The Malta Independent 25 September 2022, Sunday
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Live updates: Biden considering trip to Europe, number of refugees reaches 2.8 million

Associated Press Monday, 14 March 2022, 06:09 Last update: about 7 months ago

WASHINGTON — The White House is weighing the possibility of President Joe Biden traveling to Europe in the coming weeks for face-to-face talks with European leaders about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the deliberations.

The prospective trip is yet to be finalized. One possible destination for the meetings would be Brussels, which is the headquarters for NATO, one of the officials said Monday. Another official said the White House was looking at Biden visiting NATO headquarters on March 24, with other potential stops in Europe.

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All of the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity as none was allowed to comment publicly.

Biden’s potential trip would follow Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the eastern flank NATO countries of Poland and Romania last week to discuss with leaders there the growing refugee crisis in eastern Europe sparked by the Russian invasion. The trip would underscore the Biden administration’s support for NATO allies. NBC News first reported that the discussions for a potential Biden trip are underway.

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PRZEMYSL, Poland (AP) — As Russia's war in Ukraine becomes a grim new reality for millions of Ukrainians, the tens of thousands who make the increasingly treacherous journey toward safety each day in the European Union are left with no sense of when, or if, they'll ever return home.

More than 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion, according to the U.N. refugee agency, the vast majority seeking refuge in Poland, which has taken in more than 1.7 million refugees in the last 19 days.

In the Polish border town of Przemysl, some of those fleeing, mostly women and children, are exhausted and express a simple wish that the war and violence would stop.

“All day crying from the pain of having to part with loved ones, with my husband, my parents,” said Alexandra Beltuygova, 33, who fled from Dnipro, a city between the embattled metropolises of Kyiv and Mariupol.

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KYIV, Ukraine — A Russian rocket attack on a television tower in the western village of Antopol on Monday morning killed nine people, according to the governor of the Rivne region. The village is only about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the border of NATO member Poland.

Ukrainian authorities also said two people died and seven were injured after Russian forces struck an airplane factory in the capital of Kyiv, and that two people were killed in the northern Obolonskyi district of the capital when Russian artillery fire hit a nine-story apartment building. They said a Russian airstrike in the capital’s downtown area Monday killed one person and wounded six others.

The United Nations has recorded at least 596 civilian deaths since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, though it believes the true toll is much higher.

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ANKARA, Turkey — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says there can only be a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine and called on Russia to immediately stop its attacks on the country.

Scholz said Monday during a visit to Turkey that “with each day, with each bomb, Russia is moving further away from the international community.”

Speaking after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Scholz praised Turkey for closing the Bosphorus to warships from parties to the conflict in Ukraine. The move mainly affects Russia’s access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — A flight from Belgrade to Moscow turned back Monday following the second bomb threat in four days, Serbian police said.

The Belgrade airport received an email saying that an explosive device had been planted on the AirSerbia flight to Moscow, police said in a statement. The same happened last Friday.

The plane was turned back shortly after takeoff, and was being checked by police, the statement said. No other details were immediately available.

Besides some Turkish carriers, Serbia’s national airline AirSerbia the only airline in Europe still flying to and from Russia. Serbia, which formally seeks European Union membership but has maintained close relations with ally Russia, has refused to join an EU-imposed flight ban in response to the war in Ukraine.

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MADRID — Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said Monday that he has asked his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to use Beijing’s influence over Moscow to end the war in Ukraine.

“We are at a historical moment that requires responsibility and vision of all world leaders,” Albares told Wang during a telephone conversation on Monday, according to a statement from the ministry.

It said that Albares condemned “the Russian aggression on Ukraine” by telling Wang that “Russia has undermined the foundations of peace and stability in Europe and threatens the international community.”

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says the war in Ukraine shows that those in power have not learned from the harsh lessons of previous wars over the past century.

