Live updates: Blinken pledges American support in Moldova | nation

From The Associated Press

The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Moldova, pledging America’s support for the small Western-leaning former Soviet republic, which is coping with an influx of refugees from Ukraine and is wary of Russia escalating the war with its neighbor.

Blinken met with senior Moldovan officials on Sunday, who are asking for international assistance in dealing with more than 120,000 refugees from Ukraine who it now houses, while asking for security guarantees against possible Russian aggression. More than 230,000 people have fled Ukraine to Moldova since the war began eleven days ago.

Blinken said Moldova’s reception of refugees is an inspiration to the world.

“We admire the generosity of hospitality, the willingness to be such good friends to those in need, and indeed I want to do whatever it takes to help you deal with the burden this has imposed,” he said.

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Russia already has 2.6 million troops in the country, stationed in the disputed territory of Transnistria, and will be closely watched as Russian President Vladimir Putin presses ahead with the invasion of Ukraine. Although it has no plans to join NATO, just three days ago Moldova formally applied to join the European Union in a fast-track bid to strengthen its ties with the West.

LONDON (Reuters) – British military officials on Sunday compared Russia’s tactics in Ukraine to those in Chechnya and Syria, where cities were bombed and badly damaged after Russian forces met unexpected resistance from their defenders.

The strength of the Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise Russian forces and they have responded by attacking populated areas including the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence briefing.

“This likely represents an attempt to break Ukrainian morale,” the ministry said in a statement. “Russia used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, using both air and ground munitions.”

Russia’s advance has been slowed by attacks on its supply lines, the ministry said. As a result, there is a “realistic possibility” that Russia is now trying to camouflage tankers to reduce casualties.

TEL AVIV, Israel – Israel’s prime minister has returned from a surprise trip to Russia, where he met President Vladimir Putin and discussed the war in Ukraine.

Naftali Bennett flew to Moscow on Saturday, where he met the Russian leader for three hours. The trip was conducted “in coordination and with the blessing” of the Biden administration, according to Bennett’s office.

Bennett spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after his meeting with Putin. He then flew to Germany to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Bennett landed in Israel on Sunday morning and is expected to convene his cabinet for its weekly meeting later in the day.

Bennett’s trip was the latest attempt at diplomacy in the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Israel is one of the few countries that has good working relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Israel has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine but also maintains ties with Moscow to ensure Israeli and Russian warplanes do not clash in neighboring Syria.

Kyiv, Ukraine – A Ukrainian medic who was shot while on her way to evacuate injured people from the outskirts of Kyiv was buried in the country’s capital on Saturday.

Valentyna Pushych was known locally as “Romashka”, which means “daisy”. A friend described her as a “daredevil” who was never afraid of “getting under bullets.”

Nataliia Voronkova said she always “ran to the most dangerous places” to save the injured.

Pushych used to be a well-paid worker at a transport and logistics company. But in 2016 she joined the army as a medic in response to the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Several women, some in camouflage jackets, wept as their bodies lay in a coffin at a church service. A portrait of Pushych hung on a wall nearby.

In the cemetery, Pushych’s corpse was decorated with red roses. After her funeral, the dirt was covered with the flag of Ukraine.

Kyiv, Ukraine — Crowds of men have lined up in Kyiv to join the Ukrainian army.

A Ukrainian government order banned men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country to keep them available for military service.

But some, like Volodymyr Onysko, volunteered to fight.

“We know why we are here. We know why we are defending our country. And our boys actually standing there fighting Russian forces,” he told Britain’s Sky News. “We know what we’re doing and that’s why we’re going to win.”

Others, like British Army veteran Mark Ayres, traveled to Ukraine to help.

Ayres said the Ukrainian people were inspirational and “it electrified everyone”.

“I have no illusions. I don’t have romantic ideas about war or like ‘I’m going to be a hero’ or make a difference… but it’s what I do,” Ayres said.

BEIJING — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that China opposes any moves that “add fuel to the fire” in Ukraine.

Blinken says the world is watching which nations stand up for the principles of freedom and sovereignty.

The two spoke by phone on Saturday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Wang called for negotiations to resolve the immediate crisis, as well as talks on creating a balanced European security mechanism. Wang says the US and Europe should pay attention to the negative impact of NATO’s eastward expansion on Russia’s security.

The US State Department says Blinken underscored that the world is acting as one in response to Russian aggression, ensuring Moscow will pay a heavy price.

China has broken with the US, Europe and others who imposed sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. China says the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations should be respected, but sanctions create new problems and disrupt the political settlement process.

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden has called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss ongoing efforts to impose economic costs on Russia and to speed up US military, humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine.

The White House said the pair also discussed Russia-Ukraine talks during the more than 30-minute phone call early Sunday in Ukraine, but offered no additional details.

Zelenskyy said on Twitter that the two presidents discussed security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia.

LVIV, Ukraine – President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked SpaceX CEO Elon Musk for giving Ukraine access to the satellite internet system called Starlink.

“I am grateful to him for supporting Ukraine in word and deed,” Zelenskyy said in a tweet. “Next week we will receive another batch of Starlink systems for destroyed cities.” He joked that they were discussing possible space projects that he would talk about “after the war.”

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Saturday showed a shipment of the Starlink systems that had arrived in the capital. He said Starlink would help secure the work of the city’s critical infrastructure and defenses.

Several major Ukrainian cities were left without internet or phone connections after being shelled by Russian troops.

CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — Russia has dropped powerful bombs on residential areas of the city of Chernihiv, a regional official said on Saturday.

Vyacheslav Chaus posted a photo of what he believed to be an unexploded FAB-500, a Soviet-designed 500-kilogram aerial bomb.

“Usually this weapon is used against military-industrial facilities and fortified structures,” said Chaus, head of the Chernihiv region of the same name. “But in Chernihiv, against residential areas.”

The city of Chernihiv, north of Kyiv, with a population of 290,000, has come under heavy fire from Russian forces. Officials said 17 people in the area were killed in the shelling.

A video released by Ukraine’s government on Saturday showed people cheering as they saw a Russian military plane fall from the sky and crash.

NEW YORK — Mastercard and Visa are ceasing operations in Russia, the companies announced on Saturday.

Mastercard said cards issued by Russian banks are no longer supported by its network and any card issued outside the country will not work in Russian shops or ATMs, marking the latest blow to the country’s financial system after its invasion of Ukraine.

Mastercard said it made its decision after discussions with customers, partners and governments.

Visa said it is working with customers and partners in Russia to halt all Visa transactions in the coming days.

The suspensions follow more limited action earlier in the week to ban financial institutions from the networks that serve as arteries for the payments system. The Russian people have already been hit hard by severe sanctions and fines imposed by the US government and others.

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