The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say Russia has fired 480 missiles at Ukraine as Russian troops make more progress in the south, but are largely stalled in the north.
The official says about 90% of the Russian combat power that had been arrayed around Ukraine is now in the country.
Specifically, the official said that the majority of the Russian missile launches since the war began – or more than 230 of them – are coming from mobile systems within Ukraine. More than 150 missiles have been fired from within Russia, more than 70 from Belarus and only a very small number from ships in the Black Sea. Ukrainian air defenses are still intact and have been effective against the missiles, the official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russian progress in the south has been aided by the country’s eight-year presence in Crimea, where Russia has built infrastructure and systems to sustain troops. As a result, the supply lines to troops in the south are much shorter and more effective.
The official said the U.S. has not seen any Russian naval activity or other appreciable moves by Russia to move on Odesa. He said he is not challenging Ukrainian reports of activity there, but that the U.S. can’t independently confirm them. He added, however, that the U.S. believes that Russia’s goal may be to move past Kherson to Mykolayiv in order to set up a base of operations there that they can then use in a move to encircle and take Odesa.
The U.S. also assesses that Russian forces are just outside the city of Kharkiv, close to the ring road, the official said.
Associated Press Writer Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — The leaders of the Quad held virtual talks Thursday to discuss the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine as Russian forces continue their offensive.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed the Indo-Pacific group would create a channel for communication as each country responds to the war in Ukraine, according to a joint statement released after the meeting.
Biden has sought to strengthen the Quad since the beginning of his presidency in last year, viewing the relationship as an increasingly vital one as he looks to counter the growing economic and military strength of China in the Pacific.
But on the Ukraine crisis, there has been some differences with India, which has been reluctant to criticize Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Last week, India chose to abstain from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Russia cease its invasion of Ukraine
India is reliant on its Cold War ally Russia for energy, weapons and support in conflicts with neighbors.
During Thursday’s meeting between leaders, Modi emphasized the need to return to a “path of dialogue and diplomacy,” according to a statement issued by India’s External Affairs Ministry.
BOSTON — The CEO of a top cryptocurrency transaction-tracking firm said Thursday that it was not yet seeing any large-scale evasion of Western sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals using the virtual currencies. U.S. officials have said they are looking at the sector for possible bans as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The size of the crypto economy is still relatively small to be a viable substitute for access to the global financial system and to the U.S. dollar,” said Esteban Castaño, CEO of San Francisco-based TRM Labs. He said that in monitoring crypto flows his firm has seen some but not very significant spikes in crypto trading on “certain exchanges” he did not name.
Castaño said he could not comment on whether any of them would be sanctioned or when sanctions might occur. TRM Labs monitors more than 300 Russia-based crypto exchanges and brokers, some of which could be targets of sanctions.
In September, the U.S. Treasury department banned transactions with the Russian virtual currency broker SUEX OTC over its handling of transactions of ransomware and other cybercriminals. SUEX was what is known as a “parasite exchange.” Such brokerages are difficult to detect by legitimate exchanges, where they open accounts with fraudulent credentials to meet know-thy-customers requirements.
MOSCOW — Russian negotiators in talks with Ukraine say another round of talks will likely be held shortly.
Vladimir Medinsky, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adviser who led the Russian delegation in the talks Thursday in Belarus near the Polish border, said the parties’ “positions are absolutely clear, they are written down point by point,” including issues related to a political settlement of the conflict. He added without elaboration that “mutual understanding was found on part of them.”
He confirmed that Russia and Ukraine reached a tentative agreement to create safe corridors for civilians to exit besieged cities and observe local cease-fires in areas where they will be created.
Leonid Slutsky, a senior Russian lawmaker who was part of the Russian delegation in talks, said that the details of safe corridors will need to be worked out quickly. He said that the next round of talks could lead to agreements, some of which would need to be ratified by Russian and Ukrainian parliaments.
KYIV, Ukraine — A member of Ukraine’s delegation in talks with Russia says the parties have reached a tentative agreement to organize safe corridors for civilians to evacuate and for humanitarian supplies to be delivered.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who took part in Thursday’s talks in Belarus near the Polish border, said that Russia and Ukraine reached a preliminary understanding that cease-fires will be observed in areas where the safe corridors are established.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Russian military has offered safe corridors to civilians to allow them to leave areas of fighting in Ukraine.
