VILNIUS, Lithuania — A 500-million-euro ($530 million) Lithuanian-Polish natural gas transmission pipeline was inaugurated Thursday, completing another stage of regional independence from Russian energy sources.
The Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania pipeline that runs more than 500 kilometers (310 miles), comes “at a time when Russia has once again tried to blackmail us using gas,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said at the inauguration.
Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingridas Simonyte added that “any reduction or disappearance of this source of funding would have a very significant impact on the Russian economy and the ability to continue financing the war in Ukraine.”
The Lithuania-Poland leg is integrated with pipelines in the other two Baltic states — Estonia and Latvia — and Finland, and into the European Union gas transmission system. Before the pipeline was built, the four countries could only receive pipeline gas from Russia.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR: — Ukraine repels Russian attacks; Mariupol plant battle rages
— The AP Interview: Belarus admits Russia’s war ‘drags on’
— Europeans weigh costs of cutting Russian energy over Ukraine
— Easy out from steel mill seen as unlikely for Ukraine troops
— Ukraine: Russia using ‘ missile terrorism ’ in wide attacks
— AP evidence points to 600 dead in Mariupol theater airstrike
Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Ukraine’s government has launched a global fundraising platform so individuals can donate to help rebuild Ukraine, offer humanitarian aid, and raise money for demining.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the initiative, called United24, on Thursday.
The United States and Europe, among others, have offered billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden asked Congress for $33 billion to bolster Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
Ukraine’s newest fundraising drive is intended to give individuals a way to donate on their own with a single click, Zelenskyy said.
MADRID — Spanish authorities have arrested a Ukrainian politician-blogger accused of treason in his home country.
An official with the Spanish national police confirmed that Anatoly Shariy had been detained Wednesday in Tarragona under an international arrest warrant. Shariy is being transported to Madrid to appear before a judge, who will decide upon his extradition, the official said.
Ukraine’s security services announced the arrest on Thursday and said there was reason to believe Shariy “was acting on behalf of foreign entities.”
Shariy has been a vocal and active critic of Ukraine’s government. As recently as Tuesday he tweeted that he had been warned that Ukrainian intelligence was trying to track him down. He is the founder of a political party that many Ukrainians consider pro-Russian.
Ukrainian media reported that one of the members of the party said in February, just before the start of the war, that Shariy had asylum in the European Union.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Thursday that Russia has decided to expel four diplomats with Denmark’s Embassy in Moscow.
“They have wrongfully become pieces in Putin’s cynical power play,” Kofod said. “It is a completely unjustified and deeply problematic decision, which underscores that Russia no longer wants real dialogue and diplomacy.”
Moscow said seven Danish diplomats were expelled. Danish media said that those expelled include four diplomats and three others without diplomatic status. They must leave within two weeks.
Moscow’s tit-for-tat decision came after Denmark last month expelled 15 Russian intelligence officers who worked at Russia’s Embassy in Copenhagen. Several other European countries also expelled Russian intelligence officers.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — In anticipation of a European Union embargo on Russian crude oil Bulgaria says it's looking for an exemption due to its dependence on supplies from Russia.
Bulgaria's only oil refinery near the Black Sea port of Burgas is owned by Russia’s oil giant LUKOIL and is the main fuel supplier in the country.
Still, Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev told reporters that the refinery is already processing up to 50% non-Russian crude and theoretically should be able to fully eliminate Russian crude.
“Bulgaria, technologically, can do without Russian crude oil, but this would significantly increase fuel prices,” Vassilev said. “In case the European Commission weighs some exemptions, we would like to take advantage of it, because it will be in the best interest of Bulgarian consumers.”
Slovakia and Hungary have already asked for such exemptions.
Russia stopped gas deliveries to Bulgaria last week in response to Sofia’s refusal to pay for it in rubles saying it violates existing contracts.
NICOSIA, Cyprus - The prime minister of Luxembourg says the European Union should carefully weigh a total embargo on all Russian oil gas imports given that some member nations “have no alternative” supply for energy generation.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said after talks Thursday with the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades that “just to say no to the gas today when we know that some countries then will have no alternative tomorrow is something we should put on the balance.”
What’s paramount at this time is to maintain EU solidarity and for all 27 members to find ways of becoming energy self-sufficient and less dependent on energy from third countries, Bettel said.
He said one option is solar energy, referring to the east Mediterranean island nation’s potential to generate much more than Luxembourg.
Anastasiades said the war in Ukraine has refocused attention on discovered and potential natural gas reserves found in east Mediterranean waters off Cyprus and elsewhere as an alternative source of energy for Europe.
On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on the EU member states to ban oil imports from Russia and target the country’s biggest bank and major broadcasters in a sixth package of sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland and Sweden are co-hosting an international donors’ conference on Thursday in Warsaw to raise funds for humanitarian efforts to help war-torn Ukraine, where thousands have been killed, cities devastated and millions of people displaced by Russia’s attack.
Poland’s government says that Ukraine’s needs are huge despite funds already donated due to the large scale of damage from the war, and that millions of Ukrainians require urgent help.
The High-Level International Donors’ Conference for Ukraine is jointly organized by the Polish and Swedish prime ministers in collaboration with the European Commission and European Council presidents.
