Even if they bring a million Russians here, they can’t occupy Ukraine,” he added.
Zelenskyy again deplored NATO’s refusal to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine despite its repeated pleas. He said that Ukraine has sought for ways to procure air defense assets, but he wouldn’t mention any details.
Czechs ask EU to supply housing containers
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is asking the European Union to provide it with modular containers to house the refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said Saturday his country has requested containers to house up to 50,000 people as all other options have been coming to an end amid a massive wave of refugees.
It’s estimated some 200,000 refugees have arrived in the Czech Republic, an EU country that doesn’t border Ukraine.
Rakusan previously said the Czechs are ready to take care of some 250,000 refugees.
The authorities are currently getting ready school gyms and sport venues to provide shelters for the refugees and the containers would be used after their capacities are exhausted, possibly in two or three weeks, the minister said.
Marcron talks with Putin, German chancellor
PARIS — The office of French President Emmanuel Macron says his three-way call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin was “very frank and also difficult.”
French officials said the Russian leader gave no indication during the call Saturday lasting more than an hour that he intends to stop the fighting in Ukraine.
European leaders are working on what they describe as a punishing new set of “massive” economic sanctions against Moscow in the hope of getting Putin to change his mind.
Biden OKs $200M in Ukraine aid
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden is authorizing the State Department to provide additional aid to Ukraine of up to $200 million.
The funds would cover weapons as well as military services, education and training as Ukrainians seek to repel a Russian invasion.
The aid is part of broader U.S. support in the form of aid and sanctions. When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that $1 billion in aid had been provided to Ukraine.
The ongoing warfare has led to additional support with Congress this week approving $13.6 billion in additional aid, a sum that includes $6.5 billion for the costs of sending troops and weapons to Eastern Europe and $6.8 billion for refugees and economic aid.
Biden plans to sign the spending bill with the additional aid when he receives it next week.
Wealthy Russian man’s Superyacht spotted on Adriatic Sea
TIVAT, Montenegro — Roman Abramovich’s superyacht Solaris has been spotted in the small Adriatic Sea state of Montenegro.
The 55-year-old Abramovich is among several wealthy Russians sanctioned by Britain over their close links to the Kremlin following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
The 533-foot Solaris was seen on Saturday outside the Porto Montenegro marina in the coastal town of Tivat. Montenegrin Vijesti daily reported it has arrived from Barcelona.
There was no immediate comment from the Montenegrin authorities on the arrival of the $600-million vessel. The NATO country has joined Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian oligarchs in the past days have sought to move their superyachts to safe locations to avoid confiscation because of the sanctions. Authorities in Italy, France and other countries have impounded several luxury vessels.
Russian metals and petroleum magnate Roman Abramovich is believed to have bought or built at least seven of the world’s largest yachts, some of which he has since sold off to other oligarchs.
Zelenskyy: 1,300 Ukraine soldiers killed in fighting
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in fighting since the start of the Russian invasion.
Speaking at a news conference Saturday, Zelenskyy said it would take Russia to carpet-bomb the Ukrainian capital and kill its residents to take the city.
He added that “if that is their goal, let them come.”
Zelenskyy said that “if they carry out carpet bombings and wipe off the historic memory of the entire region, the history of Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe, they could enter Kyiv.”
Pope renews calls for end to war
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is renewing calls for an end to the war in Ukraine, emphasizing the impact on children.
In a tweet on Saturday he wrote: “Never war! Think first about the children, about those who are deprived of the hope for a dignified life: dead or wounded children, orphans, children who play with the remnants of war.”
Francis added: “In the name of God, stop!”
Ukrainian officials and the U.N. human rights office say dozens of children have been killed since the start of the war.
Urkraine ambassador thanks Poland
WARSAW, Poland — The Ukrainian ambassador to Poland says he is grateful to Poland for its support as his county is under an invasion from Russia.
Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia expressed his thanks Saturday at an anti-Russia rally in Warsaw organized by a right-wing newspaper, Gazeta Polska, where Poles waved Ukrainian and Polish flags and chanted anti-Russian slogans.
He thanked both the Polish government and Polish society. Poland has accepted more refugees than any other country since the war began on Feb. 24.
Deshchytsia said he was “really very, very grateful to the Polish people for such strong support of Ukraine.”
Taiwan president talks of defending island nation
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s president says Russia’s war on Ukraine shows the island would need “the unity of all the citizens” to defend itself if it were attacked.
Training for military veterans in Taiwan was doubled in length to two weeks this year amid increased efforts by China’s ruling Communist Party to intimidate the self-ruled island democracy, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.
President Tsai Ing-wen said Saturday that “the recent situation in Ukraine once again proved that to protect the country, not only the assistance from the international society is necessary, but also the unity of all the citizens.
Tsai said that “educational mobilization is an implementation of the spirit of all-out defense with the principle of local mobilization and local engagement of the enemy.”
Taiwan and the mainland split in 1949 following a civil war. They have no official relations but multibillion-dollar ties of trade and investment.
UN office: 579 civilians killed in Ukraine
GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says at least 579 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the start of the war, and more than 1,000 have been injured.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Saturday that 42 of those killed were children, while 54 were injured.
The Geneva-based office had documented 564 civilian deaths and 982 injured a day earlier.
It said most recorded civilian casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a “wide impact area,” such as shelling from heavy artillery and missile strikes.
U.N. officials said they believe the actual number of casualties is considerably higher than so far recorded because the receipt of information has been delayed and many reports still need to be corroborated.
Zelenskyy: Heed calls to free mayor of Malitopol
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is calling on Russian forces to heed the calls of residents in the occupied city of Melitopol who protested to demand their mayor be freed.
Zelenskyy, who spoke earlier Saturday with the leaders of Germany and France, said the detention of Mariupol Mayor Ivan Fedorov was an attempt “to bring the city to its knees.”
He said that Ukraine expects “the leaders of the world to show how they can influence the liberation (of) a man who personifies Ukrainians who do not give up.”
Zelenskyy also encouraged Ukrainians to keep fighting, saying it was “impossible to say how many days we will still need to free our land, but it is possible to say that we will do it.”
Thailand reports Russian tourists stranded on its beaches
BANGKOK — Officials say thousands of Russian tourists are stranded in Thailand’s beach resorts because of the war in Ukraine.
Many are unable to pay their bills or return home because of sanctions and canceled flights.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told The Associated Press that about 6,500 Russian tourists stuck in Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi and Pattaya.
Yuthasak said some 1,000 Ukrainians are also stuck in the four provinces that are popular seaside resort destinations.
German chancellor: 75-minute call with Putin
BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron have spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin urging him to agree an “immediate cease-fire in Ukraine.”
Scholz’s office said the 75-minute call Saturday was part of “ongoing international efforts to end the war in Ukraine.”
It said the leaders of Germany and France called on Putin to begin the process of finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Further details of the call were not released.
Separately, Scholz spoke earlier Saturday with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to get his assessment of the current situation.
Protest in Bosnia supports invasion of Ukraine
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia — A few dozen Bosnian Serb nationalists demonstrated Saturday in the northwestern Bosnian town of Banja Luka in support of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Participants waved Russian flags and described Russia’s decision to invade its much smaller neighbour as a legitimate “battle to liberate (Ukraine’s) subjugated people.”
“Russia is not at war with Ukraine, it is at war with the dark Euro-Atlantic forces that want to dominate the world and destroy it,” said Zdravko Mocevic, one of over 100 people, mostly men, who joined the rally.
The gathering was organized by Bosnian Serb members of the Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club that staunchly supports President Vladimir Putin and, by extension, also his Balkan protegee, Bosnian Serb secessionist leader Milorad Dodik who was recently slapped with U.S. sanctions for alleged corruption.
