Russia Encounters More Obstacles in Ukraine, on Global Front
Ukrainian troops repulsed Russia’s attempted advances and even rolled back the front lines in places. In recent days, Moscow’s forces pulled back from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv after weeks of bombardment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday thanked his troops who pushed all the way to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region.
“I’m very grateful to you, on behalf of all Ukrainians, on my behalf and on behalf of my family,” he said in a video message. “I’m very grateful to all the fighters like you.”
Ukrainian border guards said they defeated a Russian attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops into the Sumy region, some 90 miles northwest of Kharkiv.
And a glimmer of hope emerged for wounded Ukrainian troops trapped in the bombed remains of a giant steel plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the port city of Mariupol. The Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the steelworks for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Ukrainian side, and there was no word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war. Nor was it clear how many fighters might be evacuated.
Key Developments in Russia-Ukraine War
— EU’s Russia sanctions effort slows over oil dependency
— Sweden ends neutrality, joins Finland in seeking NATO berth
— McDonald’s to sell its Russian business, try to keep workers
— 10 weeks of war: AP photographer Felipe Dana looks at the carnage in Ukraine
— Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Global Efforts Against Russia Pick up Steam
As fighting raged in eastern Ukraine, the international response to Russia picked up pace. Sweden announced it will seek NATO membership, following a similar decision from its neighbor Finland. That would be a historic shift on the European continent for the two countries, nonaligned for generations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched the invasion on Feb. 24 in what he said was an effort to check NATO’s expansion but is now seeing that strategy backfire, warned that a military buildup on Finnish and Swedish territory “will, of course, give rise to our reaction in response.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the membership process for both could be very quick, although member Turkey has expressed some reservations.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said joining the 30-member military alliance is her country’s best defense in the face of Russian behavior.
“Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe that the trend (of Russia’s actions) will reverse in the foreseeable future,” she said.
Europe is also working to choke off funding for the Kremlin’s war by reducing the billions of dollars it spends on imports of Russian energy.
But a proposed EU embargo faces opposition from a small group of countries dependent on Russian imports, including Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations.
“We will do our best in order to deblock the situation,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. “I cannot ensure that it is going to happen because positions are quite strong.”
Russia has been plagued by setbacks in the war, most glaringly in its failure early on to take Kyiv, the capital. Since then, much of the fighting has shifted to the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, but that, too, has turned into a slog.
The two sides have been fighting village-by-village. Ukrainian forces have ground down the Russians but are taking losses, too.
“The chances, I think, of a rapid Russian success have gone,” said Chris Tuck, a land warfare expert at King’s College, London. “The Russian capacity for offensive operations is going to bleed away. … I simply don’t think that we’re likely to see any major Russian breakthroughs.”
McDonald’s Will Sell Russian Restaurants
CHICAGO — McDonald’s says it’s started the process of selling its Russian business, which includes 850 restaurants that employ 62,000 people.
The fast-food giant pointed to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, saying holding on to its business in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.”
The Chicago-based company had temporarily closed its stores in Russia but was still paying employees.
On Monday, it said it would seek to have a Russian buyer hire its employees and pay them until the sale closes. It didn’t identify a prospective buyer. McDonald’s said it plans to start removing golden arches and other symbols and signs with its name.
Ukraine Says It Repelled Russian Effort to Expand War
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian border guards say they repelled a Russian attempt Monday morning to send troops into the northern Sumy region, which is outside the current focus of fighting.
The border guard service said Russian forces deployed mortars, grenade launchers, and machine guns in an attempt to cover a “sabotage and reconnaissance group” crossing the border from Russia.
The border guard service said its officers returned fire and forced the Russian group to retreat back across the border into Russia.
The area is largely rural and hasn’t seen intense fighting in more than a month. Russian troops moved through the Sumy region early in the war in an attempt to join up with forces around the capital, Kyiv, but they retreated in early April to focus on fighting in eastern Ukraine.
There was no immediate word from Russia about the incident described by Ukraine.
Ukraine Grain Could Be Exported Through Poland
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s agriculture minister said Monday that Ukraine’s grain exports could be routed through Poland as long as Russia’s war prevents them from departing Black Sea ports.
Henryk Kowalczyk, the agriculture minister and a deputy prime minister, spoke in Warsaw alongside U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Ukraine’s agriculture secretary, and the European Union’s commission for agriculture, who is Polish.
Ukraine is a bread basket whose exports to world markets have been disrupted, threatening to exacerbate food shortages, hunger and inflation across the world.
Vilsack denounced Russia’s theft of Ukraine’s grain and its use of hunger as a tool of war. He said the U.S. would do what it could to prevent Russia from profiting from the theft.
Kowalczyk said that Poland’s ports on the Baltic Sea are prepared to be put to use to transport Ukraine’s grain abroad.
McConnell Says US Would Quickly Approve Sweden NATO Bid
WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says the U.S. would move quickly to approve Sweden’s application to join the NATO military alliance.
McConnell said during a press conference in Stockholm that while other countries in the Western alliance may be able to approve Sweden’s application sooner, he had no doubt it will be approved in the U.S. Congress, likely by August.
“We anticipate moving this rapid — in a more rapid fashion than past applications for NATO,” McConnell said
“We hope to approve it before August,” he said. “We are confident it will be approved.”
The minority leader was visiting the region with a delegation of Republican senators in a show of support as the region confronts Russian aggression with its invasion of Ukraine.