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Tuesday August 16th, 2022 9:27AM

Live updates | Zelenskyy: No deal without Russian withdrawal

By The Associated Press
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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country could not accept a deal with Moscow that would allow Russian troops to remain in occupied territory.

Speaking Wednesday to participants in the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces had halted the Russian offensive in what he described as the first stage of the conflict. In the second stage, he said, Ukraine would expel Russian troops from its territory and in the third, would move to fully restore its territorial integrity.

Zelenskyy said he would not accept a cease-fire deal that would allow Russian forces to remain in their current positions ‒ insisting that “we will not accept a frozen conflict” ‒ but gave no further details. He warned that Ukraine would be drawn into a “diplomatic quagmire” like the peace agreement for eastern Ukraine that was brokered by France and Germany in 2015.

In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and cast its support behind a separatist rebellion in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland called the Donbas. Russian President Vladimir Putin has named Ukraine’s recognition of the Russian sovereignty over Crimea and its acknowledgement of the separatist regions’ independence as key conditions for halting hostilities.

Zelensky emphasized that Putin must agree to meet him to negotiate any deal to end the fighting.

He said it was important to continue peace talks, but noted that “until the Russian president signs it or makes an official statement I don’t see the point in such agreements.” ___

KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR: — AP evidence points to 600 dead in Mariupol theater airstrike

— Russia storms Mariupol steel plant as some evacuees reach safety

— Pope Francis struggles to make progress in Ukraine peace effort

— Debt drama far from over for Russia even though it dodges default

— Fiji says US can seize Russian superyacht but not right away

Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

___

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

LVIV, Ukraine — New satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press suggest fighting may be ongoing at a besieged steel plant in Mariupol.

The Kremlin is denying that Russian forces are trying to storm the Azovstal plant, the last remaining holdout of Ukrainian fighters in the port city.

An image shot by Planet Labs PBC at dawn Wednesday showed black smoke rising at one side of the plant near a canal. Buildings at the plant, including one under which hundreds of fighters and civilians are likely hiding, showed large, gaping holes in the roof. Debris littered the grounds.

Meanwhile, another satellite photo showed that a recent Russian missile attack tore a hole in a key bridge near Odesa.

Russia has attacked the bridge on three occasions. Though it is still standing, a chunk of the bridge is missing toward its south end, the image shows.

___

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s Interior Ministry says a road crash in the western Rivne region has killed 26 people and injured 12 more. The collision involved a bus, a van and a fuel truck, the ministry said. The bus had been headed to Poland, which has been a key destination for Ukrainian refugees.

According to a ministry statement, the accident occurred because the van “performed a maneuver to overtake another vehicle, and drove into the oncoming lane, where it collided with a fuel truck.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how a Poland-bound bus with 34 passengers on board became part of the accident.

___ MOSCOW — The Kremlin has rejected media reports that President Vladimir Putin might formally declare war on Ukraine on May 9, when Russia celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, and announce a broad mobilization.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the reports as “untrue” and “nonsense” at a daily conference call with reporters.

Western media reported earlier this month, citing U.K. and U.S. officials, that Putin might pivot from a “special military operation” to an all-out war with Ukraine, which would allow him to introduce martial law and mobilize reservists.

The reports said Putin could announce the changes during Victory Day celebrations on May 9, Russia’s most important holiday. ___

MOSCOW — The Russian defense minister has warned that Moscow will see any Western transports carrying weapons into Ukraine as legitimate targets.

Sergei Shoigu’s statement Wednesday comes as the U.S. and other Western allies have increased shipments of weapons to Ukraine. Speaking at a meeting with top military officials, Shoigu denounced the West for “stuffing Ukraine with weapons.”

“Any NATO transports carrying weapons or resources for the Ukrainian military that arrives in the country’s territory will be seen by us as a legitimate target to be destroyed,” he said.

The Russian military has repeatedly reported strikes on Ukrainian depots containing Western weapons. Striking Western transports delivering them would mark a significant escalation in the conflict.

___

MOSCOW — Belarus has announced snap military exercises amid the Russian war in Ukraine, while insisting it would not threaten any neighbors.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said the exercises that began Wednesday would be used to assess the readiness and capability of the country’s armed forces, and the military’s ability to operate on “unknown terrain in a rapidly changing situation.”

The ministry did not say how many troops are involved in the exercises but noted that their number would be gradually increased.

