Wednesday August 17th, 2022 3:36AM

Live updates | UN chief in Moldova amid Transnistria tension

By The Associated Press
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BUCHAREST, Romania — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said during an official visit to non-NATO member Moldova on Monday that the consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine escalating are “too frightening to contemplate.”

Guterres, who arrived in Moldova’s capital Chisinau on Monday, said in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita, that the impact of Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine “is profound and far-reaching.”

The U.N. chief’s visit to Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, which has a population of about 2.6 million people, follows a series of unsettling incidents that have rocked Moldova’s pro-Russia breakaway region of Transnistria, which has put officials in Chisinau on high alert.

In late April, three men launched grenades at the region’s state security office, and two large broadcast antennas were downed a day later. On Friday, Police in Transnistria said explosive devices were dropped from a drone leaving 1-meter-deep craters near a village.

“I am deeply concerned about the continuation and possible spread of the war Russia is waging in Ukraine,” Guterres said, adding that Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity “must not be threatened or undermined.”

Transnistria, a small strip of land with a population of about 470,000, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova. Russia bases about 1,500 troops in the breakaway region, ostensibly as peacekeepers. No casualties were reported in the incidents.



— No end in sight for Ukraine war as Putin hails Victory Day

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— More than 60 feared dead in bombing of Ukrainian school

Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at



WASHINGTON — The United States is suspending 25% import taxes on Ukraine’s steel in a show of support for the country’s beleaguered economy during the Russian invasion.

The Commerce Department said Monday that it would withdraw the tariffs for a year. Ukraine accounts for only about 1% of U.S. steel exports.

Some of the country’s largest steel communities have been among those hardest hit during the war, including the Mariupol mill that’s the only part of the strategically important port city not under Russian control.

“We can’t just admire the fortitude and spirit of the Ukrainian people — we need to have their backs and support one of the most important industries to Ukraine’s economic well-being,’’ Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said. “For steel mills to continue as an economic lifeline for the people of Ukraine, they must be able to export their steel.’’

The steel levies were imposed in 2018 by the Trump administration, which deployed a little-used provision in U.S. trade law to call foreign steel a threat to American national security. The move outraged U.S. allies, and critics said they did little address the real cause of stress for U.S. steel producers: massive overproduction by the Chinese, whose steel shipments to the U.S. are already limited by other trade barriers.

The Biden administration has removed most of the tariffs on steel from the European Union, the United Kingdom and Japan, allowing their metals to come in duty-free up to a quota. No such quota applies to the Ukrainian imports in the move announced Monday.


WARSAW, Poland — Polish officials say the country is ready to increase its energy assistance to neighboring Ukraine and provide steady deliveries.

Poland’s government ministers made the declaration Monday during a Polish-Ukrainian Energy Forum attended also by other countries and by the International Energy Agency. Climate and Environment minister, Anna Moskwa, said a round-the clock effort is being set in motion to “ensure energy security to Ukraine.”

Poland has been supplying Ukraine with some energy and fuels ever since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. The level of the support is to be increased.

Ukraine’s first deputy minister for the economy, Yulia Sviridenko, said the country urgently needs diesel fuel and gasoline because Russia’s invading troops are destroying its fuels infrastructure, including a refinery.

Poland is in the process of cutting its dependence on Russian energy sources and increasing deliveries from other countries.


BRUSSELS — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is traveling to Hungary in a bid to secure unanimity on the EU’s executive arm’s proposal to ban oil imports from Russia.

A spokesman for the European Commission said von der Leyen will meet with Hungary Prime minister Viktor Orban on Monday to discuss “issues related to European security of energy supply.”

Hungary has blocked progress in discussions to adopt the sixth EU package of sanctions targeting Russia for its war in Ukraine, and ambassadors from the 27 EU countries have so far failed to agree on the details of the new round of measures.

Von der Leyen has proposed having EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

Hungary says it will not vote for the proposed sanctions, saying it would have the effect of an “atomic bomb” on its economy and would destroy its “stable energy supply.”


ODESA, Ukraine — The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, has lamented that “silos full” of food for export is blocked in the Black Sea port of Odesa, which he visited on Monday.

The Ukrainian city has been the target of Russian missile attacks over recent days.

In a tweet, Michel said he was with Ukraine’s prime minister examining the war’s effect on the port.

“I saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn ready for export,” Michel wrote. “This badly needed food is stranded because of the Russian war and blockade of Black sea ports. Causing dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries. We need a global response.”

Ukraine is a global grain exporter, and U.N. officials have warned that failure for those products to ship will hurt food security in importing countries, especially poorer ones in Africa and elsewhere.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a statement said he spoke with Michel during the Odesa visit. “It is important to prevent a food crisis in the world caused by Russia’s aggressive actions,” Zelenskyy said. “Immediate measures must be taken to unlock Ukrainian ports for wheat exports.”