Political power in multi-ethnic Bosnia is shared between Bosniak, Croat and Serb ethnic communities. Dodik currently serves as the Serb member of the country’s tripartite presidency. Despite Dodik’s vocal opposition, Bosnia joined a historic vote earlier this month in the U.N. General Assembly denouncing Russia for invading Ukraine.
German officials wants to cut imports of Russian coal, oil
BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister says his country wants to virtually end the import of Russian coal and oil by the end of the year.
Robert Habeck told weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that Germany aims to end its use of Russian coal in the fall.
In the interview, extracts of which were published Saturday, he said that Germany could also become “almost independent of oil from Russia by the end of the year.”
Germany currently gets about half of its coal and oil from Russia.
Habeck said weaning his country off Russian natural gas would be more difficult but the government is working “under heavy pressure” to do so.
The German government last month halted the pipeline Nord Stream 2 project intended to bring additional natural gas from Russia to Germany.
The newspaper quoted Habeck cautioning against an immediate embargo on all energy imports from Russia, saying it could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and make heating and electricity unaffordable for many.
UN trying to secure corridors for delivering aid
LVIV, Ukraine — The U.N.’s crisis coordinator for Ukraine says the global body is seeking agreement with both sides in the conflict to establish corridors for delivering much-needed aid.
Amin Awad told The Associated Press on Saturday that progress is being made on the corridors and accompanying cease-fires but expressed frustration over resistance to quickly implement them.
He says the most pressing humanitarian needs are in Mariupol, a besieged city on the eastern edge of Ukraine near the Russian border that would be one of the most difficult for aid convoys to reach. Several attempts to establish evacuation routes from Mariupol have failed.
Awad says overall as many as many as 12 million Ukrainians may need aid.
Ukraine: Russia captures outskirts of Mariupol
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military says Russian forces have captured the eastern outskirts of the besieged city of Mariupol.
In a Facebook update Saturday, the military said the capture of Mariupol and Severodonetsk in the east were a priority for Russian forces. Mariupol has been under siege for over a week, with no electricity, gas or water.
Repeated efforts to evacuate people from the city of 430,000 have fallen apart as humanitarian convoys come under shelling.
Ukraine: Russian general killed in fighting
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says that another Russian general has been killed in fighting.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, said Saturday that Russian Maj. Gen. Andrei Kolesnikov was killed in action during the fighting over Mariupol. He would be the third Russian general to die in the war, according to Ukrainian officials.
Kolesnikov’s death wasn’t confirmed by the Russian military, which has kept a tight lid on information about its losses.
Previously, unofficial Russian sources confirmed the death of one Russian general.
The death of Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division, was confirmed by his colleague and the officers’ association in southern Russia. The death of another general, Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov, wasn’t confirmed by any Russian sources.
Premier League bans Chelsea club owner
LONDON — The Premier League is banning Roman Abramovich from running Chelsea after the club owner was sanctioned by the British government over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The league board’s decision Saturday to disqualify the Russian oligarch from being a director ends his 19 years in control of the west London club but does not directly affect the players.
The team is able to continue operating under the terms of a license issued by the British government when it froze Abramovich’s assets on Thursday while imposing sanctions against.
“The board’s decision does not impact on the club’s ability to train and play its fixtures, as set out under the terms of a licence issued by the government which expires on 31 May 2022,” the league said.
The Russian oligarch has owned Chelsea since 2003.
Russia-backed separatist leader expects fighters from Middle East
KYIV, Ukraine — The Russia-backed head of the separatist region in eastern Ukraine says he expects thousands of fighters from the Middle East to come to fight the Ukrainian forces.
Denis Pushilin, the head of the separatist government in the Donetsk region, said in remarks broadcast on Russian state television Saturday that “many thousands” of volunteers from the Middle East could shortly join the rebels and fight “shoulder-to-shoulder” against the Ukrainian army.
Pushilin’s remarks follow Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s comment on Friday that Russian authorities have received requests from over 16,000 people from the Middle East who are eager to join the Russian military action in Ukraine. He added that many of those people have previously fought together with Russia against the Islamic State group.
