BEIJING — A Chinese diplomat says NATO should stick to what he claimed was a promise not to expand eastward.
In a speech on Saturday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng criticized the far-reaching Western sanctions imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine and said the root cause of the war in Ukraine “lies in the Cold War mentality and power politics.”
Echoing a Kremlin talking point, the Chinese envoy said if NATO’s “enlargement goes further, it would be approaching the ‘outskirts of Moscow’ where a missile could hit the Kremlin within seven or eight minutes.”
“Pushing a major country, especially a nuclear power, to the corner would entail repercussions too dreadful to contemplate,” he said.
He expressed an understanding for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oft-repeated position, saying that NATO should have disintegrated and “been consigned to history alongside the Warsaw Pact.”
“However, rather than breaking up, NATO has kept strengthening and expanding, and intervened militarily in countries like Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan,” he said. “One could well anticipate the consequences going down this path. The crisis in Ukraine is a stern warning.”
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He said Chinese President Xi Jinping in talks with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday urged the parties in Ukraine to demonstrate “political will and keep the dialogue and negotiation going. The U.S. and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukraine’s leader warns that the war will cost Russia for generations
— Putin rallies behind Russian troops while lethal shelling rains down on Ukraine
— President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke as the White House looks to deter Beijing from providing assistance to Russia
— Ukraine’s cultural capital finds that it is no longer distant from the war
— Minister: Clearing the live ordnance now scattered across Ukraine will take years and outside help
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS TODAY:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken on the phone with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, which is the second time this week the two leaders have talked.
According to the Kremlin’s readout of the call, Putin “outlined fundamental assessments of the course of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives,” while Bettel informed him about “contacts with the leadership of Ukraine and other countries.”
Putin also said that “incessant missile strikes by Ukrainian forces on Donetsk and other cities” of the self-proclaimed separatist Donetsk and Luhansk republics in eastern Ukraine are “leading to numerous civilian casualties.”
Bettel tweeted Saturday about his call with Putin, too. He stressed that since their first call earlier this week “the situation on the ground has worsened, especially in the city of Mariupol.”
Bettel added that “the images that reach us (from Mariupol) are intolerable. The goal needs to remain de-escalation, adoption of ceasefire & furthering negotiation processes.”
KVIV, Ukraine — Police of the Kyiv region says seven people were killed and five more wounded in a Friday mortar attack on Makariv, a town 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
The Kyiv regional police said in a Facebook statement that the attack destroyed residential houses and damaged administrative and other buildings. Those wounded have been hospitalized, the statement said.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has repeated his call for the European Union’s executive body to block all trade with Russia and force Moscow to end the war on Ukraine.
Morawiecki spoke Saturday at the Telesystem-Mesko armaments maker in Lubiczow that produces anti-aircraft homing parts that Poland has made available to Ukraine, which is fighting a military invasion by Russia.
Morawiecki said that “a blockade of sea ports, a ban on entry by Russian ships under Russian flags with Russian cargo into sea ports, but also a ban on trade by land,” should be added to sanctions on Russia.
He said cutting Russia completely off sea and land trade with the 27-nation EU “will additionally force Russia to rethink ‘Maybe it’s best to stop this cruel war.”’
Morawiecki said he would make the appeal at the next meeting of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.
LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian military official has confirmed to a local news outlet that Russian forces carried out a missile strike Friday on a missile and ammunition warehouse in the Delyatyn settlement of the Ivano-Frankivsk region in western Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Air Forces spokesman Yurii Ihnat told the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper Saturday, however, that it is yet to be confirmed whether the missile the Russians used was indeed a Kinzhal, the county’s latest hypersonic missile, or some other kind.
Earlier Saturday, a spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said the Russian military hit the underground warehouse in Delyatyn on Friday with the hypersonic Kinzhal missile in its first reported combat use. According to Russian officials, the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound.
LVIV, Ukraine — Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have fired at eight cities and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, using aviation, rocket and heavy artillery.
Ukraine’s National Police said on Telegram Saturday that at least 37 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities were damaged and dozens of civilians were killed or injured as a result of the attacks. It said the Russian military was firing at Mariupol, Avdiivka, Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, Novoselydivka, Verkhnotoretske, Krymka and Stepne.
The statement said “among the civilian objects that Russia destroyed are multistory and private houses, a school, a kindergarten, a museum, a shopping center and administrative buildings.”
The northwestern suburbs the Ukrainian capital — Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun — were also under Russian fire on Saturday. The Kyiv regional administration reported that the city of Slavutich, north of the capital, was “completely isolated,” and that Russian military equipment was spotted northeast and east of Kyiv.