ROME — The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow patriarch has made a personal and faith-based appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin for safe passage to Ukrainian soldiers defending the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Metropolitan Onufry recalled in an open letter Monday that Putin’s own family survived the siege of Leningrad in the 1940s. He said Putin’s relatives experienced “what it is like to live in isolation from the great land, under constant bombardment, without food, water, medicine, when death can come at any moment from the impact of a heavy weapon, hunger or lack of medical care.”

He said the civilians and soldiers of Mariupol are in the same situation today, a reference to the Ukrainian troops still defending the Azovstal steel mill. He wrote: “We hope that you will Christianly agree to the extraction procedure for the Ukrainian garrison in Mariupol, and give the opportunity to surrounded civilians, police, border guards and the military to enter the territory controlled by Ukraine or the territory of third countries.”

Onufry’s church enjoys broad autonomy but is loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church and its patriarch, Kirill. It is separate from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which split into an independent church in 2019.


ROME — The Ukrainian embassy in Rome has been wrapped in a ribbon of European Union flags as a sign of EU solidarity with Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

European ambassadors posed with the Ukrainian ambassador in a ceremony Monday to mark Europe Day, which commemorates a key date in the founding of the EU.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Italy, Yaroslav Melnyk, urged the bloc to remain united for the sake of Ukraine and Europe.

The French ambassador in Rome, Christian Masset, called for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian forces and EU unity to help the Ukrainian people.

The flag initiative was promoted by the pro-European association, Europa Now.


BERLIN — The Russian ambassador in Berlin used a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the end of World War II to repeat Moscow’s claims that it is fighting against “Nazism” in Ukraine.

Sergey Nechaev told reporters Monday that Ukraine “will be de-nazified for sure.”

“It will succeed,” he said. “We need a peace without Nazism, in Ukraine and in Europe.”

The diplomat also cited a need for “good cooperation, of course, but at eye level, without ultimatums and without threats and without sanctions.”

The occasion was the 77th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat, traditionally celebrated by Russia on May 9.

A small group of people waved Russian and Soviet flags, despite a ban on doing so by Berlin police, imposed to prevent violence between pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine protesters.


WARSAW, Poland — Protesters threw what appeared to be red paint, to symbolize blood, at the Russian ambassador as he arrived at a cemetery in Warsaw to pay respects to Red Army soldiers who died during World War II.

Ambassador Ambassador Sergey Andreev came to the Soviet soldiers cemetery to lay flowers. A group of activists opposed to Russia’s war in Ukraine were waiting for him.

The protesters carried Ukrainian flags, while some were dressed in white sheets smeared with a red color, symbolizing the Ukrainian victims of Russia’s war. Other men in the diplomat’s entourage were also seen splattered with what appeared to be red paint.


BRUSSELS — The European Commission will aim to deliver a first opinion in June on Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the European Union.

The 27 EU nations have been fully united in backing Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow since the start of the war in February. But leaders are divided on how fast Brussels could move to accept Ukraine as a member.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a message on Twitter that she discussed Monday with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy “EU support and Ukraine’s European pathway. Looking forward to receiving the answers to the EU membership questionnaire.”

For now, Ukraine has an “Association Agreement” with the EU, which includes a far-reaching free trade pact and helps to modernize Ukraine’s economy.

The Ukrainian fast-track bid could take years, with unanimity among current members required to include a new member.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a video address to the war-ravaged nation on Monday, marking the defeat of the Nazi Germany in the World War II, and promising that Ukraine will soon have “two Victory Days.”

“We will never forget what our ancestors did in World War II. Where more than 8 million Ukrainians died. And every fifth Ukrainian didn’t return home. In total, the war claimed at least 50 million lives,” Zelenskyy said. “We don’t say ‘we can repeat.’”

Zelenskyy stressed that “soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine.” “And someone will not have even one left. We won then, we will win now, too,” he said, in reference to Russia’s war against Ukraine.


MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to cast Moscow’s military action in Ukraine as a forced response to Western policies.

Speaking Monday at a military parade marking the World War II victory over the Nazis, Putin drew parallels between the Red Army’s fighting against the Nazi troops and the Russian forces’ action in Ukraine.

He said the campaign in Ukraine was a timely and necessary move to ward off what he described as “an absolutely unacceptable threat just next to our borders.”

“The danger was rising” he said, adding that “Russia has preemptively repulsed an aggression” in what he described as a “forced, timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country.”

The Russian leader again scolded the West for failing to heed Russian demands for security guarantees and a rollback to NATO’s expansion, arguing that it left Moscow no other choice but to launch an action in Ukraine.


BERLIN — The German government says Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate is one of many prominent buildings across Europe that will be illuminated Monday in the yellow and blue colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters in Berlin that the decision to do so was taken some time ago and there was no link to a ban on flying Russian or Ukrainian flags near WWII memorials on May 8-9 imposed by police in the German capital. Police argued the ban was needed to prevent possible public unrest. Supporters of Ukraine and the country’s ambassador had strongly criticized that decision in light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Buechner said projecting the Ukrainian flag onto the Brandenburg Gate was a “sign of solidarity” to show that the European Union is on the side of Ukraine.


