Live updates: China defends its position on Ukraine war | Nation

The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

BEIJING — China insists that its stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “impartial and constructive.”

The Chinese government is also repeating its accusations that the U.S. is spreading misinformation over reports Beijing has responded positively to a Russian request for military supplies.

Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused the U.S. of “immoral and irresponsible” conduct by spreading misinformation.

“What the U.S. should do is to deeply reflect on the role it has played in the development and evolving of the Ukraine crisis and do something practical to ease the tension in Ukraine,” he said, in a nod to China’s contention that Russia was provoked by NATO’s expansion and threats to its security.

The Biden administration is increasingly concerned that China is using the Ukraine war to advance Beijing’s long-term interests in its global competition for influence with the United States.

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China has refused to criticize Russia over its invasion and the ensuing war, or even to refer to the conflict as such. In keeping with Russian preferences, Zhao referred to the war as the “Ukraine issue.” Beijing also opposes sanctions on the Russian economy.

NEW YORK — Russian soccer player Artem Dzyuba has declined a call-up to the national team because he has family in Ukraine, which has been invaded by Russian forces.

The 33-year-old forward is the joint top scorer of the Russian men’s national team and is its former captain.

Russian coach Valery Karpin said in a statement on the Russian Football Union website Tuesday that “in connection with the difficult situation in Ukraine, where many of his relatives live,” Dzyuba had asked him to be excused from the national team for family reasons.

Russia called up 27 players Tuesday for a national team training camp as it challenges a ruling by FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, barring it from playing international games.

Russia was set to host Poland on March 24 for a World Cup qualifying playoff semifinal. Poland cited the war in refusing to play against Russia, with FIFA and European soccer authority UEFA later banning Russian national and club teams from their international competitions.

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’s finance minister says the impact of sanctions against Russia on the Cypriot economy is expected to be limited because the east Mediterranean island has significantly reduced its exposure to the Russian economy and suspicious oligarch dealings.

Keen to shake its reputation as a money-laundering haven where Russian oligarchs could park their money, Cyprus instituted a string of measures to safeguard its economy following a 2013 financial crisis.

Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides told The Associated Press Tuesday that the main impact from the ongoing war in Ukraine would be on Russian tourist arrivals and inflationary pressures.

Russian deposits in Cypriot banks have been slashed, while Cypriot banks have closed up to 80,000 accounts deemed suspicious.

Among the recently introduced measures to shield Cyprus from illicit activities such as money-laundering is legislation prohibiting any transaction with known shell companies.

LVIV, Ukraine — Local authorities say the number of people killed in a Russian rocket attack on a TV tower in western Ukraine has risen to 19.

The Rivne regional government posted on its Facebook page Tuesday that 19 people were killed and nine were injured in the strike on the TV tower in Antopol, a village outside the city of Rivne.

The village is only about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the border of NATO member Poland and comes as Russia presses its invasion of Ukraine.

Initial casualty reports had put the death toll from Monday’s TV tower attack at nine.

KYIV, Ukraine — Outside a Kyiv apartment block hit by overnight Russian shelling, a young firefighter took a moment to rest Tuesday. He sat on the ground, tears falling.

He described rescuing a woman and her daughter and fighting through a flaming corridor before facing a problem with his equipment that forced him to leave.

“It’s very difficult. Yesterday we extinguished one fire, today another, it is very difficult,” said the firefighter, who would give only his first name, Andriy.

“People are dying, and the worst thing is that children are dying,” he told The Associated Press at the scene. “They haven’t lived their lives and they have already seen this. This is the worst.”

After a brief pause, he went back into the fiery building.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government announced new aid and evacuation efforts amid Russia’s invasion, starting Tuesday morning along nine corridors around the country including the Kyiv region.

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday underscored his drive for energy independence, saying the West’s failure to wean itself from Russian oil and natural gas after the annexation of Crimea paved the way for the invasion of Ukraine.

Western countries made a “terrible mistake” in returning to normal economic relations with Russia after the Crimean incursion and becoming even more dependent on Russian energy exports, Johnson wrote in a front page article in The Telegraph newspaper.

“And so when (Vladimir Putin) finally came to launch his vicious war in Ukraine, he knew the world would find it very hard to punish him. He knew that he had created an addiction,” he said. “That is why he feels able to bomb maternity hospitals. That is why he is emboldened enough to launch indiscriminate assaults on fleeing families.”

Ending the world’s dependence on Russian energy will starve Putin of cash, Johnson said as he made the case for the U.K. government’s plan to phase out imports of oil and gas from Russia by the end of this year.