The Vatican has responded to the Russian invasion by sending a cardinal to visit refugees. The cardinal visited last week with some of those who have taken refuge in Hungary. He is scheduled to visit with others in Slovakia on Wednesday before heading to Ukraine, the Holy See said.

In a speech at the Vatican on Monday, the pope said regional wars, especially that in Ukraine, demonstrate that “those who rule the destinies of peoples still haven’t absorbed the lessons of the tragedies of the 20th century.”

A day earlier, in his strongest condemnation yet of the war, the pontiff said no strategic reason could justify Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — A European Union mission that helps maintain security and enforce the rule of law in Kosovo is beefing up its police forces in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, officials said Monday.

A reserve unit of 92 members of the European Gendarmerie Force from Portugal, France and Italy will temporarily deploy to Kosovo in the coming weeks, EULEX said in a statement. An advance team was expected to arrive Monday.

In terms of providing security and enforcing the rule of law, EULEX’s police represent a second line of defense after Kosovo police. The NATO-led KFOR serves as a third line of defense.

“Russia’s invasion in Ukraine puts everything in a different light,” said EULEX spokesperson Ioanna Lachana. Lachana added that the “security situation in Kosovo remains stable.”

The 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, then a Serbian province, ended after a NATO military intervention that forced Serbia to withdraw its forces. The United Nations administered the territory for nine years before Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a move that Serbia doesn’t recognize.

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UNITED NATIONS — Poland’s foreign minister is accusing Russia of “state terrorism” for targeting civilians, schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure “in an attempt to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people.”

Zbigniew Rau told the U.N. Security Council Monday that Russia’s “unprovoked, unjustified and premeditated aggression” against Ukraine was “poorly prepared and executed (and) turned out to be a strategic and tactical failure.”

“But instead of preventing further unnecessary deaths in its own ranks, the Kremlin changed its tactics,” he said. “The invading force started to target the civilian population and infrastructure” in violation of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law to try to break the Ukrainian resistance.

Rau addressed the Security Council’s annual meeting with the Organization for Security and Cooperation as the OSCE’s rotating chair.

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia — The European Union’s foreign policy chief says the 27-country bloc is finalizing its new round of sanctions against Russia for its “barbaric” invasion of Ukraine.

Josep Borrell said Monday that the fourth package of coercive measures would target Russia’s market access, membership in international financial institutions, and steel and energy sectors.

“We are listing more companies and individuals playing an active role in supporting the people who undermine Ukrainian sovereignty,” Borrell said, after talks in Skopje on Monday with North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski. “This would be another major blow (to the) economic and logistic base upon which the Kremlin is building the invasion.”

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said talks with Russia concluded for the day Monday but will resume on Tuesday.

The negotiations, which took place by video conference, were the fourth round involving higher-level officials from the two countries and the first held in a week. Previous discussions, held in person in Belarus, did not produce lasting humanitarian routes or agreements to end the fighting in Ukraine.

“A technical pause has been taken in the negotiations until tomorrow," Podolyak wrote on Twitter. “Negotiations continue.”

He said earlier that “communication is being held, yet it’s hard.”

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A planned NATO exercise with about 30,000 troops from more than 25 countries from Europe and North America began in northern Norway on Monday.

NATO said that the drill, named Cold Response that includes 200 aircraft and 50 vessels, was “not linked to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”

The drill in NATO-member Norway, which shares a nearly 200-kilometer (124-mile) land border with Russia, will be held just a few hundred kilometers (miles— from the Russian border and was planned long before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has declined to be an observer at the exercise that aims at having Alliance members and partners practicing working together on land, in the air and at sea, said the armed forces.

The Norwegian armed forces said it provided “thorough information” to the Russians, including the Russian Ministry of Defense, saying that was “vital for preventing misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict.”

The drill, which is held every other year, is due to end on April 1.

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WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will deliver an address via video to the U.S. Congress as the Russian war on his country intensifies.

