Live updates | Zelenskyy says Russia hopes for famine crisis The Denver Post

By The Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraineian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the Russian blockade of Ukrainian sea ports prevents Kyiv from exporting 22 million tons of grain.

In his nightly address Monday, Zelenskyy said the result is the threat of famine in countries dependent on the grain and could create a new migration crisis. He charges that “this is something the Russian leadership clearly seeks.”

Zelenskyy accuses Moscow of “deliberately creating this problem so that the whole of Europe struggles and so that Ukraine doesn’t earn billions of dollars from its exports.”

He calls Russia’s claims that sanctions don’t allow it to export more of its food “cynical” and a lie.

KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— Russian, Ukrainian troops fight block by block in key city

— EU leaders agree to partial embargo on Russian oil

— War in Ukraine adds to food price hikes, hunger in Africa

— Russia offers foreign debt payment system similar to gas one

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

___

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

BRUSSELS — European Union leaders reached a compromise Monday to impose a partial oil embargo on Russia at a summit focused on helping Ukraine with a long-delayed package of sanctions that was blocked by Hungary.

The watered-down embargo covers only Russian oil brought in by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline.

EU Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter the agreement covers more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia, “cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine. Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war.”

__

KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian president says a total of 32 media workers have been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Monday that the number includes French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff.

The French news broadcaster BFM TV says Leclerc-Imhoff was hit by shrapnel while covering a Ukrainian evacuation operation.

In his talk, Zelenskyy said: “A little more than a month ago I gave an interview to this very TV channel. It was my first interview to the French media during the full-fledged war. My sincere condolences to colleagues and family of Frédéric.”

___

Russian state gas giant Gazprom confirmed Monday it will halt gas supplies to a Dutch gas trader starting Tuesday due to its refusal to pay for deliveries in rubles, a requirement to European nations Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward earlier this year.

GasTerra, based in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, announced the shutoff Monday. It said the move means Gazprom will not deliver some 2 billion cubic meters of gas through Oct. 1, the date the supply contract ends.

In its statement cited by the Russian state news agency Tass, Gazprom said that GasTerra has not paid for the gas supplied in April.

The Dutch trader said it has bought gas from other providers in anticipation of a possible Gazprom shutoff and Dutch Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten said in a statement that the government understands the cutoff will “have no effect on the physical delivery of gas to Dutch households.”

GasTerra is a private company that is owned by the Dutch arms of energy giants Shell and Esso and the Dutch government.

___

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked France not to succumb to Russian “blackmail” over food supplies at a meeting with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

Zelenskyy’s office says in its summary of the Monday talks that Russia is using food security issues in an attempt to have international sanctions eased. Ukraine has accused Russia of looting grain and farm equipment from regions its troops hold in Ukraine and of obstructing Ukraine’s exports of grain.

Zelenskyy’s office says he and Colonna discussed sanctions, weapons supplies and Ukrainian aspirations to join the European Union.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says it’s important Colonna also visited Bucha, the sight of Russian atrocities.

Moscow has pressed the West to lift sanctions against it over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship grain while under attack. Britain has accused Russia of “trying to hold the world to ransom,” insisting there would be no sanctions relief.

Ukraine says it’s grateful to France for supporting strong sanctions.

___

PARIS — A French news broadcaster says a 32-year-old French journalist has been killed in Ukraine while “covering a humanitarian operation.”

BFM TV says the journalist was fatally hit by shell shrapnel while covering the Ukrainian evacuation operation on Monday. The broadcaster says Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was in an armored vehicle near Sievierodonetsk, a key city in the Donbas region.

French President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to Leclerc-Imhoff. Macron tweeted the journalist “was in Ukraine to show the reality of the war.” Macron says, “Aboard a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally shot.”

Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko says another French journalist was wounded along with a Ukrainian woman who was accompanying them.

___

MOSCOW — The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken on the phone to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discussed the situation in Ukraine, among other things.

According to the Kremlin’s readout of the Monday call, “the emphasis was placed on the issues of ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov Seas, eliminating the mine threat in their waters.”

The readout says Putin “noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unimpeded maritime transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners.” It says, “This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports.”

Ukraine has accused Russia of looting grain and farm equipment from regions its troops hold in Ukraine and of obstructing Ukraine’s exports of grain.

The Kremlin says Putin “confirmed” to Erdogan that Russia can export “significant amounts of fertilizers and agricultural products” if sanctions against it are lifted.

Moscow has pressed the West to lift sanctions against it over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship grain while under attack. Britain has accused Russia of “trying to hold the world to ransom,” insisting there would be no sanctions relief.

A top U.S. diplomat has blasted the “barbarity,” “cruelty” and “lawlessness” of Russia’s invasion.

___

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is suggesting that there are no plans for the U.S. to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine, amid reports that the move is being considered.

