Live updates | UN urged to oversee steel mill evacuation
By The Associated Press
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Monday that Ukraine risks provoking World War III and said the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated.”
In an in-depth Russian TV interview, Lavrov blamed Ukraine for stalled talks between the two countries, and accused the United States and Britain of pressuring Kyiv not to reach agreement.
“Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III,” Lavrov said, and accused Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to become involved in the conflict.
By providing weapons, NATO forces are “pouring oil on the fire,” he said, according to a Russian transcript on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
Lavrov apparently made the remarks after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that only discussions between Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin would bring resolution.
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
NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera are organizing a Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra to tour Europe and America from July 28 to Aug. 20.
The orchestra is to gather in Warsaw on July 18 for rehearsals and will include musicians from Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv and Odesa plus Ukrainian members of European orchestras, the companies said Monday.
Keri-Lynn Wilson, a Canadian-Ukrainian conductor who is married to Met general manager Peter Gelb, will lead musicians who include members of the Kyiv National Opera, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra and Kharkiv Opera plus the Tonkunstler Orchestra of Vienna, the Belgian National Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
The tour will open at Teatr Wielki, the Polish National Opera, on July 28 and include a televised performance at the BBC Proms in London on July 31.
That will be followed by stops at the Chorégies d’Orange Festival in France (Aug. 2); Berlin (Aug. 4); Edinburgh, Scotland (Aug. 6); Snape Maltings in England (Aug. 8); Amsterdam (Aug. 11); Hamburg, Germany (Aug. 13); New York (Aug. 18 and 19), and Washington (Aug. 20).
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s foreign minister on Monday urged the U.N. chief to press Russia for an evacuation of the besieged port of Mariupol, calling it something the world body is capable of achieving.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview he was concerned that by visiting Moscow on Tuesday before traveling to Kyiv, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could be vulnerable to falling into a Kremlin “trap” in the war.
Kuleba said Guterres “should focus primarily on one issue: evacuation of Mariupol.
An estimated 100,000 people are trapped in the seaside city while a contingent of Ukrainian fighters hold out against Russian forces in a steel mill where hundreds of civilians also are taking shelter.
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Officials in the embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol say a new mass grave has been identified north of the city.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities are trying to estimate the number of victims in the grave about 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) north of Mariupol.
Satellite photos released over the past several days have shown what appear to be images of other mass graves.
Mariupol has been decimated by fierce fighting over the past two months. The capture of the city would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Moscow is accusing Croatia of having an anti-Russian policy for failing to provide “humanitarian” passage for 24 Russian diplomats and embassy staff who were expelled from the country over the war in Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Monday that the government of Croatia is “systematically destroying bilateral relations,” according to the Russian TASS news agency.
“The inhumane, cynical attitude towards our fellow countrymen won’t go without an answer,” she added.
Croatia has followed several other European Union states in expelling Russian diplomats for the bloody Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday that Zakharova’s claims are Russian propaganda and that the expelled Russians already left the country, probably via neighboring Serbia. He added that Russia “attacked Ukraine, which is our friendly country, killed women and children and we responded to it like most other countries.”
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are stressing the urgent need for “effective access through humanitarian corridors” to evacuate Ukrainian civilians and deliver humanitarian aid to communities impacted by the war.
Guterres met Erdogan on Monday in Ankara and expressed support for Turkey’s ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the war, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that they “agreed to stay in contact to follow up on ongoing initiatives.”
The U.N. chief and the Turkish president “reaffirmed that their common objective is to end to the war as soon as possible and to create conditions to end the suffering of civilians,” Dujarric said.
During the meeting, Erdogan also said Turkey would continue to work closely with the U.N. to end the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and to help in the evacuation of civilians, .
Guterres is scheduled to travel to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and will then head to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday. The Ukrainian leader has criticized the secretary-general for visiting Moscow before going to Kyiv.
LONDON — The British government says it believes 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion two months ago.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25% of the Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have been rendered not combat effective,” and Russia had lost more than 2,000 armored vehicles and more than 60 helicopters and fighter planes.
Russia has acknowledged 1,351 military casualties.
Wallace said Russia had failed in most of its military objectives so far. He told British lawmakers that “we anticipate this next phase of the invasion will be an attempt by Russia to occupy further the Donbas in order to connect it via Mariupol” to Russian-controlled Crimea. He said international aid and weapons are crucial to help Ukraine withstand the anticipated onslaught.
Wallace said Britain had sent more than 5,000 antitank missiles, as well as air-defense systems and anti-air missiles, and would soon send “a small number” of Stormer armored vehicles equipped with missile launchers.
STOCKHOLM — Two newspapers – one Swedish, the other one Finnish – are reporting that the governments of Sweden and Finland have agreed to submit NATO applications at the same time and that it will happen in the middle of next month.
The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti said that the Swedish government has expressed a wish to Finland that they apply together in the week ending May 22, and Swedish government sources confirmed the information to Sweden’s Expressen tabloid.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to growing support in Sweden and Finland, a Russian neighbor, for joining NATO.
Though not members, both Nordic countries closely cooperate with NATO, allowing, among other things, the alliance’s troops to exercise on their soil. Helsinki and Stockholm have also substantially intensified their bilateral defense cooperation in the past years.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department says it has approved the sale of $165 million in legacy Warsaw Pact ammunition and other non-standard ammunition to Ukraine to help in its defense against Russia.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the potential sale and has provided the legally required notification to Congress. Lawmakers can block weapons sales but are unlikely to do so because of strong support for Ukraine following the Feb. 24 invasion.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a partner country that is a force for political stability and economic progress in Europe,” the State Department said in announcing the potential sale Monday.
The sale came at the request of Ukraine’s government and includes rounds for mortars, automatic grenade launchers and howitzers.
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.
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.”
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 to by 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 after invading Ukraine on Feb. 24.
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.
Austin said that “the world has been inspired” by Ukraine in the war and that America would continue its support.