Russia has waged a military action in Syria since September 2015, helping President Bashar Assad’s government to reclaim control over most of the country in a devastating civil war. Shoigu’s statement followed Ukraine’s call on volunteers from foreign countries to come to help fight the Russian troops.
Urkaine official: 79 children killed, nearly 100 hurt
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian chief prosecutor’s office says at least 79 children have been killed and nearly 100 have been wounded since the start of the Russian invasion.
Prosecutor General’s Office said in Saturday’s statement that most of the victims were in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Sumy, Kherson and Zhytomyr regions. It noted that the numbers aren’t final because active fighting is continuing.
The prosecutor’s office also said that more than 280 educational institutions have been hit and nine of them have been completely destroyed, depriving large numbers of students of access to education.
Melitopol residents seek release of mayor
LVIV, Ukraine — Residents on the Ukrainian city of Melitopol are demanding the release of their mayor after surveillance video showed him being marched out of city hall apparently surrounded by Russian soldiers.
Ukrainian President Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Russia of kidnapping the mayor, calling the abduction “a new stage of terror.” The Biden administration had warned before the invasion of Russian plans to detain and kill targeted people in Ukraine, with Zelenskyy himself likely top target.
An aide to Zelenskyy posted the surveillance footage as well as video of a protest Saturday demanding the mayor’s release which he said drew 2,000 people.
Melitopol is located in the southeast of Ukraine.
Russian diplomat: Moscow could target Western equipment
MOSCOW — A senior Russian diplomat is warning that Moscow could target Western shipments of military equipment to Ukraine.
Speaking Saturday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow has warned the U.S. it would see the deliveries of Western weapons to Ukraine as targets.
Ryabkov said Russia “warned the U.S. that pumping weapons from a number of countries it orchestrates isn’t just a dangerous move, it’s an action that makes those convoys legitimate targets.”
He also denounced the U.S. sanctions against Moscow as an “unprecedented attempt to deal a serious blow to various sectors of the Russian economy,” but noted that Moscow will act in a measured way to avoid hurting itself.
Ryabkov said that Russia has no intention to expel Western media and businesses amid the soaring tensions with the West, adding that ”we aren’t going to escalate the situation.”
Doctors’ group: Mariupol residents dying due to lack of medicines
BERLIN — Aid group Doctors Without Borders says some residents of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are dying for lack of medication, while others killed in the fighting are being buried in makeshift graves by their neighbors.
The group, which is known by its French acronym MSF, says the city has been without drinking water or medicine for more than a week now. It says people are resorting to using water from the ground or tapping heating pipes, then boiling it on wood fires.
MSF says food is scarce and lack of cellphone or internet connectivity in Mariupol means only residents with access to a portable radio have information on what is happening beyond their immediate neighborhood.
In a voice message Saturday shared with The Associated Press, one MSF staff member described seeing people who have died because of lack of medication adding that “there are a lot of such people inside Mariupol.”
The aid worker said that there are “many people who were killed and injured and they’re just lying on the ground. Neighbors (are) just digging a hole in the ground and putting their bodies inside.”
Italy seizes Russian-owned superyacht in Trieste
MILAN — Italian financial police has seized a Russian-owned superyacht valued at 530 million euros ($578 million) in the port of Trieste as part of seizures of oligarch wealth to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the war on Ukraine.
The “Sy A” yacht was identified by Italian police as belonging to billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, who made a fortune in fertilizer production and coal energy. It was seized Friday evening.
Video shows police in cars with flashing lights approaching the triple-mast yacht and officers boarding it.
Italian authorities last week seized some 143 million euros ($156 million) in luxury yachts and villas belonging to Russian billionaires in such picturesque retreats as Sardinia, the Ligurian coast and Lake Como.
Britain reports on fighting northest of Kyiv
LONDON — Britain’s Defense Ministry says fighting northwest of Kyiv has continued with the bulk of Russian ground forces now around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the center of the city.