Biden told reporters outside the White House on Monday that “we are not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said that it was a “reasonable” decision.

He said that “otherwise, if our cities come under attack, the Russian armed forces would fulfill (their) threat and strike the centers where such criminal decisions are made.”

Medvedev added that “some of them aren’t in Kyiv.” And he said that “there is no need for a further explanation.”

___

BRUSSELS — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is welcoming a proposal for the European Union to slap an embargo on Russian oil transported by ship and to exempt oil pumped overland through Ukraine to his country.

Orban says the idea is a “good approach.” But he wants guarantees that “in the case of an accident with the pipeline” Hungary would “have the right to get Russian oil from other sources.”

Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria rely on Russian oil and are reluctant to impose sweeping sanctions on crude. Russia supplies more than 60% of Hungary’s oil.

Orban’s remarks came Monday at an extraordinary EU summit focused on helping Ukraine, with sanctions a clear focus of attention.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala also says that a ban on “sea-transported oil has our support.”

Fiala says his country “simply cannot afford a situation when we’d lack some oil products.”

___

BRUSSELS — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says he’s confident that a “good solution” to a standoff over a proposed European Union embargo on Russian oil will be found “sooner or later.”

Scholz said as he arrived at an EU summit Monday that Europe’s unity so far in the face of Russia’s attack on Ukraine sends a good signal “and I am very confident that we will do so in the future too.”

Divisions have emerged over whether to target Russian oil in a new series of sanctions, with Hungary leading objections. But Scholz said he saw talks being conducted “with a will to reach an agreement.”

He didn’t address details of a possible solution but said the EU’s strength lies in solving problems together and he is “firmly convinced that we can continue discussing a good solution with each other today and tomorrow.”

Scholz said: “No one can predict whether this will actually be the case, but everything I hear sounds as though there could be a consensus, and sooner or later there will be one.”

___

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lawmakers from NATO countries are calling for a solution to transport grain and other products from Ukraine to get around a Russian blockade of Black Sea ports.

Spanish lawmaker Zaida Cantera said that “Africa and the Middle East import around 50% of these products” and that, based on U.N. data, “Africa will face famine.” Cantera said that ”could lead to more migrants arriving in the southern parts of Europe.”

She spoke at the NATO parliamentary assembly, which was moved to the Lithuanian capital after originally being slated for Kyiv.

At the end of their one-day gathering, the NATO lawmakers approved a resolution calling for stronger sanctions against Russia and an increased supply of weapons to Ukraine.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, said during the meeting that his country will not accept any “land for peace” deals with Russia.

___

BARCELONA, Spain — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says next month’s summit in Madrid will be a “historic” opportunity to strengthen the alliance in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Speaking at a gala in Madrid to mark Spain’s 40th year as a NATO member, Stoltenberg said he looked forward to welcoming Sweden and Finland at the summit on June 29-30.

He said that “at the Madrid summit we will chart the way ahead for the next decade.” He added that “we will also be joined by Finland and Sweden, who have just made historic applications to join our alliance.”

But the leader of the 30-member alliance didn’t address Turkey’s reluctance to opening the doors to Sweden and Finland.

___

MOSCOW — Russia says it may use an arrangement similar to that used for payments for its gas supplies to pay its dollar-denominated foreign debts.

The Vedomosti business daily on Monday quoted Finance Minister Anton Siluanov as saying that Russia will offer the holders of its Eurobond obligations a payment system bypassing Western financial infrastructure.

Russia previously has offered natural gas customers to establish an account in dollars or euros at Gazprombank, then a second account in rubles. The importer would pay the gas bill in euros or dollars and direct the bank to exchange the money for rubles.

The system aims to avoid a risk of payments for gas being frozen as part of Western sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Siluanov told Vedomosti that a similar mechanism will be set for Eurobond holders, with an offer to open foreign currency and ruble accounts at a Russian bank.

“In payments for gas, we are credited with foreign currency and it’s converted into rubles,” Siluanov was quoted as saying. “The Eurobond settlement mechanism will work in the same way, just in the other direction.”

___

LVIV, Ukraine — The mayor of a Ukrainian city at the epicenter of the Russian offensive says that fierce street battles are going on there.

Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday that “Russian troops have entered the city and street fighting is going on.” He added that the Ukrainian defenders were fighting to push the Russians out.

Striuk added that “the Russian troops have advanced a few blocks toward the city center.”

He said that “we have no power and no communications. The city has been completely ruined.”

The mayor said that 12,000-13,000 civilians left in the city are sheltering in basements and bunkers to escape relentless Russian bombardment. He said that “the number of victims is rising every hour, but we are unable to count the dead and the wounded amid the street fighting.”

Striuk said that 1,500 residents of the city have died since the start of the war.

___

KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian band that won the Eurovision Song Contest says it has sold the trophy at auction to raise funds to buy equipment for the Ukrainian military.

