UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. says its humanitarian office is mobilizing an experienced team from around the world to coordinate the complex evacuation of civilians from the besieged steel plant in the battered Ukrainian city of Mariupol with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in principle to U.N. and ICRC participation in the evacuation from the plant during a nearly two-hour, one-on-one meeting Tuesday. The sprawling Azovstal complex, which has been almost completely destroyed by Russian attacks, is the last pocket of organized Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. An estimated 2,000 troops and 1,000 civilians are said to be holed up in bunkers underneath the wrecked structure.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Wednesday that the U.N. is trying to translate the Guterres-Putin agreement in principle “into an agreement in detail and an agreement on the ground.”
“And ultimately what we want is to make sure that a cease-fire would be respected that would allow us to move people safely,” he said.
Haq said U.N. officials are having follow-on discussions Wednesday with authorities in Moscow and Kyiv “to develop the operational framework for the timely evacuation of civilians.”
He said the exact timing depends on the outcome of discussions between the U.N. humanitarian office and Russia’s Ministry of Defense in Moscow as well as between the U.N. crisis coordinator for Ukraine, Amin Awad, and the authorities in Kyiv, where Guterres will be meeting Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.
Russia Will Achieve Its War Goals: Putin
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to Russia’s parliament that the goals of the country’s military operation in Ukraine will be achieved.
Putin said in an address on Wednesday to both houses of parliament: “I want to emphasize again that all the tasks of the special military operation we are conducting in the Donbas and Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24, will be unconditionally fulfilled.”
That, he said, will “guarantee the security of the residents” of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia recognized as independent shortly before launching its military action in Ukraine, as well as Crimea — which Russia annexed in 2014 — “and our entire country in the historical perspective.”
Key Developments in Russia-Ukraine War
— Russia cuts natural gas to 2 NATO nations in escalation
— European nations accuse Russia of natural gas ‘blackmail’
— The AP Interview: UN nuclear chief wants Ukraine plant access
— EXPLAINER: What’s behind Russia’s natural gas cutoff?
Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Germany Eyes Nationalizing Russian-Owned Oil Refinery
BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister says the government is considering “all scenarios” for a Russian-owned oil refinery that supplies much of the petroleum used in and around Berlin.
Robert Habeck told reporters Wednesday that the German government’s goal is to ensure the country becomes independent of Russian energy supplies, and companies established to procure fossil fuels from Russia are “not helpful in that regard.”
The refinery at Schwedt is controlled by Rosneft, a Russian state-controlled oil and gas company.
Asked whether Germany would go so far as to nationalize the refinery, an option foreseen in a regulatory change approved by Cabinet this week, Habeck said that “we are in a situation where the government must expect and prepare for all scenarios.”
“There are likely to be some we haven’t thought of,” he said. “But we are considering everything conceivable and making political preparations.”
Habeck said Russia’s decision to stop supplies of gas to Poland and Bulgaria was an example of “the reality where energy is used as a weapon.”
He acknowledged that Germany was and remains one of the biggest consumers of Russian fossil fuels worldwide, though it is making all efforts to diversify its supplies, reduce consumption and switch to renewable energy “so that we are not defenseless.”
Poland Arrests Suspected Spies
WARSAW, Poland — Security authorities in Poland say that a Russian and a Belarusian man have been arrested on allegations that they spied for Russian intelligence.
A spokesman for Poland’s state security bodies, Stanislaw Zaryn, said Wednesday that material gathered by Polish military intelligence led to their arrest.
He said that they were gathering sensitive military information, including about Polish troops in the area near Poland’s border with Belarus.
The men were arrested separately last week.
Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Is ‘Red Light Blinking’
KYIV, Ukraine — The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general says the level of safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, currently under Russian occupation in Ukraine, is like a “red light blinking” as his organization tries in vain to get access to work including repairs.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Rafael Grossi said that the IAEA needs access to the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine so its inspectors can, among other things, re-establish connections with the Vienna-based headquarters of the U.N. agency. And for that, both Russia and Ukraine need to help.
The plant requires repairs, “and all of this is not happening. So the situation as I have described it, and I would repeat it today, is not sustainable as it is,” Grossi said. “So this is a pending issue. This is a red light blinking.”
He spoke in an interview Wednesday, a day after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the issue.
War Ends Ukrainian Soccer League Season
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian Premier League soccer season has been officially declared over following the Russian invasion.
The league said after a video conference with clubs Tuesday that the standings as of Feb. 24, when the Russian invasion began and games were suspended, will be declared final “because the championship cannot be played to completion.” Shakhtar Donetsk was the leader at that time but the league said no official award would be made.
The standings could potentially determine qualification for European competitions next season if Ukrainian clubs are deemed able to take part. The league’s decision must be approved by the Ukrainian Football Association.
Of the 16 top-flight teams, FC Mariupol’s home stadium is now in territory under Russian control and the stadium of Desna Chernihiv was wrecked by bombardments that collapsed part of a stand and left a deep crater in the field.
Ukraine’s two biggest teams, Shakhtar and Dynamo Kyiv, are each touring Europe to play a series of charity games against clubs from around the continent and raise funds for people affected by the war.
BASF Will End Business in Russia, Belarus
BERLIN — Chemicals maker BASF says it will wind down most of its business in Russia and Belarus by the beginning of July.
The Ludwigshafen, Germany-based company said Wednesday that it “has not conducted new business” in the two countries in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has now decided to exit most of its existing activities there.
It said that it is exempting business to support food production “as the war risks triggering a global food crisis.”
BASF said it currently has 684 employees in Russia and Belarus and plans to “continue its support” for them until the end of this year. It said the two countries accounted for about 1% of its total sales last year.
Polish Leader Accuses Russia of Energy ‘Blackmail’
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s prime minister has lashed out at Russia for trying to “blackmail” his country with an abrupt cutoff of gas supplies. He says he believes the move was revenge for new sanctions that Warsaw imposed this week against Russia.
The sanctions announced Tuesday targeted 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom. Hours later Poland said it had received notice that Gazprom was cutting off supplies to Poland for failing to comply with new demands to pay in Russian rubles.
Speaking to the Polish parliament, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed that Poland would not be cowed by the gas cutoff. He said Poland was safe thanks to years of efforts aimed at securing gas from other countries.
Lawmakers stood and applauded when he said that Russia’s “gas blackmail” would have no effect on his country.
Russia made up some 45% of Poland’s overall gas usage until the cutoff. But Poland is far more reliant on coal to heat homes and fuel industry, with gas accounting for only 9% of the country’s overall energy mix.
Russian supplies were also due to end later this year in any case. Poland has made plans to get its supplies from other countries, including Norway. A new pipeline, “Baltic Pipe,” is due to become operational in the fall.