UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations on Friday said humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths had “frank and constructive discussions” with Russian officials as part of U.N. efforts to reach a deal on agricultural exports amid an escalating food crisis.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that Griffiths held meetings with officials in the ministries of foreign affairs and defense on Wednesday and Thursday focused on seeking ways to facilitate the export of grain and other food from Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea to global markets.
His meetings followed a Monday visit to the Russian capital by Rebeca Grynspan, the secretary-general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, who is focusing on getting Russian grains and fertilizer to global markets.
Dujarric said Friday that “we have seen a lot of positive comments come from various capitols.”
But he said “there are a lot of moving pieces in this puzzle” and he was not in a position to confirm reports of a possible meeting in Istanbul on June 8 when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visits Turkey, or that there will be “an observation mechanism” based in Istanbul but run by the U.N. for grain exports from Ukraine.
Dujarric did confirm that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, a close Russian ally, on Friday about export issues.
He would not confirm Belarusian media reports that they discussed the possibility of exporting Ukrainian grain through Belarus in exchange for access for Belarusian products to be exported through ports in Germany, the Baltics and Poland.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Deadly secret: Electronic warfare shapes Russia-Ukraine war
— Analysts think Russia may be in Ukraine to stay after 100 days of war
— AP PHOTOS: Russian malls half-empty after Western firms exit
— At 100 days, Russia-Ukraine war by the numbers
— US and allies: Hold Russia accountable for Ukraine crimes
— Russian Orthodox leader skips EU sanctions thanks to Hungary’s Orban
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday blamed the United States and Europe for the energy problems they’re facing, saying they stoked fears about climate change to boost support for renewable energy but then underinvested.
Speaking on Russian TV, Putin said those countries adopted a short-sighted policies that relied too heavily on renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydrogen.
Those technologies weren’t yet ready for massive deployment or were too expensive, he said, and Europe and the United States downplayed the role of what they were supposed to replace: hydrocarbons. The result was under-development and under-investment in energy, and an increase in prices, according to Putin.
Exacerbating the problem, in his view, is that Europeans – despite Moscow’s warnings – declined to maintain long-term natural gas supply contracts with Russia.
The higher natural gas prices also increased fertilizer costs. Natural gas is heavily used in fertilizer manufacturing.
“But we warned about that, and it’s not connected in any way to Russia’s military operation in Donbass,” Putin added.
Several European countries are heavily dependent on Russia oil and natural gas and have been rushing to find alternatives now that they have adopted sanctions — including energy embargoes — against Moscow for its military operation in Ukraine.
MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday blamed the West for emerging global food and energy crises and repeated his government’s offers of safe passage for ships exporting grain from Ukraine if mines are removed from the waters.
“Of course, we are now seeing attempts to shift the responsibility for what is happening on the world food market, the emerging problems in this market, onto Russia,” he told Russian TV. “I must say that this is an attempt, as our people say, to shift these problems from a sick to a healthy head.”
As reported by the state-run Tass news agency, Putin also said Western sanctions against Russia would only worsen world markets – reducing the harvest and driving up prices.
He said inflation stemmed from the unprecedented dollar “printing press” during the coronavirus pandemic and blamed short-sighted European policies for under-investment in alternatives to traditional energy supplies and price increases.
The Kremlin leader said Russia wasn’t blocking grain shipments from Ukraine and that the West is using Russia as a scapegoat for its problems.
Putin pledged that if the waters were demined, Russia wouldn’t attack grain shipments and suggested they could be made from the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk or other countries, such as Belarus. Berdyansk is under Russian occupation.
“We won’t take advantage of the situation of demining to undertake any sea attacks,” Putin said.
These were Putin’s most extensive comments to date on the emerging food crisis.
Putin’s positions on these issues conflict with explanations given by Ukraine and its allies.
GENEVA — Switzerland’s government on Friday said it won’t honor a request by Denmark to send nearly two-dozen Swiss-made armored personnel carriers to Ukraine, citing Swiss “neutrality law” that bans the export of war material to a country at war.
The executive Federal Council confirmed the decision, reported in Swiss media this week, on Friday just as the Swiss government also announced that it would allow the transfer of some military equipment to Germany and Britain as they replenish supplies that the two countries have sent to Ukraine.
The announcement testified to the fine line Swiss authorities are treading to hold to Switzerland’s legal requirement to remain neutral as laid out in the War Materiel Act, which bars the transfer of Swiss-made weapons systems, ammunition and other war material to a country involved in an international conflict.
Denmark had requested that Switzerland transfer 22 Swiss-made Piranha III wheeled armored personnel carriers, which Denmark had procured and stored in Germany, to Ukraine.
Previously, the Swiss rejected a German request to send Swiss-made 35mm ammunition for Gepard anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.
However, the Swiss executive said it would allow the export of some parts for hand-held anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons components sought by Germany and Italy. It acknowledged those parts could end up in Ukraine, but the parts involved would represent less than half the value of the total weaponry’s value.
REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — President Joe Biden on Friday said he thinks a “negotiated settlement” will be necessary to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Asked whether Ukraine should give up some of its territory to Russia in order to end the war and bring peace to the region, Biden said his policy continues to be that the United States will not make any decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine.
He said “it’s their territory” and “I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do.”
But the U.S. leader also said “it appears to me that at some point along the line there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here.” He said he does not know what such an agreement would look like but that the U.S. will continue to help Ukrainians defend themselves.
Biden commented from Delaware on Friday, the 100th day of Russia’s invasion.
PARIS — A French person was killed “in combat” in Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry said Friday.
