WASHINGTON — The U.S. on Wednesday announced that it is sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters as part of a new batch of penalties on the country’s political and economic system in retaliation for its “war crimes” in Ukraine.
The U.S. is also imposing toughened “full blocking sanctions” on Russia’s Sberbank and Alfa Bank, two of its largest financial institutions, as well as some Russian state-owned enterprises. President Joe Biden is also signing an executive order to ban new U.S. investment in Russia.
In addition to Putin’s adult daughters, the new sanctions also target the family of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
The U.S. actions are set to be imposed in concert with toughened sanctions by its European allies.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— US targets Putin’s daughters, Russian banks in new sanctions
— Burned, piled bodies among latest horrors in Bucha, Ukraine
— Russia's setback in Kyiv was memorable military failure
— At UN, Ukraine President Zelenskyy accuses Russian military of war crimes
— Russian media campaign falsely claims Bucha deaths are fakes
— China calls for probe into Bucha killings, assigns no blame
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s government has issued a guide that instructs the public how to prepare for a crisis like war and what to do during attacks with weapons ranging from conventional to chemical and nuclear.
Posted on the Government Security Center’s website this week, the “Be Ready – Guide for Times of Crisis and War” gives detailed instructions in written form and videos.
European Union and NATO member Poland supports neighboring Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s military invasion and is calling for European imports of Russian energy sources to stop. The tough stance has raised concerns among some ordinary Poles.
The guide describes public warning systems in the event of shelling, advises people to stock up on water, food, medication, batteries and flashlights in case of power cuts. It also includes advice on preparing for an evacuation, seeking protection during shelling or shooting, and what to do during a chemical or nuclear attack.
The center says it is obliged to prepare the public for various difficult scenarios and the guide is not necessarily due to the war in Ukraine. Previous guides addressed situations like floods and harsh winter weather.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — Olympic gold medalist Ruta Meilutyte swam in a red-dyed pond outside the Russian Embassy in Vilnius on Wednesday to protest against Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The performance called “Swimming Through” was organized by a local art community. The pond was dyed red with environmentally friendly paint to resemble blood, according to the organizers.
“It’s crucial that we keep acting, spreading truthful information, volunteering, protesting, donating, and pressuring our governments to take action,” Meilutyte said on Instagram.
Meilutyte won gold at the 2012 Games in London as well as gold at the 2013 world championship and European titles in 2014 and 2016.
She served a two-year ban from 2019 through 2021 for failing to make herself available for out-of-competition drug testing.
BERLIN -- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says he expects more images to emerge like the ones of dead civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha and is assailing Russian assertions that they were staged.
Scholz told Germany’s parliament on Wednesday, “Russian soldiers carried out a massacre of Ukrainian civilians before their withdrawal” from Bucha.
He added: “The cynical assertion spread by Russia that this … is staged falls back on those who spread these lies. The killing of civilians is a war crime.”
Scholz said the perpetrators and the superiors who gave them orders must be held to account. He said: “We must not forget: we have to expect that we will see more such pictures.”
The chancellor said that “the killing by the Russian military is continuing undiminished.” He renewed a call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “end this destructive and self-destructive war immediately” and withdraw his troops from Ukraine.
BERLIN — A German spokesman says the government has information which indicates that bodies found after Ukraine retook Bucha last week had been lying there since at least March 10, when Russian troops were in control of the town.
Steffen Hebestreit told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that the information was based on non-commercial satellite images taken March 10-18 of Yablonska Street in Bucha.
“Credible information shows that from March 7 to March 30 Russian soldiers and security forces were deployed in this area,” he said. “They were also tasked with the interrogation of prisoners who were subsequently executed.”
Hebestreit said that “targeted killings by units of the Russian military and security forces are therefore proof that the Russian President and supreme commander has at least approvingly accepted human rights abuses and war crimes to achieve his goals.”
“The assertions made by the Russian side that these are staged scenes or they aren’t responsible for the murders are therefore not tenable,” he added.
Asked about the source of this information, Hebestreit said that images reviewed by Germany “were not commercial satellite images.” He declined to elaborate.
HELSINKI — The Finnish Customs agency says three consignments seized on the border with Russia contain artworks and artifacts on loan to European institutions from several Russian art museums, with a total insurance value of around 42 million euros ($46 million).