LVIV, Ukraine — The office of the Prosecutor General in Ukraine has accused Russian security and military forces of kidnapping a Ukrainian journalist covering the Russian offensive in the east and the south of Ukraine.
In a Facebook statement Saturday, the Prosecutor General’s office alleged that Russia’s Federal Security Service, or the FSB, and the Russian military abducted the journalist from the Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske on Tuesday in Berdyansk, an occupied port city in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region.
The statement didn’t identify the journalist, but went on to say that the reporter’s whereabouts are currently unknown and a criminal investigation has been launched.
Hromadske on Friday tweeted that they lost contact with reporter Victoria Roshchyna last week.
“As we learned from witnesses, at that time the journalist was in the temporarily occupied Berdyansk. On March 16, we learned that the day before (probably March 15), Victoria Roshchyna was detained by the Russian FSB. Currently, we do not know where she is,” the outlet tweeted.
The FSB and the Russian military haven’t yet commented on the allegations.
BEIJING —China’s vice foreign minister reiterated blame against NATO for the war in Ukraine and criticized sanctions against Russia in a speech delivered at a conference in Beijing Saturday.
Le Yucheng said NATO was a “Cold War vestige” and that its expansion could result in “repercussions too dreadful to contemplate” from a major power like Russia.
His comments come after the U.S. President and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a conversation about the war Friday.
China has consistently blamed the security bloc, led by the U.S., as pushing things to a crisis point between Russia and Ukraine. Le went on also to criticize the economic sanctions against Russia.
“Sanctions against Russia are now going to such lengths that globalization is used as a weapon, even people from the sports, cultural, art and entertainment communities are not spared,” Le said.
China’s government tried to distance itself from Russia’s offensive, but has avoided the criticism many other nations have leveled at Moscow, and continues refrain from calling it a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
LONDON — Former British Prime Minister David Cameron is helping to drive a truckload of supplies for Ukrainian refugees to Poland.
Cameron, who led the U.K. between 2010 and 2016, tweeted a photo of himself behind the wheel of a truck along with the hashtag #standwithukraine. He said it was carrying “everything from nappies (diapers) to sanitary products, warm clothes to first-aid kits.”
The trip is organized by Chippy Larder, a food bank in Cameron’s home town of Chipping Norton in southern England.
Cameron tweeted a video Saturday shot from the truck as it drove, and said he and two colleagues would be “heading into Poland” to give the supplies to the Red Cross.
Earlier this week, Cameron called for more humanitarian help to be given to Ukraine. He said Britain should restore its international aid budget to g 0.7% of gross national income, after it was cut to 0.5% during the coronavirus pandemic.
LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using talks with Ukraine as a “smokescreen” while he ramps up violence against the country.
Liz Truss told the Times of London newspaper that she was “very skeptical” about Russia’s seriousness in the talks, accusing Russian forces of trying to create space to regroup and unblock their stalled campaign.
She said that “we don’t see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table” and said Russia would resort to “worse and worse” violence as its military campaign falters.
The head of Britain’s defense intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull, says Russian forces have shifted to a “strategy of attrition” after failing to take major Ukrainian cities during the three-week invasion.
BERLIN — Germany’s federal police has registered more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees in the country since the outbreak of the war more than three weeks ago.
The country’s interior ministry said 207,747 Ukrainian refugees had arrived as of Saturday. However, the real number of Ukrainian refugees in Germany is expected to be much higher.
Ukrainians don’t need a visa to come to Germany, and federal police only register refugees entering Germany by train or bus. There are not thorough border controls inside the European Union’s internal borders, so Ukrainians coming to Germany from Poland by car are normally not registered. Those who stay with family and friends in Germany are also not counted unless they apply for financial aid from German authorities.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has ruled out providing military aid to Ukraine but says his country, a NATO ally, will continue to provide humanitarian assistance.
“Being so close to the conflict, right now I have to say that currently we will not be able to send military assistance to Ukraine. This will not be possible,” Petkov said Saturday at a news conference in the Bulgarian capital with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Bulgaria, which does not border Ukraine but has received thousands of refugees, has agreed to host a new contingent of NATO troops as part of the alliance’s push to reinforce its eastern flank. That contingent includes about 150 U.S. Army infantry soldiers.
LVIV, Ukraine — Zaporizhzhia regional governor Oleksandr Starukh has announced a 38-hour curfew in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, to last from 4 p.m. local time on Saturday until 6 a.m. on Monday.
Starukh said on Telegram on Saturday: “For your safety, do not go out into the streets and other public places during this time.”
Two missile strikes on the suburbs of Zaporizhzhia killed nine people on Friday, wounded 17 more and left five others with injuries, a spokesman of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration Ivan Arefiev reported Saturday.