Putin, speaking in a video call with members of his Security Council, has charged that Ukrainian nationalist groups are preventing civilians from leaving.
The Russian leader said the groups were also using civilians as shields, taking up firing positions to provoke the Russian retaliatory fire. Putin’s claim couldn’t be independently verified.
The Russian military says it has only struck military facilities and haven’t targeted residential areas, a claim that has been contradicted by the abundant evidence of massive casualties and damage to residential areas of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and other cities in Ukraine documented by The Associated Press.
Putin reaffirmed his claim that the Russian military was fighting “neo-Nazis,” adding that some Ukrainians were also “fooled by nationalist propaganda.”
He hailed the Russian military as heroes and ordered additional payments to families of the soldiers who were killed and servicemen who were wounded in action.
BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel — The chief rabbi of Kyiv, Ukraine, says the Russian invasion has produced “a catastrophe,” and that most Jews have fled.
Jonathan Markovitch spoke as he arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport Thursday. He said the scene on the ground in Ukraine is “a catastrophe.
Planes are bombing places right next to residential buildings,” as well as a train station “maybe 100 meters from where my son lives and 50 meters from the synagogue.”
Most Jews, he said, have left the country. As he spoke, a group of about 150 young men and women held banners and sang as part of a welcome ceremony for new immigrants arriving from Ukraine.
Israel is expecting a wave of perhaps thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the invasion. So far this month, they’ve received a little over 500 people, the government says.
TORONTO — Canada is calling for Russia’s membership in Interpol to be suspended.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says international law enforcement cooperation depends on mutual respect among members. Britain is also seeking to suspend Russia from the international policing body.
Defense Minister Anita Anand also says Canada is sending more weapons to Ukraine. Anand says Canada is sending 4,500 rocket launchers and 7,500 grenades.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to sit down for talks while urging the West to offer a stronger military assistance to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion.
In a sarcastic reference to a long table Putin used for his recent meetings with foreign leaders and Russian officials, Zelenskyy said: “Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 meters,” adding, “I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?”
During Thursday’s news conference, Zelenskyy said that prospects for another round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiations don’t seem promising, but emphasized the need to negotiate, adding that “any words are more important than shots.”
He said the world was too slow to offer support for Ukraine and prodded Western leaders to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to deny access to the Russian warplanes. The U.S. and NATO allies have ruled out the move that would directly pit Russian and Western militaries.
Zelenskyy charged that if the West remains reluctant to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it should at least provide Kyiv with warplanes.
MOSCOW — Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division, was killed in fighting in Ukraine earlier this week.
His death was confirmed by a local officers’ organization in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear.
Sukhovetsky, who was 47, began his military service as a platoon commander after graduating from a military academy and steadily rose through the ranks to take a series of leadership positions. He took part in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.
He was also a deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army.
A funeral ceremony will be held in Novorossiisk, but further details weren’t immediately announced
KHERSON, Ukraine — Zainish Hussain, a Pakistani citizen who moved to Kherson after marrying a Ukrainian woman, spoke to The Associated Press from his home, showing a nearly empty street outside.
For the past week they have struggled to hide the war from their 3-year-old daughter, trying to have her watch cartoons with headphones on to keep out the sounds of bombs or gunfire, but on Wednesday it became harder.
During what he described as the “scariest day of this life,” Hussain said that Russian tanks rolled down the street in front of his home and soldiers fired into the air to get civilians off the street. The city now has a curfew from 6 p.m. until 10 a.m.
Hussain said he is getting help from his family with cryptocurrency and hopes to hire a driver to escape to Romania.
BRUSSELS — With close to a million of refugees fleeing Ukraine already in the eastern nations of the European Union, the EU member states decided Thursday to grant them temporary protection and residency permits.
EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Thursday that millions more were expected to move into the 27-nation bloc to seek shelter, employment and education for the young.
Johansson called the quick adoption of the protection rules a “historic result” and said “the EU stands united to save lives.”
