Russia’s war against Ukraine is threatening the global food supply and putting some of the world’s poorest countries at risk, the United Nations chief and the executive director of the World Food Program warned on Monday.
More than 40 African and least-developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and 18 of them import at least 50%, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters. These countries include Egypt, Congo, Burkina Faso, Leban, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, he said.
“All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe,” the secretary-general warned.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told The Associated Press during a visit to the Ukrainian city of Lviv that 50% of the grain the program buys to feed “the 125 million people we reach on any given day, week or month” comes from Ukraine, as does 20% of the world’s supply of corn.
“So (the war) is going to have a dynamic global catastrophic impact,” Beasley said.
Guterres announced an additional $40 million from the U.N.’s emergency fund to get critical supplies of food, water and medicine into Ukraine, where at least 1.9 million people are displaced.
JERUSALEM — Israel plans to set up a field hospital to provide medical treatment for refugees in western Ukraine, officials said Monday.
The project is spearheaded by the country’s foreign and health ministries, according to a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office. The hospital should be operational by next week, the foreign ministry said.
“It’s an initiative that not many countries can take upon themselves, and Israel has this ability and we are going forward,” Bennett said.
The Foreign Ministry said the hospital will operate for month, providing refugees with an emergency room, a delivery room, and other services.
It has dubbed the operation Kochav Meir — Hebrew for “Shining Star” — after the country’s first female prime minister, Golda Meir, who was born in Ukraine and founded the Foreign Ministry’s international development unit.
Israel has good relations with both Ukraine and Russia and has worked as an intermediary between the two countries since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. In recent days, however, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has become increasingly outspoken in his condemnations of Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor.
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says that President Vladimir Putin has had another call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to talk about Ukraine.
Bennett told Putin about his contacts with other heads of states, and Putin shared his assessments of talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives via video calls, the Kremlin said in a statement.
A senior Israeli official said Bennett’s conversation with Putin lasted 90 minutes, with discussions focusing on cease-fire talks and humanitarian issues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic matters.
Bennett has visited Moscow for talks and has had numerous phone calls with Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Western leaders as he seeks to mediate an end to the war in Ukraine.
Israel is one of the few countries to have good working relations with both Russia and Ukraine, though in recent days Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has become increasingly outspoken in his condemnations of Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor.
Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — The Russian military was largely stalled in its attempted advance in Ukraine on Monday and made little progress over the weekend, a senior U.S. defense official said.
The official also said the Russians have not taken total control of the airspace. The official said all of the Russian military forces that had been arrayed around the country are now inside, and that the Russians still retain about 90% of their combat capabilities. The official said there are no indications the Russians are trying to bring in reinforcements.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments.
The official also said the U.S. has not done any training of the Ukrainian military in the country since the Florida National Guard forces left as the war was beginning. And the official said a military training base the Russians hit in western Ukraine on Sunday close to the Polish border wasn’t being used as a shipment site for U.S. military supplies to Ukraine.
Associated Press National Security Reporter Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it will carry out strikes to knock out Ukrainian military industries.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that the Russian forces will “take measures to incapacitate enterprises of Ukraine’s military-industrial complex involved in production and maintenance and repair of weapons.”
He urged workers of those plants and residents of nearby areas to leave “potentially dangerous zones.”
Konashenkov’s statement came hours after Ukrainian authorities said two people were killed when the Russian forces struck the Antonov aircraft-making plant on the outskirts of Kyiv, sparking a large fire.
The Russian military also said that it will continue to target any foreign fighters who have come to Ukraine.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that the Russian forces will show “no mercy for mercenaries wherever they are in the territory of Ukraine.”
WASHINGTON — The White House is weighing the possibility of President Joe Biden traveling to Europe in the coming weeks for face-to-face talks with European leaders about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the deliberations.
The prospective trip is yet to be finalized. One possible destination for the meetings would be Brussels, which is the headquarters for NATO, one of the officials said Monday. Another official said the White House was looking at Biden visiting NATO headquarters on March 24, with other potential stops in Europe.
All of the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity as none was allowed to comment publicly.
Biden’s potential trip would follow Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the eastern flank NATO countries of Poland and Romania last week to discuss with leaders there the growing refugee crisis in eastern Europe sparked by the Russian invasion. The trip would underscore the Biden administration’s support for NATO allies. NBC News first reported that the discussions for a potential Biden trip are underway.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
KYIV, Ukraine — A Russian rocket attack on a television tower in the western village of Antopol on Monday morning killed nine people, according to the governor of the Rivne region. The village is only about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the border of NATO member Poland.
The attack came just a day after Russian missiles pounded a military training base in western Ukraine, close to the Polish border, killing 35 people. That attack raised fears that NATO could be drawn into direct conflict with Russia.
The base had served previously as a crucial hub for cooperation between Ukraine and NATO.
The senior U.S. defense official said the base was not being used at the time as a shipment site for U.S. military supplies to Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities also said two people died and seven were injured after Russian forces struck an airplane factory in the capital of Kyiv, and that two people were killed in the northern Obolonskyi district of the capital when Russian artillery fire hit a nine-story apartment building. They said a Russian airstrike in the capital’s downtown area Monday killed one person and wounded six others.
The United Nations has recorded at least 596 civilian deaths since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, though it believes the true toll is much higher.
ANKARA, Turkey — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says there can only be a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine and called on Russia to immediately stop its attacks on the country.
Scholz said Monday during a visit to Turkey that “with each day, with each bomb, Russia is moving further away from the international community.”
BELGRAA flight from Belgrade to Moscow turned back Monday following the second false bomb threat in four days, Serbian police said.
The Belgrade airport received an email saying that an explosive device had been planted on the AirSerbia flight to Moscow, police said in a statement. The same happened last Friday.
The plane was turned back shortly after takeoff, and after being checked by police, the alarm turned out to be false, the statement said.
Besides some Turkish carriers, Serbia’s national airline AirSerbia is the only airline in Europe still flying to and from Russia. Serbia, which formally seeks European Union membership but has maintained close relations with ally Russia, has refused to join an EU-imposed flight ban in response to the war in Ukraine.
MADRID — Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said Monday that he has asked his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to use Beijing’s influence over Moscow to end the war in Ukraine.
“We are at a historical moment that requires responsibility and vision of all world leaders,” Albares told Wang during a telephone conversation on Monday, according to a statement from the ministry.
It said that Albares condemned “the Russian aggression on Ukraine” by telling Wang that “Russia has undermined the foundations of peace and stability in Europe and threatens the international community.”
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says the war in Ukraine shows that those in power have not learned from the harsh lessons of previous wars over the past century.
The Vatican has responded to the Russian invasion by sending a cardinal to visit refugees. The cardinal visited last week with some of those who have taken refuge in Hungary. He is scheduled to visit with others in Slovakia on Wednesday before heading to Ukraine, the Holy See said.
In a speech at the Vatican on Monday, the pope said regional wars, especially that in Ukraine, demonstrate that “those who rule the destinies of peoples still haven’t absorbed the lessons of the tragedies of the 20th century.”
A day earlier, in his strongest condemnation yet of the war, the pontiff said no strategic reason could justify Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
PRISTINA, Kosovo — A European Union mission that helps maintain security and enforce the rule of law in Kosovo is beefing up its police forces in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, officials said Monday.
A reserve unit of 92 members of the European Gendarmerie Force from Portugal, France and Italy will temporarily deploy to Kosovo in the coming weeks, EULEX said in a statement. An advance team was expected to arrive Monday.
In terms of providing security and enforcing the rule of law, EULEX’s police represent a second line of defense after Kosovo police. The NATO-led KFOR serves as a third line of defense.
“Russia’s invasion in Ukraine puts everything in a different light,” said EULEX spokesperson Ioanna Lachana. Lachana added that the “security situation in Kosovo remains stable.”
The 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, then a Serbian province, ended after a NATO military intervention that forced Serbia to withdraw its forces. The United Nations administered the territory for nine years before Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a move that Serbia doesn’t recognize.
UNITED NATIONS — Poland’s foreign minister is accusing Russia of “state terrorism” for targeting civilians, schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure “in an attempt to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people.”
Zbigniew Rau told the U.N. Security Council Monday that Russia’s “unprovoked, unjustified and premeditated aggression” against Ukraine was “poorly prepared and executed (and) turned out to be a strategic and tactical failure.”
“But instead of preventing further unnecessary deaths in its own ranks, the Kremlin changed its tactics,” he said. “The invading force started to target the civilian population and infrastructure” in violation of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law to try to break the Ukrainian resistance.
Rau addressed the Security Council’s annual meeting with the Organization for Security and Cooperation as the OSCE’s rotating chair.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — The European Union’s foreign policy chief says the 27-country bloc is finalizing its new round of sanctions against Russia for its “barbaric” invasion of Ukraine.
Josep Borrell said Monday that the fourth package of coercive measures would target Russia’s market access, membership in international financial institutions, and steel and energy sectors.
“We are listing more companies and individuals playing an active role in supporting the people who undermine Ukrainian sovereignty,” Borrell said, after talks in Skopje on Monday with North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski. “This would be another major blow (to the) economic and logistic base upon which the Kremlin is building the invasion.”
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said talks with Russia concluded for the day Monday but will resume on Tuesday.
The negotiations, which took place by video conference, were the fourth round involving higher-level officials from the two countries and the first held in a week. Previous discussions, held in person in Belarus, did not produce lasting humanitarian routes or agreements to end the fighting in Ukraine.
“A technical pause has been taken in the negotiations until tomorrow,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter. “Negotiations continue.”
He said earlier that “communication is being held, yet it’s hard.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A planned NATO exercise with about 30,000 troops from more than 25 countries from Europe and North America began in northern Norway on Monday.
NATO said that the drill, named Cold Response that includes 200 aircraft and 50 vessels, was “not linked to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”
The drill in NATO-member Norway, which shares a nearly 200-kilometer (124-mile) land border with Russia, will be held just a few hundred kilometers from the Russian border and was planned long before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will deliver an address via video to the U.S. Congress as the Russian war on his country intensifies.
Zelenskyy will speak on Wednesday to members of the House and Senate, the Democratic leaders announced.
“The Congress, our country and the world are in awe of the people of Ukraine,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement Monday.
ongress recently approved $13.6 billion in emergency military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
“We look forward to the privilege of welcoming President Zelenskyy’s address to the House and Senate and to convey our support to the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend democracy,” the leaders said.
MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday denied media reports alleging that Russia asked China for military assistance to help advance its offensive in Ukraine.
“No, Russia has its own potential to continue the operation, which, as we have said, is unfolding in accordance with the plan and will be completed on time and in full,” Peskov told his daily conference call with reporters.
Peskov also stressed that the operation in Ukraine was going as planned and that the Russian military were ensuring “the maximum security of the civilian population.”
He said that at the “beginning of the operation” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the military to refrain from “the immediate storming” of large cities including Kyiv because “armed nationalist formations set up firing points, place heavy military equipment directly in residential areas, and fighting in densely populated areas will inevitably lead to multiple casualties among civilians.”
He added that “at the same time, the Defense Ministry, while ensuring the maximum security of the civilian population, does not rule out the possibility of taking full control of large settlements that are now practically surrounded, expect for areas used for humanitarian evacuation.”
MOSCOW — The Russian military says that 20 civilians have been killed by a ballistic missile launched by the Ukrainian forces.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that the Soviet-made Tochka-U missile on Monday hit the central part of the eastern city of Donetsk, the center of the separatist Donetsk region.
He said that another 28 civilians, including children, were seriously wounded by the missile that carried shrapnel warhead.
Konashenkov said the missile was fired from an area northwest of Donetsk controlled by Ukrainian forces. He charged that the shelling of the area of Donetsk that has no military facilities represented a war crime.
Konashenkov’s claim couldn’t be independently verified.
WARSAW, Poland — Activists in Poland have been blocking Russian and Belarusian trucks in an effort to prevent them from crossing the Belarusian border with medicines, food and spare parts for the Russian military.
Belarus is allied with Russia. Activists fear that the goods will help reinforce the Russian military as it intensifies its war against Ukraine.
Tomasz Grodzki, the speaker of the opposition-controlled Senate, criticized Poland’s right-wing government for allowing the trucks to continue to cross Poland into Belarus.
“I am disgusted by the lack of sanctions by our government,” Grodzki said, in comments carried by the Polish news agency PAP on Monday.
However, a ruling party spokesman, Radoslaw Fogiel, said Poland was expecting the European Union to close off the transport to Russia and Belarus.
LVIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian state power company says the power line supplying the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster has been damaged by Russian forces again after it was repaired.
The Ukrenergo company said in a statement Monday that its technicians had started to supply power Sunday evening but “before the power supply was fully restored, the occupying forces damaged it again.” Ukrenergo said it will attempt another repair.
The power is used to feed pumps and other equipment which keep spent nuclear fuel at the former power plant cool to prevent radiation leaks.
The Chernobyl site is also equipped with diesel generators, and Belarusian authorities said last week that they had set up an emergency power supply from the nearby border.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has played down concerns over the safety of nuclear waste at Chernobyl, saying that cooling ponds there are large enough to keep the spent fuel in a safe condition even if the power supply is interrupted.