Zelenskyy will speak on Wednesday to members of the House and Senate, the Democratic leaders announced.

“The Congress, our country and the world are in awe of the people of Ukraine,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement Monday.

ongress recently approved $13.6 billion in emergency military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

“We look forward to the privilege of welcoming President Zelenskyy’s address to the House and Senate and to convey our support to the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend democracy,” the leaders said.

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BERLIN — The German government says it won’t provide any further details about weapons supplies to Ukraine.

Government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters Monday that “to avoid security risks” Germany would not divulge any more information on what arms are supplied to Ukraine or how.

Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz added that “it is the goal of the Russian aggressors to cut Ukraine’s supply routes and make (their) defense harder, and we don’t want to facilitate this.”

Germany’s Transport Ministry said separately that it has switched off the online streams of cameras on the country’s highways for security reasons, but declined to elaborate.

Along with other NATO countries, Germany has stepped up supplies of defense equipment to Ukraine since the start of the war. This includes lethal weapons such as anti-tank missiles.

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MOSCOW -- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday denied media reports alleging that Russia asked China for military assistance to help advance its offensive in Ukraine.

“No, Russia has its own potential to continue the operation, which, as we have said, is unfolding in accordance with the plan and will be completed on time and in full,” Peskov told his daily conference call with reporters.

Peskov also stressed that the operation in Ukraine was going as planned and that the Russian military were ensuring “the maximum security of the civilian population.”

He said that at the “beginning of the operation” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the military to refrain from “the immediate storming” of large cities including Kyiv because “armed nationalist formations set up firing points, place heavy military equipment directly in residential areas, and fighting in densely populated areas will inevitably lead to multiple casualties among civilians.”

He added that “at the same time, the Defense Ministry, while ensuring the maximum security of the civilian population, does not rule out the possibility of taking full control of large settlements that are now practically surrounded, expect for areas used for humanitarian evacuation.”

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MOSCOW — The Russian military says that 20 civilians have been killed by a ballistic missile launched by the Ukrainian forces.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that the Soviet-made Tochka-U missile on Monday hit the central part of the eastern city of Donetsk, the center of the separatist Donetsk region.

He said that another 28 civilians, including children, were seriously wounded by the missile that carried shrapnel warhead.

Konashenkov said the missile was fired from an area northwest of Donetsk controlled by Ukrainian forces. He charged that the shelling of the area of Donetsk that has no military facilities represented a war crime.

Konashenkov’s claim couldn’t be independently verified.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed on Monday afternoon that the talks via video conference re underway. “Everyone is waiting for news. We will definitely report in the evening,” Zelenskyy said in a new video address.

Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said in a tweet earlier on Monday that the fourth round of talks will be “on peace, ceasefire, immediate withdrawal of troops (and) security guarantees.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also confirmed the talks were scheduled to be held on Monday.

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SUCEAVA, Romania — Romanian prosecutors say they have opened a criminal file after an “unmanned aircraft” was discovered in the northern county of Bistrita-Nasaud.

“So far, the origin of the aircraft has not been established, and its owner has not been identified,” prosecutors in Cluj County said. “An investigation is underway to determine the circumstances in which the aircraft was flown and to identify the pilot of the aircraft.”

Bistrita County police told The Associated Press that the drone-type aircraft was found by a young man in a field near his house.

It comes days after a Russian-made unmanned aircraft crossed Romania and Hungary before entering Croatia and crashing late Thursday into a field near a student dormitory, damaging some 40 cars. No one was injured.

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WARSAW, Poland -- Activists in Poland have been blocking Russian and Belarusian trucks in an effort to prevent them from crossing the Belarusian border with medicines, food and spare parts for the Russian military.

Belarus is allied with Russia. Activists fear that the goods will help reinforce the Russian military as it intensifies its war against Ukraine.

Tomasz Grodzki, the speaker of the opposition-controlled Senate, criticized Poland’s right-wing government for allowing the trucks to continue to cross Poland into Belarus.

