Politics

Live updates: Vaccine manufacturer braces for complications

A member of the Ukrainian Emergency Service looks at the City Hall building in the central square following shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Russian strikes pounded the central square in Ukraine’s second-largest city and other civilian sites Tuesday in what the country’s president condemned as blatant campaign of terror by Moscow. (AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy) The Associated Press


The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

SEOUL, South Korea – A South Korean pharmaceutical company manufacturing Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine says it’s bracing for business complications as the U.S.-led West escalates sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

Recently expanded U.S. sanctions include targeted measures against the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund run by a close ally of President Vladimir Putin that globally markets the Sputnik vaccines.

Kim Gi-young, an official from Seoul-based GL Rapha, said the sanctions won’t directly impede its production of the shots as the measures aren’t aimed at essential medical supplies.

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However, the company is concerned about potential problems rising from the financial side as South Korea joins the United States and many European countries in a move to cut off key Russian banks from global payment systems.

“Right now, we are watching how the situation develops,” Kim said.

GL Rapha has so far produced 5 million shots of the single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine, but none of them have been used so far as Russia continues to delay rollout plans, Kim said.

GL Rapha also has an agreement with RDIF to produce 150 million shots of the two-dose Sputnik V and is participating in a consortium of South Korean companies that has been contracted to produce another 500 million doses of Sputnik V, but these shots haven’t been produced yet.

RDIF has reportedly criticized the U.S. sanctions and said the measures would slow its promotion of Sputnik V.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates says Ukrainian passport holders continue to be eligible for visas on arrival to the Gulf state.

The UAE’s Foreign Ministry statement on Thursday came in response to media coverage quoting Ukraine’s Embassy in the UAE saying that the Gulf country is reimposing visa requirements on Ukrainians and suspending an agreement for visa-free travel between the two countries.

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The energy-rich UAE, which relies on Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports, is home to some 15,000 Ukrainian residents among its roughly 8 million foreign residents and 1 million Emirati citizens. Before the coronavirus pandemic, around a quarter-million Ukrainian tourists visited the UAE.

The UAE, like other Gulf Arab states, does not recognize individuals fleeing war and has not permitted refugees from Syria, Iraq and other wars to seek asylum or seek resettlement.

The UAE, which is home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, abstained in a U.N. Security Council vote late last week condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. It is also chair of the Security Council.

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MAZYR, Belarus — A string of seven bus-size Russian military ambulances — their windows blocked with gray shades — pulled up to the back entrance of the main hospital about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the border with Ukraine on Tuesday evening, ferrying casualties from the front.

The convoy was part of what residents and doctors said has in recent days become a steady flow of Russian soldiers wounded in fierce fighting around Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, where a Russian advance has stalled in the face of strong resistance.

A doctor at the hospital — which is in southern Belarus’s Gomel region, a main staging ground for Russia’s offensive — said injured Russian troops began arriving on Monday. “I hope they don’t jail me for sharing this,” she said.

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WARSAW, Poland — The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe says one of its members died during shelling in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Maryna Fenina was killed while getting supplies for her family, the group said in a news release Wednesday. Fenina worked with the organization’s monitoring mission in Ukraine.

“In Kharkiv and other cities and towns in Ukraine, missiles, shells and rockets are hitting residential buildings and town centers, killing and injuring innocent civilians — women, men and children alike,” it said.

The organization’s chairperson, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, and Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid extended their condolences.

“Our deepest condolences and sympathies go to Maryna’s family. Maryna was a valued member of the SMM team, and our colleagues in Ukraine remain in close contact with her family to offer our support,” it said.

The organization launched its Ukraine monitoring mission in 2014 in response to a request from Ukraine’s government and the consent of the group’s 57 participating states. The mission observes and reports on the situation in Ukraine and aims to facilitate dialogue.

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GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency says 1 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion less than a week ago, an exodus without precedent in this century for its speed.

