The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces battled for control of a crucial energy-producing city in Ukraine’s south on Thursday and gained ground in their bid to cut off the country from the sea, as Ukrainian leaders called on citizens to rise up and wage guerrilla war against the invaders.
The fighting at Enerhodar, a city on the Dnieper River that accounts for about one-quarter of the country’s power generation, came as another round of talks between the two sides yielded a tentative agreement to set up safe corridors inside Ukraine to evacuate citizens and deliver humanitarian aid.
The mayor of Enerhodar, the site of the biggest nuclear plant in Europe, said Ukrainian forces were battling Russian troops on the city’s outskirts. Video showed flames and clouds of black smoke rising above the city of over 50,000, with people streaming away from the inferno, past wrecked cars, as sirens wailed.
Moscow’s ground advance on Ukraine’s capital in the north has apparently stalled, with a huge armored column at a standstill outside Kyiv. And stiffer-than-expected resistance from the outmanned, outgunned Ukrainians have staved off the swift victory that Russia may have expected.
Pelosi Supports Russian Oil Import Ban
WASHINGTON — Amid the escalating war in Ukraine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she supports banning Russian oil imports to the U.S., a hefty nod that could strengthen President Joe Biden’s hand as global allies seek to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Biden has been reluctant to curb Russian oil shipments to the U.S. or slap on energy sanctions in ways that would reduce supply as gas prices at the pump are already climbing for Americans. But Pelosi’s support gives fresh currency for an idea in Congress already backed by wide swaths of Republicans and an increasing number of Democrats. The White House has said all tools remain on the table.
“I’m all for that,” Pelosi said about ending Russian oil in the U.S. “Ban it.”
Ukraine Wants No-Fly Zone Over Nuclear Plants
ENERHODAR, Ukraine — Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has joined Ukraine’s president in calling on the West to close the skies over Ukraine’s nuclear plants as fighting intensified around the city of Enerhodar.
Enerhodar is a major energy hub on the left bank of the Dnieper River and the Khakhovka Reservoir. It is home to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, and accounts for about one-quarter of the country’s power generation.
The mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said a Russian military column was headed toward the nuclear plant and loud shots were heard in the city late Thursday.
Shmyhal said he already had appealed to NATO and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog.
“Close the skies over Ukraine! It is a question of the security of the whole world!” Shmyhal said in a statement Thursday evening.
The U.S. and NATO allies have ruled out creating a no-fly zone since the move would directly pit Russian and Western militaries.
Pentagon Sets up Direct Channel With Kremlin
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has established a channel of direct communication with the Russian ministry of defense to avoid unintended conflict related to the war in Ukraine.
A U.S. defense official said the “de-confliction line” was established March 1 “for the purpose of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the communication line has not been announced.
UN: War Could Result in 4 Million Ukrainian Refugees
UNITED NATIONS — More than 4 million refugees may end up fleeing Ukraine due to Russia’s ongoing invasion, the United Nations said.
On Wednesday, the United Nations said that 1 million people have already fled since Russia began invading last week, an exodus without precedent in this century for its speed.
The United Nations says that “while the scale and scope of displacement is not yet clear, we do expect that more than 10 million people may flee their homes if violence continues, including 4 million people who may cross borders to neighboring countries,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday.
Syria, whose civil war erupted in 2011, remains the country with the largest refugee outflows — nearly 5.7 million people, according to UNHCR’s figures. But even at the swiftest rate of flight out of that country, in early 2013, it took at least three months for 1 million refugees to leave Syria.
UN Concerned About Cluster Bomb Reports
GENEVA — The U.N. human rights chief says military operations in Ukraine are “escalating further as we speak” and warned of “concerning reports” of the use of cluster bombs.
Michelle Bachelet said the Ukrainian town of Volnovakha in the eastern Donetsk region, where pro-Russian separatists seized territory in 2014, leading to a drawn-out military conflict, “has been almost completely destroyed by shelling,” with residents hiding in basements.
She spoke Thursday during an “urgent debate” at the Human Rights Council, where country after country spoke out against Russia’s invasion. Many Western envoys sported blue or yellow ties, scarves, jackets or ribbons on their lapels – colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Delegates will vote Friday on a resolution that would create a three-person panel of experts to monitor human rights and report on rights abuses and violations in Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador Sheba Crocker said her country was “deeply alarmed” by reports of “Russia’s deployment of weapons such as cluster munitions and thermobarics against cities where innocent people are sheltering.” She urged countries to vote for the resolution.
