By The Associated Press
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
WASHINGTON — Top officials in the U.S. Congress reached agreement Monday on legislation that would ban Russian oil imports to the U.S. and end Russia’s permanent normal trade relation status in response to the intensifying war in Ukraine.
That’s according to a Senate aide granted anonymity to discuss the private deliberations in Congress.
Voting could come swiftly but no schedule has been set.
The White House has been reluctant to ban Russian oil imports as gas prices at the pump spike for Americans, but has not ruled out the option.
Ending the normal trade relation status could result in steep tariffs on other Russian imports.
— AP congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.
UNITED NATIONS — Calling what’s happening to the 7.5 million children of Ukraine “a moral outrage,” the head of the U.N. children’s agency urged the U.N. Security Council to remind all parties of their legal obligation to protect youngsters and spare them from attack.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell told a council meeting Monday that at least 27 children have been killed and 42 injured since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to the U.N. human rights office, and “countless more have been severely traumatized.”
With the escalation of the conflict, she said, homes, schools, orphanages and hospitals have come under attack as well as water and sanitation facilities, which provide key civilian needs. She also expressed deep concern at the safety and well-being of nearly 100,000 children, half of them with disabilities, who live in Ukrainian institutions and boarding schools.
She called on the parties to refrain from fighting near these facilities and to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Russell said children must be protected from the brutality of war, saying the image of a mother, her two children and a friend trying to flee to safety lying dead on a street after being hit by a mortar “must shock the conscience of the world.”
For children fleeing Ukraine, she said, UNICEF has started operating “Blue Dot” safe places at border crossings where youngsters are first registered and which provide “a one-stop safe space for children and their families.”
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is unable to meet the needs of millions of civilians caught in conflict in Ukraine today and is urging safe passage for people to go “in the direction they choose” and for humanitarian supplies to get to areas of hostilities, according to the U.N. humanitarian chief.
Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths told a U.N. Security Council meeting Monday that his office has sent a team to Moscow to coordinate with the Russian military to try to scale-up the delivery of humanitarian aid to the level needed. He said this followed a phone call Friday between U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The first U.N.-Russia meeting has been held, he said, welcoming cooperation by both sides and expressing hope of “further progress in the hours ahead.”
Griffiths said the U.N. and its partners have already provided food to hundreds of thousands of people and the World Food Program “is setting up supply chain operations to deliver immediate food and cash assistance to 3-5 million people inside Ukraine,” and the Ukrainian Red Cross has distributed hygiene and food kits, warm clothing and medicine to thousands of people.
The U.N. humanitarian chief also expressed deep worry at the consequences of “this unnecessary conflict” on “vulnerable people living half a world away” affected by spiking food prices and uncertain supplies and record-level prices. “People in the Sahel, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, Madagascar, and beyond already face profound food inseucirty,” Griffiths said, and high gas prices means “life becomes harder still in places like Lebanon.”
BERLIN — The U.N. nuclear watchdog says Ukraine has informed it that a new research facility producing radioisotopes for medical and industrial uses has been damaged by shelling in Kharkiv.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said the Ukrainian regulator told it that Sunday’s incident didn’t cause any increase in radiation levels at the site. It said the nuclear material at the facility is “always subcritical” and there is a very low stock of it, so the IAEA’s assessment is that the reported damage would have no “radiological consequence.”
However, it adds to a string of concerns the Vienna-based IAEA has over nuclear facilities and material in Ukraine.
It reported “another worrying development” Monday at the Zaporizhzhia power plant, Ukraine’s biggest, which was seized last week by Russian forces. The IAEA said the Ukrainian regulator has informed it that it’s not currently possible to deliver spare parts or medicine to the plant.
The IAEA reiterated that “having operating staff subject to the authority of the Russian military commander contravenes an indispensable pillar of nuclear safety.”
The Ukrainian regulator said eight of the country’s 15 reactors were operating, including two at Zaporizhzhia.
NEW YORK — Stoli Group is renaming its Stolichnaya vodka brand as part of a broader effort to distance itself from Russia. In a news release, Luxembourg-based Stoli Group said the vodka will now be sold and marketed as Stoli. Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, founded Stoli Group in 1997 but was exiled from Russia four years later and moved production to Latvia. “More than anything, I wish for Stoli to represent peace in Europe and solidarity with Ukraine,” Shefler said in a statement. Stoli Group said a state-owned company in Russia continues to make a vodka called Stolichnaya which is sold in a limited number of markets. But Stoli Group owns the trademark rights to the Stolichnaya name in 150 countries, including the U.S. Stolichnaya means “from the capital city” in Russian.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that he does not expect a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine for weeks.
