Moldova pleads for international support



By The Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged all Spanish companies to completely halt business with Russia and called for tougher Western sanctions against Moscow that would include a ban on Russian oil imports.

Speaking in a video address to the Spanish Parliament on Tuesday, Zelenskyy denounced the Russian atrocities against civilians in Ukrainian cities, saying they represented war crimes for which Russian officers should face an international tribunal.

Zelenskyy said the “sanctions must be really powerful.”

“How can it be allowed that Russian banks generate incomes even as the Russian military tortures ordinary civilians to death in Ukrainian cities, how can European companies engage in trade with the state that deliberately destroys our people?” he asked.

In an emotional speech, he drew parallels between the Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities and the 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by Nazi aircraft during the Spanish Civil War.

Zelenskyy said the “fate of the entire European project, the values that unite us all” is being decided in Ukraine, and urged Spanish lawmakers to “do even more to force Russia to start searching for peace and respect the international law.”

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— Ukraine president Zelenskyy at UN accuses Russian military of war crimes

— EU proposes Russian coal ban in new sanctions

— US official: US, allies, to ban new investments in Russia

— Harvard students’ site helping Ukraine refugees find housing

— Japan’s top envoy brings back 20 Ukrainians from Poland

— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a direct appeal to the Russian people, urging them to seek the truth about a war he called “a stain on the honor of Russia.”

In a video message, Johnson said Russians were being kept in the dark about the invasion of Ukraine because Russian President Vladimir Putin “knows that if you could see what was happening, you would not support his war.”

Johnson said Russian authorities were hiding the truth of “sickening” slayings of civilians and other crimes, which “betray the trust of every Russian mother who proudly waves goodbye to her son as he heads off to join the military.”

He told Russians they only needed an online VPN connection to gain access to independent information from around the world.

Switching from English to Russian, Johnson said: “Your president stands accused of committing war crimes. But I cannot believe he’s acting in your name.”

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. and its European allies will impose stiff new sanctions, including a ban on new investments in Russia on Wednesday, a U.S. official says, in retaliation for Russia’s “war crimes” in Ukraine.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement.

The joint action will include a ban on new investment in Russia, toughened sanctions on its financial institutions and government-owned enterprises, and more sanctions on Russian government officials and their family members.

The official said they would further Russia’s economic, financial and technological “isolation” from the rest of the world as a penalty for its attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

—- AP writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said everyone in the Russian leadership and army who is involved in the war is responsible for war crimes committed in Ukraine.

In an interview with Turkey’s Haberturk television in Kyiv on Tuesday, Zelenskyy also accused Russia of trying to hide its actions in the besieged southern city of Mariupol and did not want humanitarian aid to enter the city “until they clean it all up.”

Zelenskyy spoke following the discovery of bodies of civilians in towns around Kyiv that were recaptured from Russian forces.

“The Russian military political leadership and everyone involved in the planning of this war and everyone who gave this order, committed war crimes in my opinion,” Zelenskyy said in comments translated into Turkish. “We are not dealing with a situation where only one person can be prosecuted and be found guilty.”

On the situation in Mariupol, Zelenskyy said thousands may have been killed or injured there.

“I think Russia is afraid that we will successfully send humanitarian aid to Mariupol and the whole world will see what’s going on there,” he said. “Russia doesn’t want anything to be seen until they take control of the city (and) until they clean it all up.”

Zelenskyy said Turkish ships were involved in efforts to evacuate injured civilians from Mariupol, but would not elaborate.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Authorities in Romania said Tuesday that the country is expelling 10 diplomats from Russia’s embassy in Bucharest.

Romania’s foreign ministry said the actions of 10 embassy workers, who have been declared persona non grata, “contravene the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relationships.”

The move by Romania follows a string of expulsions of Russian officials across the 27-nation European Union following a wave of criticism and shock after Russian troops are accused of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

As of Tuesday, more than 200 Russian diplomats or employees had been expelled from at least a dozen countries, including Germany, France and Italy.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Ukrainian officials are renewing pressure on Chinese consumer drone-maker DJI to block a tool that they say is enabling Russian troops to find and attack Ukrainian drone operators.

Ukraine’s top cybersecurity official Victor Zhora told reporters Tuesday during a press call that DJI’s drone detection tool AeroScope has been “sharing information on Ukrainian drones to Russians.”

Both sides of the war have flown small consumer drones to monitor troop movements and help target attacks. But Ukrainian officials said Tuesday they have evidence that DJI’s tool for detecting the location and flight information of nearby drones is working for Russians and not Ukrainians. A government report called for blocking “all DJI products operating in Ukraine that were purchased and activated in other countries” such as Russia.

DJI has previously denied such claims, saying in March that it doesn’t apply preferential treatment but also can’t switch off the AeroScope tool. It has expressed openness to using technology that could ground its drones in the war zone if Ukraine made a formal request but the no-fly zone would apply to both Ukrainian and Russian drones and some would still be able to fly.

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RICHMOND, Va. — Ukraine’s top cybersecurity official says cyberattacks against his country have increased in the last two weeks and there’s evidence that Russian military hackers that tried to break into Ukrainian state agencies also attempted to hack Latvian officials’ email accounts.

Victor Zhora told reporters Tuesday that a major Ukrainian telecommunications provider, Ukrtelecom, suffered an attack on March 28, but was able to restore most of the affected service within a day.

Kirill Goncharuk, Ukrtelecom’s chief information officer, said hackers used compromised credentials of an employee in Russian-occupied territory occupied to break in to his company’s network. He said the employee was okay but couldn’t disclose additional details for safety concerns.

Zhora said hackers had also recently gained access to the emails of staff at Ukraine’s foreign ministry. He said despite the increased hacking attempts in recent days, he’s not seen any successful “complicated attacks” on any Ukrainian critical infrastructure targets.

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HOUSTON — NASA’s record-setting astronaut Mark Vande Hei says he and his Russian crewmates focused on their mission, not the “heartbreaking” news unfolding in Ukraine, while serving aboard the International Space Station.

His 355-day spaceflight ended last Wednesday with a landing in Kazakhstan. He returned to Earth in a Russian Soyuz capsule with cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, the latter of whom also spent a year in orbit.

In his first news conference back on Earth, Vande Hei said Tuesday that he did not shy away from the topic with his Russian crewmates while aboard the space station. “They weren’t very long discussions, but I did ask them how they were feeling and sometimes I asked pointed questions. But our focus really was on our mission together.”

Vande Hei also cleared up any misunderstandings about the yellow-with-blue-trim flight suits worn by their Russian replacements when arriving at the space station last month. Those were the school colors of their university, Vande Hei said from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and not meant as a political statement. “The folks who wore them had no idea that people would perceive that as having anything to do with Ukraine … I think they were kind of blindsided by it.”

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UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s president told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that the Russian military must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes, accusing invading troops of the worst atrocities since World War II.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, making his plea via video, cited reported atrocities against civilians carried out by Russian forces in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv, saying they are no different than other terrorists like the Islamic State extremist group.

Images of slain bodies on the ground, particularly from the town of Bucha, have stirred global revulsion and led to demands for tougher sanctions and war crime prosecutions against Russia.

Zelenskyy, making his first appearance before the U.N.’s highest body, stressed there are more places in Ukraine that have suffered similar horrors. He called for a tribunal to be established that is similar to the Nuremberg tribunal set up to try war criminals after World War II.

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WARSAW, Poland — Britain’s foreign secretary says her country will urge the G-7 group to impose more sanctions on Russia, saying that current sanctions have already had a “crippling effect.”

Liz Truss said in Warsaw that sanctions have already frozen $350 billion of “Putin’s war chest,” saying that makes more than 60% of Russia’s $604 billion in currency reserves unavailable.