A daily intelligence update says elements of the large Russian military column north of Kyiv have dispersed. It says this is likely to support a Russian attempt to encircle the Ukrainian capital. According to the brief, it could also be an attempt by Russia to reduce its vulnerability to Ukrainian counterattacks, which have taken a significant toll on Russian forces.
The update says that beyond Kyiv, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain encircled and continue to suffer heavy Russian shelling.
Germany works to airlift refugees farther away
BERLIN — Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says Germany is working with allies to airlift people who have fled Ukraine to countries farther away as neighboring nations struggle to cope with all new arrivals.
Baerbock said Saturday that Moldova, a nation of 2.5 million on the border with Ukraine, has taken in 100,000 people — almost as many as Germany, which has a population over 30 times bigger.
Speaking in Chisinau alongside her Moldovan counterpart, she said Germany had “only taken over a small share of the responsibility” so far and praised the poor Eastern European nation for its efforts to help refugees.
Baerbock said the European Union is setting up a “green corridor” to bring people by bus through Romania to other EU nations, but also working with partners to help fly their citizens who have fled Ukraine back home and “in particular also to fly Ukrainians for example across the Atlantic.”
She urged allies to show solidarity toward those affected by the war and accused Russia of spreading “ever more crazy propaganda that now doesn’t even shrink from threats to use weapons of mass destruction.”
UN body calls for safe corridor in 2 seas
The International Maritime Organization, a U.N. oversight body for international seafaring and the law of the sea, is calling for a safe corridor in the Black and Azov seas to let commercial ships evacuate.
Many of the waters are mined, and Russian navy vessels are off the shores of Ukraine. Explosions have hit at least two cargo ships in the area and dozens of others have been stranded.
The IMO Council held an emergency session and said it deplored the attacks of the Russian Federation aimed at commercial vessels, their seizures, including search and rescue vessels, threatening the safety and welfare of seafarers and the marine environment.
Russia space agency threatens International Space Station
Russia’s space agency has sent NASA and other international partners a letter demanding an end to sanctions, saying they could threaten the International Space Station.
In a tweet Saturday, the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said the letter appealed to the space agencies of the United States, Canada and Europe to keep the space station operational.
He illustrated the appeal with a map showing the flight path of the ISS — and a potential fall zone that straddles much of the world but barely touches upon Russia.
Four NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and one European astronaut are currently on the space station.
Ukraine embassy in Turkey says nationals sheltering in mosque
ISTANBUL – The Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey says a group of 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, are among those sheltering in a mosque in the besieged city of Mariupol.
An embassy spokeswoman, citing information from the city mayor, said they had taken shelter in the mosque along with others seeking refuge from the Russian attack on the encircled port on the Sea of Azov.
She says, “There are really big communication problems in Mariupol and there’s no opportunity to reach them.”
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been trapped in Mariupol for more than a week with no food, water, heat or power amid freezing temperatures. Efforts to establish a cease-fire to let them leave have repeatedly broken down.
Turkish officials did not respond to requests for comment. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that Turkey has evacuated nearly 14,000 of its citizens from Ukraine.
Ukraine accuses Russia of damaging cancer hospital
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials accused Russia damaging a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv with shelling from heavy artillery.
The hospital’s head doctor, Maksim Beznosenko, said several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack but that no one was killed. The assault damaged the building and blew out windows.
Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Mykolaiv, located 470 kilometers (292 miles) south of Kyiv, in an attempt to encircle the city.
Ukrainian and Western officials earlier accused Russia of shelling a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Three people died in that attack.
Zelenskyy accuses Russia of kidnapping Melitopol mayor
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia on Friday of kidnapping the mayor of the city of Melitopol, equating it to the actions of “ISIS terrorists.”
“They have transitioned into a new stage of terror, in which they try to physically liquidate representatives of Ukraine’s lawful local authorities,” Zelenskyy said in a video address Friday evening.
