By The Associated Press
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
LONDON — The exiled opposition leader of Belarus urged western democracies Thursday to slap tougher sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko over his backing of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Lukashenko has full responsibility for this attack on Ukraine,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said at an event at London’s Chatham House thinktank. “I believe that it’s time for democracy to show its teeth, and it’s crucial to put diplomatic, economic and political pressure on the Belarus regime.”
Tsikhanouskaya has said that Belarus’ military is effectively under Russian control. She called for Lukashenko to be suspended from all international organizations, Belarus state banks to be cut from the international SWIFT payment network and for imports from state enterprises to be banned.
Many countries have already announced sanctions on the Belarus government, but Tsikhanouskaya said this is not enough.
“Half measures don’t work. They only make things worse,” she said.
DOHA, Qatar — Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met Thursday with Bektum Rostam, special envoy of the Ukrainian president.
Qatar’s ruler and Rostam discussed the developments in Ukraine and diplomatic ways to solve the conflict, as well as regional and international matters, The Emir’s Diwan said in a statement.
The tiny nation of Qatar, which lies on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula and has only one land border to Saudi Arabia, is among the world’s largest suppliers of liquefied natural gas, and is among countries that the U.S. is hoping could aid Europe. Despite its small size, it also plays a strategic role as a back channel, mediator and facilitator of negotiations among countries and groups.
PARIS — Beyond any eventual EU decision to embargo Russia’s oil and gas, former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Thursday that Europe must end its dependence on Russian energy supplies.
“It is a matter of our security,” Tusk said at a news conference attended by some EU leaders ahead of a summit in Versailles. He noted that some European leaders are hesitant about an embargo “for practical reasons,” a reference to some countries’ dependence on Russian energy. But, Tusk said, in the long-term, “this is a must for Europe.”
Tusk heads the European People’s Party, a center-right group in the European Parliament, which met in Paris ahead of the summit hosted by President Emmanuel Macron. Russia’s war in Ukraine and the wider repercussions were to dominate summit talks.
Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins argued ahead of the summit for targeting Russia’s energy sector, “the Kremlin’s main source of income,” as the best way to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his war in Ukraine.
The United States this week ordered a ban on Russian oil imports.
NEW YORK — Goldman Sachs says it is closing its operations in Russia entirely, making it the first major Wall Street bank to do so since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Goldman’s announcement comes after Citigroup said it would start winding down its Russia operations. But that process will likely take longer because Citi operates a consumer banking and business banking division in the country.
Like other Wall Street banks, Goldman operated a small investment banking business in the country for the past few years. The bank said in a statement Thursday it has roughly $650 million in exposure to Russian debt.
Banking is the latest industry to come under pressure to cut its Russian ties due to the war. But unlike companies who make goods that ship to Russia, banks have loans, deposits and existing customer relationships that take time to wind down or sell off.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president is telling Russian leaders that their country’s invasion of Ukraine will backfire, by landing them in court and making their people hate them.
“You will definitely be prosecuted for complicity in war crimes,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video released Thursday.
The West has slapped harsh financial and economic sanctions on Russia because of the invasion, and the Ukrainian leader said the consequences will be felt by all Russians.
“And then, it will definitely happen, you will be hated by Russian citizens — everyone you have been deceiving constantly, daily, for many years in a row, when they feel the consequences of your lies in their wallets, in their shrinking possibilities, in the stolen future of Russian children.”
STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s navy is asking the public to report any suspicious underwater activity along the country’s Baltic coast, saying “we are very interested in tips.”
The request came amid heightened awareness around the Baltic Sea region after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Skärgården, a newspaper covering Stockholm’s vast archipelago, said that Naval Security Chief Anders Engqvist asked residents to keep an eye out for things such as unnatural-looking waves or periscopes.
He also asked people to alert authorities if they see anyone moor or go ashore near military installations or if someone drops anchor in a prohibited area.
Sweden’s Baltic Sea island of Gotland sits a little more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) from the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad.
NEW YORK — All three international hotel chains based in the United States have frozen their investments in Russia and put on hold any planned openings of new hotels there.
Marriott on Thursday joined Hyatt and Hilton, which on Wednesday ceased any development of properties after Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago.
Marriott, like Hilton, said it’s shuttering its corporate office in Moscow as well.
Marriott hotels in Russia are owned by third parties and the company said it is evaluating the “ability” of those locations to remain open. Hyatt also said it’s evaluating the operations of hotels that remain open there.
All three hotels are either earmarking aid funds, donating profits from Russian properties, or opening hotel rooms to refugees in Europe.
WARSAW — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris has embraced calls for an international war crimes investigation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and the bombing of civilians, including a maternity hospital.
Speaking Thursday in Warsaw, where she is demonstrating U.S. support for NATO’s eastern flank allies, Harris expressed outrage over the bombing of the maternity hospital on Wednesday and scenes of bloodied pregnant women being evacuated.
“Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching,” said Harris.
Standing alongside Harris, Polish President Andrzej Duda said, “It is obvious to us that in Ukraine Russians are committing war crimes.”
ANTALYA, Turkey — Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Turkey was conducted “in a civilized manner despite the difficulties.”
