CANBERRA, Australia — The first of 20 Bushmaster armored vehicles has left Australia for Ukraine, one week after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy specifically requested the Australian-manufactured four-wheel drives.
A Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport jet that can carry four Bushmasters left the east coast city of Brisbane for Europe on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
The 20 Bushmasters cost 50 million in Australian dollars, which is $37 million in U.S. dollars.
The vehicles are in addition to $116 million in Australian dollars ($87 million in U.S. dollars) in military and humanitarian aid previously committed to Ukraine.
Zelenskyy requested Bushmasters when he made a video address to the Australian Parliament on March 31.
“And as soon as he asked, we said yes,” Morrison said.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
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— Ukraine girds for renewed Russian offensive on eastern front
— Congress votes to suspend Russia trade status, enact oil ban
— Ukraine appeals to NATO for more weapons
— Russia is moving troops and focus toward the east, but that strategy carries risks as well
— U.N. General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from UN rights council
— Ukrainian refugees find quickest route into US goes through Mexico
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— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday announced it is levying sanctions against Russia’s largest military shipbuilding and diamond mining companies.
The move blocks their access to the U.S. financial system as the United States looks to exact more economic pain on President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.
Alrosa is the world’s largest diamond mining company and accounts for about 90% of Russia’s diamond mining capacity, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Alrosa generated over $4.2 billion in revenue in 2021. Diamonds are one of Russia’s top 10 non-energy exports by value.
The State Department also said it was blacklisting the United Shipbuilding Corporation, as well as its subsidiaries and board members.
The moves against the two-state owned companies come a day after the U.S. announced it was targeting the two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin, two of Russia’s largest banks and banning new American investment in Russia.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday night that work has begun to dig through the rubble in Borodianka, another city northwest of Kyiv that was occupied by the Russians.
He also said “it is much scarier” there, with even more victims of the Russian troops.
In his daily nighttime video address to the nation Thursday, Zelenskyy said the Russians were preparing to shock the world in the same way by showing corpses in Mariupol and falsely claiming they were killed by the Ukrainian defenders.
Meanwhile, Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said Thursday on Ukrainian television that investigators have found at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians during the Russian occupation.
Fedoruk said hundreds have been killed and investigators are finding bodies in yards, parks and city squares.
PHOENIX — A Ukrainian diplomat pleaded for the United States to send weapons to his beleaguered nation in a speech to the Arizona Legislature on Thursday.
Dmytro Kushneruk, Ukraine’s consul general in San Francisco, told Arizona lawmakers that Ukraine needs three things to repel Russian invaders and prevent more civilian deaths — “weapons, weapons and weapons.”
Kushneruk said it’s a “war for the soul of humanity” and time is of the essence as Russia regroups for an expected offensive on the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine.
According to Kushneruk, prompt American help will save civilian lives and he pleaded for people not to look away even as the war drags on.
Kushneruk said Ukraine needs planes, anti-aircraft systems, heavy artillery, tanks, rockets systems and long-range missiles that can target Russian ships in the Black Sea.
The speech continued the outreach by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government to political and cultural institutions around the world.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden calls the United Nations vote Thursday to suspend Russia from the body’s Human Rights Council “a meaningful step by the international community.”
He also said that it further demonstrates how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war “has made Russia an international pariah.”
The U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the U.N.’s leading human rights body over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
The vote on Thursday was 93-24 with 58 abstentions
The United States and Ukraine have called Russia’s alleged rights violations tantamount to war crimes.
In a statement, Biden said the images out of Bucha and other areas of Ukraine as Russian troops withdraw are “horrifying” and “an outrage to our common humanity.”
BRUSSELS — European Council president Charles Michel says the bloc’s top diplomat has proposed adding an additional 500 million euros ($544 million) to Ukraine under the “European Peace Facility,” the fund which has been used for the first time during the war to deliver defensive lethal weapons to a third country.
The EU has previously agreed to spend 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) on military supplies for Ukrainian forces in an unprecedented step of collectively supplying weapons to a country under attack.
EU countries and NATO have so far excluded the option of a direct military intervention in Ukraine.