Kirill Timoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, posted a video on the social media site Telegram which he said showed a group of armed men carrying the mayor, Ivan Fedorov, across a square.
Russian forces captured the southern port city of Melitopol, with a population of 150,000, on Feb. 26.
The prosecutor’s office of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a Moscow-backed rebel region in eastern Ukraine, said on its website that there was a criminal case against Fedorov. The prosecutor’s office accused Fedorov of “terrorist activities” and of financing the nationalist militia Right Sector to “commit terrorist crimes against Donbass civilians.”
The office said it was looking for Fedorov and called for anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact them.
US soldiers continue to deploy to Europe
SAVANNAH, Ga. — U.S. soldiers are continuing to deploy to Europe, joining thousands already sent overseas to support NATO allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
About 130 soldiers from the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade gathered Friday at Hunter Airfield in Savannah, Georgia and departed on a chartered flight.
The soldiers are in addition to the estimated 3,800 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division who deployed recently from nearby Fort Stewart.
A division commander said that soldiers are being told to prepare for about six months overseas. The Pentagon has ordered roughly 12,000 total service members from various U.S. bases to Europe.
The soldiers’ mission is to train alongside military units of NATO allies in a display of force aimed at deterring further aggression by Russia. The Pentagon has stressed U.S. forces are not being deployed to fight in Ukraine.
Ukraine: 1,582 killed in Mariupol
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the port city of Mariupol, which has been encircled by Russian forces and cut off from deliveries of food and medicine.
Mariupol officials said Friday that 1,582 people had been killed in the 12 days since the siege began.
“There is a humanitarian catastrophe in the city and the dead aren’t even being buried,” Mariupol’s mayor’s office said in a statement Friday, calling for Russian forces to lift the siege.
Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes and preventing civilians from escaping the city of 430,000 people.
Ukraine technicians repairing Chernobyl power lines
BERLIN — Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday that technicians have started repairing damaged power lines at the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant in an effort to restore power supplies, the U.N. nuclear agency said.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities said that Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, was knocked off the power grid, with emergency generators supplying backup power.
The Ukrainian nuclear regulator said Friday that workers repaired one section of the lines, but there still appears to be damage in other places, the IAEA said. Repair efforts would continue despite “the difficult situation” outside the plant, which was taken by Russian forces early in the invasion, it said.
The Ukrainian regulator said additional fuel was delivered for generators, but it remains important to fix the power lines as soon as possible. The IAEA reiterated that the disconnection “will not have a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site.”
The Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog said that it still isn’t receiving data from monitoring systems installed to monitor nuclear material and activities at Chernobyl, but transmission from the Zaporizhzhia plant — Ukraine’s biggest, which Russian forces seized last week — has been restored after being lost earlier this week.
Interpol puts restrictions on Russia
PARIS — Interpol is restricting Russia’s ability to input information directly into the global police organization’s vast network, deciding that communications must first be checked by the general secretariat in Lyon, France.
The French Foreign Ministry said Friday that the beefed-up surveillance measures follow “multiple suspicions of attempted fraudulent use” of the Interpol system in recent days, but it did not elaborate.
Interpol stressed in a statement Thursday that it is maintaining its pledge of neutrality amid war between two of its members, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it said that “heightened supervision and monitoring measures” of Moscow’s National Central Bureau were needed “to prevent any potential misuse of Interpol’s channels” like targeting individuals in or outside Ukraine.
The ministry noted that Interpol’s decision has multiple impacts from communications, to putting out so-called “red notices” for criminals on the loose or even feeding data on lost or stolen documents — all of which must now get compliance checks from Interpol headquarters.
Interpol, which has 195 members, said it had received calls to suspend Russia from the network, along with calls by law enforcement leaders looking for continued cooperation to better fight crime.
“In addition to the tragic loss of life, conflicts invariably lead to an increase in crime,” as organized crime groups try to exploit desperation, Interpol said. Risks include human trafficking, weapons smuggling and trafficking in illicit goods and medicines.