From The Associated Press
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria has expelled a Russian diplomat on espionage charges who could not be charged because of his diplomatic immunity.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Friday it had declared a Russian diplomat “persona non grata” and given him 72 hours to leave the country after being informed by prosecutors that the diplomat was ” unregulated intelligence activities”.
The expulsion comes as relations between Russia and NATO member Bulgaria, once Moscow’s closest ally in the now-defunct Warsaw Pact, have cooled following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the past month alone, Bulgaria expelled 12 Russian diplomats, accused the Russian ambassador in Sofia of “undiplomatic, harsh and rude” public remarks and recalled its ambassador from Moscow to consultations.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
– Zelenskyy says mines planted by Russia are creating “complete disaster”
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BEIJING – A Chinese diplomat has a proposal for solving the Ukraine conflict: US President Joe Biden should call Russian President Vladimir Putin and promise that there will be no further NATO expansion, no strategic weapons use in Ukraine and the country’s neutrality become.
“Then maybe the issue will be resolved,” director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s European Affairs Department Wang Lutong told reporters in Beijing on Saturday.
“What is the aim of the Americans? Will they see a ceasefire in Ukraine or do they want to weaken Russia? Or some people are talking about a change of government,” Wang said, apparently alluding to Biden’s comment that Putin should not remain in office.
“If they are intent on a truce, I think this problem could be solved very easily,” Wang said. His comments followed talks between Chinese and EU leaders, at which Beijing reiterated its opposition to punishing economic sanctions against Russia.
Beijing has refused to criticize the Russian invasion or even label it as such, opposes sanctions and has been promoting Russian misinformation about the conflict and unsubstantiated claims, such as that the US is operating bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declined to comment on whether he ordered an attack on a Russian fuel depot.
In an interview with FOX News, Zelenskyi said he does not discuss orders he issues as commander-in-chief.
Earlier, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council dismissed claims from Moscow that two Ukrainian attack helicopters attacked the facility in the town of Belgorod, north of the border, around dawn on Friday.
The regional governor in Belgorod said two workers at the depot were injured, but Russian media cited a statement from state oil company Rosneft, which denied anyone was injured.
But if Moscow’s claim is confirmed, it would be the first known attack of the war in which Ukrainian planes entered Russian airspace.
WASHINGTON – The US Department of Defense says it is providing an additional $300 million in military equipment to Ukrainian forces defending the country from Russian troops.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Friday night that equipment in the new package includes laser-guided missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, armored vehicles, night vision goggles and munitions. Also includes medical supplies, field gear and spare parts.
Kirby said the new package “represents the beginning of a deal to provide Ukraine with new capabilities” rather than supplying equipment from US military stockpiles.
The US has provided more than $1.6 billion in security aid since the Russian invasion, Kirby said.
LVIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces left “a complete disaster” in their wake as they pulled out of the north, including towns outside of Kyiv, and he warned residents to stay away from further Russian shelling and landmines to guard.
“They dismantle all territory, they dismantle houses, dismantle equipment, even the bodies of people who have been killed,” he said late Friday in his late-night video address to the nation.
He urged residents to wait until they were reassured that the mines had been cleared and the threat of shelling had passed before returning to normal life.
Zelenskyy warned of difficult fighting ahead if the Russians move troops to eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskyi said he spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Friday during their visit to Kyiv.
“Europe has no right to remain silent about what is happening in our Mariupol,” he said. “The whole world should respond to this humanitarian catastrophe.”
Zelenskyi said 3,071 people were able to leave Mariupol on Friday.
LVIV, Ukraine – A Ukrainian official said there were casualties after at least three Russian ballistic missiles were fired at the Black Sea region of Odessa late Friday, but he gave no details.
Regional leader Maksim Marchenko said the missiles were fired from the Crimean peninsula, which Russia has held since Ukraine’s conquest in 2014.
The Ukrainian military said the Iskander missiles were intended for critical infrastructure but failed to hit their targets due to the response of Ukraine’s air defense forces. It was unclear where they hit.
Odessa is Ukraine’s largest port and the headquarters of its Navy.
Kyiv, Ukraine — The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council has denied that the country was responsible for a reported attack on a Russian fuel terminal.
Moscow previously blamed Ukraine. There was no independent confirmation of details about the incident.
“For some reason they say that we did it, but in fact it doesn’t correspond to reality,” Oleksiy Danilov told Ukrainian television on Friday.
Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov earlier said that two Ukrainian attack helicopters flew low and hit the facility in the city of Belgorod, north of the border.
Two workers at the depot were injured, he said. However, Russian media cited a statement from state oil company Rosneft, which denied anyone was injured.
Meanwhile, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy said that 86 Ukrainian servicemen were released in the Zaporizhia region as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia. The number of Russians released was not disclosed.
Kyiv, Ukraine — The mayor of Kyiv said the bombing of satellite towns near the Ukrainian capital was ongoing despite Russian promises to withdraw troops from the region.
Vitali Klitschko told UK broadcaster Sky News on Friday that he could hear “the sound of explosions non-stop day and night”.
Klitschko said towns northwest of Kyiv, such as Irpin, Borodyanka and Hostomel, were attacked after Ukrainian fighters drove back Russian troops, and that fighting also continued in Brovary, east of Kyiv.
For those wishing to return to Kyiv in the face of the alleged Russian withdrawal, he urged people to wait “a couple of weeks” to see how the situation develops.
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