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Thursday October 6th, 2022 8:08PM

Live updates | Ukraine official: Russia shirks blame on food

By The Associated Press
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GENEVA — A Ukrainian ambassador said Russia is playing “hunger games” with the world by trying to depict sanctions against Moscow as the reason that grain can’t transit the Black Sea – and not Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Yevheniia Filipenko, Ukraine’s envoy to the U.N. office in Geneva, spoke in an interview on the 100-day mark since Russian military forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

As grain exports dry up through Ukraine’s embattled or captured ports, Filipenko said Russia has sought to pin the blame for the blockage on Ukraine and Western sanctions that have been levied by the thousands against Moscow.

“Russia has played hunger games recently to put the blame on Ukraine and others for blocking Ukrainian food exports,” she said.

Filipenko said Ukrainian forces were intensely motivated to protect their homeland and would one day win the war. She echoed calls from other top Ukrainian officials for more weapons.

“We are fighting for freedom of Europe and the whole world. So the next 100 days will be very busy for all of us,” she said.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— Deadly secret: Electronic warfare shapes Russia-Ukraine war

— Analysts think Russia may be in Ukraine to stay after 100 days of war

— AP PHOTOS: Russian malls half-empty after Western firms exit

— At 100 days, Russia-Ukraine war by the numbers

— US and allies: Hold Russia accountable for Ukraine crimes

— Russian Orthodox leader skips EU sanctions thanks to Hungary's Orban

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

BRUSSELS — The European Union says it has targeted Russian military officers linked to atrocities in Ukraine in its latest round of sanctions, including top brass accused of war crimes in Bucha and the siege of Mariupol.

The EU froze the assets of 65 people and imposed travel bans on them. The bloc has now targeted almost 1,160 people, including President Vladimir Putin, pro-Kremlin oligarchs and other top officials over Russia’s actions in Ukraine since 2014.

The EU said Friday that Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov and Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, known as the ‘Butcher of Mariupol,’ were among those on the list.

It said Omurbekov “was leading the actions of his military unit and nicknamed ‘the Butcher of Bucha’ due to his direct responsibility in killings, rapes and torture in Bucha,” on the outskirts of Kyiv.

It accused Mizintsev “of orchestrating the bombardments of the city of Mariupol, killing thousands of civilians, including the shelling of a Mariupol maternity hospital and a theatre, killing hundreds of children.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “there can be no impunity for war crimes.”

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CHISINAU, Moldova — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has paid an official visit to Moldova, which borders Ukraine, in a public show of support for the country witnessing Russia’s ambitions in the region up close and sheltering thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

Sánchez said Spain would stand up for Moldova’s territorial integrity, in a reference to Transnistria and Russia’s military presence there.

Transnistria is a disputed, Russian-backed breakaway state that borders southwestern Ukraine. Pro-Russian forces broke it off from Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have been stationed there ever since, ostensibly as peacekeepers.

Sánchez assured President Maia Sandu at a press conference Friday in Chisinau, the capital, that Moldova has Spain’s “resounding” support and “our commitment to solidarity with the Moldovan authorities and the Moldovan people at a time of great difficulty and international political tension.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — A regional governor in eastern Ukraine says intense fighting is continuing in a key town that has faced a massive Russian offensive.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that “fierce battles are continuing in Sievierodonetsk,” where about 13,000 residents left in the city are sheltering in basements to escape relentless Russian bombardment.

Haidai said Friday that the Russian forces were also pummeling the nearby city of Lysychansk that has remained under Ukrainian control. Some 20,000 residents, or about one-fifth of Lysychansk’s pre-war population, have remained in the city which has seen 60% of its residential buildings and civilian infrastructure shattered by the Russian shelling. Haidai said a civilian was killed in the Russian shelling of Lysychansk on Friday.

He told the AP that the Russians have been shelling a key highway linking Lysychansk with Bakhmut, but that it remained under Ukrainian control.

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LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian military analyst says a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has slowed down amid staunch Ukrainian resistance.

Mykola Sunhurovsky of the Razumkov Center, a Kyiv-based think-tank, said Friday that “the Russians are fighting for every block and every street” in the eastern city of Lysychansk, adding that “it has deprived them of the initiative.” Lysychansk, the administrative center of the eastern Luhansk region has become an arena of fierce fighting this week as it has faced a massive Russian attack.

Sunhurovsky charged that “the Russian offensive in the region has started to slow down, they have lost too many forces and need a tactical break.”

He noted that “time is working in Ukraine’s favor as supplies of Western weapons are increasing, making the Kremlin nervous,” but added that Western supplies have taken time to reach Ukraine, forcing Kyiv to “drag out time in the east to accumulate forces for a counter-offensive.”

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin says it will press on with its military operations in Ukraine until its goals are met.

Asked how the Kremlin views progress in Ukraine 100 days into the war Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian troops have succeeded in their main task of protecting civilians in areas on Ukraine’s east controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

Peskov said that Russian forces have “liberated” many areas in Ukraine from the “pro-Nazi” Ukrainian military and nationalist units, adding that “this work will continue until all the goals of the special military operation are achieved.”

Speaking during a conference call with reporters, Peskov was evasive when asked whether Russian authorities are planning to hold referendums in those areas to join Russia, saying that it will depend on how the situation evolves. Peskov and other Russian officials have said repeatedly that it will be up to the residents of those regions to determine their status.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country won’t stop its resistance against the Russian invasion.

Zelensky on Friday issued a video message to mark 100 days of war. Surrounded by other top officials, Zelenskyy appeared defiant.