BELGRADE, Serbia — Pro-Russia marches honoring World War II victims on Monday were held in Serbia and the Serb-run entity in Bosnia. Both are traditional Balkan allies of Russia.

The marches commemorated the victory in World War II over the Nazis. Serbia organized flyovers by military jets as officials laid wreaths as part of the ceremonies. A government minister, Nenad Popovic, took part in the Moscow-backed march in Belgrade, copying the one usually held in Russia. “Serbia and Russia always have been on the right side of history,” Popovic said.

In Belgrade, participants, who included the Russian ambassador in Serbia, also carried a cardboard figure of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a big “Z” sign symbolizing support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine

In the main Bosnian Serb town of Banja Luka, top officials and the Russian ambassador in Bosnia took part in the march that included banners openly supporting the Russian invasion.


LONDON — Britain’s defense secretary says Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his generals are mirroring the tyranny of the Nazis in World War II and repeating the errors of the last century’s totalitarian regimes as they pursue the illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking on the day Russia celebrated the anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Wallace said Putin had hijacked the nation’s “proud history” of repelling fascism to justify his attack on a sovereign state.

“Their unprovoked, illegal, senseless and self-defeating invasion of Ukraine, their attacks against innocent civilians on their homes, their widespread atrocities, including the deliberate targeting of women and children, they all corrupt the memory of past sacrifices and Russia’s once proud global reputation,’’ Wallace said at the National Army Museum in London.

Wallace spoke as Putin reviewed Russian troops and military hardware parading through Moscow’s Red Square on what is known as Victory Day in Russia. The parade has an ulterior political motive, Wallace said.

“Really what President Put wants is the Russian people and the world to be awed and intimidated by the ongoing memorial to militarism,” he said.


LONDON — The U.K. is imposing stiff tariffs on platinum and palladium imports from Russia as part of a new package of sanctions aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin’s regime for the invasion of Ukraine.

Britain plans to raise import taxes on platinum, palladium and chemicals by 35 percentage points, restricting trade in products that are worth about 1.4 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) a year to the Russia economy, the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry said in a statement released late Sunday. Russia is one of the world’s biggest producers of the two metals, widely used in goods ranging from catalytic converters to mobile phones.

The U.K. is also targeting Russian industries that depend on British products, banning the export of goods such as chemicals, plastics, rubber and machinery.

“We are determined to do our utmost to thwart Putin’s aims in Ukraine and undermine his illegal invasion, which has seen barbaric acts perpetrated against the Ukrainian people,” Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said in a statement.”


LVIV, Ukraine — Satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press confirm that a school in eastern Ukraine where some 60 people are feared killed in a Russian airstrike has been destroyed.

The photos taken by Planet Labs PBC show the school in Bilohorivka in Ukraine’s Luhansk region standing on Saturday. An image taken Sunday shows the building was flattened.

Ukrainian officials say some 90 people had taken shelter in the school before it was flattened. Some 30 escaped, leading officials to fear some 60 people had been killed.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt says the Scandinavian country will donate an extra 100 million kroner ($10.5 million) to Ukraine.

Huitfeldt, who visited Kyiv on Sunday and met with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, said she said the money will be used for payments of pensions, social benefits and salaries for health personnel, teachers and government employees.

“The need is great and Ukrainian authorities will spend the money immediately,” Huitfeldt said in a statement.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military is warning that there is a “high probability of missile strikes” amid Russia’s war on the country.

The warning came Monday just ahead of Russia’s Victory Day parade in Moscow.

The Ukrainian military’s general staff also said that in Russian-controlled areas of Zaporizhzhia, Russian troops had begun the “seizure of personal documents from the local population without good reason.” Ukraine said Russian troops seized the documents to force the local people to take part in Victory Day commemorations there.

Ukraine’s military also warned that Russia had located some 19 battalion tactical groups in Russia’s Belgorod region, just across the border. Those groups likely consist of some 15,200 troops with tanks, missile batteries and other weaponry.


LVIV, Ukraine — The British military is warning that Russia is running out of precision-guided munitions, meaning that Moscow increasingly will turn to inaccurate rockets and bombs that can spread destruction even wider.

The British Defense Ministry made the comment Monday in a daily intelligence report it provides via Twitter.

The British military said although Russia claimed that “Ukrainian cities would therefore be safe from bombardment,” the unguided munitions posed an increasing risk.

“As the conflict continues beyond Russian pre-war expectations, Russia’s stockpile of precision-guided munitions has likely been heavily depleted,” the report said. “This has forced the use of readily available but aging munitions that are less reliable, less accurate and more easily intercepted.”

The British added that Russia “will likely struggle to replace the precision weaponry it has already expended.”

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