“I am disgusted by the lack of sanctions by our government,” Grodzki said, in comments carried by the Polish news agency PAP on Monday.

However, a ruling party spokesman, Radoslaw Fogiel, said Poland was expecting the European Union to close off the transport to Russia and Belarus.

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KABUL, Afghanistan __ The U.N. refugee agency chief Filippo Grandi arrived in Afghanistan Monday saying despite the raging war in Ukraine and the more than 2.7 million refugees flooding into Europe, Afghanistan, with its millions of internal refugees, has not been forgotten.

“All of you are following what is happening in Ukraine. It is a very big crisis and also refugee crisis, but I came here also to say that there is not just Ukraine, there are other crisis in the world, other situations that need attention, and Afghanistan is a priority for us.” Grandi said upon his arrival in the Afghan capital.

Since the Taliban’s lightning fast takeover of Kabul last year, Afghanistan has plunged into a humanitarian nightmare with the United Nations saying that 90 percent of the country is now living below the poverty level. Even as spring arrives in Afghanistan, a country devastated by four decades of relentless war, millions are still at risk of severe food shortages with children among the hardest hit among Afghans 38 million people.

LVIV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian state power company says the power line supplying the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster has been damaged by Russian forces again after it was repaired.

The Ukrenergo company said in a statement Monday that its technicians had started to supply power Sunday evening but “before the power supply was fully restored, the occupying forces damaged it again.” Ukrenergo said it will attempt another repair.

The power is used to feed pumps and other equipment which keep spent nuclear fuel at the former power plant cool to prevent radiation leaks.

The Chernobyl site is also equipped with diesel generators, and Belarusian authorities said last week that they had set up an emergency power supply from the nearby border.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has played down concerns over the safety of nuclear waste at Chernobyl, saying that cooling ponds there are large enough to keep the spent fuel in a safe condition even if the power supply is interrupted.

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LONDON — Activists have occupied a London townhouse linked to the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, saying the property will be used to support Ukrainian refugees.

The U.K. government last week froze Deripaska’s assets as it expanded sanctions against wealthy Russians and companies to put pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s regime to end its invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions announcement identified Deripaska as a prominent “pro-Kremlin oligarch” who is closely linked to Putin.

Activists on Monday stood on the balcony of 5 Belgrave Square and unfurled Ukrainian flags and a banner proclaiming that the property had been “liberated.” Belgrave Square, a garden square dominated by foreign embassies, is the heart of the affluent Belgravia district, which attracts super-rich buyers from around the world.

“By occupying the mansion, we want to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine, but also the people of Russia who never agreed to this madness. As always with wars, empires benefit and common people pay the price.’′

The U.K. has been criticized for being slow to impose sanctions on wealthy Russians who have flooded into London over the last 30 years, boosting the city’s economy. The U.S. government sanctioned Deripaska in 2018, saying he helped support Russia’s “malign activity” around the world.

The U.S. sanctions documents list 5 Belgrave Square in London as one of Deripaska’s addresses.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s foreign minister says the country will not serve as a “route to bypass sanctions” imposed on Russia by the West.

Israel, which has emerged as an unlikely mediator between Ukraine and Russia, has not joined the sanctions imposed by the U.S., Britain, European Union and others. But as the war in Ukraine drags on, the pressure is increasing.

In remarks sent by his office, Yair Lapid said Israeli authorities were working on ways to ensure Israel doesn’t run afoul of the biting sanctions while maintaining its unique role.

Lapid also reiterated his criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has stopped short of condemning Russia.

Lapid made the remarks Monday after meeting his Slovak counterpart Ivan Korcok in the Slovak capital of Bratislava. Lapid’s office said they discussed how to help Jewish refugees who are fleeing the war in Ukraine.