Chen Xu, China’s ambassador, hailed diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine but said his country opposed efforts to “politicize” human rights. He said China would vote against the resolution.
Ukraine, Russia Agree on Safe Corridors for Refugees, Aid
KYIV, Ukraine — A member of Ukraine’s delegation in talks with Russia says the parties have reached a tentative agreement to organize safe corridors for civilians to evacuate and for humanitarian supplies to be delivered.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who took part in Thursday’s talks in Belarus near the Polish border, said that Russia and Ukraine reached a preliminary understanding that cease-fires will be observed in areas where the safe corridors are established.
Russian Airborne General Killed in Ukraine
MOSCOW — Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division, was killed in fighting in Ukraine earlier this week.
His death was confirmed by a local officers’ organization in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear.
Sukhovetsky, who was 47, began his military service as a platoon commander after graduating from a military academy and steadily rose through the ranks to take a series of leadership positions. He took part in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.
He was also a deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army.
A funeral ceremony will be held in Novorossiisk, but further details weren’t immediately announced.
Troops Battle Near Europe’s Biggest Nuclear Plant
ENERHODAR, Ukraine — The mayor of Enerhodar, site of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, says Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the edges of the city.
Enerhodar is a major energy hub on the left bank of the Dnieper River and the Khakhovka Reservoir that accounts for about one-quarter of the country’s power generation due to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is Europe’s largest.
Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, said Thursday that a big Russian convoy was approaching the city and urged residents not to leave homes.
Kyiv’s Chief Rabbi Says Invasion Is a ‘Catastrophe’
BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel — The chief rabbi of Kyiv, Ukraine, says the Russian invasion has produced “a catastrophe,” and that most Jews have fled.
Jonathan Markovitch spoke as he arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport Thursday. He said the scene on the ground in Ukraine is “a catastrophe.
Planes are bombing places right next to residential buildings,” as well as a train station “maybe 100 meters from where my son lives and 50 meters from the synagogue.”
Most Jews, he said, have left the country. As he spoke, a group of about 150 young men and women held banners and sang as part of a welcome ceremony for new immigrants arriving from Ukraine.
Israel is expecting a wave of perhaps thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the invasion. So far this month, they’ve received a little over 500 people, the government says.
Russians Seize Strategic Ukrainian Port
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces have taken a strategic Ukrainian seaport and set siege to another as Moscow tries to cut its neighbor off from the Black Sea.
The Russian military said Thursday it had control of Kherson, which has a population of 280,000 people, making it the first major city to fall since a Russian invasion began last week.
Russian armored vehicles were seen in the otherwise empty streets of Kherson, in videos shared with The Associated Press by a resident
Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in Mariupol, in the outskirts of the strategic the Azov Sea port city. Electricity and phone connections are mostly not working in Mariupol, which faces food and water shortages.
The Russians are pressing their offensive on a variety of fronts, even as the Kremlin says it is ready for talks to end the fighting that has triggered more than 1 million refugees.
Putin: War is Going ‘According to Plan’
PARIS — A French official says French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken for 90 minutes by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who told Macron that military operations in Ukraine are “going according to plan.”
I spoke to President Putin this morning. He refuses to stop his attacks on Ukraine at this point. It is vital to maintain dialogue to avoid human tragedy. I will continue my efforts and contacts. We must avoid the worst.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 3, 2022
The official at the French Elysee presidential palace said Putin told Macron the conflict would continue “until the end” unless negotiations meet his terms.
Putin said negotiations must center on the “neutralization and disarmament of Ukraine,” according to the French official. Putin reportedly said he would attain that goal by military means, if not by political and diplomatic means.
The official said the two leaders spoke at Putin’s request. The French official could not be named in keeping with Elysee practice.
Germans Deny They’ve Seized Billionaire’s Yacht
BERLIN — German officials have denied that a superyacht allegedly owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has been seized in the port city of Hamburg.
Business magazine Forbes reported Thursday that German authorities had impounded the “Dilbar,” citing unnamed sources.
But a spokesperson for Hamburg state’s economy ministry said no such decision had yet been taken because it was unclear who the luxury yacht belonged to.
Susanne Meinecke told The Associated Press that the ship is registered to a holding company in Malta.
Still, the yacht is currently being serviced at a Hamburg shipyard and could not be moved even if the owner wanted it to, a German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Germany’s Economy Ministry said it was in the process of “swiftly and effectively implementing the Russia sanctions” but declined to say publicly which assets had been seized, if any.
Second Round of Peace Talks Begin
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office says a second round of talks with Russia about the war in Ukraine has begun in neighboring Belarus.
