By The Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, who is both the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party and a close associate of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has been detained in a special operation carried out by the country’s SBU secret service.
Ivan Bakanov, the head of Ukraine’s national security agency, said on the agency’s Telegram channel that Medvedchuk had been detained. The statement came shortly after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted on social media a photo of Medvedchuk sitting in handcuffs and wearing a camouflage uniform with a Ukrainian flag patch.
Medvedchuk was the former leader of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform – For Life. He was being held under house arrest before the war began and disappeared shortly after hostilities broke out.
Putin is the godfather to Medvedchuk’s youngest daughter.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukraine probes claim poisonous substance dropped in Mariupol
— A look at Russia’s military objectives and challenges it faces
— ‘It’s not the end’: The children who survived Bucha’s horror
— Russian war worsens fertilizer crunch, risking food supplies
— Czechs provide free shooting training for local Ukrainians
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. Congress said the Biden administration and its allies will not stand by if chemical weapons were used in the Russian war with Ukraine.
Lawmakers monitoring developments during a trip to Poland said Tuesday that the U.S. is investigating reports that a poisonous substance had been dropped in Mariupol. But they cautioned that determining the nature of the attack in the beleaguered port city could take time.
“We’re taking those reports seriously and I know the United States government and others are trying to determine if that did indeed occur,” said Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.
Crow said the administration “has been very clear that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.”
The Democratic lawmakers, all members of the House Intelligence Committee, are bracing for a potential long war in Ukraine. They said at a press briefing that Congress is looking at next steps in sending additional military and other aid to Ukraine.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also addressed the reports coming from Mariupol.
“We’re not in a position to confirm anything, I don’t think Ukrainians are either,” Blinken told reporters. “But let me say that we had credible information that Russian forces may use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, that would cause stronger symptoms to weaken, incapacitate … Ukrainian fighters and civilians, as part of the aggressive campaign” in Mariupol.
“We share that information with … Ukraine and other partners,” Blinken said. “And we’re in direct conversation with partners to try to determine what what actually is happening.”
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The global chemical weapons watchdog says it is “concerned by the recent unconfirmed report of chemical weapons use in Mariupol” and is closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine.
The spokesperson for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says in a statement that the allegations follow “reports in the media over the past few weeks of shelling targeted at chemical plants located in Ukraine, together with accusations levelled by both sides around possible misuse of toxic chemicals.”
The spokesperson said in Tuesday’s statement that the “use of chemical weapons anywhere by anyone under any circumstances is reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community against such use.”
Both Russia and Ukraine are among the organization’s 193 member states.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization says that it “remains ready to assist any State Party upon its request, in case of use or threat of use of chemical weapons.”
WARSAW, Poland – Germany’s president has called on Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin to pull out his troops from Ukraine and stop the “barbarity” there as he stressed that Germany will not restore its previous ties with Russia as long as Putin is in power.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Warsaw on Tuesday to talk with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda about supporting Ukraine’s fight and aiding millions of refugees fleeing the war.
“This barbarity which we see every day must stop,” Steinmeier said at joint news conference.
“This can only happen by President Putin ordering his army to stop and I believe that only then (armistice) talks can be successful,” Steinmeier said.
“One thing is clear: a return to normal is not possible with Russia under Putin,” Steinmeier said, adding that war crimes in Ukraine must be investigated and “those who committed them and those who are politically responsible must be held accountable.”
Steinmeier last week admitted mistakes in policy toward Russia in his previous high-ranking jobs, when Germany pursued dialogue with Putin and cultivated close energy ties.
Steinmeier served as ex-Chancellors’ Gerhard Schroeder’s chief of staff and Angela Merkel’s foreign minister. Schroeder is now head of the board of directors of Russia’s state oil giant Rosneft.
VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer pledged continued “political and humanitarian support” for Ukraine in a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday, Nehammer said in a statement.
The call came a day after Nehammer became the first European leader to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
“It’s important to me to immediately inform all key proponents in this conflict about my talks,” Nehammer said, according to the statement released Tuesday evening by the Austrian chancellery.
Nehammer said he recounted his meeting in Moscow to Zelenskyy, telling the Ukrainian leader about the most important messages he relayed to Putin.
Among those messages are that the war needs to stop, that those responsible for “serious war crimes” like those committed in the Ukrainian city of Bucha will be held to account, and that the European Union is “as united as it’s ever been” on maintaining its sanctions against Russia.
He also told Zelenskyy he believes the continuation of talks in Istanbul are an important step toward bringing an end to the violence, and that Austria will “continue to support all ongoing efforts for peace.”
KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has paid tribute to Ukrainian troops defending the besieged south-eastern port of Mariupol but acknowledged they are running low on supplies.
Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter that “for more than 1.5 months our defenders protect the city from (Russian) troops, which are 10+ times larger. They’re fighting under the bombs for each meter of the city. They make (Russia) pay an exorbitant price.”