He said that he has told the Russian leader that a cease-fire must come before any real dialogue, but that President Vladimir Putin has refused, making their regular talks “difficult.”
“I don’t think that in the days and weeks to come there will be a true negotiated solution,” Macron said at a forum in Poissy, a southwest suburb of Paris, while campaigning for the first time to renew his mandate in April presidential elections.
He said that Putin is making a “historic fault” with his war pitted against Ukrainians, “brothers.” Macron stressed the need to respect the people of all countries … “and ensure that no nation, no people be humiliated.”
Macron said that Russia, too, must be respected as a country and people because “There is no durable peace if Russia is not (part of) a … grand architecture of peace on our continent. Because History and geography are stubborn.”
ROME — Italy is looking to house those fleeing war in Ukraine in residences confiscated from organized crime syndicates.
Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese on Monday said that the national agency which keeps track of hundreds of seized and confiscated properties over the years are quickly checking to determine those suitable for refugees.
Some 14,000 refugees have arrived in Italy from Ukraine. Many of them have relatives or friends living in Italy, and it isn’t immediately clear how many have no one to host them.
Ministry officials will be pinpointing real estate that has been confiscated, but not yet assigned for use by municipalities or charities. After judicial authorities determine that property was bought with illicit revenues from organized crime like drug trafficking or extortion, it is seized and eventually made available for use by charities or other non-profit groups.
Lamorgese said using the properties to house refugees, even on a temporary basis, can give “concrete responses to those fleeing from war and above all to the most fragile persons, such as women and children.”
TIRANA, Albania — Albania on Monday strongly denounced the shelling of its consulate in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and called on Russia to stop aggression against Ukraine.
The Albanian Foreign Ministry tweeted photos of the building in Kharkiv where its consulate is seen destroyed after being shelled.
“Albania strongly condemns the #Russian aggression which led to the destruction of the Honorary Consulate of Albania in Kharkiv,” it tweeted, adding that, “Perpetrators must be held accountable! #StopRussianAggression #StandWithUkraine️.”
Albania has joined the European Union in the hard-hitting sanctions against Russian top officials and institutions.
Last week Albania and the United States initiated a resolution at the United Nations Security Council denouncing the Russian invasion.
LVIV, Ukraine — Both Russia and Ukraine say they’ve made a little progress during a third round of talks and Russia’s top negotiator says the corridors are expected to start functioning Tuesday.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said without elaboration Monday that “there were some small positive shifts regarding logistics of humanitarian corridors” to allow civilians to flee some besieged Ukrainian cities. He said that consultations will continue on ways to negotiate an end to hostilities.
Russia’s top negotiator Vladimir Medinsky, said he expects that humanitarian corridors in Ukraine will finally start functioning Tuesday. He said no progress has been made on a political settlement, but voiced hope that the next round could be more productive.
“Our expectations from the talks have failed, but we hope that we would be able to make a more significant step forward next time,” Medinsky said. “The talks will continue.”
Efforts to set up safe passage for civilians over the weekend fell apart amid continued shelling. But the Russian Defense Ministry announced a new push Monday, saying civilians would be allowed to leave the capital of Kyiv, Mariupol and the cities of Kharkiv and Sumy.
MADRID — U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman says that getting military materiel for Ukrainians to fight a Russian invasion is set to become more difficult for the U.S. and its allies.
“I think that the international community has been tremendously responsive and have found ways to get the materiel in. That may become harder in the coming days, and we’ll have to find other ways to manage this,” Sherman said Monday during a visit to the Spanish capital for meetings with officials.
The Biden administration is considering how to fulfill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for warplanes, the official said, considering that Ukrainians would only be able to operate soviet-era warplanes provided by Poland.
“People are trying to see whether this is possible and doable,” she said, adding that the warplanes should not be regarded by Moscow as direct involvement in the conflict: “We would expect that this delivery would be seen as all the deliveries have been seen as a right for Ukraine to defend itself.”
Sherman met in Madrid with Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares and other officials. She arrived from Turkey and was on her way to Morocco, Algeria and Egypt for a week of intense diplomatic contacts amid the war in Ukraine.
PARIS — French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian criticized Russia’s offer of humanitarian corridors for Ukrainian civilians as a “trap” that could possibly lead to more bombing in Ukraine.