A video released by Zelenskyy’s office Thursday showed the informally dressed Ukrainian delegation walking into the meeting room where they shook hands with Russian delegates in suits and ties.
The talks are aimed at stopping the fighting that has sent more than 1 million people fleeing over Ukraine’s borders, but the two sides appeared to have little common ground.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that it must quickly accept the Kremlin’s demand for its “demilitarization” and declare itself neutral, formally renouncing its bid to join NATO. Putin has long contended that Ukraine’s turn toward the West is a threat to Moscow, an argument he used to justify last week’s invasion.
The talks came as the Russian military made significant gains in the south of Ukraine as part of an effort to sever the country’s connection to the Black and Azov seas.
Polish Leader Say Country Will Increase Defense Spending
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s most powerful politician says his country will raise its defense spending to 3% of GDP starting next year, amid the new security threat following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is deputy prime minister for security and the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, told parliament that Poland needs a strong army.
“The army should have deterrent power. We want peace, we do not want war,” Kaczynski said.
Poland is already one of the handful of NATO countries whose defense spending exceeds the alliance’s target of 2% of GDP, now at 2.2%. The country had already planned to increase spending to 2.5% in 2030 but now plans to increase spending to 3% in 2023, Kaczynski said.
German Economy Chief Opposes Russian Energy Embargo
BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister has spoken out against an embargo on Russian energy imports, saying it could endanger social cohesion in the country.
Germany gets about half of its coal and gas from Russia, and a third of its oil.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, said Thursday that his country needs to “free itself from imports of Russian energy” but acknowledged that doing so will take time.
Habeck told reporters in Berlin that the government is working on a series of measures to quickly increase energy independence, including securing new suppliers and ramping up the use of renewables.
He played down the suggestion that Germany should extend the lifetime of its three remaining nuclear power plants, which are scheduled to be shut down this year. But he left open the possibility that this might be considered, “if it helps.”
Habeck said the government would also work on energy efficiency measures to reduce demand and encouraged Germans to do their bit, too.
“If you want to hurt Putin a bit, then save energy,” he said.
Canada Announces 35% Tariff on Russian, Belarusian Goods
TORONTO — Canada is announcing a 35% tariff on any imports from Russia or Belarus.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is removing those countries’ “most favored nation” status as a trading partner, which is normally extended to fellow World Trade Organization member countries.
Freeland said Thursday that Canada is encouraging its allies to take the same step.
Russia and Belarus join North Korea in being downgraded for trade.
Ukraine Urges Citizens to Fight Russians by Any Possible Means
LVIV, Ukraine — As Russian forces advance on strategic points in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities on Thursday called on compatriots to launch a guerrilla war against Russian forces.
In a video message posted online, Ukrainian presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovich urged men to cut down trees and destroy rear columns of Russian troops.
“We urge people to begin providing total popular resistance to the enemy in the occupied territories,” Arestovich said.
“The weak side of the Russian army is the rear — if we burn them now and block the rear, the war will stop in a matter of days,” he said.
Arestovich said that such tactics are already being used in Konotop in northeast Ukraine and Melitopol near the Azov Sea, which were captured by Russian troops.
He called on the civilian population to build barricades in cities, hold rallies with Ukrainian flags, and create online networking groups. “Total resistance … this is our Ukrainian trump card and this is what we can do best in the world,” Arestovich said, recalling guerrilla actions in Nazi-occupied Ukraine during World War II.
Cargo Ship Sinks After Hitting Mine: Report
HELSINKI — A Panama-flagged cargo vessel belonging to an Estonian shipping company has reportedly driven into a mine and sank off the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.
The m/v Helt was built in 1985 and is owned by the VISTA Shipping Agency AS, Estonian media outlets reported Thursday, adding that two crew members have been rescued, while four others are missing.
Ukrainian authorities said earlier this week that Russian sailors had captured the ship.
Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets said Estonian officials are currently dealing with the issue and the ministry would give details on the incident as soon as possible.
Britain Defends Its Sanctions Against Rich Russians
LONDON — The British government is defending its sanctions against rich Russians amid criticism it is lagging compared to its American and European allies.
The U.K. has slapped sanctions on only a handful of wealthy Russians accused of links to the Kremlin who have assets in Britain. That is fewer than the European Union or the U.S.
The Conservative government is under pressure to add more names, including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who has announced plans to sell the team.
The government says more individuals will be sanctioned but it has not said when. It denies the delay is giving oligarchs time to move assets out of the U.K., long a favored haven for Russian wealth.
