LVIV, Ukraine — Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have fired at eight cities and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, using aviation, rocket and heavy artillery.
Ukraine’s National Police said in a statement on Telegram Saturday that at least 37 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities were damaged; dozens of civilians were killed and injured as a result of the attacks. The Russian military were firing at Mariupol, Avdiivka, Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, Novoselydivka, Verkhnotoretske, Krymka, and Stepne.
The statement said that “among the civilian objects that Russia destroyed are multistory and private houses, a school, a kindergarten, a museum, a shopping center and administrative buildings.”
Kyiv northwestern suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun have also been under fire on Saturday. The Kyiv regional administration reported that the city of Slavutich north of the capital was “completely isolated,” and that Russian military equipment was spotted in the region northeast and east of Kyiv.
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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Putin rallies behind troops while lethal fire rains down
— President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke as the White House looks to deter Beijing from providing assistance to Russia.
— Ukraine’s cultural capital no longer distant from the war
— Minister: Clearing live ordnance in Ukraine will take years
— An estimated 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, on top of the 3.2 million who have already fled the country
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS TODAY:
LVIV, Ukraine — The office of the Prosecutor General in Ukraine has accused Russian security and military forces of kidnapping a Ukrainian journalist covering the Russian offensive in the east and the south of Ukraine.
In a Facebook statement Saturday, the Prosecutor General’s office alleged that Russia’s Federal Security Service, or the FSB, and the Russian military abducted the journalist of Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske on Tuesday in Berdyansk, an occupied port city in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region. The statement didn’t identify the journalist, but went on to say that the reporter’s whereabouts are currently unknown and a criminal investigation has been launched.
Hromadske on Friday tweeted that they lost contact with reporter Victoria Roshchyna last week.
“As we learned from witnesses, at that time the journalist was in the temporarily occupied Berdyansk. On March 16, we learned that the day before (probably March 15), Victoria Roshchyna was detained by the Russian FSB. Currently, we do not know where she is,” the outlet tweeted.
The FSB and the Russian military haven’t yet commented on the allegations.
BEIJING —China’s vice foreign minister reiterated blame against NATO for the war in Ukraine and criticized sanctions against Russia in a speech delivered at a conference in Beijing Saturday.
Le Yucheng said NATO was a “Cold War vestige” and that its expansion could result in “repercussions too dreadful to contemplate” from a major power like Russia.
His comments come after the U.S. President and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a conversation about the war Friday.
China has consistently blamed the security bloc, led by the U.S., as pushing things to a crisis point between Russia and Ukraine.
Le went on also to criticize the economic sanctions against Russia.
“Sanctions against Russia are now going to such lengths that globalization is used as a weapon, even people from the sports, cultural, art and entertainment communities are not spared,” Le said.
China’s government tried to distance itself from Russia’s offensive, but has avoided the criticism many other nations have leveled at Moscow, and continues refrain from calling it an invasion.
LONDON — Former British Prime Minister David Cameron is helping to drive a truckload of supplies for Ukrainian refugees to Poland.
Cameron, who led the U.K. between 2010 and 2016, tweeted a photo of himself behind the wheel of a truck along with the hashtag #standwithukraine. He said it was carrying “everything from nappies (diapers) to sanitary products, warm clothes to first-aid kits.”
The trip is organized by Chippy Larder, a food bank in Cameron’s home town of Chipping Norton in southern England.
Cameron tweeted a video Saturday shot from the truck as it drove, and said he and two colleagues would be “heading into Poland” to give the supplies to the Red Cross.
Earlier this week, Cameron called for more humanitarian help to be given to Ukraine. He said Britain should restore its international aid budget to g 0.7% of gross national income, after it was cut to 0.5% during the coronavirus pandemic.
LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using talks with Ukraine as a “smokescreen” while he ramps up violence against the country.
Liz Truss told the Times of London newspaper that she was “very skeptical” about Russia’s seriousness in the talks, accusing Russian forces of trying to create space to regroup and unblock their stalled campaign.
She said that “we don’t see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table” and said Russia would resort to “worse and worse” violence as its military campaign falters.
The head of Britain’s defense intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull, says Russian forces have shifted to a “strategy of attrition” after failing to take major Ukrainian cities during the three-week invasion.
BERLIN — Germany’s federal police has registered more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees in the country since the outbreak of the war more than three weeks ago.
The country’s interior ministry said 207,747 Ukrainian refugees had arrived as of Saturday. However, the real number of Ukrainian refugees in Germany is expected to be much higher.
Ukrainians don’t need a visa to come to Germany, and federal police only register refugees entering Germany by train or bus. There are not thorough border controls inside the European Union’s internal borders, so Ukrainians coming to Germany from Poland by car are normally not registered. Those who stay with family and friends in Germany are also not counted unless they apply for financial aid from German authorities.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has ruled out providing military aid to Ukraine but says his country, a NATO ally, will continue to provide humanitarian assistance.
“Being so close to the conflict, right now I have to say that currently we will not be able to send military assistance to Ukraine. This will not be possible,” Petkov said Saturday at a news conference in the Bulgarian capital with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Bulgaria, which does not border Ukraine but has received thousands of refugees, has agreed to host a new contingent of NATO troops as part of the alliance’s push to reinforce its eastern flank. That contingent includes about 150 U.S. Army infantry soldiers.