The tally from UNHCR amounts to more than 2 percent of Ukraine’s population on the move in under a week. The World Bank counted the population at 44 million at the end of 2020.

The U.N. agency has predicted that up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine but cautioned that even that projection could be revised upward.

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In an email, UNHCR spokesperson Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams wrote: “Our data indicates we passed the 1M mark” as of midnight in central Europe, based on counts collected by national authorities.

On Twitter, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, wrote: “In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries.”

Syria, whose civil war erupted in 2011, currently remains the country with the largest refugee outflows – at more than 5.6 million people, according to UNHCR figures. But even at the swiftest rate of flight by refugees out of Syria, in early 2013, it took at least three months for 1 million refugees to leave that country.

UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said Wednesday that “at this rate” the outflows from Ukraine could make it the source of “the biggest refugee crisis this century.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — In a video address to the nation early Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave an upbeat assessment of the war and called on Ukrainians to keep up the resistance.

“We are a people who in a week have destroyed the plans of the enemy,” he said. “They will have no peace here. They will have no food. They will have here not one quiet moment.”

Zelenskyy didn’t comment on whether the Russians have seized several cities, including Kherson.

“If they went somewhere, then only temporarily. We’ll drive them out,” he said.

He said the fighting is taking a toll on the morale of Russian soldiers, who “go into grocery stores and try to find something to eat.”

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“These are not warriors of a superpower,” he said. “These are confused children who have been used.”

He said the Russian death toll has reached about 9,000.

“Ukraine doesn’t want to be covered in bodies of soldiers,” he said. “Go home.”

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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden is hailing Wednesday’s vote by the United Nations General Assembly demanding an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops, saying it “demonstrates the extent of global outrage at Russia’s horrific assault on a sovereign neighbor.”

In a statement Wednesday evening, Biden said the U.N. vote recognizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “attacking the very foundations of global peace and security — and everything the United Nations stands for.”

The vote on the “Aggression against Ukraine” resolution was 141-5, with 35 abstentions.

Echoing his State of the Union address Tuesday, Biden said: “Together, we must — and we will — hold Russia accountable for its actions. We will demonstrate that freedom always triumphs over tyranny.”

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KHERSON, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office says fighting is still occurring around the port city of Kherson, which Russian officials have said is in their “complete control.”

Zelenskyy’s office told The Associated Press that it could not comment on the situation there while the battle was still being waged.

But the mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolykhaev, said Russian soldiers were in the city and came to the city administration building. He said he asked them not to shoot civilians and to allow them to gather up the bodies from the streets.

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“I simply asked them not to shoot at people,” Mayor Igor Kolykhaev said in a statement. “We don’t have any Ukrainian forces in the city, only civilians and people here who want to LIVE.”

Kherson, a city of 300,000, is strategically located on the banks of the Dnieper River near where it flows into the Black Sea. If Russian troops take the city, they could unblock a water canal and restore water supplies to the Crimean Peninsula.

The battle in the Kherson region began last Thursday, the first day of the invasion, and by the next day the Russian forces were able to take a bridge that connects the city with territory on the western bank.

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SAVANNAH, Ga. — About 3,800 troops based at Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia have been ordered to deploy quickly and bolster U.S. forces in Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s been very hectic and stressful, but overall it’s worked out,” Army Staff Sgt. Ricora Jackson said Wednesday as she waited with dozens of fellow soldiers to board a chartered flight at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. The soldiers are from the 1st Armored Brigade of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

In all, the Pentagon has ordered about 12,000 service members from various U.S. bases to Europe, with a couple of thousand more already stationed abroad shifting to other European countries.

The soldiers’ mission overseas is to train alongside military units of NATO allies in a display of force aimed at deterring further aggression by Russia.

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“I’m a little nervous, but it’s OK,” said Jackson, a 22-year-old tank gunner from Pensacola, Florida.

Asked what was making her nervous, she replied: “Just about the unknown.”

Maj. Gen. Charles Costanza, the 3rd Infantry’s commander, said soldiers and their families were told to expect the deployment to last six months, though it could be extended or shortened depending on developments in Ukraine. “There is no intent to have any U.S. service member fight in Ukraine,” Costanza said. “And they know that.”

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor opened an investigation Wednesday into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Ukraine dating back to 2013, but also covering the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion.

Prosecutor Karim Khan said he launched the probe after 39 of the court’s member states requested an investigation, a process known as a referral.

“These referrals enable my Office to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards, thereby encompassing within its scope any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person,” Khan said in a statement.

“Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced,” he added.

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KHERSON, Ukraine — A Russian official says troops have taken the Ukrainian port city of Kherson — a claim that the Ukrainian military denies.

The city is under Russian soldiers’ “complete control,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday.

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He said that the city’s civilian infrastructure, essential facilities and transport are operating as usual and that there are no shortages of food or essential goods.

Konashenkov said talks between the Russian commanders, city administrations and regional authorities on how to maintain order in the city were underway Wednesday. The claims could not be immediately verified.

A senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday that they have seen claims that the Russians have taken Kherson, but that the Ukrainian military is rejecting that claim.

“Our view is that Kherson is very much a contested city at this point,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to make military assessments.

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Associated Press Writer Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron says Russian President Vladimir Putin “chose war,” but that he would continue his contacts with the Russian leader to try to stop the conflict and avoid its spread beyond Ukraine’s borders.

In an address to the nation on Wednesday, Macron hammered home that the consequences of the conflict will reverberate to France and other European countries, thrusting the continent into a new era.

Macron’s 14-minute address was meant to apprise the French of what has happened and what he predicts the fallout will be. It was his second such address and comes days before Macron must by law declare his candidacy in French presidential elections in April.

After enumerating the unsuccessful efforts by Western powers to prevent the invasion, Macron said, “It is, therefore, alone and in a deliberate way that by denying engagements taken before the international community, President Putin chose war.”

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The war in Ukraine “marks a rupture,” jolting Europeans into a new era that will force new, costly decisions in all spheres, from defense to energy, Macron warned.

The French president stressed that he won’t abandon contacts with Russia. Macron has traveled to the Kremlin and had multiple telephone conversations with Putin, the latest on Monday, trying to facilitate an end to the Ukraine conflict.

“I chose to stay in contact and will remain in contact as much as I can and as long as it is necessary with President Putin, to convince him to renounce arms, to aid as much as France can … and prevent contagion and enlargement of the conflict as best we can,” Macron said.

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GOTLAND, Sweden — Sweden says four Russian fighter jets violated its airspace over the Baltic Sea on Wednesday.

The four aircraft — two SU-27 and two SU-24 fighters — flew briefly over Swedish airspace east of the island of Gotland, according to a statement from the Swedish Armed Forces.

“In light of the current situation we are very concerned about the incident,” Swedish Air Force chief Carl-Johan Edstrom said. “This is unprofessional and irresponsible behavior from the Russian side.”

Swedish fighter jets were scrambled and took photos of the Russian jets, the statement said.

“This shows that our readiness is good. We were in place to secure the territorial integrity and Swedish borders,” Edstrom said. “We have total control of the situation.”

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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon announced that it is postponing a nuclear missile test launch scheduled for this week to avoid any possible misunderstanding in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to put his nuclear forces on higher alert.

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Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the decision to delay the test of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was made by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. He said the U.S. would like to see Moscow reciprocate by “taking the temperature down” in the crisis over Ukraine.

Kirby said the U.S. did not put its nuclear forces on higher alert in response to Putin’s move, which the spokesman described as dangerous and unnecessary.

Austin is “comfortable that the strategic deterrence posture that we have in place is up to the task of defending the homeland and our allies.”

The United States usually performs about four test launches of Minuteman III missiles per year.

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ROME — Soccer great Andriy Shevchenko says people back in his homeland of Ukraine are helping each other fight for freedom because they believe it’s the right thing to do.