Opposition lawmakers are also urging the government to seize oligarchs’ properties in Britain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, denied the government was dragging its feet. He said penalizing individuals was only part of the picture and it was sanctions on large banks and companies that would put the most pressure on the Russian government.
Satellite Company Cancels Launches From Kazakhstan
LONDON — The British satellite company OneWeb says it is canceling all launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which is run by the Russian Aerospace Forces and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.
The firm said in a one-line statement that “the Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur.”
OneWeb had been due to launch a batch of its internet satellites Friday on Russian rockets from the base.
The launch was put in doubt after Russia demanded the British government sell its stake in OneWeb, which it partly owns. It also wanted a guarantee from the company that none of its satellites would have military uses.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown international space cooperation into turmoil and put a planned Europe-Russian mission to Mars this year on hold.
Japan Freezes Assets of Oligarchs
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says his country will freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs close to President Vlaimir Putin as Tokyo steps up sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kishida said Thursday that Japan is adding oligarchs to the list of sanctions as part of a collective effort by the United States and European countries. The step adds to Japan’s freezing of the assets of Putin and top officials in his government.
Kishida also said that Japan has taken steps to disconnect seven Russian banks from the SWIFT international financial messaging systems.
Japan, which wants to regain control over some Russian-held islands in a dispute that still prevents the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities, used to be reluctant to impose strict sanctions on Russia.
Berlin’s Jewish Community Will Host Refugees
JERUSALEM — Two buses carrying more than 100 Jewish refugee children from a foster home in Odesa are making their way across Europe to Berlin, where the local Jewish community will provide them with accommodation.
Rabbi Mendy Wolff, 25, spoke to the Associated Press on Thursday as the convoy made its way across Romania, after the group crossed from Ukraine into Moldova the previous day.
He said many of 105 children, the youngest only 37 days old, lack proper documentation, which prevented them from fleeing the Black Sea port of Odesa until Wednesday.
The Jewish children have received financial assistance from Jewish aid groups, and diplomatic support from Israel, Germany, and other European states.
VW Halts Production of Vehicles in Russia
BERLIN — German automaker Volkswagen says it is halting production of vehicles in Russia until further notice due to the Russian attack on Ukraine.
The VW Group said in a brief statement Thursday on Twitter that “vehicle exports to Russia will also be stopped with immediate effect.”
The company said it takes its “responsibility for the affected employees in Russia very seriously” and all those affected will receive short-time working benefits, paid by Volkswagen.
Missile Strikes Bangladesh Cargo Ship at Ukraine Port
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh officials say a missile has hit one of the country’s cargo ships at the Ukrainian port of Olvia, killing one crew member.
The junior minister for shipping, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, said 29 crew were aboard the vessel, which is owned by the state-run Bangladesh Shipping Corporation.
He said the ship was carrying cement clay and was on its way to Italy.
Hadisur Rahman, an engineer onboard, was struck in the attack late Wednesday and died. The other 28 members were safe, Chowdhury said. It was unclear whether it was a Ukrainian or Russian missile.
France Seizes Yacht of Putin Ally
PARIS — French authorities say they have seized a yacht linked to Igor Sechin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as part of European Union sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The French Finance Ministry said in a statement Thursday that customs authorities carried out an inspection of the yacht Amore Vero in the Mediterranean resort of La Ciotat.
The boat arrived in La Ciotat on Jan. 3 for repairs and was slated to stay until April 1. When French customs officers arrived to inspect the yacht, its crew was preparing an urgent departure, even though the repair work wasn’t finished, the statement said. The boat was seized to prevent its departure.
It says the boat is owned by a company that lists Sechin as its primary shareholder. Sechin runs Russian oil giant Rosneft.
Hungary Won’t Allow Arms to Cross Border Into Ukraine
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s government is insisting it will not allow any arms shipments bound for neighboring Ukraine to cross its territory, as the European Union country receives tens of thousands of refugees from the conflict and frets about the reliability of its energy links to Moscow.
A large Hungarian ethnic minority, around 150,000 people, lives in the western Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia, just across the border.
The prime minister’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, says allowing weapons into Ukraine would endanger that minority.
Gulyas said Thursday that some 120,000 refugees fleeing the conflict have crossed into Hungary so far.
Hungary has agreed to all EU sanctions imposed on Russia, Gulyas said. But he argued against allowing sanctions to affect Hungary’s energy sector, which relies heavily on Russian natural gas.
Gulyas also said that Hungary will not pull out of the planned Russian-backed expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear power plant, which will be financed primarily by a Russian state bank.
Follow AP’s coverage of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine