Live updates | UN urged to oversee steel mill evacuation
By The Associated Press
Russia is expelling 40 German diplomats in response to Germany expelling the same number of Russian diplomats earlier this month.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that it had summoned German ambassador Géza Andreas von Geyr for a “strong protest at the clearly unfriendly decision” to expel the Russian diplomatic staff.
The ministry said von Geyr was told that 40 members of staff at German diplomatic missions in Russia would be officially declared unwelcome in Russia.
Germany announced the expulsion of 40 Russian diplomats on Apr. 4 following mounting evidence of civilian killings and mass graves in Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— US promises new aid to Ukraine in fight against Russia
— To Europe’s relief, France’s Macron wins but far-right gains
— Russian officer: Missile to carry several hypersonic weapons
— Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Environmental campaigners have used kayaks and a dinghy to stop a Russian oil tanker from unloading its cargo south of Norway’s capital, saying Norwegian companies “are financing Russia’s warfare”.
Greenpeace says its members chained themselves to the Hong Kong-registered Ust Luga, leased by Russian oil company Novatek, as it arrived at its destination, an Esso’s terminal near Toensberg.
The tanker with 95,000 tonnes of fuel had left St. Petersburg.
Esso spokeswoman Anne Fougner told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet that the oil had been bought before Russia invaded Ukraine. She added that Esso Norway “does not have other contracts for the purchase of products from Russia.”
Several other activists were stopped by police before they could take part in the action, Norwegian news agency NTB reported.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court’s prosecution office is joining a joint investigation team set up by Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland to probe atrocities committed during the war in Ukraine.
The ICC’s Prosecutor Karim Khan signed an agreement Monday to participate in the multinational effort that aims to facilitate investigations and cooperation.
Eurojust, the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency, says the agreement sends “a clear message that all efforts will be undertaken to effectively gather evidence on core international crimes committed in Ukraine and bring those responsible to justice.”
It says involving ICC prosecutors “will enable rapid and real-time coordination and cooperation with the JIT partner countries, in connection with investigations” conducted by the global court and by national law enforcement authorities.
Khan said last month he was opening an investigation in Ukraine and has sent investigators there and visited crime scenes himself.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say at least five people have been killed by Russian strikes on the central Vynnytsia region.
The Vynnytsia regional prosecutors said another 18 people were wounded in Monday’s Russian missile strikes on the towns of Zhmerynka and Koziatyn.
Vinnytsia regional Governor Serhiy Borzov said earlier that the Russian missiles targeted “critical infrastructure,” but didn’t elaborate.
The Vynnytsia region is fully controlled by Ukraine and is far behind the front lines.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine has said the United Nations should step in to oversee an evacuation route for civilians from the besieged steel mill in Mariupol which is Ukrainian troops’ last stronghold in the port city.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram messaging app that a Russian announcement of a “humanitarian corridor” out of the Azovstal plant to operate later Monday was not agreed with Ukraine. Vereshchuk added that Ukraine does not consider the route safe for that reason and said Russia had breached agreements on similar evacuation routes before.
Ukrainian officials have said that up to 1,000 civilians have sheltered at the sprawling steel plant.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to visit Russia and Ukraine this week. Vereshchuk called on Guterres to be the “initiator and guarantor” of a humanitarian route out of Azovstal and for U.N. and International Committee of the Red Cross personnel to accompany any evacuees.
MOSCOW — Russia’s Energy Ministry says a massive fire at an oil depot in western Russia will not cause fuel shortages.
The ministry said in a statement that Monday’s fire inflicted damage to a depot containing diesel fuel in Bryansk, and authorities are dealing with the consequences of the blaze.
The ministry said fuel supplies to consumers haven’t been interrupted and noted that the region has enough diesel fuel for 15 days.
The Emergencies Ministry said earlier that a huge blaze erupted overnight at the depot owned by Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of the Russian state-controlled company Transneft, which operates the western-bound Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline carrying crude to Europe. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the blaze, and whether it could affect deliveries to Europe.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to “split Russian society.”
Speaking Monday at a meeting with top officials at the Prosecutor General’s office, Putin said Russia has come under “unprecedented Western sanctions” amid its military action in Ukraine.
He charged that the U.S, and its allies have sought to “split the Russian society and to destroy Russia from within,” adding that their plans have failed.
Putin urged Russian prosecutors to act more quickly to block unsanctioned demonstrations organized from abroad. He also noted that they should focus on exposing “open provocations” against the Russian military allegedly involving international media and social platforms.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailed talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as “encouraging” and “effective.”
Speaking in Monday’s video address, he said the U.S. is offering “powerful” support to his country. Zelenskyy added that they agreed “on further steps to strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine and meet all the priority needs of our army.” He noted that ramping up sanctions against Moscow also was on the meeting’s agenda.
Blinken and Austin said the United States had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine’s war effort, along with more than $300 million in foreign military financing.
Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine would expect the United States to lead other allies in offering a set of security guarantees in the future.
The Ukrainian president also denounced Russia for launching strikes on Orthodox Easter Sunday, describing them “deliberate destruction of life in Ukraine.”
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it will open a humanitarian corridor for civilians to evacuate from the besieged steel plant in Mariupol.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a humanitarian corridor will open at 2 p.m (1100 GMT) Monday for all civilians to leave the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. It said Russian troops will cease fire to allow civilians to safely exit the plant.
The mammoth steel plant, which has a sprawling maze of underground channels. has remained the last bulwark of Ukrainian resistance in the strategic Sea of Azov port city.
Ukrainian officials have said that up to 1,000 civilians have sheltered there. They have repeatedly urged Russia to offer them a safe exit.
MOSCOW — Russian authorities say a fire has engulfed an oil storage facility in western Russia.
The Emergencies Ministry said a huge blaze at the depot in the city of Bryansk erupted early Monday. Its cause wasn’t immediately clear.
The oil depot is owned by Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of the Russian state-controlled company Transneft that operates the western-bound Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline carrying crude oil to Europe. It wasn’t clear if the depot was part of the pipeline infrastructure and whether the blaze could affect the deliveries.
Russian news reported that another oil storage facility in Bryansk also caught fire early Monday, and that the cause wasn’t immediately known.
Bryansk is located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the border with Ukraine, where Moscow has waged a military campaign for two months. Last month, two Ukrainian helicopter gunships hit an oil reservoir in Russia’s Belgorod region that borders Ukraine, causing a fire.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say the Russian military has unleashed a series of strikes on the country’s railways.
Lviv region Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said a Russian missile hit a railway facility in Krasne, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Lviv, early Monday, sparking a fire.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said a total of five rail facilities in central and western Ukraine have been hit by the Russian strikes. He said the attacks have delayed at least passenger 16 trains.
There was no immediate information about the damage from the strikes.
NEAR THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Russia is failing in its war aims and Ukraine is succeeding.
Following meetings Sunday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, along with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Blinken told reporters in Poland on Monday that, with Russia having pulled back its troops from around Kyiv and the north of Ukraine to focus on the eastern Donbas region, “When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding.”
In footage of the meeting later released by the Ukrainian presidency, Blinken praised the “extraordinary courage and leadership and success that you’ve had in pushing back this horrific Russian aggression.”
“We got used to seeing you on video around the world, but it’s great, it’s good to see you in person,” Blinken said with a smile.
Blinken said U.S. diplomats returning to the country likely will first re-staff the consulate in Lviv in western Ukraine before returning to Kyiv.
Austin said that “the world has been inspired” by Ukraine in the war and that America would continue its support.
NEAR THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER — The United States is giving new military assistance to Ukraine and renewing a diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation as President Joe Biden’s secretary of state and Pentagon chief complete a secretive trip to Kyiv.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed Ukraine’s president of a more than $300 million package of foreign military financing and a $165 million sale of ammunition.
They also said Biden would announce his pick for a U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left ahead of Russia’s invasion in February would start returning to the country this coming week.
Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said he planned to meet with the U.S. officials in Kyiv on Sunday, but the Biden administration refused to confirm that or discuss any details of a possible visit.
It was the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February.
Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries. Some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv.
Officials say the remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began.
LVIV, Ukraine — A fire has erupted at a Russian oil depot near the border with Ukraine.
The Tass news agency reported the fire early Monday in Bryansk. The Russian report said oil storage tanks at the facility caught fire around 2 a.m. local time.
NASA satellites that track fires show a burning fire at coordinates that correspond to a Rosneft facility some 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, was cited by the Ukrainian news agency Unian as saying that people who live near the burning oil depot were being evacuated.
Moscow previously has blamed Ukraine for attacks on the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine.
Ukraine’s top security officials have denied that Kyiv was behind an earlier airstrike on an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, about 60 kilometers (35 miles) from the border.
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — A newly released video shows Ukrainian children in an underground bunker receiving Easter presents.
The video was released Sunday by the far-right Azov Battalion, which is among Ukrainian forces at the Azovstal steelworks where soldiers and civilians have been holed up under a Russian attack.
The group’s deputy commander, Sviatoslav Palamar, says the video was shot Sunday at the plant.
One toddler is seen wearing homemade diapers made of cellophane. People are hanging laundry on makeshift hangers.
One of the women in the video begs for help from world leaders and says she and others stuck under the plant are tired of the bombing and are desperate for their freedom.
“The children are constantly crying here — they want to play and live,” she adds. “Stop this aggression. I ask everyone, help please, free us!”
Another woman says there are 600 civilians sheltering under the plant, without food and water.