The seizure at the Vaalimaa border point in southeastern Finland on April 2 and April 3 came as the cargo fell under the European Union sanctions imposed on Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine, Finland Customs said on Wednesday.
Finland’s Foreign Ministry says the Russian artworks, including valuable paintings and statues, are classified as luxury items subject to EU sanctions on Russia, and that Finnish Customs had no other option than to temporarily confiscate them.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Teemu Sepponen told public broadcaster YLE that Russian museums will maintain legal ownership or the artworks that “have been temporarily taken over” and are stored in a secure place in Finland.
According to Russian media, the artworks were en route to Russia after having been loan in exhibitions in several museums in Italy, including the Palazzo Reale museum in Milan and the Gallerie d’Italia museum.
— This item has been corrected to show that the art was on loan to European institutions, not Finnish ones.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s defense ministry says authorities have detected a third naval mine drifting in the Black Sea, and military teams have been dispatched to deactivate it.
The explosive device was detected on Wednesday off the coast of northwestern Kocaeli province, and the area has been “secured,” the ministry said.
It was the third mine spotted in Turkish waters since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including one that forced authorities to close Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait to traffic.
Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations about the naval mines that have been threatening shipping in the Black Sea.
The Russian military has alleged that the Ukrainian military has used old naval mines to protect the coast against a Russian landing and some of them have been ripped off their anchors by a storm and left adrift. Ukraine has accused Russia of using Ukrainian mines it seized after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and setting them adrift to discredit Ukraine.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway is following other European nations and expelling Russian diplomats.
Norway’s Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Wednesday that three Russian diplomats had carried out activities incompatible with their status.
The timing for the expulsions “was not accidental” and comes “at a time when the whole world is shaken by reports of Russian forces abusing civilians, especially in the city of Bucha,” Huitfeldt said in a statement.
In recent days, numerous European countries have expelled Russian diplomats and staff at Russian diplomatic missions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says negotiations with Ukraine are continuing despite allegations of war crimes against civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
Peskov said Wednesday the talks continued with Ukraine but that the Bucha revelations — which he referred to as a “staging” — had hampered talks and there was “a fairly long road ahead.”
“The working process continues, but it is going much more tough than we would like. Of course, we would like to see more dynamism from the Ukrainian side, but the process has not been broken off and is continuing,” Peskov said.
Russia retreated from areas around Kyiv and the northern cities of Chernihiv and Sumy after talks with Ukraine in Turkey last week. Ukrainian troops entering the areas found evidence of widespread killings of civilians. Russia denies any war crimes and has alleged Ukraine has faked the incidents.
Since the talks in Turkey, Russia and Ukraine’s delegations have continued talks via video link.
GENEVA — The International Committee of the Red Cross says one of its teams in Ukraine has led some 500 people who fled Mariupol in a humanitarian convoy of buses and private cars to a safer location in the embattled country.
The ICRC says its team that has been trying to enter Mariupol since last Friday got within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the besieged city, but security conditions made it impossible to enter. The convoy escorted the civilians from coastal Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia, to the north.
“This convoy’s arrival to Zaporizhzhia is a huge relief for hundreds of people who have suffered immensely and are now in a safer location,” said Pascal Hundt, ICRC’s head of delegation in Ukraine. “It’s clear, though, that thousands more civilians trapped inside Mariupol need safe passage out and aid to come in.”
He said the Geneva-based organization remains available as “a neutral intermediary” to help escort civilians out of Mariupol “once concrete agreements and security conditions allow it.”
BERLIN — The aid group Doctors without Borders says its staff members have witnessed an attack on a hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.
The group, known by its French acronym MSF, said Wednesday that a four-member team had just entered the city’s cancer hospital when the area came under fire.
It quoted team leader Michel-Olivier Lacharite saying Monday’s attack lasted about 10 minutes. Upon leaving the hospital the team saw several injured people and dead bodies.
Lacharite was quoted as saying the bombardment of the hospital, located in a residential area, was likely to have caused civilian casualties and called on medical facilities not to be targeted.
The group didn’t provide information on which side in the war might have carried out the attack. Under international law, attacks on medical facilities and workers are deemed war crimes.