The EU Commission has already promised at least 500 million euros ($560 million) in humanitarian aid for the refugees. Johansson pointed to nations like Poland, where the population has gone out of its way to be welcoming to the refugees, as an example for others to follow.
“They need financial support now because they’re going to have to find accommodation for people to have to find schools for the children,” she said.
GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says its latest count of casualties in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last week has risen to 249 civilians killed and 553 injured.
That was only a small increase from its previous tally a day earlier, when it counted 227 civilian deaths and 525 people injured, likely a testament to the difficulty it has had in confirming deaths amid the continued fighting and bloodshed. Seventeen of those killed were children, and 27 were women, the latest count found.
The rights office admits that its figures so far are a vast undercount. It uses a strict methodology and counts only confirmed casualties. The latest count is as of midnight local time from Tuesday to Wednesday. Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers.
The U.N. office acknowledged that many reports are pending corroboration, such as in the town of Volnovakha in the government-controlled part of eastern Ukraine, “where mass civilian casualties have been alleged.”
STOCKHOLM — The eight-nation Arctic Council said its representatives will not travel to Russia for the body’s meetings and are temporarily “pausing participation in all meetings.”
In a statement, the members of the council, which include Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, said they “condemn Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and note the grave impediments to international cooperation, including in the Arctic, that Russia’s actions have caused.”
Russia currently holds the chairmanship of the intergovernmental forum that was created in 1996. Its aim is to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction, Indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
The Arctic regions are home to more than 4 million people.
ENERHODAR, Ukraine — The mayor of Enerhodar, site of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, says Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the edges of the city.
Enerhodar is a major energy hub on the left bank of the Dnieper River and the Khakhovka Reservoir that accounts for about one quarter of the country’s power generation due to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is Europe’s largest.
Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, said Thursday that a big Russian convoy was approaching the city and urged residents not to leave homes.
CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s state emergencies agency says that at least 22 civilians have been killed in a Russian strike on a residential area in the city of Chernihiv, a city of 280,000 in Ukraine’s north.
It said the casualties could be higher as rescuers are continuing to look through debris for more bodies.
GENEVA — The U.N. human rights chief says military operations in Ukraine are “escalating further as we speak” and warned of “concerning reports” of the use of cluster bombs.
Michelle Bachelet said the Ukrainian town of Volnovakha in the eastern Donetsk region, where pro-Russian separatists seized territory in 2014, leading to a drawn-out military conflict, “has been almost completely destroyed by shelling,” with residents hiding in basements.
She spoke Thursday during an “urgent debate” at the Human Rights Council, where country after country spoke out against Russia’s invasion. Many Western envoys sported blue or yellow ties, scarves, jackets or ribbons on their lapels – colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Delegates will vote Friday on a resolution that would create a three-person panel of experts to monitor human rights and report on rights abuses and violations in Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador Sheba Crocker said her country was “deeply alarmed” by reports of “Russia’s deployment of weapons such as cluster munitions and thermobarics against cities where innocent people are sheltering.” She urged countries to vote for the resolution.
Chen Xu, China’s ambassador, hailed diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine but said his country opposed efforts to “politicize” human rights. He said China would vote against the resolution.
BERLIN — German officials have denied that a superyacht allegedly owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has been seized in the port city of Hamburg.
Business magazine Forbes reported Thursday that German authorities had impounded the “Dilbar,” citing unnamed sources.
But a spokesperson for Hamburg state’s economy ministry said no such decision had yet been taken because it was unclear who the luxury yacht belonged to.
Susanne Meinecke told The Associated Press that the ship is registered to a holding company in Malta.
Still, the yacht is currently being serviced at a Hamburg shipyard and could not be moved even if the owner wanted it to, a German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Germany’s Economy Ministry said it was in the process of “swiftly and effectively implementing the Russia sanctions” but declined to say publicly which assets had been seized, if any.
Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.
RUKLA, Lithuania — Germany’s president has praised Russians who are speaking out against their country’s attack on Ukraine, saying they deserve respect and support.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose position is largely ceremonial, said Thursday that “many Russians in science, business and culture know what the Russian army is doing in Ukraine and condemn the war.”
“They are demanding an end to fighting and peace,” Steinmeier said. “We admire their bravery, they too deserve our respect and our support.”
