The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
MOSCOW — The spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry says 498 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine and 1,597 more sustained wounds.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday rejected reports about “incalculable losses” of the Russians as “disinformation” and revealed Russia’s military casualties in Ukraine for the first time since the start of the invasion last Thursday. He assured that families of those killed are receiving all necessary assistance.
Konashenkov also said that neither conscripts, nor cadets have been involved in the operation in Ukraine, dismissing media reports alleging otherwise.
Konashenkov also said more than 2,870 Ukrainian troops have been killed and some 3,700 more sustained injuries, while 572 others have been captured by the Russians. Ukrainian officials have not yet commented on the claim and it could not be immediately verified.
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PARIS — France’s National Center for Scientific Research, a huge state-run network of scientists across the country, is suspending all new collaboration with Russian counterparts.
In its announcement Wednesday, the CNRS, as it is known, strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It is unacceptable that in the 21st century such a conflict could see the light of day within Europe,” a statement said.
It acknowledged that its own move was exceptional because “science has no borders,” but added that shared scientific values “cannot tolerate this war.”
The CNRS praised the courage of “several hundred” Russian scientists who have spoken out against their country’s aggression. It assured that Russian scientists currently working in its labs can continue their activities.
The CNRS said it is ready to take in Ukrainian researchers under the Pause program which provides emergency funds from the Ministry of Higher Education to help Ukrainian scientists in danger.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria’s foreign ministry says two Russian diplomats accused of spying by Bulgarian prosecutors will be expelled from the country.
An official note in which Bulgaria declares the two diplomats “persona non grata” was handed to the Russian Embassy. They have been given 48 hours to leave the country.
Earlier on Wednesday, the prosecution announced that a pre-trial investigation established that they allegedly had carried out “unregulated intelligence activities, incompatible with their diplomatic status.” It added that the suspects could not be charged with espionage because of their diplomatic immunity.
The prosecution said also a Bulgarian army retired general has been taken into custody and faces charges of espionage. He is accused that as a Defense Ministry employee he had passed NATO-related classified information to Russian diplomats.
Bulgaria, Moscow’s closest ally during the Cold War, has expelled nine Russian diplomats for suspected spying over the last couple of years.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday to demand that Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all troops, with nations from world powers to tiny island states condemning Moscow’s actions.
The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions. It came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997.
Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion. A Russian veto sank a similar resolution in the more powerful U.N. Security Council on Friday, but the assembly allows no vetoes. Under special emergency session rules, a resolution needs approval of two-thirds of those countries voting, and abstentions don’t count.
More than 90 countries co-sponsored the assembly resolution. It deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine “in the strongest terms” and demanded an immediate halt to Moscow’s use of force and the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. The measure also called on Russia to reverse a decision to recognize two separatist parts of eastern Ukraine as independent.
GENEVA — A top Ukrainian diplomat received a standing ovation from diplomats after a heartfelt speech Wednesday to the U.N.’s top human rights body, calling on the Human Rights Council to help hold Russia’s government accountable by creating a panel of experts to scrutinize the invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking by video from Kyiv, Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of foreign affairs, described being awoken by the sound of an explosion on Feb. 24 as the invasion began. She said her government was “fully operational” and lashed out at “false claims” by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine was committing “genocide.”
“Do you know how Russia treats and deals with genocide in Ukraine? By airstrikes using cruise and operational tactical missiles, tanks and artillery, reconnaissance groups and sabotage groups,” she said. “Ukrainian babies are born in the bomb shelters in bunkers … As we speak here today, Russian armed forces keep attacking maternity wards, kindergartens, orphanages, hospitals.”
Dzhaparova noted an “urgent debate” at the council about the situation in Ukraine, calling for countries in the 47-member-state body’s to set up a Commission of Inquiry – the council’s most powerful tool to scrutinize human rights violations and abuses.
GORENKA, Ukraine — Amid the sounds of shelling, Ukrainian reservists — some wearing civilian clothes and carrying rifles — have set up checkpoints in the road to stop vehicles.
Andrey Goncharuk, 68, is a pensioner who said there might be good people among those invading Ukraine but that doesn’t matter to him because they weren’t invited.
“They have come to kill my people,” he said. He said he was prepared to take weapons from enemies killed in combat. “In my old age, I had to take up arms. I have this rifle. We will try to get (more) weapons even if they don’t bring them to us. We’ll do it ourselves. We’ll kill (the) enemy and take their weapons,” he said.
KHARKIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says the advance of Russian troops in Kharkiv has been stopped, but that Russians have responded by shelling the city with heavy rocket launchers and air attacks.
“Kharkiv today is the Stalingrad of the 21st century,” said Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said that over the past 24 hours 21 people were killed and at least 112 were injured by Russians.
Explosions on Wednesday thundered on Constitution Square, near the buildings of the City Council and the Palace of Labor. A missile attack also destroyed the building of the regional police department in Kharkiv and the university building, which is located across the street.
Arestovich said that several Russian planes were shot down over Kharkiv.