ROME — Italian firefighters have put out a fire at a villa on Lake Como reportedly owned by the pro-Putin Russian television personality Vladimir Soloyvev, who has been hit with European Union sanctions.
An official at the Como fire station confirmed that firefighters extinguished the early morning blaze Wednesday at the villa in Menaggio, one of the picturesque towns that dot the lake in northern Italy.
He said police were investigating the fire as a suspected act of protest. The villa was under renovation and the blaze involved tires at the site, said the official who declined to be identified by name, citing official policy.
Italian daily Corriere della Sera and news agency LaPresse said the villa was owned by Solovyev, a presenter on state run Channel One.
According to the EU list of sanctions, Solovyev is “known for his extremely hostile attitude towards Ukraine and praise of the Russian government.” The EU says he was targeted because of his support for “actions or policies which undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”
Italian carabinieri are investigating.
LONDON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war by deliberately targeting Ukraine’s essential food supplies.
In an address to Irish lawmakers Wednesday, Zelenskyy said Russian forces “are destroying things that are sustaining livelihoods” including food storage depots, blocking ports so Ukraine could not export food and “putting mines into the fields.”
“For them hunger is also a weapon, a weapon against us ordinary people,” he said, accusing Russia of “deliberately provoking a food crisis” in Ukraine, a major global producer of staples including wheat and sunflower oil.
He said it would have international ramifications, because “there will be a shortage of food and the prices will go up, and this is reality for the millions of people who are hungry, and it will be more difficult for them to feed their families.”
Zelenskyy spoke by video to a joint session of Ireland’s two houses of parliament, the latest in a string of international addresses he has used to rally support for Ukraine.
BRUSSELS — A senior European Union official says the bloc’s member countries should think about ways of offering asylum to Russian soldiers willing to desert Ukraine battlefields.
European Council president Charles Michel on Wednesday expressed his “outrage at crimes against humanity, against innocent civilians in Bucha and in many other cities.”
He called on Russian soldiers to disobey orders.
“If you want no part in killing your Ukrainian brothers and sisters, if you don’t want to be a criminal, drop your weapons, stop fighting, leave the battlefield,” Michel, who represents the bloc’s governments, said in a speech to the European Parliament
Endorsing an idea previously circulated by some EU lawmakers, Michel added that granting asylum to Russian deserters is “a valuable idea that should be pursued.”
ATHENS, Greece — Greece has joined a list of European countries expelling Russian diplomats, with the foreign ministry announcing on Wednesday it had declared 12 diplomats unwelcome.
The ministry said it had declared 12 members of Russian diplomatic and consular missions accredited to Greece as “personae non gratae,” and that the Russian ambassador had been informed.
It did not specify which diplomats were being expelled or state a reason, beyond citing that the move was carried out in accordance with international treaties.
BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister has accused Russia of spreading disinformation to justify its war in Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Wednesday that “as Russian tanks destroy Ukrainian cities, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine is censoring news, restricting social media, spreading disinformation and punishing those who dare to speak the truth.”
She said the aim was “both clear and cynical: to demoralize the courageous people of Ukraine while keeping Russians in the dark.”
Baerbock spoke in a video message to a conference on disinformation organized by her ministry at which participants also cited examples of Russian efforts to stoke resentment in Europe against refugees from Ukraine.
LONDON — Intel says it is suspending all its business operations in Russia, becoming the latest foreign company to leave because of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
“Effective immediately, we have suspended all business operations in Russia,” the U.S. chipmaker said late Wednesday.
The company had already suspended shipments to customers in Russia and neighboring ally Belarus after the war broke out.
Intel said it’s working to support its 1,200 employees in Russia and has put in place “business continuity measures” to reduce disruption to its global operations, though it didn’t provide details.
“Intel continues to join the global community in condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine and calling for a swift return to peace,” it said in a statement.
BEIJING — China says the reports and images of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha are “deeply disturbing” and it is calling for an investigation.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Wednesday that China supports all initiatives and measures “conducive to alleviating the humanitarian crisis” in the country and is “ready to continue to work together with the international community to prevent any harm to civilians.”
The killings in Bucha may serve to put further pressure on Beijing over its largely pro-Russian stance and attempts to guide public opinion over the war.