“Our coordinated sanctions are pushing the Russian economy back to the Soviet era,” she said at a news conference with her Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau.

She observed that Poland had seen more clearly the threat that Moscow posed in past years, even as Western countries embraced doing business with Russia.

“Poland has always been clear-eyed about Russia. You have understood Putin’s malign intent. You were right,” she said.

Truss said Britain will encourage the other G-7 countries to ban Russian ships from its ports, crack down on Russian banks, set a timetable to eliminate imports of Russian oil and gas, and try to prevent Russia from using gold to fund its war effort.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says it is more urgent by the day to silence the guns in Ukraine, citing rising deaths and a new U.N. analysis indicating that 74 developing countries with a total population of 1.2 billion people are especially vulnerable to spiking food, energy and fertilizer prices.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that as a result of the global impact of Russia’s “full-fledged invasion on several fronts” of Ukraine, he said “we are already seeing some countries move from vulnerability into crisis and signs of serious social unrest.”

“The flames of conflict are fueled by inequality, deprivation and underfunding,” he said. “With all the warning signals flashing red, we have a duty to act.”

On food, Guterres urged all countries to keep markets open, resist unjustified export restrictions, make reserves available to countries at risk of hunger and famine and fund humanitarian appeals.

On energy, he said that using strategic stockpiles and reserves could help ease the energy crisis in the short-term “but the only medium- and long-term solution is to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy.”

On finance, he said “international financial institutions must go into emergency mode.” He urged the world’s 20 leading economies, the G-20, and international financial institutions “to increase liquidity and fiscal space so that governments can provide safety nets for the poorest and most vulnerable.”

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister has spoken out in favor of providing Ukraine with additional weapons to defend itself against Russia.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that “we are looking at what solutions there are, together with the EU, NATO and in particular the G-7 partners.”

She dismissed criticism that Germany wasn’t doing enough to arm Ukraine, saying “there aren’t many other countries that have supplied more (weapons).”

Baerbock spoke following a conference in Berlin on support for Moldova, a poor, small eastern European nation bordering Ukraine that has been strongly affected by the conflict.

Participants agreed to take in 12,000 Ukrainian refugees currently in Moldova, provide 71 million euros in aid and almost 700 million euros in loans to the country, and support its efforts to fight corruption and decrease its energy dependence on Russia.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any move by foreign countries to nationalize Russian stakes in companies would be “a double-edged sword.”

“We are already hearing statements from officials about a possible nationalization of some of our assets,” he said. “How far will that get us? Let no one forget that it is a double-edged sword.”

Putin also bemoaned what he said was “administrative pressure on our company Gazprom in some European countries.” Germany on Monday put a government agency in charge of a longtime German subsidiary of Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled energy giant.

The move falls short of nationalization because the German state has not taken ownership of the shares, and it is a temporary change of administration through September.

Gazprom said last week it had cut ties with the unit but Germany says that was invalid because the identity of any new owners is unclear and the deal happened without the required government approval.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister says he is shocked by the gruesome images emerging from the Ukrainian town of Bucha, but he stopped short of accusing Russia of being responsible or calling the atrocities a war crime.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters Tuesday that “we are, of course, shocked by the harsh scenes in Bucha. Terrible images, and we strongly condemn them.”

He said that “the images are extremely horrible. The suffering of the citizens of Ukraine is huge and we are doing everything we can to help.”

With Israel one of the few countries to have good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, Bennett has emerged as a mediator in efforts to end the war.

In order to preserve his relationship with Vladimir Putin, Bennett has been measured in his criticism of the Russian president. Instead, he has allowed Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to voice harsher condemnations.

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BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says he expects more atrocities to come to light in Ukraine as Russian troops continue to retreat from areas around Kyiv.

Stoltenberg said Tuesday that “we haven’t seen everything that has taken place because Russia still controls most of these territories” around the capital. “But when and if they withdraw their troops and Ukrainian troops take over, I’m afraid they will see more mass graves, more atrocities and more examples of of war crimes.”