Speaking during a visit to German troops in Lithuania, Steinmeier said he expected the sanctions against Russia to prompt businesspeople in the country to consider “when this war can have any advantages for Russia in the long-term.”
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda said the war would have “painful consequences” for Russia” and called for European Union members to support Ukraine joining the bloc.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office says a second round of talks with Russia about the war in Ukraine has begun in neighboring Belarus.
A video released by Zelenskyy’s office Thursday showed the informally dressed Ukrainian delegation walking into the meeting room where they shook hands with Russian delegates in suits and ties.
The talks are aimed at stopping the fighting that has sent more than 1 million people fleeing over Ukraine’s borders, but the two sides appeared to have little common ground.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that it must quickly accept the Kremlin’s demand for its “demilitarization” and declare itself neutral, formally renouncing its bid to join NATO. Putin has long contended that Ukraine’s turn toward the West is a threat to Moscow, an argument he used to justify last week’s invasion.
The talks came as the Russian military made significant gains in the south of Ukraine as part of an effort to sever the country’s connection to the Black and Azov seas.
PARIS — A French official says French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken for 90 minutes by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who told Macron that military operations in Ukraine are “going according to plan.”
The official at the French Elysee presidential palace said Putin told Macron the conflict would continue “until the end” unless negotiations meet his terms.
Putin said negotiations must center on the “neutralization and disarmament of Ukraine,” according to the French official. Putin reportedly said he would attain that goal by military means, if not by political and diplomatic means.
The official said the two leaders spoke at Putin’s request. The French official could not be named in keeping with Elysee practice.
__By Elaine Ganley
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s most powerful politician says his country will raise its defense spending to 3% of GDP starting next year, amid the new security threat following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is deputy prime minister for security and the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, told parliament that Poland needs a strong army.
“The army should have deterrent power. We want peace, we do not want war,” Kaczynski said.
Poland is already one of the handful of NATO countries whose defense spending exceeds the alliance’s target of 2% of GDP, now at 2.2%. The country had already planned to increase spending to 2.5% in 2030 but now plans to increase spending to 3% in 2023, Kaczynski said.
BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister has spoken out against an embargo on Russian energy imports, saying it could endanger social cohesion in the country.
Germany gets about half of its coal and gas from Russia, and a third of its oil.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, said Thursday that his country needs to “free itself from imports of Russian energy” but acknowledged that doing so will take time.
Habeck told reporters in Berlin that the government is working on a series of measures to quickly increase energy independence, including securing new suppliers and ramping up the use of renewables.
He played down the suggestion that Germany should extend the lifetime of its three remaining nuclear power plants, which are scheduled to be shut down this year. But he left open the possibility that this might be considered, “if it helps.”
Habeck said the government would also work on energy efficiency measures to reduce demand and encouraged Germans to do their bit, too.
“If you want to hurt Putin a bit, then save energy,” he said.
AMSTERDAM — An Amsterdam museum says it has cut its close links to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Hermitage Amsterdam said Thursday that it has long distanced itself from politics in Russia under President Vladimir Putin as it built close ties with the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, giving the Amsterdam museum “access to one of the world’s most famous art collections, which we could draw from” for exhibitions.
“Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine makes keeping this distance no longer tenable,” the museum said in a statement.
The Amsterdam museum says that, “Like everyone else, we hope for peace. Also for changes in the future of Russia that will allow us to restore ties with the Hermitage Saint Petersburg.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Russia has declined to attend as an observer a NATO drill in Norway with about 30,00 troops from 27 nations later this month.
Norway is scheduled to host the Cold Response exercise from March 13. The drill, which has been planned for months, is aimed at training in cold-weather conditions in case of attack. Russia had been invited to observe it.
The Norwegian Armed Forces said in a statement to The Associated Press that they want “to be open and transparent about this exercise, so that there will be no misunderstandings,” and stressed that the drill was “of a defensive nature, where we practice and train with our allies and partner countries.”
“With the tension that is in Europe, it is important that we practice and train to be able to defend ourselves,” the statement said, adding that the Norwegians “would have preferred Russia to send observers, but at the same time we respect their decision.”
The Scandinavian country shares a nearly 200-kilometer (124-mile) land border with Russia.