China has called for talks while refusing to criticize Russia over its invasion. It opposes economic sanctions on Moscow and blames Washington and NATO for provoking the war and fueling the conflict by sending arms to Ukraine.
Zhao’s remarks echo those the previous day of China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, who called for an investigation, describing the reports and images of civilian deaths in Bucha as “deeply disturbing.”
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has kissed a battered Ukrainian flag that was brought to him from the Ukrainian city of Bucha and called again for an end to the war.
Francis welcomed a half-dozen Ukrainian children up to the stage of the Vatican audience hall at the end of his Wednesday general audience and gave them each a giant chocolate Easter egg. He urged prayers for them and for all Ukrainians.
“The recent news from the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, brought testimony of new atrocities, like the massacre in Bucha, even more horrendous cruelty carried out against civilians, defenseless women and children," the pope said.
He told the crowd: “These children had to flee to arrive in a safe place. This is the fruit of war.”
The pontiff held up a grimy Ukrainian flag that he said had arrived at the Vatican on Tuesday from Bucha, where evidence has emerged of what appears to be intentional killings of civilians during the city’s occupation by Russian troops.
Kissing it, he said: “This flag comes from the war, from that martyred city Bucha .... Let us not forget them. Let us not forget the people of Ukraine.”
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Ukrainian ambassador on Wednesday after days of the two countries’ officials trading barbs over Hungary’s position on the war.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote in a social media post on Wednesday that “we condemn military aggression, we stand by Ukraine’s sovereignty,” but that “this is not our war, so we want to and will stay out of it.”
Hungary’s government has refused to supply weapons to Ukraine or allow their transfer across the Hungarian-Ukrainian border, and has fought against applying sanctions on Russian energy imports.
That position has prompted criticism of Hungary’s government by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy. He said in an address on Ukrainian television that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban would need to choose between Moscow and “the other world” of the West.
Orban, who won a landslide victory in Hungarian elections on Sunday, in a victory speech depicted Zelenskyy as one of the opponents he and his right-wing party had defeated.
LONDON — British defense officials say 160,000 people remain trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Russian airstrikes and heavy fighting are continuing.
The Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Wednesday that those in the city have “no light, communication, medicine, heat or water.” It accused Russian forces of deliberately preventing humanitarian access, “likely to pressure defenders to surrender.”
Repeated attempts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to get a humanitarian convoy into the southern port city have failed. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian forces stopped buses accompanied by Red Cross workers from traveling to Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of about 400,000. She said Russian troops allowed 1,496 civilians to leave the Sea of Azov port on Tuesday.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey says it shares the pain of the Ukrainian people over the “horrifying” images that emerged from towns near Kyiv and is calling for an independent investigation.
A statement from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday stopped short, however, of blaming Russia or describing the atrocities as a war crime.
Turkey has been measured in its criticism of Russia as it tries to balance its close relations with both Moscow and Kyiv. The country has hosted officials from the two countries for talks in a bid to end the war.
“The targeting of innocent civilians is unacceptable. It is our basic expectation that the issue is subjected to an independent investigation, that those responsible are identified and are held accountable,” the statement read.
Scenes that have emerged from Bucha, Irpin and other Ukrainian towns liberated by Ukrainian forces have led to accusations of war crimes and demands for tougher sanctions against Russia.
The ministry statement said Turkey would continue its efforts to end such “shameful scenes for humanity and to ensure peace as soon as possible.”
LVIV, Ukraine - Russian forces overnight struck a fuel depot and a factory in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, and the number of casualties remains unclear, the region’s governor said Wednesday on the Telegram messaging app.
“The night was alarming and difficult. The enemy attacked our area from the air and hit the oil depot and one of the plants," Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko wrote. "The oil depot with fuel was destroyed. Rescuers are still putting out the flames at the plant. There is a strong fire.”
In the eastern Luhansk region, shelling of the city of Rubizhne on Tuesday killed one and injured five more, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Wednesday on Telegram.
The Russian military continues to focus its efforts on preparing for an offensive in Ukraine’s east, according to a Wednesday morning update by Ukraine’s General Staff, with the aim “to establish complete control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”
Parts of the two regions have been under control of Russia-backed rebels since 2014 and are recognized by Moscow as independent states.
The Associated Press