The Russians used Iskander missile systems to bombard Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv and Chernihiv.
Arestovich said Iskander missile systems can deviate from their target, making them “a danger to civilian objects.”
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accused President Vladimir Putin of committing war crimes in Ukraine.
Johnson told lawmakers on Wednesday: “What we have seen already from Vladimir Putin’s regime in the use of the munitions that they have already been dropping on innocent civilians, in my view, already fully qualifies as a war crime.”
When asked about Russian attacks on the Babi Yar holocaust memorial in Kyiv and targeting of apartment blocks, Johnson’s spokesman said that “no one can be in any doubt that what we’re seeing daily, almost hourly now, are horrific acts that would certainly appear to be war crimes.”
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday that he plans to open an investigation “as rapidly as possible” into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
BRUSSELS — The European Union has slapped 22 more Belarus officials with sanctions and is slated to impose additional sanctions on Russia’s ally for its involvement in the invasion of Ukraine.
The EU already punished 20 Belarus officials last week when it imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia itself. Now 22 more have been added.
The EU is set to expand economic sanctions either later Wednesday or Thursday.
The 27 nation bloc has sanctioned some 200 Belarus officials over the past years linked to what it saw were fraudulent elections to keep authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in office two years ago and added more sanctions last June when a passenger jet was diverted to arrest a dissident journalist.
WASHINGTON — Speaking outside the White House Wednesday, President Joe Biden said that it was up to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on whether he should leave Ukraine, and said it was a decision for NATO whether to keep troops permanently stationed in Poland and other nearby countries.
When asked whether he felt Russian President Vladimir Putin was committing war crimes he said: “We are following very closely,” but that the Russians were deliberately targeting civilian areas.
A devout Catholic, Biden had ashes on his forehead to mark Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. And he seconded Pope Francis’ calls for prays for Ukraine.
“I was with the Cardinal this morning — he came over to give me ashes and we both prayed for that, for the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department says it will crack down on Russian oligarchs and anyone else who violates the sweeping sanctions imposed by the Biden administration in response to the war against Ukraine.
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday announced the creation of Task Force KleptoCapture, a team of federal agents and prosecutors responsible for investigating and prosecuting any violations of new and future sanctions.
That includes seizing the assets belonging to oligarchs and others who violate the sanctions, and thwarting any efforts to use cryptocurrency to get around sanctions.
Garland said in a statement announcing the sanctions that the Justice Department “will leave no stone unturned” in investigating and prosecuting “those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war.”
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Three boys wounded by apparent Russian shelling while they were playing soccer Wednesday were rushed into a hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol.
One of the boys had lost his legs, and died soon after arrival, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. The other two were rushed into surgery and then intensive care.
The boys, all born in 2006, had been playing soccer and hanging out near School No. 29 in Mariupol when the shelling hit, family members told the AP. A woman with severe face injuries from the same strike was also brought to the hospital.
KYIV, Ukraine — In Kyiv’s northwestern outskirts, a bridge reduced to rubble led people to balance on narrow pipes to cross the fast-moving river below.
According to footage, a man carrying a rifle helped a smiling child cross. Others carried bags and used a rope to ford the river.
A woman carrying a cart across stopped to pat a dog on its head. Near the crossing point, a van had flipped upside down, its grill lodged in the river muck and debris.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says its first shipment of medical supplies for invasion-hit Ukraine will arrive in neighboring Poland on Thursday, calling for a humanitarian corridor to ease delivery in the face of a crisis with “ordinary civilians being broken” in the fighting.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the shipment includes 36 metric tons (40 U.S. tons) of supplies for trauma care and emergency surgery to help 1,000 patients as well as other supplies to meet the needs of 150,000 people.
He said WHO’s prepositioned supplies in the capital, Kyiv are currently unavailable. He did not elaborate, but the agency alluded to logistical problems amid the fighting after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.
“There is an urgent need to establish a corridor to ensure humanitarian workers and supplies have safe and continuous access to reach people in need,” Tedros said.
Dr. Jarno Habicht, WHO’s country representative in Ukraine, said it was “difficult to find drivers” to deploy supplies. The agency said some of the supplies include treatment for noncommunicable diseases, insulin, and hypertension medication, as well as things like tetanus antitoxin.
The WHO emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said other supplies included sutures, skin graft equipment, and “equipment for doing amputations, for bone grafting, for bone wiring…”
“I think this gives you the graphic nature of what’s happening,” Ryan said. “These are ordinary civilians being broken and the health system is going to have to put them back together again.”
PRAGUE — Dozens of craft beer brewers in the Czech Republic are joining forces to help Ukraine.
More than 40 such breweries will participate in the “Drink for Ukraine” beer festival at Prague’s Congress Center on Saturday. All the brewers will contribute some 100 kinds of beer free of charge for the festival.
They will also donate beer rarities that will be auctioned at the festival.
All the money from the sales and auction will be sent to the People In Need humanitarian organization that is providing aid for people in Ukraine.
