Latest on Ukraine:  March 23, 2022

Live Updates: Italy Wants Pressure Put on China at EU Summit

By The Associated Press, undefined

[EDITOR'S NOTE: There is a photo gallery located at the end of this post that contains images that readers might find disturbing, including images that show injuries and death.  The reader is advised and cautioned to use discretion as the content may not be suitable for all.]

ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says the European Union must engage with China to make sure it is working actively to mediate peace in Ukraine and does not show any support for Moscow's invasion of its neighbor.

Draghi told Parliament on Wednesday that the EU summit with China on April 1 must underline the bloc's expectations that Beijing will be a constructive and authoritative player for peace.

Draghi said: "It's fundamental that the EU is compact in keeping open spaces for dialogue with Beijing so that it contributes in a constructive way to the international mediation effort."

He added: "We must repeat our expectations that Beijing abstains from actions supporting Moscow and participates actively and authoritatively in the peace effort."
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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukrainian leaders accuse Russia of seizing 15 workers from aid convoy
— Biden starts a trip to Europe as Russia's war in Ukraine bogs down, challenges grow
— Amid Russia's new crackdowns, small signs of defiance emerge
— A new fund directs its support to Ukraine's long-term needs
— Security Council taking up Russian resolution on Ukraine crisis as Assembly hears rival resolutions
— Spanish ties provide safe havens for Ukrainian refugees
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:
MOSCOW — The Russian Central Bank says it is reopening trading on the Moscow stock exchange for the first time since it was closed nearly a month ago.

Trading will resume Thursday but only for 33 stocks of large companies listed on the IMOEX index. There will be a ban on short-selling.

The exchange resumed trading in government debt earlier this week.
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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine's president is urging Japan and other Asian countries to step up sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

In an address by video link to Japan's parliament on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Japan to place a national embargo on trade with Russia. He also asked Japanese companies to pull out of the Russian market.

"I call on Asian states and your partners to unite their efforts so that Russia seeks peace and stops the tsunami of its brutal invasion of our state," Zelenskyy said in the address.
He told the Japanese lawmakers that over the past 28 days, "thousands of people, including 121 children" were killed in Ukraine and about nine million were forced to leave their homes.

"Our people cannot even adequately bury their murdered relatives, friends and neighbors. They have to be buried right in the yards of destroyed buildings, next to the roads," Zelenskyy said.
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WARSAW, Poland — Poland's Internal Security Agency says it is expelling 45 Russian intelligence officers using diplomatic status as cover to stay in country.

The agency said Wednesday it is asking the Foreign Ministry to urgently expel the Russians, describing them as a danger to Poland's security.

The agency also said it detained a Polish citizen on suspicion of espionage on behalf of the Russian secret services. The suspect worked in Warsaw's registry office and had access to city archives.

"Given the nature of documents kept by those units, the activity of the suspect posed a threat to both the internal and external security of Poland," the agency said in a statement.
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BERLIN — Four environmental think tanks say the European Union can stop its imports of Russian gas by 2025, allowing the bloc to end its dependence in the medium term on a key energy source that's been called into question amid the war in Ukraine.

A report published Wednesday by Ember, E3G, the Regulatory Assistance Project and Bellona concludes that ramping up solar and wind power, reducing demand and electrification can replace two-thirds of Russian gas imports within three years.

It suggests that the remaining shortfall can be met through existing gas infrastructure, without the need to build new terminals for LNG imports that some countries are now eyeing.
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GENEVA — The Swiss attorney general's office says it is collecting evidence from Ukraine refugees on possible international crimes or embargo violations stemming from Russia's war with Ukraine.

The attorney general's office said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Wednesday that it's in contact with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, which monitors possible sanctions violations, to see if any violations of embargo law have been committed and merit investigation.

The Swiss government has joined the European Union in imposing sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and entities in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Switzerland is not part of the EU.

The Swiss Bankers' Association has estimated the assets of Russian clients deposited in Swiss banks total between 150-200 billion Swiss francs (about $160-$215 billion).
No criminal proceedings in Switzerland have yet been launched in connection with the war.
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GENEVA — The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has arrived in Moscow for talks at the Russian foreign and defense ministries on humanitarian issues caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Peter Maurer, the ICRC president, was expected Wednesday to take up issues such as prisoners of war, the conduct of hostilities and the delivery of aid.

"The devastation caused by the conflict in recent weeks, as well as eight years of conflict in Donbas, has been vast," Maurer said in a statement, referring to the region of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists.

"There are practical steps guided by international humanitarian law that the parties must take to limit the suffering," Maurer said.

Maurer traveled to Ukraine last week. While in Moscow, he was also expected to meet with the head of the Russian Red Cross, which has been helping people who have fled eastern Ukraine into Russia.
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MOSCOW — The Russian parliament has passed a law expanding military veteran status to troops taking part in the invasion of Ukraine.

Veteran status brings various benefits, such as monthly payments, tax breaks, discounts on utilities and preferential access to medical treatment, among other things.
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed the law on Wednesday, four weeks since the start of the war in Ukraine, with the three required readings taking place at once.
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LONDON — Britain's defense ministry says the war in northern Ukraine is largely "static," with Russian forces trying to reorganize before resuming a large-scale assault.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, U.K. defense officials say "Russian forces are attempting to envelop Ukrainian forces in the east of the country as they advance from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south."