Kalush Orchestra said on social media that the trophy was sold in the online auction late Sunday for $900,000 to a cryptocurrency group during a live-streamed fundraising event.

“Friends, you are unreal!,” Kalush Orchestra said in an Instagram post. “Thanks to everyone who donated.”

Serhiy Prytula, a Ukrainian TV presenter who hosted the auction, said on Twitter that a further 11 million hryvnia ($370,000) was raised in an online raffle for the pink bucket hat which Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk wore during the Eurovision performance. He said the hat was won by a man in the Czech Republic. Prytula said the funds would be used to buy a drone.

___

MOSCOW — Pro-Russian authorities in southern Ukraine say that two civilians were wounded by an explosion that they blamed on Ukraine.

Halyna Danylchenko, who was appointed mayor of the city of Melitopol after its takeover by Russian troops, said that Monday’s explosion wounded two local volunteers who were involved in deliveries of humanitarian assistance to city residents. She said that they were hospitalized.

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion, which Danylchenko blamed on Ukraine and denounced as a “cynical terror attack by the Kyiv regime” in remarks broadcast by Russian state television.

Melitopol was captured by Russian forces early in the campaign.

___

MOSCOW — Authorities in a Russia-backed separatist region in eastern Ukraine say at least five civilians have been killed in new Ukrainian shelling.

The separatist authorities said those killed during the shelling of the city of Donetsk included a 13-year old boy. They said another 13 civilians have been wounded in shelling Monday that damaged three schools in the city.

Donetsk Mayor Alexei Kulemzin said that the Ukrainian forces apparently used U.S.-supplied artillery systems in the attack.

___

An official installed by Russia in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine says grain from the area is being sent to Russia.

Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russia-backed administration for the Kherson region, told Russia’s Tass state news agency on Monday that grain from last year’s harvest was being delivered to Russian buyers.

“There is space for storing (the next crop) although obviously there is a lot of grain here,” Stremousov was quoted as saying. “Now people are partially exporting, having reached agreements with those who are buying from the (Russian) side.”

Tass also reported that Stremousov said sunflower seeds could be sent to Russian processing plants to make sunflower oil.

Ukraine has accused Russia of looting grain and farm equipment from territories held by its forces and the U.S. has alleged Russia is jeopardizing global food supplies by preventing Ukraine from exporting its harvest.

Russian troops overran most of the Kherson region in the early weeks of the war and have tightened their grip on the area since. Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin visited the region earlier this month and suggested it could become part of “our Russian family.”

___

MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has struck a shipbuilding factory in Ukraine’s south.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that a Russian artillery strike on the shipyard in the port of Mykolaiv destroyed Ukrainian armored vehicles parked on its territory.

Konashenkov said that Russian artillery hit 593 areas of concentration of Ukrainian troops and equipment and 55 artillery batteries over the last 24 hours.

He added that the Russian air force hit three command posts and 67 troop locations.

___

KYIV, Ukraine — A regional governor says an intense battle is going on for the key city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said that that Russian forces have entered the outskirts and were pushing toward nearby Lysychansk. He said Monday that two civilians were killed and another five were wounded in the latest Russian shelling.

The Ukrainian military also said that Russian forces were reinforcing their positions on northeastern and southeastern outskirts of Sievierodonetsk and bringing additional equipment and ammunition into the area to press their offensive.

Sievierodonetsk has been a key target of the Russian offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas industrial heartland. The city has served as the administrative center for the Luhansk region, which makes up Donbas together with the neighboring Donetsk region.

___

BERLIN — Germany’s governing parties and the main opposition party have reached a deal to move ahead with a big increase in defense spending that Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced three months ago.

Scholz told German lawmakers three days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine started that the country would commit 100 billion euros ($107 billion) to a special fund for its military and raise its defense spending above 2% of GDP — a measure on which it had long lagged.

Scholz wanted to anchor the special fund in the constitution. That requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, meaning that the chancellor needed support from the center-right opposition Union bloc.

Talks on the issue became mired in details, but the two sides reached an agreement Sunday night that clears the way to bring the fund to parliament. Among other things, funding for cyberdefense and support for partner countries will come from Germany’s regular budget, not the special fund.

___

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Families across Africa are paying about 45% more for wheat flour as Russia’s war in Ukraine blocks exports from the Black Sea.

Some countries like Somalia get more than 90% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine. That’s forcing many people to substitute wheat for other grains. But the United Nations is warning that the price hikes are coming as many parts of Africa are facing drought and hunger.

The U.N. already had warned that an estimated 13 million people were already facing severe hunger in the wider Horn of Africa region as a result of a persistent drought. The World Food Program chief say’s Russia’s war on Ukraine is “piling catastrophe on top of catastrophe” for the world’s poor.

Source: Read Full Article