The organizers said they were not able to watch the aggression against Ukraine without doing something to help.
“We help by doing what we know the best — good beer,” festival co-organizer Karolina Chroustovska.
ROME — The Venice Biennale art exhibition, which has already seen members of the Russian pavilion quit to protest the invasion of Ukraine, says it’s working to make sure the artist representing Ukraine can show his work.
Pavlo Makov is due to represent Ukraine with “The Fountain of Exhaustion. Acqua Alta” at the Biennale, which runs April 23-Nov. 27.
In a statement Wednesday, Biennale organizers said they were working to make sure Makov could come to Italy and present his work as planned, as a sign of its solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
The festival said it would continue to welcome Russian artists who support freedom of expression and have opposed the invasion, but that official Russian delegations wouldn’t be allowed.
Last week, the curator and members of the official Russian pavilion quit to protest the war. The festival hailed the decision as a “noble act of courage” on the part of the Russian artists
NEW DELHI — India is asking its nationals to leave Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv by Wednesday evening, based on information that Indian authorities have received from Russia.
External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said Indian nationals have been advised to move to three safe zones some 15 kilometers (9 miles) away.
Bagchi declined to give details about what information New Delhi had received from Russia, which is invading Ukraine.
Bagchi also said nearly 17,000 Indian nationals, mostly students, out of an estimated 20,000, have left Ukraine. India is trying to evacuate the rest to nearby countries.
ROME — European Union member Malta says it is suspending the processing of applications from Russian and Belarusian nationals for its so-called “golden passport” program in the wake of EU sanctions on Russia.
The much-criticized program, which grants citizenship or official residence in Malta, was begun as a lucrative source of income for the tiny island nation in 2014. A government statement on Wednesday also noted that nobody who gained citizenship that way has been found to be on the list of sanctioned individuals.
It said sanctions now make it impossible to perform due diligence on applicants from Russia and Belarus. Under the program, Maltese passports can be obtained with 600,000 euros ($660,000) and three years of residency or 750,000 euros and 12 months of residency, plus a 700,000-euro purchase of property. But investigative reporting in recent years found that the residency requirement wasn’t always fully enforced.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Israel’s president says his country is helping to push for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine and is offering its services to achieve that.
President Isaac Herzog said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart on Wednesday that Israel is also sending an “unprecedented amount” of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, totaling some 100 tons.
Herzog said the aid is a “moral obligation” and that his country is considering more ways to support the Ukrainian people.
He said a missile attack on the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial in Kyiv “epitomizes the huge pain and suffering of people there” and the “terrible tragedy that we’re seeing unfolding in front of our eyes.”
TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister says his country will accept refugees from Ukraine, as Russia invades its eastern European neighbor.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Wednesday that the offer includes Ukrainians who have fled to Poland.
“We plan to start first with those with family and friends in Japan, but we will not stop there and will respond from a humanitarian viewpoint,” Kishida told reporters.
The Japanese offer is unusual, though Japan has accepted refugees before, from various nations, albeit in very small numbers.
Japan has often been criticized for providing a relatively narrow door for migrants wanting to get in. Those policies have become even tighter due to the coronavirus pandemic.
LONDON — Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Kingdom has received a standing ovation from British lawmakers in the House of Commons.
Legislators from all parties rose to applaud when Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle announced that Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko was in the public gallery for the weekly Prime Minister’s questions session.
Hoyle said applause was usually banned in the chamber, but “the House quite rightly wants to demonstrate our respect and support for your country and its people in the most difficult of times.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin has “underestimated the extraordinary fortitude of the Ukrainian people and the unity and resolve of the free world in standing up to his barbarism.”
LONDON — European plane maker Airbus says it has stopped providing support services to Russian airlines and supplying spare parts to the country.
The company said in a statement that the suspension was “in line with international sanctions now in place.”
U.S. rival Boeing has also said it’s putting its operations in Moscow on hold, temporarily shutting its Kyiv office and suspending parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian carriers.
Airbus and Boeing jets account for the vast majority or Russia’s passenger aircraft fleet.
GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency says more than 874,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last week and the figure is “rising exponentially,” putting it on track to cross the 1 million mark possibly within hours.
UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said Wednesday that people are continuing to stream into Ukraine’s neighboring countries to the west, with more than 200,000 fleeing since Tuesday.
A day earlier, Mantoo had cautioned that the outflows from Ukraine could make it the source of the “biggest refugee crisis this century” — eclipsing the one from Syria’s war over the last decade.
She noted that UNHCR had previously projected that as many as 4 million people might flee Ukraine, but noted that the agency will be re-evaluating its forecast.
The latest figures show that more than half — or nearly 454,000 — have gone to Poland, more than 116,300 to Hungary and over 79,300 to Moldova. Another 69,000 have gone to other European countries and 67,000 have fled to Slovakia.
Mantoo noted that the figure of 874,000 was an increase from more than 660,000 only a day earlier — and some 116,000 on Saturday, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
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