Local authorities continue to evacuate people from settlements taken over by the Russians and deliver humanitarian aid to them, he said.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced Saturday that 10 humanitarian corridors have been agreed on with the Russians.
They include a corridor from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, several in the Kyiv region and several in the Luhansk region.
She also announced plans to deliver humanitarian aid to the city of Kherson, which is currently under control of the Russian forces.
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces are blockading the largest cities with the goal of creating such miserable conditions that Ukrainians will be forced to cooperate. He said the Russians are preventing food and other supplies from reaching surrounded cities in central and southeastern Ukraine.
Satellite images on Friday from Maxar Technologies showed a long line of cars leaving Mariupol as people tried to evacuate. Zelenskyy said more than 9,000 people were able to leave the city in the past day.
The Russian military says it used its latest hypersonic missile, a Kinzhal, for the first time in combat during its offensive in Ukraine.
Spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the hypersonic missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing missiles and aviation ammunition of Ukrainian troops in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
Konashenkov also said that the Russian forces used the anti-ship missile system Bastion to strike Ukrainian military facilities near the Black Sea port of Odesa. Russia first used the weapon during its military campaign in Syria in 2016.
OSLO, Norway — The prime minister of Norway says four U.S. service members have died in a plane crash during NATO drills.
Jonas Gahr Støre tweeted that the service members were participating in the NATO exercise “Cold Response,” which is taking place in northern Norway. He wrote: “Our deepest sympathies go to the soldiers’ families, relatives and fellow soldiers in their unit.”
The annual drills in Norway are unrelated to the war in Ukraine. This year they included around 30,000 troops, 220 aircraft and 50 vessels from 27 countries. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden are also participating. The exercises began on March 14 and end on April 1.
According to the Norwegian police, the American V-22B Osprey aircraft that crashed belonged to the U.S. Marine Corps.
The aircraft had a crew of four and was out on a training mission in Nordland County on Friday. It was on its way north to Bodø, where it was scheduled to land just before 6 p.m. Friday.
The plane crashed in Gråtådalen in Beiarn, south of Bodø. Police said a search and rescue mission was launched immediately. At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the police arrived and confirmed that the crew of four had died.
LVIV, Ukraine — The Prosecutor General’s office in Ukraine says a total of 112 children have died in the country since the start of the Russian invasion.
The office says more than 140 children have been wounded since Feb. 24.
According to the U.N. children’s agency, more than 1.5 million children had fled Ukraine. Most families have fled to Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania.
UNICEF says women and girls travelling on their own are especially at risk of gender-based violence.
LVIV, Ukraine — In the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting for the Azovstal steel plant, one of the biggest in Europe, said Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, in televised remarks on Saturday.
“Now there is a fight for Azovstal. … I can say that we have lost this economic giant. In fact, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed,” Denysenko said.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces are blockading Ukraine’s largest cities to create a “humanitarian catastrophe” with the aim of persuading Ukrainians to cooperate with them.
He says Russians are preventing food and other supplies from reaching surrounded cities in the center and southeast of the country.
“This is a totally deliberate tactic,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation, filmed outside in Kyiv, with the presidential office in the lamplight behind him.
He said more than 9,000 people were able to leave the besieged southern city of Mariupol in the past day, and in all more than 180,000 people have been able to flee to safety through humanitarian corridors.
He again appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold talks with him directly. “It’s time to meet, time to speak,” he said. “I want to be heard by everyone, especially in Moscow.”
He noted that the 200,000 people Putin gathered in and around a Moscow stadium on Friday for a flag-waving rally was about the same number of Russian troops sent into Ukraine three weeks ago.
Zelenskyy then asked his audience to picture the stadium filled with the thousands of Russians who have been killed, wounded or maimed in the fighting.
NEW YORK — Three Russian cosmonauts have arrived at the International Space Station wearing flight suits in yellow and blue colors that match the Ukrainian flag. The men were the first new arrivals on the space station since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine last month.
Video of one of the cosmonauts taken as the capsule prepared to dock with the space station showed him wearing a blue flight suit. It was unclear what, if any, message the yellow uniforms they changed into were intended to send.
Oleg Artemyev was asked about the yellow flight suits when the newly arrived cosmonauts were able to talk to family back on Earth. He said every crew chooses its own flight suits, so that they are not all the same.
“It became our turn to pick a color. But in fact, we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. So that’s why we had to wear yellow,” he said.
Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov blasted off successfully from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft at 8:55 p.m. Friday (11:55 a.m. EDT). They smoothly docked at the station just over three hours later, joining two Russians, four Americans and a German on the orbiting outpost.
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