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BERLIN — German pharmaceuticals company Bayer AG says it is stopping all non-essential business in Russia and Belarus because of the war in Ukraine, but will continue to provide medicines and agricultural products to the countries.

In a statement Monday, the company said that it stands by the people of Ukraine and that it “utterly (condemns) this brutal aggression against a sovereign country.”

Bayer said it was suspending all advertising and other promotional activities, halting capital investment projects indefinitely and not pursuing any new business opportunities.

The company said it has “also heard voices calling for a complete stop of delivery of all our products to Russia and Belarus.”

Bayer said that it feels ethically obliged not to withhold essential health and agriculture products such as cancer drugs or seeds from the civilian population.

The company said supplying farmers with agricultural products could help prevent food supply chains from further disruption due to the war in Ukraine, which is a major producers of grains and oilseed.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say two people have died and seven were injured after Russian forces struck an aircraft factory, and another person was killed when a residential building was fired upon.

The Antonov aircraft factory is Ukraine’s largest and is best known for producing many of the world’s largest ever cargo planes.

The Kyiv city government says a large fire broke out after the strike on the factory. One person died and three were injured when the residential building was hit, authorities said.

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LONDON — British hospitals have begun treating 21 young Ukrainian cancer patients after Polish authorities asked for help in caring for the growing number of child refugees who need urgent medical care, U.K. authorities said.

The Ukrainian children arrived in Britain late Sunday and will be treated at six hospitals around the country, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

“The vital and in many cases lifesaving cancer treatment will be provided free of charge by the health service across hospitals in England,” the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement.

The children were accompanied by 28 care-givers and family members, all of whom will be able to remain in the U.K. for at least three years while the children are treated, Javid said.

 

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NEW YORK -- Japanese tire giant Bridgestone says it is shutting down its factory in Russia temporarily and will suspend exports to Russia.

Bridgestone says it has returned 10 foreign staff and their families to Japan and that the factory in Ulyanovsk in central Russia will cease operations from Friday.

The company says it is “deeply saddened and concerned by the situation in Ukraine, and hopes for the restoration of peace and safety as soon as possible” and will donate approximately 500 million yen ($4.24 million) to causes including the Red Cross and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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TOKYO — Technology company Fujitsu is the latest among Japanese companies exiting Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

Tokyo-based Fujitsu said Monday all orders and deliveries will stop to Russia. Fujitsu had been offering computer servers and services related to such products in Russia.

Sales numbers for such operations were not disclosed.

Other Japanese companies, such as Toyota Motor Corp., Hitachi and Panasonic Group have suspended businesses in Russia, halting production and exports. Sony Corp. has halted shipments of its PlayStation video game machines to Russia and stopped theatrical releases of its movies.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak says the latest round of talks with Russia is due to start imminently.

Podolyak said in a video message from Kyiv posted on Twitter that talks would begin within minutes.

Unlike earlier negotiations held on the Belarus border, Monday’s talks will be via video link.

It will be a “hard discussion,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter. “Although Russia realizes the nonsense of its aggressive actions, it still has a delusion that 19 days of violence against (Ukrainian) peaceful cities is the right strategy.”

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LVIV, Ukraine — Fighting continued Monday on the outskirts of Kyiv, to the west, northwest, east and northeast, the Ukrainian president’s office said Monday. Regional officials are preparing more evacuations from the targeted areas.

Air raid alerts sounded in cities and towns all around the country overnight, from near the Russian border in the east to the Carpathian Mountains in the west.

Airstrikes hit residential buildings near the important southern city of Mykolaiv, as well as in the eastern city of Kharkiv, and knocked out a television tower in the Rivne region in the northwest, the president’s office said. Explosions rang out overnight around the Russian-occupied Black Sea port of Kherson.

Three airstrikes hit the northern city of Chernihiv overnight, and most of the town is without heat. Several areas haven’t had electricity in days. Utility workers are trying to restore power but frequently come under shelling.