Le Drian referred to Russia’s tactic of bombing and then offering humanitarian corridors in the past, citing Aleppo in Syria and Grozny, in Chechnya. He said in such cases Russia’s proposal of establishing humanitarian corridors actually led to more bombings after negotiations failed.
“We must not fall into traps,” Le Drian said Monday in France’s southern city of Montpellier after a meeting of European ministers.
“I’m even wondering if in Russian military schools there are classes to explain: ‘bombing, corridor, negotiations, breach (of negotiations), we start it all again’. It’s quite tragic but unfortunately it sends shivers down your spine,” he said.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s capital Tirana on Monday named a street “Free Ukraine” to express solidarity with Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.
Tirana’s city hall council, or parliament, voted unanimously to rename a downtown street in the capital where the Ukrainian, Russian, Serbian and Kosovar embassies are located.
“The two conflicts: Serbia against Kosovo and Russian Against Ukraine are two marking points for the generations and memories of a modern Europe,” said Mayor Erion Veliaj.
Albania has joined the European Union in the hard-hitting sanctions against Russian top officials and institutions. Last week, Albania joined the United States in initiating a resolution at the United Nations Security Council denouncing the Russian invasion.
“We have always aligned on the fair and glorious side of the world’s history, like we did once with the Hebrews, yesterday with the Afghans and today with the Ukrainians,” said Veliaj, adding that 1,500 families have offered shelter for the Ukrainian refugees if they come to the country.
Albania was the only country during World War II to have more Jews in the end compared to the start offering them shelter from Nazi persecution. Last year, Albania was the first country to offer shelter to the Afghans fleeing their country after the Taliban regime came to power.
NEW YORK — All four of the so-called Big Four accounting firms are now cutting ties with Russia over its war in Ukraine.
Deloitte on Monday was the last of the four to say it will no longer operate in Russia, joining Ernst & Young, Pricewaterhousecoopers and KPMG in making similar announcements.
Deloitte said it is also cutting its ties to Russia-allied Belarus. The company said it is separating its global network of member firms from the firms based in Russia and Belarus.
Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen said in a statement “we know this is the right decision” but it will have an impact on Deloitte’s 3,000 employees in Russia and Belarus who “have no voice in the actions of their government.”
Pricewaterhousecoopers and KPMG announced they were pulling out of Russia on Sunday, and Ernst & Young earlier on Monday.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended his government’s treatment of Ukrainians fleeing war, after France accused U.K. authorities of “inhumane” behavior towards the refugees.
Johnson said Britain was being “very, very generous,” but would not have “a system where people can come into the U.K. without any checks or any controls at all.”
Britain says it expects to take in as many as 200,000 displaced Ukrainians. Very few have managed to reach Britain so far. The Home Office said “around 50” visas had been granted by Sunday.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Sunday that hundreds of Ukrainian refugees in the English Channel port of Calais had been turned away and told by British authorities that they must obtain visas at U.K. embassies in Paris or Brussels.
Calling that “a bit inhumane,” Darmanin urged Britain to “stop the technocratic nit-picking.”
U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel denied Britain was turning anyone away. The British government confirmed Monday that it did not have a visa center in Calais.
BUDAPEST – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban signed a decree on Monday allowing for NATO troops to station on Hungarian territory in response to the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
The government decree reaffirmed Orban’s earlier insistence that Hungary would not allow troops or lethal weapons to be delivered across its borders into Ukraine, but allowed for the transit of NATO forces across its territory into other NATO member countries.
Non-lethal aid, such as personal protective equipment, first aid and medical supplies and humanitarian materials, are permitted to cross into Ukraine from Hungary, according to the decree.
ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi said Russia appears determined to carry on with its war in Ukraine until it can install a government “friendly” to Moscow.
Draghi was asked by reporters in Brussels on Monday if he thought there was still room for diplomacy. “Look, up till now, (diplomacy) hasn’t yielded any fruits. Up till now, the determination of Russia is very clear,’ Draghi replied.
Russia will proceed until “the country has surrendered, (and it) probably installs a friendly government and defeats the resistance,’ the Italian leader said. “That’s what the facts demonstrate.”
BRUSSELS — European Commission spokesman for foreign affairs Peter Stano said the EU would like to see China play a mediation role and convince Russia to stop its war in Ukraine.
“China has the potential to reach out to Moscow because of their relationship obviously and we would like China to use its influence to press for a cease-fire and to make Russia to stop the brutal unprecedented shelling and killing of civilians in Ukraine.”
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