“Once swiftly approved this will bring to 1.5 billion the EU support already provided for military equipment for Ukraine,” Michel said in a message posted on Twitter in which he thanked EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.
The proposal needs to be approved by the 27 EU countries. The EU said th
e instrument should help Ukraine armed forces “defend the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” and protect the civilian population.
The World Health Organization has verified more than 100 “attacks on health care” in Ukraine since the country was first invaded more than a month ago, the organization’s top official said Thursday.
At least 103 attacks on hospitals and other health-care facilities in the country, and at least 73 were killed and 51 injured in those incidents, said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking at a news conference in Washington, D.C.
The toll includes medical workers as well as patients, he said.
He praised the United States for supporting international health efforts in Ukraine, including the delivery of more 180 metric tons of medical supplies to hard-hit areas. “We are outraged that attacks on health care (in Ukraine) continue,” he said.
BRUSSELS — European Union nations have approved new sanctions against Russia, including an EU embargo on coal imports in the wake of evidence of torture and killings emerging from war zones outside Kyiv.
The ban on coal imports will be the first EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine, said an official on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not yet been made.
The EU ban on coal is estimated to be worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year. In the meantime, the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.
— Reported by Raf Casert.
PARIS — The International Energy Agency says its member countries are releasing 60 million barrels of oil from their emergency reserves on top of previous U.S. pledges to take aim at energy prices that have soared since Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Paris-based organization said Thursday that the new commitments made by its 31 member nations, which include the United States and much of Europe, amount to a total of 120 million barrels over six months. It’s the largest release in the group’s history.
Half of that will come from the U.S. as part of the larger release from its strategic petroleum reserve that President Joe Biden announced last week.
The IEA agreed last Friday to add to the amount of oil hitting the global market. It comes on top of the 62.7 million barrels that the agency’s members said they would release last month to ease shortages.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Congress has overwhelmingly voted to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and ban the importation of its oil, ratcheting up the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amid reports of atrocities.
House action came Thursday after the Senate approved the two bills and the measures now go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Biden has already taken executive action to ban Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal to the United States. The legislation puts the effort into law.
The bill to end normal trade relations with Russia paves the way for Biden to enact higher tariffs on various imports, such as certain steel and aluminum products, further weakening the Russian economy under President Vladimir Putin. It also ensures Belarus receives less favorable tariff treatment.
The bills also provide the president with the authority to return normal tariff treatment for Russia as well as resume trade in Russian energy products subject to certain conditions.
LONDON – Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson have discussed the need for ending imports of energy sources from Russia as a form of tough sanctions on Moscow for its brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Following his talks with Johnson Thursday, Duda said they also analyzed a proposal for Europe to levy additional taxes on Russian gas, oil and coal until the imports are ended.
The U.K. said it will stop importing Russian coal and oil by the end of this year and gas imports will cease soon after. Poland is to end Russian coal imports by May, gas by the year’s end and oil in 2023, possibly.
“Russia is not a credible partner and we should not assume that it will ever be,” Duda told reporters.
NICOSIA, Cyprus – Ukraine’s president has asked Cypriot lawmakers to ratchet up pressure on Russia by shutting Cypriot ports to all Russian ships, and to stop granting Russian businessmen conveniences including Cypriot citizenship.
Addressing the Cypriot Parliament Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the east Mediterranean island nation for its humanitarian and financial aid and spoke of the destruction and death the Russian invasion has wrought. He warned that the killings of civilians that happened in the town of Bucha may be happening elsewhere.
Zelenskyy also pleaded for backing from Cyprus in Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union. He said EU membership for Ukraine would help strengthen the 27-member bloc.
STOCKHOLM — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has urged European Union members to stay together and not decide unilaterally on imposing sanctions against Russia.
“We have been successful by being together. My plea is that we move forward together,” von der Leyen said during a visit to Stockholm where she met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
The EU chief on Friday will travel to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On Saturday, she attends a pledging event in favor of Ukraine in Warsaw, Poland.
PODGORICA, Montenegro — NATO-member Montenegro is joining a number of countries that expelled Russian diplomats over the past week.
The foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that the four diplomats have a week to leave the small Balkan nation.
The decision is based on information provided by security authorities about the diplomats’ activities in Montenegro, the ministry said. No other details were immediately available.
Montenegro last month expelled another Russian diplomat. Local media said at the time that he was believed to be an intelligence officer.
Montenegro is not a member of the European Union but has joined Western sanctions against Moscow.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly has voted to suspend Russia from the U.N.’s leading human rights body over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, which the United States and Ukraine have called tantamount to war crimes.
Russia is the second country to have its membership rights stripped at the Human Rights Council, which was established in 2006. In 2011, the assembly suspended Libya when upheaval in the North African country brought down longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.
The vote on Thursday was 93-24 with 58 abstenti
ons. That is significantly lower than votes on two resolutions the assembly adopted last month demanding an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, withdrawal of all Russian troops and protection for civilians. Both resolutions were approved by at least 140 nations.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield launched the campaign to suspend Russia from its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council in the wake of videos and photos of streets in the Ukrainian town of Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians after Russian soldiers retreated. The deaths have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions on Russia, which has denied its troops were responsible.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. moved Thursday to choke off U.S. exports to three Russian airlines as part of what officials described as an unprecedented enforcement action.
The Commerce Department said the move would prevent the Russian national flag carrier Aeroflot, Utair and Azur Air from receiving items from the U.S., including parts to service their aircraft.
The actions, known as temporary denial orders, do allow the Commerce Department to grant exceptions when the safety of a flight would be at risk. The orders extend for 180 days, though they can be renewed.
The private sector has also taken its own action against Russian airlines in response to the war against Ukraine, with Delta Air Lines in February suspending its codesharing partnership with Russian national airline Aeroflot.
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday announced plans to build more nuclear power plants, boost renewable energy production and further tap domestic oil and gas reserves to help the U.K. reduce its dependence on Russian energy following the invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson announced the strategy three weeks after he said Western countries had made a “terrible mistake” in failing to wean themselves off Russian energy following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
The goal is to build eight new nuclear reactors by 2050, tripling U.K. production of nuclear energy to 24 gigawatts, or a quarter of projected electricity demand.
In addition, the strategy targets a 10-fold increase in production of electricity from offshore wind farms and an unspecified boost from onshore wind farms in a “limited number of supportive communities.”
The government also announced a new round of licensing for oil and gas projects in the North Sea, saying these fuels would be key to U.K. energy security and as a transition to low-carbon renewable energy. Other elements include promoting solar power and increasing hydrogen production for use in fuel cells.
WARSAW, Poland – A surgeon in Poland says a seriously wounded 13-year-old boy from Ukraine will require long, specialized treatment for the injuries he suffered in the early days of Russia’s invasion.
Pediatric surgeon Professor Jan Godzinski, of the T. Marciniak hospital in Wroclaw said Thursday that a detailed diagnostic scan has been performed on the “very serious” injuries that Volodymyr, or Vova, has suffered to his back, spine and facial nerves.
Vova was injured and his father was killed in late February when the car in which the family were trying to flee Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv was shelled by Russian forces. Doctors in Kyiv were able to save his life, and he was later transferred to Lviv, but he is now in a wheelchair due to the spine injuries and one side of his face is paralyzed.
Some shrapnel particles in his body still need to be removed, Godzinski said.
“What moved me most was that he smiled when we told him we will be able to help him,” Godzinski said on Poland’s private TVN24.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is calling for his country to be included in negotiations about ending the war in Ukraine.
“There can be no negotiations without the participation of Belarus,” Lukashenko said at a meeting Thursday of his national security council. “There can be no separate agreements behind the back of Belarus.”
Russia has launched missile attacks on Ukraine from Belarus and Russian troops invaded Ukraine from Belarus. There has been no confirmation of claims that Belarusian forces entered Ukraine.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says scenes that have emerged from the Ukrainian town of Bucha, which was recaptured from Russian forces, have “cast a shadow” over negotiations between Russia and Ukraine but says the sides must continue to talk under all circumstances.
Speaking after a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting on Thursday, Cavusoglu said he told his Ukrainian counterpart that Turkey was prepared to host possible peace talks.