“Our team is much larger,” says Zelenskyy. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces are here. Most importantly, our people are here.”

“We have defended Ukraine for 100 days already,” he adds.” Victory will be ours!”

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BERLIN — The German government has rejected suggestions by Russia that western sanctions and not Moscow’s war in Ukraine are to blame for the global shortage of grains.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Berlin Friday that “the danger is very big that Russia will try, that President Putin will try to establish a narrative that it’s the West that’s responsible for the famine threatening Africa.”

“This is a narrative that we want to strongly resist,” said spokeswoman Andrea Sasse.

Responding to an AP question about Putin’s meeting with Senegal’s President Macky Sall in Sochi Friday, Sasse said it was a fact that the threat of famine in parts of the world and that some countries will be cut off from grain imports are “a result of the Russian war of attack and not the result of western sanctions.”

A spokesman for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Wolfgang Buechner, rejected what he called Putin's “anti-western propaganda" claiming that the West's economic and financial policies as well as “anti-Russian sanctions" are responsible for the problem.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia's foreign ministry says a Croatian citizen has been wounded in Ukraine and will be transferred to Croatia.

Croatia's state HRT television says that the man was fighting as a volunteer in Ukraine. The foreign ministry told the station that the man is safe and receiving medical attention.

No other details were immediately available.

Last month, Croatian authorities said that Russian troops detained a Croatian citizen who was fighting alongside Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol.

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin says that Ukrainian grain supplies to world markets will be on the agenda for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s talks with the chairman of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. Ukrainian authorities and their Western supporters have accused Russia of endangering world food supplies with a naval blockade of Ukraine’s ports. Russia has denied blocking the ports and said Ukraine needed to remove sea mines to allow safe shipping.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin plans to give Sall a “detailed explanation” of Russia’s view of the situation and “explain again what’s going on there, who mined the ports, what is necessary to do to allow the grain flow to resume.”

African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures. Wheat prices have spiked 45% as a result of the war-related disruption of supplies, according to the African Development Bank.

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ANKARA, Turkey — A Ukrainian ambassador says grain stolen from Ukraine has been sold in several countries, including Turkey.

Vasyl Bodnar, Ukraine's ambassador to Turkey, told journalists in Ankara on Friday that his embassy was preparing to start criminal proceedings against individuals, companies and ships involved in the sale of the stolen grain.

Turkish authorities and international police agency Interpol are assisting, Bodnar said.

“Anyone involved in the sale of stolen goods will be found and will be brought to justice,” the ambassador said.

Bodnar warned that companies conducting business with Russia would be barred from taking part in future projects toward Ukraine’s redevelopment.

Turkey, which has close ties to Ukraine and Russia, has criticized Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine but has refused to join sanctions against Russia.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union on Friday formally approved an embargo on Russian oil and other sanctions targeting major banks and broadcasters over Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

EU headquarters says Russian crude oil will be phased out over six months, and other refined petroleum products over eight months.

It says that “a temporary exception is foreseen” for landlocked countries – like Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – that “suffer from a specific dependence on Russian supplies and have no viable alternative options.”

Bulgaria and Croatia will also get “temporary derogations” for certain kinds of oil. EU leaders say the move means that around 90% of Russia’s oil exports to Europe will be blocked by year’s end. The EU imports around 25% of its oil from Russia.

Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, plus Credit Bank of Moscow, Russian Agriculture Bank and the Belarusian Bank for Development and Reconstruction have also been blocked from using the SWIFT system for international bank transfers.

Broadcasters Rossiya RTR/RTR Planeta, Rossiya 24 / Russia 24 and TV Centre International have suspended their broadcasting activities in the EU over allegations that they are being used by Moscow “to manipulate information and promote disinformation about the invasion of Ukraine.”

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BERLIN, Germany — The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament has met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and attended a session of Germany’s parliament during a visit to Berlin.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, was greeted with a standing ovation as he was welcomed Friday by German counterpart Baerbel Bas.

Stefanchuk told Germany’s Funke newspaper group ahead of his meeting with the chancellor that he wanted to invite Scholz to Kyiv to give a speech to Ukrainian lawmakers.

Scholz hasn’t visited Ukraine since the war began, though Germany’s foreign and development ministers have.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United States and its allies are vowing to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed by its forces since they invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Uzra Zeya told a U.N. Security Council meeting on strengthening accountability and justice for serious violations of international law that Russian forces have bombed maternity hospitals, train stations, apartment buildings and homes and killed civilians cycling down the street.

Zeya said on Thursday that the United States was working with its allies to support a broad range of international investigations into alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.

Ireland’s attorney general, Paul Gallagher said Ireland was one of 41 countries that quickly referred the situation in the country to the International Criminal Court.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, accused Western nations of “hypocrisy” for suddenly seeking international criminal justice over what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said fighting was brutal in the country's eastern Donbas region but there has been “some progress” in the city of Sievierodonetsk, which Russian forces have been trying to capture.

“It’s the toughest there right now. As in the cities and communities nearby – Lysychansk, Bakhmut and others,” Zekenskyy said late Thursday in his nightly video address to the nation. “There are many cities where the Russian attack is powerful.”

Zelenskyy said Russian forces were mobilizing people from areas of the Donbas that were already under the control of Moscow-backed separatists and sending them into battle in the first line of attack, with Russian troops coming in behind them.

“The longer the war goes on, the more vile, shameful and cynical things Russia is forever inscribing in its history,” he said.

Zelenskyy said he was thankful to the United States for agreeing to send advanced rocket systems.

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