Mariupol was a key target for Russian forces soon after the invasion began in late February. It has symbolic significance as one of the largest cities in eastern Ukraine. It is also strategically valuable as a major harbor and as part of a land corridor between territory held by Russia-backed separatists to the east and the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
“Our soldiers remain blocked and have issues with supplies,” Podolyak wrote, adding that Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian general staff are working “to find a solution and help our guys.” He did not give details, citing operational reasons.
KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where corpses of civilians with bound hands and gunshot wounds to the head were found after Russian forces pulled out, says 403 bodies have been found so far and that he fears the toll will rise.
“Today, at 10 a.m. we started unearthing the second mass grave, there are 56 bodies there. Plus, there are four private graves. But I’d like to repeat that as of today, we have 403 bodies,” Anatoliy Fedoruk told reporters in Kyiv. “Taking into account that our armed forces, our minesweepers are working in the forests between villages and settlements in our territorial community, we hope that those who are missing are still alive but most probably we will find their bodies somewhere between the villages, in those forests.”
Fedoruk also said 31 multi-story residential buildings had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair during the war, along with 243 private houses.
BERLIN — Germany’s president says his Polish counterpart suggested that they travel to Ukraine together with other leaders to show solidarity, but that proposed visit “apparently wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.”
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s comments Tuesday, during a visit to Poland, came after German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat as saying that he’s not welcome in Kyiv at the moment because he had close relations with Russia in the past.
Steinmeier said Polish President Andrzej Duda had suggested that they travel to the Ukrainian capital with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to send “a strong signal of joint European solidarity with Ukraine.” He said he had been prepared to do so.
Steinmeier last week admitted mistakes in policy toward Russia in his previous job as foreign minister.
Steinmeier served twice as ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign minister, most recently from 2013 to 2017, and before that as ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s chief of staff. In that time, Germany pursued dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and cultivated close energy ties.
KHARKIV, Ukraine — A strike hit a what is believed to be a culinary school near the airport in Ukraine’s second-largest city on Tuesday, destroying the building and damaging others nearby, according to Associated Press journalists at the scene.
It wasn’t clear what hit the building in Kharkiv, with witnesses describing a loud whoosh followed by an explosion. There were no immediate reports of fatalities.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis used a speech to his country’s delegation of Invictus Games participants on Tuesday to admonish Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“The Russian Federation has been waging war against Ukraine for almost 50 days, and shocking evidence of atrocities and horrors is unimaginable day by day,” Iohannis told the wounded and injured military personnel, who will compete in the 2022 Invictus Games set to begin in the Netherlands on Saturday.
“You know best what destruction and loss of life and the dramas of war mean, how much families and communities are affected forever,” he said.
Iohannis said that Russia’s acts of “horrific, unjustified cruelty” must be punished by the international justice system.
The Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded servicemen and women, was launched in London in 2014.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian prosecutors are expanding their war crimes investigations in northeastern suburbs of Kyiv after Russian forces withdrew.
Reports of killings of civilians have primarily focused so far on the northwestern suburbs such as Bucha, but the Prosecutor-General’s Office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast.
Russian troops advanced into that area last month before retreating to focus on fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office said the bodies of six civilians had been found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and that Russian forces were believed to be responsible.
Prosecutors are also investigating an incident in which they allege Russian forces fired on a convoy of civilians trying to leave by car from the village of Peremoha in the Brovary district, killing four people including a 13-year-old boy. In another incident near Bucha, five people were killed, including two children, when a car was fired upon, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors did not say when they believed the incidents occurred.
MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin says that Russians’ unity will only grow stronger in the face of Western sanctions and it will be the West that will face instability.
Putin said during a visit to the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s Far East on Tuesday that the West mistakenly expected its sanctions to undermine Russia’s stability. He said that “the Russian people always strengthen their unity in a difficult situation.”
He insisted that it will be the West that will be shaken by growing instability, fueled by public dismay over galloping inflation. The Russian leader also lashed out at European leaders, describing them as Washington’s stooges and saying that they are conducting policies harmful to their nations.
MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin says that Russia will press on with its military action in Ukraine until its goals are fulfilled.
Putin said Tuesday that the campaign is going according to plan. He said it is not moving faster because Russia wants to minimize losses.
He said during a visit to the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s Far East that the “military operation will continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks that have been set.”
Putin claimed that Ukraine backtracked on proposals it made during talks with Russian negotiators in Istanbul, resulting in a deadlock in talks and leaving Moscow no other choice but to press on with its offensive.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Russian economy has successfully resisted new Western sanctions over Ukraine.
Speaking Tuesday on a visit to the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s Far East, Putin said that Russia’s economy and financial system withstood the impact of what he called the Western sanctions “blitz” and the ruble has recovered its losses.