The ministry did not elaborate in its written response to a journalist’s question about the death of a French volunteer fighter in the Kharkiv region.
The ministry, which holds electronic written briefings, noted that Ukraine “in the totality of its territory is a war zone.” France advises anyone against going there “whatever the motive.”
French are among numerous foreign fighters who headed to Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for volunteers to join an international brigade soon after Russia invaded the country Feb. 24.
The number of French volunteers is not known.
GENEVA — A Ukrainian ambassador said Russia is playing “hunger games” with the world by trying to depict sanctions against Moscow as the reason that grain can’t transit the Black Sea – and not Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yevheniia Filipenko, Ukraine’s envoy to the U.N. office in Geneva, spoke in an interview on the 100-day mark since Russian military forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
As grain exports dry up through Ukraine’s embattled or captured ports, Filipenko said Russia has sought to pin the blame for the blockage on Ukraine and Western sanctions that have been levied by the thousands against Moscow.
“Russia has played hunger games recently to put the blame on Ukraine and others for blocking Ukrainian food exports,” she said.
Filipenko said Ukrainian forces were intensely motivated to protect their homeland and would one day win the war. She echoed calls from other top Ukrainian officials for more weapons.
“We are fighting for freedom of Europe and the whole world. So the next 100 days will be very busy for all of us,” she said.
BRUSSELS — The European Union says it has targeted Russian military officers linked to atrocities in Ukraine in its latest round of sanctions, including top brass accused of war crimes in Bucha and the siege of Mariupol.
The EU froze the assets of 65 people and imposed travel bans on them. The bloc has now targeted almost 1,160 people, including President Vladimir Putin, pro-Kremlin oligarchs and other top officials over Russia’s actions in Ukraine since 2014.
The EU said Friday that Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov and Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, known as the ‘Butcher of Mariupol,’ were among those on the list.
It said Omurbekov “was leading the actions of his military unit and nicknamed ‘the Butcher of Bucha’ due to his direct responsibility in killings, rapes and torture in Bucha,” on the outskirts of Kyiv.
It accused Mizintsev “of orchestrating the bombardments of the city of Mariupol, killing thousands of civilians, including the shelling of a Mariupol maternity hospital and a theatre, killing hundreds of children.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “there can be no impunity for war crimes.”
CHISINAU, Moldova — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has paid an official visit to Moldova, which borders Ukraine, in a public show of support for the country witnessing Russia’s ambitions in the region up close and sheltering thousands of Ukrainian refugees.
Sánchez said Spain would stand up for Moldova’s territorial integrity, in a reference to Transnistria and Russia’s military presence there.
Transnistria is a disputed, Russian-backed breakaway state that borders southwestern Ukraine. Pro-Russian forces broke it off from Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have been stationed there ever since, ostensibly as peacekeepers.
Sánchez assured President Maia Sandu at a press conference Friday in Chisinau, the capital, that Moldova has Spain’s “resounding” support and “our commitment to solidarity with the Moldovan authorities and the Moldovan people at a time of great difficulty and international political tension.”
KYIV, Ukraine — A regional governor in eastern Ukraine says intense fighting is continuing in a key town that has faced a massive Russian offensive.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that “fierce battles are continuing in Sievierodonetsk,” where about 13,000 residents left in the city are sheltering in basements to escape relentless Russian bombardment.
Haidai said Friday that the Russian forces were also pummeling the nearby city of Lysychansk that has remained under Ukrainian control. Some 20,000 residents, or about one-fifth of Lysychansk’s pre-war population, have remained in the city which has seen 60% of its residential buildings and civilian infrastructure shattered by the Russian shelling. Haidai said a civilian was killed in the Russian shelling of Lysychansk on Friday.
He told the AP that the Russians have been shelling a key highway linking Lysychansk with Bakhmut, but that it remained under Ukrainian control.
LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian military analyst says a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has slowed down amid staunch Ukrainian resistance.
Mykola Sunhurovsky of the Razumkov Center, a Kyiv-based think-tank, said Friday that “the Russians are fighting for every block and every street” in the eastern city of Lysychansk, adding that “it has deprived them of the initiative.” Lysychansk, the administrative center of the eastern Luhansk region has become an arena of fierce fighting this week as it has faced a massive Russian attack.
Sunhurovsky charged that “the Russian offensive in the region has started to slow down, they have lost too many forces and need a tactical break.”
He noted that “time is working in Ukraine’s favor as supplies of Western weapons are increasing, making the Kremlin nervous,” but added that Western supplies have taken time to reach Ukraine, forcing Kyiv to “drag out time in the east to accumulate forces for a counter-offensive.”
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says it will press on with its military operations in Ukraine until its goals are met.
Asked how the Kremlin views progress in Ukraine 100 days into the war Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian troops have succeeded in their main task of protecting civilians in areas on Ukraine’s east controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
Peskov said that Russian forces have “liberated” many areas in Ukraine from the “pro-Nazi” Ukrainian military and nationalist units, adding that “this work will continue until all the goals of the special military operation are achieved.”
Speaking during a conference call with reporters, Peskov was evasive when asked whether Russian authorities are planning to hold referendums in those areas to join Russia, saying that it will depend on how the situation evolves. Peskov and other Russian officials have said repeatedly that it will be up to the residents of those regions to determine their status.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country won’t stop its resistance against the Russian invasion.
Zelensky on Friday issued a video message to mark 100 days of war. Surrounded by other top officials, Zelenskyy appeared defiant.
“Our team is much larger,” says Zelenskyy. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces are here. Most importantly, our people are here.”
“We have defended Ukraine for 100 days already,” he adds.” Victory will be ours!”