Stoltenberg rejected Russian assertions that the atrocities were staged.

He said that “these atrocities have taken place during a period in which Russia controlled these areas. So they are responsible. Second, we have information from many different sources.”

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BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive branch has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia in what would be the first sanctions targeting the country’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that the EU needed to increase the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after what she described as the “heinous crimes” carried out around Kyiv.

Von der Leyen said the ban on coal imports is worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year. She added that the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.

Von der Leyen didn’t mention natural gas. A consensus among the 27 EU member countries on targeting gas that’s used to generate electricity, heat homes and power industry would be more difficult to secure.

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MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the expulsions of Russian diplomats by European countries will prompt a response from Moscow and will complicate international relations.

Germany, France, Italy and Spain are among the countries which have expelled diplomats since Monday.

Peskov said that “we view negatively, we view with regret this narrowing of possibilities for diplomatic communication, diplomatic work in such difficult conditions, in unprecedent crisis conditions.”

He added that “it is short-sighted and a step which firstly will complicate our communication, which is required in order to seek reconciliation. And secondly it will inevitably lead to reciprocal steps.”

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PARIS — French prosecutors say they’re opening investigations into possible war crimes committed against French nationals in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded.

The national prosecutors’ office that specializes in terrorism cases said it launched three war crimes investigations on Tuesday, against suspects yet to be identified.

French law allows prosecutors to investigate suspected war crimes committed outside of France if they involve French victims or suspects who are French or who reside in France.

The three French probes will look into suspected suspected crimes in Mariupol, Chernihiv and Hostomel.

The prosecutors’ statement said the suspected crimes could include deliberate attacks against civilians and deliberately withholding the essentials they needed to survive, physical assaults, and the deliberate destruction of civilian installations.

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GENEVA — The U.N. migration agency now estimates that more than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

The International Organization for Migration, in its first such full assessment in three weeks, reported Tuesday that more than 7.1 million had been displaced within Ukraine as of April 1. That comes on top of the figure of more than 4 million who have fled abroad, reported by the U.N. refugee agency.

IOM said more than 2.9 million others are actively considering “leaving their place of habitual residence due to war.”

Ukraine had a pre-war population of 44 million.

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LVIV, Ukraine — The governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region has urged residents to stay inside, shut windows and doors and prepare wet face masks after a Russian strike hit a tank containing nitric acid.

Serhiy Haidai said on the messaging app Telegram Tuesday that the incident occurred near the city of Rubizhne, which the Ukrainian military says the Russians have been trying to take over. He didn’t specify what area the warning applies to.

Haidai warned that nitric acid “is dangerous if inhaled, swallowed and in contact with skin and mucous membranes.” The Russian military has not commented on the claim, and it could not be verified independently.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine says a civilian ship is sinking in the port of the besieged city of Mariupol after Russian forces fired on it.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the ship was struck during “shelling from the sea” by Russia, causing a fire in the engine room. The crew was rescued, including one injured crew member, it added.

The ministry said the ship was flying the flag of the Dominican Republic and posted a picture of a cargo vessel. It didn’t specify how many people were on board or the nationalities of the crew members.

Russian forces have been bombarding Mariupol for weeks as they try to tighten control over Ukraine’s southeastern coastline.

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GENEVA — An international Red Cross team has shelved for Tuesday hopes of entering the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol after being held overnight by police in a town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the west.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been trying to get a small team into Mariupol since Friday as part of efforts to escort beleaguered civilians out and aid in, said the team held by police in Manhush was released overnight. It did not identify the nationality of the police involved, but Manhush is under Russian control.

The ICRC said in a statement that the team’s focus now is on the evacuation operation, and the “incident yesterday shows how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team.”

Jason Straziuso, an ICRC spokesman, said the team was “not planning on trying to enter Mariupol today. Our team’s humanitarian efforts today are focused on helping the evacuation efforts in nearby areas.”

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