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Wednesday August 17th, 2022 4:18AM

Live updates | Zelenskyy: Not enough weapons in Mariupol

By The Associated Press
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VALLETTA, Malta — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Maltese lawmakers that despite pleas, Ukraine has not received the amount of weapons it would need to unblock the siege of Mariupol and free the city.

Zelenskyy said defenders “still continue their resistance in the plant of Azovstal. We are using all possible diplomatic instruments to rescue them, but Russia doesn’t allow for any of the proposed options. We have asked our partners to provide weapons in order to unblock Mariupol and rescue both civilians and military personnel.”

But he said the amount of weapons needed has not been provided. Zelenskyy said Ukrainian cities and towns have been hit by 2,250 missiles over the 2 1/2-month invasion. “The bombardment doesn’t stop, neither during the day, nor the night,’’ he said.

The president also said Russia’s blockade of ports on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov means Ukraine cannot export grains and sunflower, which will provoke a crisis in the global food market.

“If we cannot export wheat, barley, sunflower, sunflower seed oil, then it means that people in North Africa and Asia will be lacking food and the prices will go up,” Zelenskyy said. “Later, there could be new chaos and a new migration crisis, and I think you can feel this crisis in the neighboring regions to Malta.”

___

KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— Russia pounds Odesa as civilian bodies uncovered elsewhere

— Crucial NATO decisions expected in Finland, Sweden this week

— Biden signs Ukraine bill, seeks $40B aid, in Putin rejoinder

— German minister: Civilian killings demand accountability

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

___

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the shipment of a multimillion dollar aid package to Odesa, Ukraine, on Tuesday, including medical supplies and body armor.

The Maryland Department of Health is donating more than 485,000 bandages and wound care supplies, 95 Eternity mechanical ventilators for intensive care units and 50 Astral portable ventilators, the governor’s office said.

The package also includes nearly 200 pieces of body armor, including tactical vests and shields, which have been donated by the Maryland State Police.

Odesa is a sister city of Baltimore. Russian troops pounded the vital Ukrainian port on Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said, in an apparent effort to disrupt the supply lines and Western weapons shipments critical to Kyiv’s defense.

The governor was joined for the announcement at a warehouse in Hanover, Maryland, by Yaroslav Brisiuck, deputy chief of mission for the Embassy of Ukraine.

Additional medical supplies have been donated to the Paul Chester Children’s Hope Foundation, a Dickerson-based grassroots medical organization, to support the treatment of children and adults wounded during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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KYIV, Ukraine — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, has accepted an invitation to join top diplomats from the Group of Seven nations later this week.

Baerbock spoke during a visit Tuesday to Kyiv, where she met Kuleba and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The G-7 foreign ministers will meet at Schloss Weissenhaus, a luxury resort on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, from May 12-14. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is expected to be a major topic at the meeting.

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BOSTON — The United States, Britain, the European Union and other allies are collectively blaming Russia for a cyberattack that disrupted satellite communications used by Ukraine’s military just as Moscow invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24.

In addition to knocking out vital Ukrainian broadband service, the attack disabled tens of thousands of satellite uplinks from France to Poland, cutting service to private citizens and remote management of wind farms in central Europe.

In a statement, Britain noted that the attack began about an hour before Russia invaded. “We will continue to call out Russia’s malign behavior and unprovoked aggression across land, sea and cyberspace, and ensure it faces severe consequences,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted in a statement Tuesday that the attack on the satellite network of U.S.-owned Viasat was just one in a series of disruptive Russian digital assaults on Ukraine that began in mid-January. They have deleted and stolen data, disrupted telecommunications and attempted to knock out power to hundreds of thousands.

Tuesday’s announcement came as allied cyber security leaders met in Newport, South Wales, for a conference sponsored by Britain’s National Cyber Security Center. Ukraine had previously blamed Russia for the Viasat attack.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s gas transmission operator says it will shut off almost a third of Russian gas that passes through the country onward to Europe over Moscow’s war on the country.

The Ukrainian GTS made the announcement Tuesday in a statement posted to its website. It said that the war made it impossible to reach areas of its system to ensure its safety, particularly in Russian-held areas of the Luhansk region.

The company said it would halt some 32.6 million cubic meters of gas per day with the decision. It described the situation as “force majeure,” a legal term used for so-called “acts of God” that prevent contracts from being carried out.

It said the shutoff would begin at 7 a.m. Wednesday and that it would offer Russia the chance to try to reroute gas through another crossing held by the Ukrainian government.

The operator said: “The company repeatedly informed Gazprom about gas transit threats due to the actions of the Russian-controlled occupation forces and stressed stopping interference in the operation of the facilities, but these appeals were ignored.”

Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom, said Ukraine’s request to route shipments through another hub would be “technologically impossible” and that the company sees no grounds for the decision.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly for the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the world organization’s leading human rights body following its suspension over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

The Czech Republic was the only candidate for the seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council. Seats on the Geneva-based council are divided among regional groups and a replacement for Russia had to come from an East European country.