Shevchenko, who used to play for AC Milan and Chelsea, told Italian state TV in an interview aired Wednesday night that “we want to be free, we want to have our land.” His mother and sister are in Kyiv.

“All are afraid,’’ Shevchenko said. “People are organizing themselves. They’re helping each other. They believe they are doing the right thing” in defending the country against Russia’s attack, he said.

At a match Tuesday night in Milan’s San Siro Stadium between AC Milan and Inter, Shevchenko, delivered a video message while draped in a Ukrainian flag.

“What unites us must be stronger than what divides us,’’ the former star forward said in the video. Pleading for peace, Shevchenko said: “Let’s all together stop this war.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials have reported a powerful explosion in Kyiv, between a central railway station and the Ibis hotel, an area near Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

Ukrainian Railway Service said that thousands of women and children were being evacuated from the Southern Railway Station at the time of the strike. The building of the station suffered minor damage, and the train traffic continued. Officials said it was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties.

“Russian terrorists launched an air strike on the South Railway Station in Kyiv, where thousands of Ukrainian women and children are being evacuated,” the national railway company said.

The Southern Railway station is one of two stations that make up the main passenger rail complex. The two stations are connected by an overhead corridor that crosses over about a dozen tracks.

The stations are about 3 kilometers (2 miles) from Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square that was the site of huge protests in 2014 and 2004.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week will visit six European countries, including the Baltic states and Moldova, which are on particular edge as Russia intensifies its war in Ukraine.

The State Department says Blinken will travel Thursday to Belgium for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers before heading to the Polish border with Ukraine to meet refugees, and then Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Poland and the three Baltics are members of NATO and fall under its Article 5 defense provisions, which means the allies are bound to defend them if they are attacked. Given their location immediately adjacent to Russia, they are believed to be at special risk should the Ukraine conflict spread.

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Western-leaning Moldova is not a NATO member but has relations with the alliance and has long objected to the presence of Russian troops in the disputed territory of Transnistria.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has picked up steam, most NATO members, including the Baltics, have steadily increased military and financial assistance to Kyiv even as Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of reprisals for any nation that interferes in what he calls a “special military operation.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has decried Russia’s escalation of attacks on crowded cities as a blatant terror campaign.

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WARSAW, Poland — An international organization made up only of democracies held an emergency meeting on Wednesday following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Warsaw-based Community of Democracies said in a statement that its members at the gathering “condemned Russia’s aggression and backed Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democratic aspirations of its people.”

Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, whose country holds the community’s rotating presidency, called for continued support for Ukraine’s right to choose its own foreign policy and for more attention to be given to other places facing Russian pressure, including Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkan region.

“This seems to be the beginning of the most difficult period in generations. And this is the fight of our generation and a real test on our democracies,” Aurescu said.

Thomas Garrett, the organization’s secretary general, “underlined that democracies worldwide must unequivocally show they stand with Ukraine.”

A Ukrainian lawmaker in Kyiv addressed the political representatives. She called on Russia to “stop bombing our towns and cities” and appealed to the U.N., E.U., and other international organizations to help Ukraine obtain a ceasefire for humanitarian relief. The lawmaker was not identified for security reasons.

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WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. defense official says the Russian convoy still appears to be stalled outside the city center of Kyiv, and has made no real progress in the last couple days.

The official on Wednesday said the convoy is still plagued with fuel and food shortages and logistical problems, as well as facing continued fierce resistance from Ukrainians.

He said there has been an increase in the number of missiles and artillery targeting the city, suggesting the Russians are trying to make a more aggressive move to try and take the city.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russians have not been able to achieve air superiority and Ukrainian air defenses remain operable and their aircraft continue to fly.

The official said that about 82% of the Russian troops that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now inside the country — just a slight uptick over the last 24 hours, and that Russia has launched more than 450 missiles at various targets in the country.

In other areas of the country, the U.S. official said that the U.S. is seeing preliminary indications that Russian forces are going to try to move south towards Mariupol from Donetsk, in what appears to be an effort to encircle the city.