The government announced plans for new humanitarian aid and evacuation corridors, although ongoing shelling caused similar efforts to fail in the last week.

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NEW YORK — The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday its forces had advanced 11 kilometers (7 miles) over the past 24 hours, and reached five towns north of Mariupol.

In a video statement, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov did not elaborate on the advances, or comment on the humanitarian corridors or the crisis in Mariupol.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces fired artillery strikes on suburbs northwest of Kyiv overnight and targeted points east of the capital, the head of the Kyiv region said Monday.

A town councilor for Brovary east of Kyiv was killed in fighting there, regional administration chief Oleksiy Kuleba said on Ukrainian television. He also reported strikes overnight on the northwest towns of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, which have seen some of the worst fighting in Russia’s stalled attempt to take the capital.

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Monday morning that Russian troops have not made major advances over the past 24 hours despite expanding strikes to the west.

Ukrainian forces are targeting Russian bases, targeting their logistical abilities, the general staff said in a statement on Facebook marking the 19th day of the war.

The general staff accused Russian forces of setting up firing positions and military equipment in churches and other civilian infrastructure so that Ukrainian forces can’t fire back. The accusation could not be immediately verified, though Associated Press reporters have seen Russian armored vehicles in residential areas.

An artillery strike hit a nine-story apartment building in the Obolonsky district of northern Kyiv on Monday morning, destroying apartments on several floors and igniting a fire. Internal Affairs Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko says two people were killed, three hospitalized and nine treated at the scene.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he will continue negotiating with Russia and is waiting for a meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for a meeting with Putin. But so far, his requests have gone unanswered by the Kremlin. Zelenskyy said Sunday during his nightly address to the nation that his delegation has a “clear task” to do everything to ensure a meeting between the two presidents.

Zelenskyy said talks are held daily between the two countries via video conference. He said the talks are necessary to establish a cease-fire and more humanitarian corridors. He said those corridors have saved more than 130,000 people in six days.

The humanitarian convoy to the besieged city of Mariupol was blocked Sunday by Russian forces. Zelenskyy said they would try again Monday.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said it is a “black day” after Russia shelled a military base in the western part of his country.

Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on Sunday that Russia fired 30 rockets at the Yavoriv military base. He said the attack killed 35 people and injured 134 injured others.

The base is less than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the Polish border. Zelenskyy said he had given Western leaders “clear warning” of the danger to the base. He asked NATO leaders again to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. He warned “it is only a matter of time” before Russian missels fall on NATO territory.

Military analysts say the U.S, Britain and their European allies are unlikely to impose a no-fly zone because they believe it could escalate the war in Ukraine into a nuclear confrontation between NATO and Russia.#

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GENEVA — The Red Cross is warning of a “worst-case scenario” for hundreds of thousands of civilians in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol unless the parties agree to ensure their safety and access to humanitarian aid.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said in a statement said Sunday that residents of Mariupol “have endured a weeks-long life-and-death nightmare.”

The Geneva-based humanitarian agency said hundreds of thousands of people in the city are “facing extreme or total shortages of basic necessities like food, water and medicine.”

“Dead bodies, of civilians and combatants, remain trapped under the rubble or lying in the open where they fell,” the ICRC added. “Life-changing injuries and chronic, debilitating conditions cannot be treated. The human suffering is simply immense.”

The Red Cross called on the parties to agree on the terms of a cease-fire, routes for safe passage, and to ensure the deal is respected. It offered to act as a neutral intermediary in negotiations.

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Ukraine says it has restored a broken power line to the Chernobyl power plant, the scene of a nuclear meltdown in 1986, which is held by Russian troops.

Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said that “heroes” from the national power grid company managed to restore the connection. The power is used to run pumps which keep spent nuclear fuel cool to prevent radiation leaks.

Ukraine said Wednesday that power had been cut to the site and that there was enough diesel fuel to run on-site generators for 48 hours. The International Atomic Energy Agency played down concerns, saying it saw little risk of the pools containing the spent fuel overheating even without electricity.