In Tuesday’s secret ballot vote, 180 of the General Assembly’s 193 members deposited ballots. The result was 157 countries in favor of the Czech Republic and 23 abstentions.

The assembly approved a U.S.-initiated resolution on April 7 to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council by a vote of 93-24 with 58 abstentions. The vote was significantly lower than on two resolutions the assembly adopted in March demanding an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, withdrawal of all Russian troops and protection for civilians. Both of those resolutions were approved by at least 140 nations.

After the General Assembly suspended Russia, its deputy ambassador Gennady Kuzmin told U.N. members that Russia withdrew from the Human Rights Council before the vote. Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said that by withdrawing, Russia avoided being deprived of observer status at the rights body.

Since its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russia has lost its spot on multiple U.N. bodies, including the executive boards of UN Women and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, the Committee on Non-governmental Organizations and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It was also suspended from the World Tourism Organization.

___

WASHINGTON — A top U.S. intelligence official says eight to 10 Russian generals have been killed during the war in Ukraine.

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, who leads the Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed the estimate Tuesday while testifying before a Senate committee.

Berrier told senators that because Russia lacks a non-commissioned officer corps, its generals have to go forward into combat zones and end up in dangerous positions.

___

HELSINKI — The Finnish Parliament’s defense committee is supporting the Nordic country seeking membership in NATO, saying it would be the best solution to guarantee the country’s security and would be a way to raise the bar on being the target of aggression by neighboring Russia.

The committee chairman Petteri Orpo, leader of the main opposition National Coalition Party, said in a statement that Finland’s security situation has drastically changed as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Orpo stressed possible NATO membership would be purely a defense-related solution for Finland, a nation of 5.5 million that shares the longest border with Russia out of all European Union members.

“Finland would join NATO to maximize its own security and defend the country. This would not be directed against anyone,” Orpo told reporters on Tuesday.

Finland is expected to announce later this month whether it will seek to join the military alliance.

Recent polls show a support of over 70% among Finns for membership in NATO, a dramatic shift in support of 20-30% regularly recorded in the past few decades until Feb. 24 when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started.

___

KYIV, Ukraine — Germany’s foreign minister has reopened her country’s embassy in Kyiv that was closed more than two months ago following the Russian invasion.

Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that the diplomatic mission would work with a skeleton staff, headed by Ambassador Anka Feldhusen.

Baerbock, the first German Cabinet member to visit Ukraine since the start of the war, pledged further support to Kyiv, including when it comes to investigating and prosecuting war crimes.

Speaking after visiting the towns of Bucha and Irpin, where Russian soldiers are believed to have killed numerous civilians, Baerbock said there can “never again be impunity for the war crimes committed by Russia.”

She said Germany will provide funds to pay for two additional Ukrainian prosecutors who will investigate sexual violence committed during the conflict.

Baerbock also stressed that Germany will reduce its dependence on Russian energy supplies “to zero, forever.” The German government has said it will end imports of Russian oil and coal this year and of natural gas from Russia by 2024 at the latest.

___

GENEVA — The U.N.’s top human rights body will hold a special session this week following a request from Ukraine to discuss the worsening human rights situation in the country “stemming from the Russian aggression.”

The 47-member Human Rights Council said more than one-third of member states, the required minimum, backed the call that will pave the way for Thursday’s session at the U.N.’s European headquarters in Geneva.

Supporters included many Western countries, as well as Gambia, Marshall Islands and Mexico. A total of 55 countries, including observer states, backed the call, but the list could grow.

The council also held an “urgent dialogue” during its last session to discuss Ukraine just days after the Feb. 24 invasion by Russian forces.

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KYIV, Ukraine — The governor of the eastern Luhansk region on Tuesday rejected Russia’s claims its forces have breached Ukrainian defenses near the city of Popasna and moved the region’s administrative borders.

In a Telegram post, Serhiy Haidai described the claim as “fantasies.” He insists that “the defense is strong. There are no breakthroughs.”

Moscow considers the eastern Ukrainian region a sovereign state.

___

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s foreign minister is suggesting that Kyiv’s goals in fighting the Russian invasion have expanded.

In an interview with The Financial Times published Tuesday, Dmytro Kuleba said “the picture of victory is an evolving concept.”

“In the first months of the war, the victory for us looked like withdrawal of Russian forces to the positions they occupied before Feb. 24 and payment for inflicted damage,” Kuleba said.

“Now, if we are strong enough on the military front and we win the battle for Donbas, which will be crucial for the following dynamics of the war, of course the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories,” the minister said.

___

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the latest package of European Union sanctions against Russia, particularly highlighting a proposed ban on imports of Russian oil.

Zelenskyy told lawmakers in Slovakia’s Parliament on Tuesday that he understands Slovakia is not able to immediately replace Russian oil but stressed it is important to do so, calling it a price to be paid for freedom.