The aims are to allow the international community to announce new pledges to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of Ukrainian society and to create a forum to discuss how to support Ukrainian society over the longer term.
The co-hosts are prime ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland and Magdalena Andersson of Sweden.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to address the participants by video, who are gathering in Warsaw’s National Stadium.
PARIS — France’s ecology minister says she is confident that the European Union’s 27 nations will quickly agree to a proposed ban on oil imports from Russia.
Speaking to FranceInfo radio Thursday, the minister, Barbara Pompili, said the embargo could be agreed upon within days.
“I am confident,” she said. “It is normal that there are discussions because some countries are more dependent than others on Russian oil, so we have to try to find solutions so they can get on board with these sanctions.”
She added: “I think we’ll get there perhaps by the end of the week or at least as soon as possible.”
The European Union’s top official, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, proposed Wednesday that EU member nations phase out imports of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.
The proposals must be unanimously approved to take effect. Von der Leyen said that getting all 27 member countries — some of them landlocked and highly dependent on Russia for energy supplies — to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy.”
Pompili said the embargo would be “for everyone” in the bloc and that “is to show Russia that Europe, from the end of this year, will completely do without its oil.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Five people were killed and at least 25 more wounded in eastern Ukraine over the past 24 hours because of the Russian shelling, Ukrainian officials said Thursday.
Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said the Russian troops shelled the region 24 times on Wednesday, hitting the cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Girske and Popasna, damaging at least 23 houses and killing five people.
An overnight shelling of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region wounded at least 25 people, Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Thursday. He added that nine houses, a school and other civilian infrastructure were damaged as the result.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s General Staff says the country’s forces made some gains on the border of the southern regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv and repelled multiple Russian attacks in the east.
In its daily morning update, the General Staff said that the Russians “lost control over several settlements on the border of Mykolayiv and Kherson regions.” Ukrainian forces also repelled 11 attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the update said.
At the same time, fighting over the Azovstal plant in Mariupol continued, the General Staff said.
“With the support of aircraft, the enemy resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant,” the update said, adding that the Russian troops were “trying to destroy Ukrainians units” at this last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the ravaged port city.
The General Staff also noted Russian efforts to stir tensions in the Moscow-backed breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova, which borders with Ukraine and has a Russian peacekeeping contingent. The Russian military “carries out regrouping of troops in certain areas, takes measures to replenish reserves” and is “trying to improve the tactical position of its units.”
The General Staff’s statements could not be independently verified.
LVIV, Ukraine — The British military is saying an ongoing military drill in Belarus “is not currently anticipated” to threaten Ukraine.
The British Defense Ministry made the statement Thursday in a daily intelligence briefing posted to Twitter.
It comes after Belarus announced snap military drills. That sparked suspicion in Ukraine as Russia used Belarus to funnel troops through at the start of the war in February before Ukrainian forces repelled an advance targeting the capital, Kyiv.
“Russia will likely seek to inflate the threat posed to Ukraine by these exercises in order to fix Ukrainian forces in the north, preventing them from being committed to the battle for the Donbas,” the British military said.
It added: “Deviation from normal exercise activity that could pose a threat to allies and partners is not currently anticipated.”
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations says more than 300 civilians from the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol and four other towns have been evacuated to Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia in a second successful operation to get civilians out of areas subject to Russian shelling and attacks.
Osnat Lubrani, the U.N. humanitarian chief in Ukraine, said in a statement that many of the civilians from Mariupol, Manhush, Berdyansk, Tokmak and Vasylivka came Wednesday with nothing but the clothes they were wearing and are now getting humanitarian assistance. She said they’ll also receive “much-needed psychological support.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the 344 evacuated Wednesday are in addition to the more than 150 people who were evacuated earlier this week from the bunkers under the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian troops and reportedly came under renewed fire on Wednesday.
No civilians were reported evacuated from the plant on Wednesday. Zelenskyy said they are trying to reach an agreement to save those remaining at Azovstal, including women and children.
The commander of the main defending force at the Azovstal steel mill in the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mariupol says Russian troops have broken into the territory of the mill, where limited evacuations of besieged civilians occurred last week.
The Russian government, meanwhile, pledged to facilitate humanitarian corridors from Thursday through Saturday to enable more evacuations.
In a video posted Wednesday, Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov regiment, said the incursions had continued a second day “and there are heavy, bloody battles.”
Azovstal remains one of the biggest hubs of Ukrainian military resistance and has been subjected to massive Russian aerial bombardments and shelling. Russian State TV showed smoke rising over Azovstal.
Hundreds of Ukrainian forces from different parts of the army, as well as civilians, remain in the plant’s underground shelters.
A Russian government statement said its armed forces and their allies would open a humanitarian corridor on specified hours from Thursday through Saturday from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, Ukraine, so civilians can be evacuated.
The statement appeared on the Telegram messaging app Wednesday and pledged the forces would refrain from military actions, withdraw to a safe distance and facilitate the withdrawal of the civilians to any destination they choose.
But there was no immediate confirmation of those arrangements from other sources and similar promises to set up evacuation corridors have collapsed, because of what the Ukrainians blamed on continued fighting by Russians. A United Nations spokesman said discussions about future evacuations were ongoing.