Belarus said Thursday it had set up an emergency power line to Chernobyl from its nearby border.

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GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says at least 596 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the start of the war, and at least 1,067 have been injured.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Sunday that 43 of those killed were children, while 57 were injured.

The Geneva-based office had documented 579 civilian deaths and 1,002 injured a day earlier.

It said most recorded civilian casualties were caused “by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area,” such as shelling from heavy artillery and missile strikes.

U.N. officials said they believe the actual number of casualties is “considerably higher” than so far recorded because the receipt of information has been delayed and many reports still need to be corroborated.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Dozens of cars drove through the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Sunday in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The occupants waved Russian and Serbian flags, honked horns and chanted pro-Putin slogans. Some cars had the letter Z painted on them — a symbol of support for the Russian president.

The protest was organized by a small far-right group.

Serbia has refused to join international sanctions against its ally Russia despite formally seeking EU membership and voting in favor of the U.N. resolution condemning Moscow’s aggression.

Serbia’s dominant state-controlled media are daily carrying Moscow’s war propaganda, creating a strong pro-Putin mood among Serbia’s ultranationalists and far-right groups.

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BERLIN — Three U.N. agencies are calling for an immediate end to attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine, calling them “an act of unconscionable cruelty.”

In a joint statement Sunday, the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and the U.N. Population Fund said that “horrific attacks are killing and causing serious injuries to patients and health workers, destroying vital health infrastructure and forcing thousands to forgo accessing health services despite catastrophic needs.”

“To attack the most vulnerable — babies, children, pregnant women, and those already suffering from illness and disease, and health workers risking their own lives to save lives — is an act of unconscionable cruelty,” they said.

Since the start of the war at least 12 people were killed and 34 were injured, while 24 facilities and five ambulances were damaged or destroyed, the agencies said.

They said that some 4,300 children have been born since the conflict began and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in the next three months, with oxygen and other medical supplies running dangerously low.

“The health care system in Ukraine is clearly under significant strain, and its collapse would be a catastrophe. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening,” they said.

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BERLIN — The head of a group providing humanitarian aid in Ukraine says the international community needs to start making plans for how to help the country when the war ends.

Pavlo Titko, who heads the Ukraine branch of the Germany-based Malteser aid group, says the conflict could worsen the already difficult demographic situation in Ukraine where many educated young people have moved abroad, leaving the poor and elderly behind.

Titko told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Sunday from Ukraine’s eastern city of Lviv that the country needs a “long-term perspective.”

He urged Western nations to create partnerships between cities and institutions such as those established with Ukraine during the 1990s that helped prevent some of the worst impacts of the economic crisis following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Titko said Malteser Ukraine, which provides thousands of warm meals at train stations and border crossings each day, has also begun offering psychological help to those traumatized by the war. That need will dramatically increase in future, he predicted.

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LIMASSOL, Cyprus — Dozens of Russian nationals joined Ukrainians in the coastal resort town of Limassol, home to a sizeable Russian expatriate community, to protest the war in Ukraine.

About 50 Russians converged on Limassol’s promenade prior to joining with other protesters Sunday to chant slogans including “Stop the war, stop Putin” and “Russia without Putin." They waved blue and white flags that they said were the Russian national flag without the red stripe that represented “blood and violence.”

Protester Evgeniya Shlykova, who has been living and working in Cyprus for five years, told The Associated Press that despite Russian propaganda, Ukraine “didn’t deserve this action from our government” and that protesters are demanding an immediate end to the war “that we don’t support.”

“I do believe that the person who did the most to make Russia weak and not united is Putin himself,” said Shlykova, who faulted the Russian president and his supporters for bringing the world’s wrath on Russia that is proud of its humanistic values and culture.

“But now Russia is the aggressor for the whole world, and we protest it,” Shlykova said.

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