In an update posted Wednesday on social media, Britain's defense ministry said Russian troops in the south are trying to circumvent the city of Mykolaiv as they push west towards Odesa, a key Black Sea port that has so far been spared major attack.
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PARIS — French authorities say a convoy of rescue vehicles and emergency equipment is to leave Paris on Wednesday to be provided to Ukraine's emergency service.

A statement from the French foreign and interior ministries says 100 firefighters and rescue staff will dispatch the vehicles and equipment to Romania, at the border with Ukraine. They include 11 fire engines, 16 rescue vehicles, and 23 trucks transporting 49 tons of health and emergency equipment.

It comes in addition to a convoy of 21 new ambulances, which left on Tuesday.
The statement says the operation is meant to support rescuers from Ukraine's Emergency Situations Service "mobilized day and night to provide relief to victims."
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BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has reiterated that his country will not support a no-fly zone over Ukraine or send troops to intervene in the war launched by Russia.

Scholz told German lawmakers on Wednesday that "NATO will not become a party to the war. We are in agreement on this with our European allies and the United States."
Still, the German leader said Ukraine could rely on Germany's help, citing the financial and military aid already provided, the harsh sanctions on Russia and the reception of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

Scholz said Germany would not support a boycott of Russian oil, coal and gas, but is seeking to wean itself off those imports by seeking out other suppliers and ramping up the use of renewable energy.
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LVIV, Ukraine - The Kyiv city administration says Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian capital overnight and early Wednesday morning, damaging buildings in two districts.
Kyiv authorities said on Telegram that a shopping mall, some private sector buildings and high-rises came under fire in the districts of Sviatoshynskyi and Shevchenkivskyi.
Four people sustained injuries.
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LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces bombed and destroyed a bridge in the encircled city of Chernihiv, the region's governor, Viacheslav Chaus, said.

The destroyed bridge had been used for evacuating civilians and delivering humanitarian aid. It crossed the Desna River and connected the city to Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.

Chernihiv authorities said Tuesday that the encircled city has no water or electricity and called the situation there a humanitarian disaster.

Explosions and bursts of gunfire shook Kyiv on Wednesday morning, and heavy artillery fire could be heard from the northwest, where Russian forces have sought to encircle and take the capital's suburbs.
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LVIV, Ukraine — Russian military forces destroyed a laboratory at the Chernobyl nuclear plant that worked to improve management of radioactive waste, the Ukrainian agency responsible for the Chernobyl exclusion zone said Tuesday.

The Russian military seized the decommissioned plant at the beginning of the war last month. The exclusion zone is the contaminated area around the plant, site of the world's worst nuclear meltdown in 1986.

The state agency said the laboratory, built at a cost of 6 million euros with support from the European Commission, opened in 2015.

The laboratory contained "highly active samples and samples of radionuclides that are now in the hands of the enemy, which we hope will harm itself and not the civilized world," the agency said in its statement.

Radionuclides are unstable atoms of chemical elements that release radiation..
Ukraine's nuclear regulatory agency said Monday that radiation monitors around the plant had stopped working.
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WASHINGTON — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied that Russia's invasion has stalled.

Asked on CNN what Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved in Ukraine, he said: "Well, first of all not yet. He hasn't achieved yet." But he insisted the military operation was going "strictly in accordance with the plans and purposes that were established beforehand."

Peskov reiterated that Putin's main goals were to "get rid of the military potential of Ukraine" and "ensure that Ukraine changes from an anti-Russian center to a neutral country."
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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces not only blocked a humanitarian convoy trying to reach besieged Mariupol with desperately needed supplies on Tuesday but took captive some of the rescue workers and bus drivers.

He said the Russians had agreed to the route ahead of time.

"We are trying to organize stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents, but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling, or deliberate terror," Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the Russians seized 11 bus drivers and four rescue workers along with their vehicles. She said their fate was unknown. The figures couldn't immediately be confirmed.

More than 7,000 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Tuesday, but about 100,000 remain in the city "in inhuman conditions, under a full blockade, without food, without water, without medicine and under constant shelling, under constant bombardment," Zelenskyy said.

Before the war, 430,000 people lived in the port city on the Sea of Azov.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The photo gallery below contains images that readers might find disturbing, including images that show injuries and death.  The reader is advised and cautioned to use discretion as the content may not be suitable for all.]

Ukraine and the World's Response to Russia's Attack - February 24, 2022 to Present

The following images help document Russia's invasion of Urkaine, and the world's response. The reader is STRONGLY CAUTIONED that this gallery CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES, some of which include IMAGES OF DEATH. As of March 5, 2022 the gallery includes images that are not suitable for all readers. The reader is cautioned not to view this gallery without discretion.

Some Major US Companies Pulling Out Of Russia Over Ukraine

Here are some of major U.S. corporations who are halting business operations in Russia to protest the ongoing war with Ukraine.