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Associated Press Writer Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

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BRUSSELS — European Union finance ministers on Wednesday convened for the second time in less than a week to weigh the likely impact on Europe of the full-scale Russian military assault on Ukraine, a country that borders the bloc’s eastern flank.

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Policymakers are scrambling to recalculate economic projections made less than a month ago, when the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — predicted the bloc’s economic growth would slow from 5.3% last year to 4% this year and 2.8% in 2023.

Top European commissioners said on Wednesday those figures are too optimistic because the conflict in Ukraine will probably stoke rises in energy prices, financial-market turbulence, supply-chain bottlenecks and a weakening of consumer confidence.

“We don’t expect the recovery to be derailed completely but to be weakened,” said European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni.

The gloomier outlook has also raised the prospect of a prolonged period of unrestrained spending by member countries to support their economies.

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ZAHONY, Hungary — Some of the nearly 1 million people who have fled Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine in recent days count among society’s most vulnerable, unable to make the decision on their own to flee and requiring careful assistance to make the journey to safety.

At the train station in the Hungarian town of Zahony on Wednesday, more than 200 young Ukrainians with disabilities — residents of two orphanages in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv — disembarked into the cold wind of the train platform after an arduous escape from the violence gripping Ukraine.

The refugees, most of them children with mental and physical disabilities, were evacuated from their care facilities once the Russian assault on the capital intensified.

“It wasn’t safe to stay there, there were rockets, they were shooting at Kyiv,” said Larissa Leonidovna, the director of the Svyatoshinksy orphanage in Kyiv. “We spent more than an hour underground during a bombing.”

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The U.N. refugee agency says more than 874,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last week and the figure is “rising exponentially,” putting it on track to cross the 1 million mark on Wednesday.

Moving from the train in groups of 30, the children — also from the Darnytskyy orphanage in Kyiv — were escorted to buses waiting to take them to Opole, Poland, where they would be settled and receive further care

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WASHINGTON — The White House has announced additional sanctions against Russia and its ally Belarus, including extending export controls that target Russian oil refining and entities supporting the Russian and Belarusian militaries.

Among Wednesday’s new measures are sanctions targeting 22 Russia defense entities that make combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, electronic warfare systems, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles for Russia’s military.

The U.S. Commerce Department also announced additional export controls on oil and gas extraction equipment that would hurt Russia’s refining capacity over the long term.

The Biden administration, and Western allies, have largely stayed away from hitting the Russian energy sector to avoid causing tremors to the global supply of energy. The White House, however, said in a statement that U.S. and allies “share a strong interest in degrading Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier over time.”

The latest sanctions imposed on Wednesday include the U.S. closing off its air space to all Russian flights. President Joe Biden previewed that he would making the move in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, shortly after a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Israeil officials said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office confirmed that the calls with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders took place but provided no further details.

Israel has close relations with both countries and has acted as an intermediary between the two countries.

Israeli media reported that that Zelenskyy repeated Ukraine’s request for Israeli military equipment, but that Bennett said Israel wouldn’t give Ukraine anything that could potentially be used by the military. Bennett’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy’s official Facebook page posted a Hebrew translation of his remarks, in which he called on “all Jews of the world” not to remain silent about Russia’s invasion.

Israel has largely refrained from taking actions to anger Moscow, in part because it relies on Russia for security coordination in neighboring Syria, where Russia maintains a military presence supporting President Bashar Assad, and where Israel frequently carries out airstrikes targeting Iranian forces and their Lebanese proxies.

Israel has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has also offered to act as broker for cease-fire talks.

In addition, Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it is weighing sending additional humanitarian aid to Ukraine, after having dispatched 100 tons of supplies this week. It says it is also evaluating the possibility of setting up a field hospital in Ukraine.

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LONDON — With the threat of financial sanctions looming, Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich confirmed Wednesday he is trying to sell the Premier League club he turned into an elite trophy-winning machine with his lavish investment.

