Live Updates | EU nations OK new sanctions against Russia

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An heavily damaged apartment building following a Russian attack in the center of Borodyanka, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 6, 2022. Ukrainian authorities are poring over the grisly aftermath of alleged Russian atrocities around Kyiv, as both sides prepare for an all-out push by Moscow’s forces to seize Ukraine’s industrial east. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— 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 strategycarries risks as well

— U.N. General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from UN rights council

— Ukrainian refugeesfind quickest route into US goes through Mexico

— Seeing Bucha atrocities is turning point for media, viewers

— Russia makes debt paymentin rubles, a move that could result in historic default

— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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LONDON — Pink Floyd are releasing their first new music in almost three decades to raise money for the people of Ukraine.

“Hey Hey Rise Up” features group members David Gilmour and Nick Mason, with vocals from Ukrainian singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk of the band BoomBox. It’s Pink Floyd’s first original recording since “The Division Bell” in 1994.

The song features Khlyvnyuk singing a patriotic Ukrainian song, from a clip he recorded in front of Kyiv’s St. Sophia Cathedral and posted on social media.

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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 abstentions. 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.

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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.

Matthew Axelrod, an assistant commerce secretary for export enforcement, told reporters the sanctioned airlines will largely be unable to continue to fly since they will be cut off from the parts and services needed to maintain their fleets.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Some 30 Turkish citizens as well as their companions were still trapped in the city, he said.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — European Union police agency Europol says representatives of member states have discussed ways of tackling organized crime linked to the war in Ukraine.

Europol said after a meeting Thursday that initial intelligence analysis has uncovered “crime patterns” including human trafficking, online fraud, cybercrime and firearm trafficking and warned that the war could lead to more activity by organized crime networks.

The agency says it is “necessary to mobilize resources and increase the preparedness” of a multidisciplinary platform that tackles serious and organized crime.

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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.”

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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.

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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 restrictive 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.”

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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.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization says 73 people have died in 91 attacks on public health care in Ukraine during the war with Russia.

The targets have included ambulances, hospitals and clinics, and medical workers.

“The life-saving medicine that Ukraine needs right now is peace,” WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge told reporters Thursday in the western Ukraine city of Lviv.

About half of Ukraine’s pharmacies are believed to be closed and 1,000 health facilities are near conflict areas, endangering the provision of care to those who need it, according to WHO.

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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.”

“This is something that is difficult to understand and explain. But, unfortunately, we have to deal with such opponents,” Peskov said.

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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.

“Russia is absolutely confident in its invincibility and that they could do whatever they want without going unpunished. We have to stop it. We must bring Russia to justice,” Zelenskyy said.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says Russian forces have agreed on 10 humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians in three eastern regions of Ukraine on Thursday.

Russia is expected to intensify its military campaign for control of Ukraine’s industrial east in coming days and weeks, and Ukraine has appealed to NATO for more weapons to help stop it.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said civilians from the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions will be able to evacuate to the cities of Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut.

Vereshchuk said on the messaging app Telegram that it would be possible to travel from Mariupol and Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia by car and from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Melitopol by car and on buses.

Evacuations to Bakhmut, a city in the Donetsk region, will take place in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Girske and Rubizhne of the Luhansk region.

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BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is calling on members of the organization to provide more weapons for Ukraine and not just defensive anti-tank and anti-craft arms.

As NATO defense ministers gathered in Brussels on Thursday, Stoltenberg said “I have urged allies to provide further support of many different types of systems, both light weapons but also heavier weapons.”

Stoltenberg says that NATO countries, but not NATO as an organization, are supplying many kinds of arms and other support to Ukraine but that the 30 allies can do more.

Stoltenberg is insisting that it is also important for NATO not to be dragged into a wider war with Russia.

“NATO is not sending troops to be on the ground. We also have a responsibility to prevent this conflict from escalating beyond Ukraine, and become even more deadly, even more dangerous and destructive,” he said.

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