HELSINKI — Estonia and Latvia will close Russia’s consular missions in two cities each and expel a total of 27 Russian diplomats and employees currently stationed in the Baltic countries.
Estonia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the country decided to expel the staff of Russia’s consulates in the southern city of Tartu and border city of Narva and close the premises. The combined 14-member Russian staff, including 7 employees with diplomatic status, must leave the country by April 30, the ministry said.
The ministry’s undersecretary Mart Volmer said “there can be no talk of business as usual” with Moscow following allegations of atrocities against civilians in Ukrainian cities by Russian forces.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rincevics said in a tweet that Latvia will close Russian consulates in Daugavpils and Liepaja and expel 13 Russian diplomats and employees.
Daugavpils is Latvia’s second largest city situated close to the border with Belarus and Lithuania in southeastern Latvia, not very far from the Russian border, and Liepaja is a major port city.
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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukraine’s leader to brief top UN body on alleged massacres
— EU proposes Russian coal ban in new sanctions
— Japan’s top envoy brings back 20 Ukrainians from Poland
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any move by foreign countries to nationalize Russian stakes in companies would be “a double-edged sword.”
“We are already hearing statements from officials about a possible nationalization of some of our assets,” he said. “How far will that get us? Let no one forget that it is a double-edged sword.”
Putin also bemoaned what he said was “administrative pressure on our company Gazprom in some European countries.” Germany on Monday put a government agency in charge of a longtime German subsidiary of Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled energy giant.
The move falls short of nationalization because the German state has not taken ownership of the shares, and it is a temporary change of administration through September.
Gazprom said last week it had cut ties with the unit but Germany says that was invalid because the identity of any new owners is unclear and the deal happened without the required government approval.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister says he is shocked by the gruesome images emerging from the Ukrainian town of Bucha, but he stopped short of accusing Russia of being responsible or calling the atrocities a war crime.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters Tuesday that “we are, of course, shocked by the harsh scenes in Bucha. Terrible images, and we strongly condemn them.”
He said that “the images are extremely horrible. The suffering of the citizens of Ukraine is huge and we are doing everything we can to help.”
With Israel one of the few countries to have good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, Bennett has emerged as a mediator in efforts to end the war.
In order to preserve his relationship with Vladimir Putin, Bennett has been measured in his criticism of the Russian president. Instead, he has allowed Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to voice harsher condemnations.
Bennett referred reporters to the comments Monday by Lapid, who said the civilian deaths in Bucha constituted a “war crime.”
BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says he expects more atrocities to come to light in Ukraine as Russian troops continue to retreat from areas around Kyiv.
Stoltenberg said Tuesday that “we haven’t seen everything that has taken place because Russia still controls most of these territories” around the capital. “But when and if they withdraw their troops and Ukrainian troops take over, I’m afraid they will see more mass graves, more atrocities and more examples of of war crimes.”
Stoltenberg rejected Russian assertions that the atrocities were staged.
He said that “these atrocities have taken place during a period in which Russia controlled these areas. So they are responsible. Second, we have information from many different sources.”
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive branch has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia in what would be the first sanctions targeting the country’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that the EU needed to increase the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after what she described as the “heinous crimes” carried out around Kyiv.
Von der Leyen said the ban on coal imports is worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year. She added that the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.
Von der Leyen didn’t mention natural gas. A consensus among the 27 EU member countries on targeting gas that’s used to generate electricity, heat homes and power industry would be more difficult to secure.
BRUSSELS — NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says Russia is regrouping its troops away from Kyiv only to mass them in the east and south of Ukraine in the coming weeks “for a crucial phase of the war.”
Stoltenberg said Tuesday that “Moscow is not giving up its ambitions in Ukraine” after withdrawing troops from region around the capital “to regroup, arm and resupply and to shift the focus to the East.”
He said that “we expect a further push in the eastern and southern Ukraine to try to take the entire Donbas and to create a land bridge” to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the expulsions of Russian diplomats by European countries will prompt a response from Moscow and will complicate international relations.
Germany, France, Italy and Spain are among the countries which have expelled diplomats since Monday.
Peskov said that “we view negatively, we view with regret this narrowing of possibilities for diplomatic communication, diplomatic work in such difficult conditions, in unprecedent crisis conditions.”
He added that “it is short-sighted and a step which firstly will complicate our communication, which is required in order to seek reconciliation. And secondly it will inevitably lead to reciprocal steps.”
MADRID — Spain is joining other European Union countries in expelling Russian diplomats.
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares announced Tuesday that at least 25 diplomats and staff at the Russian Embassy in Madrid are being expelled.
He said the group represents a threat to Spain’s security and the timing of the expulsion “is a response to crimes that cannot go unpunished,” in a reference to what he said were “barbaric” Russian war crimes in Ukraine in recent days.
Albares said that evidence of massacres of civilians in areas that Russian troops recently left amounts to “a turning point which the international community cannot ignore.”
He said the full list of who is to be expelled is being finalized and may amount to more than 25 people.
PARIS — French prosecutors say they’re opening investigations into possible war crimes committed against French nationals in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded.
The national prosecutors’ office that specializes in terrorism cases said it launched three war crimes investigations on Tuesday, against suspects yet to be identified.
French law allows prosecutors to investigate suspected war crimes committed outside of France if they involve French victims or suspects who are French or who reside in France.
The three French probes will look into suspected suspected crimes in Mariupol, Chernihiv and Hostomel.
The prosecutors’ statement said the suspected crimes could include deliberate attacks against civilians and deliberately withholding the essentials they needed to survive, physical assaults, and the deliberate destruction of civilian installations.