“The only way is diplomacy,” he told Turkish journalists in Brussels.
Turkey, which has maintained its close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, has hosted a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers as well as talks between the two negotiating teams.
The minister said Turkey was also talking with both Russia and Ukraine about the possible evacuation of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol by sea.
BRUSSELS — Ukraine’s foreign minister says he’s cautiously optimistic that some NATO member countries will increase their weapons supplies to his country, helping it resist Russia’s invasion, but he urged swift decisions and action.
Speaking Thursday after talks in Brussels with NATO foreign ministers, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba declined to say which countries would be providing equipment or what kind they would be, but he said the weapons must get to Ukraine quickly as Russia gears up for a new offensive in the eastern Donbas region.
Kuleba said: “Either you help us now, and I’m speaking about days, not weeks, or your help will come too late.”
HELSINKI — Finland and Estonia say they are jointly planning to rent a floating liquefied natural gas, or LNG, terminal to ensure gas supply in the two countries in efforts to break energy dependence on neighboring Russia.
Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintila and his Estonian counterpart Taavi Aas said in a statement Thursday that a movable off-shore LNG terminal would offer a quick solution in guaranteeing gas supply in the two European Union members separated by the Baltic Sea.
“Due to the war in Ukraine, we must prepare for possible interruptions of gas import” through pipelines from Russia, Lintila said, adding that a floating LNG terminal “is an efficient way to secure gas supply, including in industry.
BRUSSELS — The Group of Seven major world powers are warning Russia they will keep ramping up sanctions until its troops leave Ukraine and that those responsible for alleged war crimes will be prosecuted.
G7 foreign ministers vowed Thursday to “sustain and increase pressure on Russia by imposing coordinated additional res
trictive measures to effectively thwart Russian abilities to continue the aggression against Ukraine.”
Western nations have already slapped several rounds of sanctions on Russia, including on President Vladimir Putin, his family and associates, but have been reluctant to hit the country’s energy sector.
The G7 ministers, meeting on the sidelines of NATO talks in Brussels, say they “are taking further steps to expedite plans to reduce our reliance on Russian energy, and will work together to this end.”
Following allegations this week of war crimes in the city of Bucha, the ministers insist that “those responsible for these heinous acts and atrocities, including any attacks targeting civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure, will be held accountable and prosecuted.”
They also repeated warnings about the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, saying that “any use by Russia of such a weapon would be unacceptable and result in severe consequences.”
MOSCOW — Russia’s top diplomat has accused Ukraine of derailing talks with Moscow by changing its negotiating stance.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Ukraine had walked back its proposal that international guarantees of its security don’t apply to Crimea.
Russian annexed the Black Sea peninsula in 2014 and wants Ukraine to acknowledge Moscow’s sovereignty over it.
Lavrov also accused Ukraine of modifying a provision in a draft deal it had submitted earlier that said that military drills on Ukrainian territory could be organized with the consent of all guarantor countries, including Russia.
Lavrov added that Russia intends to continue the talks despite the Ukrainian “provocations.”
There was no immediate response to his claims from the Ukrainian government.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia intends to respond to U.S. sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s daughters as it sees fit.
“Russia will definitely respond, and will do it as it sees fit,” Peskov said Thursday.
The U.S. on Wednesday announced that it is sanctioning Putin’s two adult daughters as part of a new batch of penalties on the country’s political and economic systems in retaliation for its alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
Peskov told a conference call with reporters that the sanctions “add to a completely frantic line of various restrictions” and the fact that the restrictions target family members “speaks for itself.”
ATHENS, Greece — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country needs anti-aircraft defense systems, artillery systems, munitions and armored vehicles to hold Russia’s invasion at bay.
“The sooner Ukraine receives this help, the more lives we can save in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in an address to Greek parliament Thursday.
Zelenskyy emphasized the destruction wrought on the southern port city of Mariupol, home to a sizeable Greek-Ukrainian community, and urged Greece to help prevent the same fate befalling Odesa, another Ukrainian port city with deep ties to Greece.
The Ukrainian president called for sanctions on all Russian banks and a ban on Russian ships from entering ports as a way of hindering Russia’s ability to finance the war.
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