Cavusoglu, who took part as a facilitator in the highest-level Russian-Ukrainian talks since the start of the war in Ukraine, said he had not expected “miracles” from the first meeting, which ended without a breakthrough.
Even so, he welcomed the fact that Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Dmotry Kuleba of Ukraine spoke of the possibility of a meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents — with Russia agreeing “in principle” to such a meeting.
The Turkish minister said that during the three-way talks he pushed for a “sustainable cease-fire.”
“Until that can be established, we stressed the need for humanitarian corridors to remain open… We especially stressed the need for humanitarian corridors in Mariupol,” he said.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia — Germany’s foreign minister says her country has “a historic responsibility” to protect peace in the Balkans, as she drew a parallel between the bloody breakup of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“I am aware that many people here are reminded of the terrible time in the 1990s seeing the pictures from Kiev, from Mariupol,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday in Sarajevo, referring to Ukrainian targets of Russian attacks.
Baerbrock added that growing up alongside some of close to 350,000 Bosnian refugees sheltering in Germany “shaped my generation of politicians.”
“We want to live together in the European house,” said Baerbrock on the first day of her four-day tour of the politically fragile region that will also include stops in Serbia, Kosovo and Moldova.
MILAN, Italy — Russian cultural officials have asked for the return of 25 works of art on loan to two shows in Milan this month.
Italian officials said Thursday the two shows are still open and the request for a return comes ahead of agreed terms.
The works include two on display at a show on the Renaissance artist Titian at the city-run Palazzo Reale, including Titian’s “Young woman with the feathered hat,” that belongs to the Hermitage Museum.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said that “it seems evident that when the owner asks for their works to be returned, they must be returned.”
The ministry said it is currently doing a survey of what Italian works of art are on loan to Russian museums
ANTALYA, Turkey — Ukraine’s foreign minister says talks between the top diplomats of Moscow and Kyiv produced no breakthrough on ending the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he attended the meeting Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Turkey to discuss humanitarian corridors and a cease-fire.
Kuleba said there are “other decision-makers” in Russia who need to be consulted, adding that he agreed with Lavrov to continue to seek a solution to humanitarian issues caused by the war.
He said Moscow is not ready to offer a cease-fire. He said: “They seek Ukraine’s surrender. This is not going to happen.”
Kuleba said “the last thing” he wanted was to kill hope for Ukrainians seeking safe passage out of cities besieged by Russian bombardments and attacks.
WARSAW, Poland — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is praising the Polish people for taking in more than 1 million refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Harris made the comments Thursday as she met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and hours after the U.S. House passed a massive spending bill that includes aid for Ukraine and its European allies. The legislation includes $6.8 billion to care for refugees and other economic help.
“I’ve been watching or reading about the work of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and so I bring you thanks from the American people,” Harris said.
Harris also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda. They were scheduled to hold an afternoon news conference.
Harris is also scheduled to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while in Warsaw. The Canadian leader has been in Europe in recent days meeting with allies about Ukraine.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have called for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A statement from the French presidency Thursday said that any solution to the crisis must be negotiated between Russia and Ukraine.
The three leaders agreed to stay in close contact in the coming days, the statement said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the main issue at a summit of European Union heads of states and government at the Versailles Palace, in France on Thursday and Friday.
BEIJING — China is easing government exchange rate controls to let the Russian ruble fall faster in value against the Chinese yuan and help insulate Beijing from economic sanctions on Moscow.
The margin by which the ruble is allowed to fluctuate against the yuan in state-controlled daily trading will be doubled in size to 10% above or below the day’s opening price starting Friday, the China Foreign Exchange Trade System announced.
The ruble has lost about 40% of its value since Western governments cut off some Russian banks from the international SWIFT payment system in retaliation for President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Russia’s central bank was blocked from using its foreign currency reserves to defend the exchange rate.
China has avoided joining other governments in criticizing Putin’s attack and has criticized Western sanctions. Chinese companies are giving no sign they are joining Western counterparts in pulling out of Russia, but economists say they are likely to take advantage of pressure on Moscow to strike better deals.
ANTALYA, Turkey — Russia’s foreign minister is dismissing concerns about Russian military attacks on civilians, including on a maternity hospital, as “pathetic shrieks” from its enemies.
Sergey Lavrov met his Ukrainian counterpart in Turkey on Thursday in the highest-level Russian-Ukrainian talks since the war began last month.
In the Russian government’s first public comment on Wednesday’s strike on a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol, Lavrov didn’t deny or shy away from responsibility for the attack.
He claimed the site had earlier been seized by Ukrainian far-right radical fighters who were using it as a base. Even though there were many images of civilians wounded in the attack and the city council said a child was among the three people killed, Lavrov claimed all the patients and nurses were moved of the hospital before the assault.
Lavrov said Russia was ready for more negotiations but showed no sign of softening Moscow’s stance in the dispute.
LONDON — Britain’s government says it is introducing a new system letting Ukrainians into the United Kingdom, after coming under heavy criticism for not doing enough to help those fleeing the Russian invasion.
Fewer than 1,000 visas have been granted so far, out of more than 22,000 applications for Ukrainians to join their families in the U.K.