To replace Russian energy and cut carbon emissions, the U.K. must expand production of wind power, and invest in other forms of renewable energy including solar, tidal, geothermal and hydroelectric power plants, Johnson said. The U.K. must also reverse the “historic mistake” of moving away from nuclear energy, he said.

LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says Russia may be planning to install a pro-Moscow government in Kherson, a Ukrainian city it has occupied, as it attempts to assert “political control” over areas of Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defense says Russia “may seek to stage a ‘referendum’ in Kherson in an attempt to legitimize the area as a ‘breakaway republic’ similar to Donetsk and Luhansk and Crimea.”

U.K. Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said any attempt at local referendums would “be another attempt to put a veneer of credibility on what is an unacceptable, unjustified illegal invasion.”

In an intelligence update, the defense ministry says protests have been held against occupying Russian forces in the cities of Melitopol, Berdyansk and Kherson, where troops fired warning shots at demonstrators on Monday.

It says Russia has reportedly installed its own mayor in the southern city Melitopol following the alleged abduction of his predecessor on Friday, and the mayor of another city, Dniprorudne, has also reportedly been abducted by Russian forces.

WARSAW, Poland — The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia are traveling on Tuesday to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital which is currently under fire, on a European Union mission to show support for Ukraine as Russia’s invasion intensifies.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said in a tweet: “The aim of the visit is to express the European Union’s unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence.”

He will be joined by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Polish the deputy prime minister for security but also the conservative ruling party leader.

Russia’s offensive in Ukraine edged closer to central Kyiv on Tuesday, with a series of strikes hitting a residential neighborhood in the capital as the two countries planned a second day of talks.

This item has been corrected to show that Janez Janša is the Prime Minister of Slovenia, not Slovakia.

KYIV, Ukraine – A series of Russian strikes hit a residential neighborhood of Ukraine’s capital on Tuesday, igniting a huge fire and frantic rescue effort in a 15-story Kyiv apartment building. At least one person was killed and others remain trapped inside.

The Ukrainian military said in a statement that the strikes were artillery strikes. They hit the Svyatoshynskyi district of western Kyiv, adjacent to the suburb of Irpin that has seen some of the worst battles of the war.

Flames shot out of the apartment building as firefighters rescued people from ladders. Smoke choked the air.

A firefighter at the scene confirmed one person died and that several have been rescued alive but others are still inside as rescuers try to reach them.

Russian forces also stepped up strikes overnight on the northwest suburbs of Irpin, Hostomel and Bucha, the head of the Kyiv region Oleksiy Kuleba said on Ukrainian television.

Russian forces also renewed efforts Tuesday to capture the important port city of Mariupol in the south, and unleashed new artillery strikes on downtown Kharkiv in the east, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Facebook.

TOKYO — Japan’s government is freezing the assets of 17 more Russian politicians tycoons and their relatives to step up sanctions and pressure Moscow to end its invasion of Ukraine.

The list of sanction targets include 11 members of the Russian parliamentary chamber of Duma, banker Yuri Kovalchuk and his relatives, as well as billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of Renova Group, according to a statement jointly issued by the foreign, finance and trade ministries.

The move brings the number of Russians targeted by Japan’s asset freezes to 61.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters Tuesday the additional steps were taken “in order to stop Russia’s invasion (of Ukraine) as soon as possible.”

Matsuno said Japan will cooperate with other Group of Seven nations and other international community to respond appropriately in case of further sanctions.

Japan has previously imposed sanctions against Russian central bank, seven private banks, and Russian and Belarusian individuals and groups. Tokyo also imposed an export ban to Russia of items including high technology equipment that may be used for military purposes.

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations will continue Tuesday.

Speaking in a video address, Zelenskyy said that the Ukrainian delegation did good work during Monday’s talks. He didn’t provide further details.

He said he spoke Monday to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as part of efforts to “quickly end the war” and achieve “honest peace.” Bennett, who has sought to mediate a peaceful settlement, also spoke Monday to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Zelenskyy hailed a Russian state TV employee who interrupted the main evening news program on Russian Channel 1 by running into a studio with a poster against the war in Ukraine. The employee was later arrested by police.

The Ukrainian president again addressed the Russian soldiers, urging them to stop fighting and saying: “I’m offering you a chance to survive.”

In a bid to shore up the economy badly battered by the war, Zelenskyy announced a plan to sharply reduce taxes for business.

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