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The speed of Abramovich’s pending exit from Chelsea is striking as he was trying to instigate a plan this past weekend to relinquish some control in order to keep the club under his ownership.

But as Russia’s war on Ukraine entered a seventh day, pressure was growing on the British government to include him among the wealthy Russians to be targeted in sanctions.

“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners,” Abramovich said in a statement.

Abramovich said he will not be asking to be repaid 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion) in loans he has granted the club during 19 years of injecting cash to elevate the team into one of the most successful in Europe.

“I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated,” he said. “The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine.”

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A pretrial panel of International Criminal Court judges has been assigned to evaluate an upcoming request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

The court took the procedural step Wednesday to be ready when Prosecutor Karim Khan files the request.

He announced his intention on Monday to launch an investigation dating back to 2013 but also including “any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my office that are committed by any party to the conflict” that erupted following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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There have been widespread reports of Russian military strikes killing civilians in Ukraine.

The court says in a statement that the pretrial chamber “will have to consider whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, upon examination of the Prosecutor’s request and the supporting material.”

Canada and Lithuania have both said they plan to ask him to investigate alleged crimes in Ukraine. If they do, Khan can open an investigation without first seeking approval from judges.

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MOSCOW — A top aide for Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukrainians are on their way to Belarus for talks that have been scheduled for Thursday.

“As far as I know, the Ukrainian delegation has already departed from Kyiv, is en route … We’re expecting them tomorrow,” Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, told reporters Wednesday evening

According to Medinsky, the two sides agreed on the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland, as the site of the talks.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office confirmed to The Associated Press that the delegation is on its way, but gave no details on the time of the arrival.

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NEW DELHI — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the second time in the past week as Moscow intensified its invasion of Ukraine.

Putin and Modi on Wednesday reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck, according to a statement from Arindam Bagchi, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson. They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas, Bagchi said.

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The telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Putin came as the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution demanding that Russia stop war in Ukraine and withdraw all troops.

India last week had abstained from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Russia cease its invasion of Ukraine. Russia vetoed the resolution while China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained.

Earlier in the day, India asked all its nationals to leave Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv by Wednesday evening based on information received from Russia.

Bagchi also said nearly 17,000 Indian nationals, mostly students, out of an estimated 20,000, have left Ukraine. India is trying to evacuate the rest to nearby countries.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — The condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has continued even at the United Nations Environment Assembly, where some delegates walked out on Wednesday when Russia’s representative began to speak.

The assembly also gave Ukraine’s representative a standing ovation.

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TIRANA, Albania —The Albanian Football Federation has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and will offer shelter to Ukrainian players’ families.

The federation passed a resolution at its assembly on Wednesday in support of the Ukrainian people.

“Stop to military violence and occupation! Stop to the war that brings only destruction and victims! Respect to Ukraine’s sovereignty!” said that resolution.

The federation is in contact with its Ukraine’s counterpart to offer shelter to some players’ families “in a sign of human support and solidarity.”

A few days earlier Albania’s government joined the wave of European opposition to playing any sports games against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

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Albania is among the few national teams in men’s soccer with games scheduled against Russia in official competitions.

Albania was due to host Russia in Tirana on June 2 in the group stage of the UEFA Nations League competition.

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MOSCOW — The spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry says 498 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine and 1,597 more sustained wounds.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday rejected reports about “incalculable losses” of the Russians as “disinformation.” It was the first time Russia has addressed the number of military casualties in Ukraine since the start of the invasion last Thursday. He assured that families of those killed are receiving all necessary assistance.

Konashenkov also said that neither conscripts, nor cadets have been involved in the operation in Ukraine, dismissing media reports alleging otherwise.

Konashenkov also said more than 2,870 Ukrainian troops have been killed and some 3,700 more sustained injuries, while 572 others have been captured by the Russians. Ukrainian officials have not yet commented on the claim and it could not be immediately verified.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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