Slovakia, which is fully dependent of Russian oil, supports the sanctions but has asked for a three-year exemption from the ban until its key refinery Slovnaft makes technological changes needed to process other than Russia’s heavy oil.

Speaking through a translator, Zelenskyy also thanked Slovakia for its help in supplying his country’s military with the arms it needs. Acting at his request, Slovakia gave Ukraine its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system.

___

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say around 100 civilians still remain trapped at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol despite earlier reports that all have been evacuated.

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks on Tuesday those left behind are the civilians that “the Russians have not selected.”

“How and based on what criteria they take people out (of the plant) is something only the occupiers know,” Kyrylenko said. He explained that everyone in Mariupol “de-facto is held hostage by the Russians, and the occupiers take advantage of it, constantly changing the conditions of the evacuation.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to the Mariupol mayor, also said civilians are still trapped at the Azovstal mill that is the last pocket of resistance in the embattled port city.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the two officials knew about the remaining civilians at the Azovstal plant and the fighters still there were yet to confirm this.

Hundreds of civilians had sheltered at the plant. Scores of them have been evacuated in recent days in a joint effort by Ukrainian authorities, the Russian military, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that all women, children and elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal.

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BRUSSELS — A video conference focusing on a potential European Union ban on oil imports from Russia that was set to take place Tuesday has been postponed to a later date as Hungary continues to block the proposal.

EU commission officials did not give any reason for the postponement. The meeting was set to involve EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders from countries neighboring Hungary.

To further sanction Russia for its war in Ukraine, Von der Leyen has proposed having the 27 EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year. But Hungary says it won’t vote for the proposed sanctions, saying they would have the effect of an “atomic bomb” on its economy and destroy its “stable energy supply.”

___

MOSCOW — The Russian military on Tuesday reported breaching Ukrainian defenses near the city of Popasna in the Luhansk region and moved to the administrative border of the region, which Moscow considers a sovereign state.

Spokesman of Russia’s Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the breakthrough happened after “clearing Popasna from the nationalists was completed.”

Officials of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic claimed that their forces and the Russian troops seized most of Popasna on Sunday. That same day, the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region Serhiy Haidai admitted that Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from the city.

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BUCHA, Ukraine — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock pledged Tuesday that the international community would hold to account those responsible for the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

Speaking during a visit to the town on the outskirts of Kyiv, Baerbock said that “the worst crimes imaginable” had been perpetrated in Bucha during the Russian occupation.

Witnesses have told how Russian soldiers targeted civilians seemingly at random, leaving their bodies lying on the street.

“We owe it to the victims that we don’t just commemorate them here but that we hold the perpetrators to account,” said Baerbock. “And we as the international community will do this. That’s the promise we can and must make here in Bucha.”

Baerbock is the first member of the German government to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in late February.

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban are scheduled to talk about a potential European Union ban on oil imports from Russia, according to Macron’s office.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen will also attend the meeting, which is taking place by video conference on Tuesday. France currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

To further sanction Russia for its war in Ukraine, Von der Leyen has proposed having the 27 EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

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

___

LVIV, Ukraine — The secretary-general of the United Nations has met with Moldova’s president as Russia’s war on neighboring Ukraine has seen tensions rise in a breakaway region of Moldova.

A statement issued after the meeting said U.N. chief António Guterres offered President Maia Sandu “his support for the full respect for Moldova’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Mysterious explosions have struck Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region, raising concerns about the war in Ukraine spreading into a western front as Russia targets the Ukrainian city of Odesa with missiles.

Transnistria hosts some 1,500 Russian troops and other forces.

Pro-Russian forces broke off the border section from Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have been stationed there since, ostensibly as peacekeepers.

___

LVIV, Ukraine — The Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard, one of several Ukrainian units holed up at a Mariupol steel plant, says Russian war planes targeted the sprawling plant 34 times over the past 24 hours.

The regiment said in an online statement Tuesday that the Russians continue pounding the besieged Azovstal steel mill with naval and barrel artillery while using tanks and other weapons in “attempts to seize the Ukrainian fortress.”

Attempts to storm the plant with the support of the infantry continue daily, the statement added.

___

BRUSSELS — The head of the European Investment Bank says Ukraine is currently “sitting on 8 billion euros worth of wheat” it can’t export because of the war and its lost access to the Black Sea.

Speaking during a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels on Tuesday, Werner Hoyer said unblocking Ukraine’s seaports is crucial to fix the war-torn country’s trade crisis.

“They are sowing like crazy right now, and they will expect probably a good harvest, maybe 70% of last year’s harvest in a couple of months,” Hoyer said. “And then what to do with it?"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked his allies to take immediate measures to unlock Ukrainian ports for wheat exports.

Hoyer also looked at Ukraine’s reconstruction once the war started by Russia ends, saying it “is going to be a huge challenge" that costs trillions of euros.

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