LVIV, Ukraine — Zaporizhzhia regional governor Oleksandr Starukh has announced a 38-hour curfew in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, to last from 4 p.m. local time on Saturday until 6 a.m. on Monday.
Starukh said on Telegram on Saturday: “For your safety, do not go out into the streets and other public places during this time.”
Two missile strikes on the suburbs of Zaporizhzhia killed nine people on Friday, wounded 17 more and left five others with injuries, a spokesman of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration Ivan Arefiev reported Saturday.
Local authorities continue to evacuate people from settlements taken over by the Russians and deliver humanitarian aid to them, he said.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced Saturday that 10 humanitarian corridors have been agreed on with the Russians.
They include a corridor from the besieged port city of Mariupol, several in the Kyiv region and several in the Luhansk region.
She also announced plans to deliver humanitarian aid to the city of Kherson, which is currently under control of the Russian forces.
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces are blockading the largest cities with the goal of creating such miserable conditions that Ukrainians will cooperate. He said the Russians are preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in central and southeastern Ukraine.
Satellite images on Friday from Maxar Technologies showed a long line of cars leaving Mariupol as people tried to evacuate. Zelenskyy said more than 9,000 people were able to leave the city in the past day.
The Russian military says it used its latest hypersonic missile, Kinzhal, for the first time in combat during its offensive in Ukraine.
Spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the hypersonic missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing missiles and aviation ammunition of Ukrainian troops in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
Konashenkov also said that the Russian forces used the anti-ship missile system Bastion to strike Ukrainian military facilities near the Black Sea port of Odesa. Russia first used the weapon during its military campaign in Syria in 2016.
OSLO, Norway — The prime minister of Norway says four U.S. service members have died in a plane crash during NATO drills.
Jonas Gahr Støre tweeted that the service members were participating in the NATO exercise “Cold Response,” which is taking place in northern Norway.
He wrote: “Our deepest sympathies go to the soldiers’ families, relatives and fellow soldiers in their unit.”
The annual drills in Norway are unrelated to the war in Ukraine. This year they included around 30,000 troops, 220 aircraft and 50 vessels from 27 countries. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden are also participating.
The exercises began on March 14 and end on April 1.
According to the Norwegian police, the American V-22B Osprey aircraft that crashed belonged to the U.S. Marine Corps.
The aircraft had a crew of four and was out on a training mission in Nordland County on Friday. It was on its way north to Bodø, where it was scheduled to land just before 6 p.m. Friday.
The plane crashed in Gråtådalen in Beiarn, south of Bodø. Police said a search and rescue mission was launched immediately. At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the police arrived at the scene and confirmed that the crew of four had died.
LVIV, Ukraine — The Prosecutor General’s office in Ukraine says a total of 112 children have died in the country since the start of the Russian invasion.
The office says more than 140 children have been wounded since Feb. 24.
According to the U.N. children’s agency, more than 1.5 million children had fled Ukraine.
Most families have fled to Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania.
UNCIEF says women and girls travelling on their own are especially at risk of gender-based violence.
LVIV, Ukraine — In the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting for the Azovstal steel plant, one of the biggest in Europe, said Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, in televised remarks on Saturday.
“Now there is a fight for Azovstal. … I can say that we have lost this economic giant. In fact, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed,” Denysenko said.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces are blockading Ukraine’s largest cities to create a “humanitarian catastrophe” with the aim of persuading Ukrainians to cooperate with them.
He says Russians are preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in the center and southeast of the country.
“This is a totally deliberate tactic,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation, filmed outside in Kyiv, with the presidential office in the lamplight behind him.
He said more than 9,000 people were able to leave besieged Mariupol in the past day, and in all more than 180,000 people have been able to flee to safety through humanitarian corridors.
He again appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold talks with him directly. “It’s time to meet, time to speak,” he said. “I want to be heard by everyone, especially in Moscow.”
He noted that the 200,000 people Putin gathered in and around a Moscow stadium on Friday for a flag-waving rally was about the same number of Russian troops sent into Ukraine three weeks ago.
Zelenskyy then asked his audience to picture the stadium filled with the thousands of Russians who have been killed, wounded or maimed in the fighting.
NEW YORK — Three Russian cosmonauts have arrived at the International Space Station wearing flight suits in yellow and blue colors that match the Ukrainian flag.
The men were the first new arrivals on the space station since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine last month.
Video of one of the cosmonauts taken as the capsule prepared to dock with the space station showed him wearing a blue flight suit. It was unclear what, if any, message the yellow uniforms they changed into were intended to send.
Oleg Artemyev was asked about the yellow flight suits when the newly arrived cosmonauts were able to talk to family back on Earth.
He said every crew chooses its own flight suits, so that they are not all the same.
“It became our turn to pick a color. But in fact, we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. So that’s why we had to wear yellow,” he said.
Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov blasted off successfully from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft at 8:55 p.m. Friday (11:55 a.m. EDT). They smoothly docked at the station just over three hours later, joining two Russians, four Americans and a German on the orbiting outpost.
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