Many people, including Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.K., have complained that refugees face a cumbersome visa application process to enter Britain. Some people have needed to travel between visa offices in different European cities.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Thursday that from next Tuesday, Ukrainians with passports no longer need to travel to a visa application center to provide fingerprints. They can instead apply to enter the U.K. online and give their fingerprints after arrival.
HELSINKI — Finland’s president says he is due to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone on Friday.
Sauli Niinisto said Thursday it is important to keep talking with Moscow to achieve peace in Ukraine through diplomacy and prevent the conflict from spreading elsewhere in Europe.
He referred to recent phone calls and efforts by the French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to keep touch with Putin.
The Finnish leader, however, noted that Putin is keen to engage in discussions mainly with the United States rather than with European leaders and that most messages from the Kremlin are directed to Washington, not to European capitals.
Finland, which is a member of the European Union but not NATO, shares a 1,340-kilometer (833-mile) border with Russia. A nationwide poll last week showed that for the first time a majority of those questioned said the Nordic nation should join NATO.
GENEVA — The World Economic Forum, best known as the host of an annual meeting of elites in Davos, Switzerland, says it’s freezing all its relations with Russian entities following the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last participated in the event at a virtual “Davos Agenda” meeting in January 2021. Previously, he attended the event in person.
The forum said in a statement Thursday that it “will not engage with any sanctioned individual or institution in any of our activities,” including the annual meeting.
Russia and Belarus were also suspended Thursday from another international forum: the Northern Dimension, which includes the European Union, Iceland and Norway.
LONDON — Two British directors on the board of Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei’s British subsidiary have quit, with news reports saying the resignations were prompted by the company’s failure to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sir Andrew Cahn and Sir Ken Olisa resigned on Wednesday.
Sky News, citing unidentified sources, said Cahn and Olisa had urged Huawei to criticize Putin “but the company refused.” The British Broadcasting Corp. said the company’s silence “made their positions untenable” but gave no indication whether they asked Huawei to criticize the Russian attack.
The Chinese government has declined to join other governments in criticizing the Kremlin and blames Washington for the Feb. 24 invasion.
Huawei Technologies Ltd. is the world’s biggest maker of switching equipment for phone and internet carriers.
LONDON — German fashion brand Hugo Boss and U.S. hotel chain Hilton are the latest brands to pause their Russian businesses over the Ukraine invasion.
Hugo Boss said Thursday that it has temporarily closed its stores and suspended its own retail and e-commerce business activities in Russia. The company said it will give all affected employees “financial and operational support.”
Russia, along with Ukraine, accounted for about 3% of Hugo Boss’s total sales last year.
The Hilton hotel chain said it’s closing its corporate office in Moscow and suspending new hotel development in Russia. Russian workers will continue to be paid, the company said.
Hilton’s 26 hotels in Russia remain open. They are owned and operated by franchisees, but Hilton said it is donating any profits from those hotels to relief efforts in Ukraine. Hilton said it has also donated up to 1 million room nights to support Ukrainian refugees.
Wall Street titan Citigroup also said Wednesday it would wind down its Russian banking business and will be “operating the business on a more limited basis” until a sale happens.
TOKYO — Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo is temporarily closing in Russia, following a social backlash over reported comments by a top executive that its 49 stores will stay open.
Earlier this week, Fast Retailing Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai was quoted as saying in Japanese business daily Nikkei that Uniqlo would stay open in Russia because Russians had as much right to everyday clothes as anyone else.
That comment, coming after other major consumer brands like Zara, Coca-Cola, Apple and McDonald’s left Russia, prompted public criticism, including calls for a boycott on social media.
“Uniqlo has made everyday clothing available to the general public in Russia, too, as part of our mission. However, we have recently faced a number of difficulties, including operational challenges and the worsening of the conflict situation,” said Fast Retailing Co., the holding company for several clothing brands, including Uniqlo.
Fast Retailing has donated clothing and $10 million through the UN refugee program.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ government says it rescinded clearances for four Russian warships to dock in the east Mediterranean island nation’s ports last week.
Cyprus Foreign Ministry Spokesman Demetris Demetriou told The Associated Press on Thursday that the Cypriot government made the decision “given the current political context and the military invasion of the Ukraine by Russia.”
Demetriou said the clearances for the ships to refuel and resupply had been issued prior to Russia’s invasion.
“No particular issues were raised by the Russian side” once the clearances were rescinded, Demetriou said.
ISTANBUL — Talks between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine are underway on the sidelines of a diplomatic summit in Turkey.
An official photograph showed Russia’s Sergey Lavrov flanked by two advisers sitting across from his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and his officials on Thursday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu sat at the head of a U-shaped table in a wood-paneled hotel conference room near the Mediterranean city of Antalya.
The talks are the first high-level talks between the two countries since Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago. Cavusoglu has said the aim of the meeting is to pave the way for a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents that would be facilitated by Turkey’s president.
NATO member Turkey, which has cultivated close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, is trying to balance relations with both nations. It has positioned itself as a neutral party, seeking to facilitate negotiations between the warring sides.
Source: Read Full Article