From The Associated Press
LVIV, Ukraine – Russian forces have freed the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol in exchange for nine of its captured conscripts, an official with Ukraine’s Presidential Office said on Wednesday.
Kyiv accused the Russians of kidnapping Mayor Ivan Fedorov about a week ago. Surveillance video showed him marching out of City Hall, apparently surrounded by Russian soldiers.
Residents of Melitopol, a southeastern city currently under Russian control, have protested to demand his release.
Daria Zarivna, spokeswoman for the Office of the President of Ukraine, said Wednesday Fedorov was released from captivity, and Russia “has nine of its captured soldiers, born in 2002-2003, practically children, conscripts, the Russian Defense Ministry said, weren’t there.” “
Moscow initially denied sending conscripts to fight in Ukraine, but later the Russian military admitted that some conscripts took part in the offensive and were even captured by Ukrainian forces.
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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
– Russian attacks pound Ukraine as Putin warns of ‘traitors’
— War is squeezing life out of desperate Mariupol, explosion after explosion
— The Berlin train station becomes a refugee city for Ukrainians fleeing the war
– Biden flatly calls Putin a war criminal, but investigations to determine this have only just begun
— Different styles, missions shown in speeches by Biden and Zelenskyy
– Zelenskyy unites Republicans and Democrats 2 years after he appeared in a divisive US impeachment trial
— Check https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for updates throughout the day.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENS TODAY:
UNITED NATIONS – The UN Security Council will meet on Thursday at the request of six western nations who have requested an open session on Ukraine ahead of an expected vote on a humanitarian resolution by Russia, which they have slammed for threatening Moscow’s war against its smaller neighbour didn’t mention .
“Russia commits war crimes and attacks civilians. Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to all of us,” tweeted the United Kingdom’s UN mission, one of the six countries that requested the meeting.
Russia on Tuesday circulated a draft Security Council resolution calling for protection for civilians “in vulnerable situations” in Ukraine and safe passage for humanitarian aid and people wishing to leave the country, but without acknowledging the war or the parties concerned mention.
The decision is expected to be voted on by the council on Friday.
LVIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian and Russian delegations held talks via video again on Wednesday.
Advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Mikhailo Podolyak said Ukraine had demanded a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and legal security guarantees for Ukraine from a number of countries.
“This is only possible through direct dialogue” between Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said on Twitter.
An official in Zelenskyi’s office told The Associated Press that the main topic of discussion was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist areas of eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.
Shortly before the war, Russia recognized the independence of two regions controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. It also expanded the borders of these regions into areas Ukraine had continued to hold, including Mariupol, a port city now under siege.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Ukraine insists on including one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations and on signing a legally binding document with security guarantees for Ukraine. In exchange, the official said, Ukraine is ready to negotiate neutral status.
Russia has called for a NATO commitment never to accept Ukraine into the alliance or to station forces there.
Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau in Lviv contributed to this report.
PANAMA CITY — Three Panama-flagged ships were hit by Russian missiles in the Black Sea during the Russian war in Ukraine and one sank, Panamanian authorities said on Wednesday.
The ships’ crews “are safe,” said Maritime Authority director Noriel Araúz.
The ship that sank was the Helt, but Araúz did not say when that happened. The other hits were Lord Nelson and Namura Queen. Panamanian officials earlier said the Namura Queen, which is owned by a Japanese company and operated by a company in the Philippines, was hit in February.
Araúz said 10 Panama-flagged ships are in the Black Sea, including the three hit. Together they have about 150 crew members of different nationalities who were not allowed to leave, he said.
“We are in constant communication with the ships … because we know that the Russian Navy will not let them leave the Black Sea,” Araúz said.
Panama is the world leader in registered merchant vessels and has advised its merchant fleet to be on high alert in Ukrainian and Russian waters.
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