The statement did not explain how investigators will go about their work or give details about the suspected French victims and what happened to them.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Norwegian publisher says it is handing control of its Russian printing operations to 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov, the longtime editor of Russia’s leading independent newspaper.
Amedia CEO Anders Møller Opdahl said Tuesday that “it is impossible for Amedia to continue the printing business” because of the war in Ukraine.
Muratov’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper used Amedia’s presses but said last month it will remain closed for the duration of the Russian offensive.
Amedia, which has four printing houses in Russia, said it was withdrawing from Russia and that Muratov “will exercise all shareholder rights at his own discretion and have full control of day-to-day operations.”
GENEVA — The U.N. migration agency now estimates that more than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.
The International Organization for Migration, in its first such full assessment in three weeks, reported Tuesday that more than 7.1 million had been displaced within Ukraine as of April 1. That comes on top of the figure of more than 4 million who have fled abroad, reported by the U.N. refugee agency.
IOM said more than 2.9 million others are actively considering “leaving their place of habitual residence due to war.”
Ukraine had a pre-war population of 44 million.
The tally marked an increase from IOM’s tally in mid-March of more than 9.7 million displaced internally in Ukraine or driven abroad.
LVIV, Ukraine — The governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region has urged residents to stay inside, shut windows and doors and prepare wet face masks after a Russian strike hit a tank containing nitric acid.
Serhiy Haidai said on the messaging app Telegram Tuesday that the incident occurred near the city of Rubizhne, which the Ukrainian military says the Russians have been trying to take over. He didn’t specify what area the warning applies to.
Haidai warned that nitric acid “is dangerous if inhaled, swallowed and in contact with skin and mucous membranes.” The Russian military has not commented on the claim, and it could not be verified independently.
VIENNA — Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s office says the Austrian leader plans to travel to Ukraine soon.
Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported Tuesday that the chancellery said Nehammer intends to visit and meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “in the coming days.”
Earlier Tuesday, the European Union’s executive Commission said that its president, Ursula von der Leyen, will travel to Kyiv this week.
BERLIN — The prime minister of Moldova says the poor eastern European nation needs major international support to cope with the influx of people fleeing neighboring Ukraine.
Natalia Gavrilita told a donor conference in Berlin on Tuesday that Moldova is hosting about 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, about a quarter of those who have entered since late February.
Gavrilita said Moldova, with a population of 2.5 million, has tried to provide refugees with decent conditions thanks to an “unprecedented mobilization” by the public and private sectors.
But she said “coping with this influx is one of the biggest challenges any Moldovan government has faced over the last three decades.”
She said that in addition to financial aid, Moldova also needs help building electricity interconnectors to Romania. She asked the European Union to open its market to agricultural imports from her country as it pivots away from Russia.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Sweden’s foreign minister says the Scandinavian country is expelling three Russian diplomats.
Foreign Minister Ann Lindeannouncement on Tuesday came after Denmark and Italy said they were expelling 15 and 30 Russians, respectively. On Monday, France and Germany announced that they wer kicking out dozens of Russians with diplomatic status.
Last month, Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency, SAPO, said that “every third Russian diplomat in Sweden is an intelligence officer.”
ROME — The Italian Foreign Ministry says Italy is expelling 30 Russian diplomats.
Tuesday’s announcement followed expulsions by several other European countries. Germany said Monday that it was expelling 40 Russians with diplomatic status and France kicked out 35.
Germany’s interior minister said authorities attribute those who are being kicked out to Russian intelligence services. And Denmark said on Tuesday that it is expelling 15 Russian intelligence officers who worked at Russia’s Embassy in Copenhagen.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine says a civilian ship is sinking in the port of the besieged city of Mariupol after Russian forces fired on it.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the ship was struck during “shelling from the sea” by Russia, causing a fire in the engine room. The crew was rescued, including one injured crew member, it added.
The ministry said the ship was flying the flag of the Dominican Republic and posted a picture of a cargo vessel. It didn’t specify how many people were on board or the nationalities of the crew members.
Russian forces have been bombarding Mariupol for weeks as they try to tighten control over Ukraine’s southeastern coastline.
BRUSSELS — Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive Commission, will travel to Kyiv this week to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Her spokesman, Eric Mamer, said Tuesday that her trip will come to ahead of a special pledging meeting in Warsaw over the weekend. It is the second such high-level trip by EU officials. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola went to Ukraine last week.
GENEVA — An international Red Cross team has shelved for Tuesday hopes of entering the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol after being held overnight by police in a town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the west.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been trying to get a small team into Mariupol since Friday as part of efforts to escort beleaguered civilians out and aid in, said the team held by police in Manhush was released overnight. It did not identify the nationality of the police involved, but Manhush is under Russian control.
The ICRC said in a statement that the team’s focus now is on the evacuation operation, and the “incident yesterday shows how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team.”
Jason Straziuso, an ICRC spokesman, said the team was “not planning on trying to enter Mariupol today. Our team’s humanitarian efforts today are focused on helping the evacuation efforts in nearby areas.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark’s Foreign Ministry says the country is expelling 15 Russian intelligence officers who worked at Russia’s Embassy in Copenhagen.
The ministry said the Russian ambassador was informed of the decision on Tuesday. It said Denmark strongly condemned “Russia’s brutality against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha” and stressed that “deliberate attacks on civilians are a war crime.”
The officers have two weeks to leave Denmark. Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said “they pose a risk to our national security that we cannot ignore.”
The move came after France and Germany on Monday announced the expulsion of dozens of Russians with diplomatic status.
France plans to expel 35. The French Foreign Ministry cited national security reasons for the expulsions, saying the Russian diplomats were conducting “activities contrary to our security interests.” It gave no details.
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