It said the maneuvers “do not threaten the European community in general and any neighboring countries in particular.”

Belarus allowed its ally Russia to use its territory as a staging ground before Moscow launched its military action in Ukraine on Feb. 24.

___

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say evacuations from the besieged port of Mariupol will continue on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said evacuations from Mariupol and three other locations to Zaporizhzhia, a city in southeast Ukraine, would take place “if the security situation permits.”

The governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, confirmed that evacuation buses had already left Mariupol and would stop at three other locations to pick up more passengers.

Kyrylenko said the effort is supported by the United Nations and the International Red Cross.

___

BRUSSELS — The European Union plans to sanction the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, in its next round of measures against Russia, according to several EU diplomats.

The three people with direct knowledge of the discussions were not authorized to speak publicly as negotiations on the sixth EU package of sanctions between the 27-nation bloc’s ambassadors were ongoing Wednesday.

Kirill is a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has justified his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kirill has also echoed Putin’s unfounded claims that Ukraine was engaged in the “extermination” of Russian loyalists in Donbas, the breakaway eastern region of Ukraine held since 2014 by Russian-backed separatist groups.

If the sanctions proposed by the EU’s executive arm are approved by EU member countries, Kirill would be added to the EU’s updated list of individuals facing travel bans and a freeze of assets.

A total of 1,093 individuals, including Putin and oligarchs, as well as 80 entities, are already subject to the punishing measures.

— Reported by Samuel Petrequin

___

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s chief executive is proposing that the bloc ban oil imports from Russia over its war on Ukraine, and target the country’s biggest bank and major broadcasters in a new round of sanctions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers Wednesday that the sanctions should involve “a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined.”

She says the aim is to “make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets.”

The sanctions proposals are to be debated by the 27 EU member countries. Hungary and Slovakia have already said they would not take part. The two are landlocked and heavily dependent on Russia for their energy supplies.

Banks are also in the EU executive arm’s sights, notably the giant Sberbank. Von der Leyen says the aim is to “de-SWIFT Sberbank,” as well as two other banks. SWIFT is the major global system for financial transfers.

Von der Leyen says those alleged to be spreading disinformation about the war in Ukraine should be targeted, notably three big Russian state-owned broadcasters. She did not identify any of the outlets.

___

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say that scores of civilians have been killed and wounded in the latest attacks in the country’s east.

Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said that 21 civilians were killed and another 27 were wounded in Russian attacks Tuesday.

He said in a statement on a messaging app early Wednesday that it marked the highest number of civilian victims in the region since April 8 when a Russian missile attack on a railway station in the city of Kramatorsk killed at least 59 people.

In the neighboring Luhansk region, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said at least two civilians were killed in Russian shelling during the last 24 hours and two others were wounded.

The Russian military has intensified attacks in eastern Ukraine as part of its offensive in the region.

___

LVIV, Ukraine — The British military believes Russia will make a push to try to seize the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

The British made the comment Wednesday in a daily briefing it posts on Twitter about the war.

The Defense Ministry said Russia had some 22 battalion tactical groups near Izium in its attempt to advance in the area. Russia uses so-called battalion tactical groups — units of infantry typically reinforced with tanks, air defenses and artillery — in its operations. Each group typically has around 800 troops.

The British said: “Despite struggling to break through Ukrainian defenses and build momentum, Russia highly likely intends to proceed beyond Izium to capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk.”

Analysts have been watching eastern Ukraine, now the site of the country’s heaviest fighting, expecting Russia to try to encircle Ukrainian forces. However, the going has been slow as Ukrainian fighters dig in and use long-range weapons, like howitzers, to target the Russians.

___

MEXICO CITY — Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees are camping out in Mexico City and waiting for the U.S. government to allow them into the country.

About 500 evacuees were waiting Tuesday in large tents under a searing sun on a dusty field on the east side of Mexico’s sprawling capital. The camp has been open only a week and from 50 to 100 people are arriving every day.

Some refugees have already been to the U.S. border in Tijuana where they were told they would no longer be admitted. Others arrived at airports in Mexico City or Cancun.

The U.S. government announced in late March that it would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Hundreds entered Mexico daily as tourists in Mexico City or Cancun and flew to Tijuana to wait for a few days to be admitted to the U.S. at a San Diego border crossing on humanitarian parole.

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