Putin argued that the sanctions will backfire against the West. For example, he said that Western restrictions on fertilizer exports from Russia and ally Belarus will drive up global fertilizer prices, eventually leading to food shortages and increased migration flows.
Putin said that “common sense should prevail” and added that the West should “come back to reason and make well-balanced decisions without losing its face.” He contended that “they won’t be able to shut all the doors and windows.”
He argued that new Western restrictions on high-tech exports will encourage Russia to move faster to develop new technologies, opening a “new window of opportunities.”
BOSTON — Ukrainian officials say a planned cyberattack by Russian military hackers on the country’s power grid has been foiled.
They say the country’s computer emergency response thwarted an attack planned by hackers from Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency that intended to knock electrical substations offline last Friday.
The State Service of Special Communications said on its website that malware was discovered designed to destroy data on computers.
There was no immediate explanation of how the attack was defeated, though the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine thanked Microsoft and the cybersecurity firm ESET in a separate bulletin. Nor was the scope immediately explained.
GRU hackers twice successfully attacked Ukraine’s power grid, in the winters of 2015 and 2016.
Russia’s use of cyberattacks against Ukrainian infrastructure has been limited compared to experts’ pre-war expectations. In the early hours of the war, however, an attack Ukraine blames on Russia knocked offline an important satellite communications link that also impacted tens of thousands of Europeans from France to Poland.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government has approved increasing the number of troops in a multinational NATO battlegroup in the country from 2,100 to 3,000.
The first 800 service members have already arrived in Slovakia. The Czech Republic took charge of the battlegroup, with the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia also contributing.
Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad says the increase in the planned troop numbers is related to Patriot air defense systems that the United States, Germany and the Netherlands are deploying in Slovakia.
The move should boost Slovakia’s defense capabilities after the country donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine last week.
The alliance stationed troops in the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by Russia. After Russia attacked Ukraine, NATO decided to boost its presence along the entire eastern flank by deploying forces in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
GENEVA — The World Trade Organization is predicting that trade in goods will grow much less than previously expected this year, saying prospects for the global economy have darkened since the onset of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Geneva-based WTO on Tuesday pointed to multiple uncertainties in its forecast over the next two years because Russian and Ukrainian exports of items like food, oil and fertilizers are under threat from the war. It also cited the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic –- notably from lockdowns in China.
Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala described a “double whammy” from the conflict and the coronavirus. She said the war has caused “immense human suffering” in the region and its effect has rippled around the world, notably in poorer countries.
The WTO said its projections for world trade take into account factors like the impact of the war, sanctions on Russia, and lower demand around the world from lower business and consumer confidence. It said world merchandise trade volume is expected to grow 3% this year, down from a forecast of 4.7% before the war began.
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has hit Ukrainian arsenals with long-range cruise missiles.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the military used air- and sea-launched missiles to destroy an ammunition depot and a reinforced hangar for warplanes at Starokostiantyniv in the Khmelnytskyi region.
Konashenkov said that another strike destroyed a Ukrainian ammunition depot in Havrylivka, near Kyiv.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — The head of Cyprus’ Orthodox Christian Church is “unreservedly” condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying there’s “no justification” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “destroy a country, to raze it to kill.”
Archbishop Chrysostomos II told state broadcaster CyBC Tuesday that the invasion is “an unacceptable situation” and that Putin’s actions have “no logic.” The archbishop said he’s distraught that people are being killed and questioned whether the Russian leader is “in his right mind.”
The archbishop added that he’d be the “first to go and bless a defensive war,” but the “egotism, if not the stupidity” of the Russian leadership “knows no bounds.”
Chrysostomos also questioned Putin’s embrace of Orthodox Christianity, including the sincerity of his travels to the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was baptized.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian police say they have launched a war crimes investigation after a 64-year-old man was killed by a mine left behind in an area from which Russian forces recently retreated.
Police said the unidentified local man was driving Monday near the village of Krasne in northern Ukraine and had pulled over his car to greet acquaintances when he struck an anti-tank mine left at the side of the road.
Ukrainian authorities have issued repeated warnings of mines and explosive traps left in areas where Russian troops have been operating.
BERLIN — German authorities say that over 330,000 refugees from Ukraine are known to have entered Germany so far.
The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that German federal police have recorded 335,578 people entering since Russia’s invasion started on Feb. 24. Those who have arrived are overwhelmingly women and children.
The true number of refugees in Germany could be higher, however, since there are no strict controls on the country’s eastern border and Ukrainian citizens can stay up to 90 days in the European Union without a visa. Officials say an unknown number also have moved on to other European countries.
The U.N. refugee agency on Tuesday put the total number of people who have fled Ukraine at more than 4.6 million, over 2.6 million of whom fled at least initially to Poland.
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