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Russia-Ukraine War: Blinken: US, Allies Discuss Russia Oil Imports

The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States and its allies are having a “very active discussion” about banning the import of Russian oil and natural gas in the latest escalation of their sanctions in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.

Asked about oil and gas imports, Blinken told CNN on Sunday that President Joe Biden convened a meeting of his National Security Council on the subject the day before. Biden and Western allies have until now held off on sanctions against Russia’s lucrative energy industry to avoid blowback on their own economies.

“We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on world market,” said Blinken. “That’s a very active discussion as we speak.”

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BERLIN — The U.N. human rights office says it has confirmed the deaths of 364 civilians in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.

The Geneva-based office said that another 759 civilians had been injured as of midnight Saturday.

The rights office uses strict methodology and only reports casualties it has confirmed.

It says it believes the real figures are considerably higher, “especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days.” That’s because the flow of information has been delayed amid the fighting and many reports still need to be corroborated.

Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers.

The dead bodies of people killed by Russian shelling lay covered in the street in the town of Irpin, Ukraine, Sunday, March 6, 2022. With the Kremlin’s rhetoric growing fiercer and a reprieve from fighting dissolving, Russian troops continued to shell encircled cities and the number of Ukrainians forced from their country grew to over 1.4 million. (AP Photo/Diego Herrera Carcedo)

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NEW YORK — The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart that Russia’s military action in Ukraine could be halted “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities and fulfills the well-known demands of Russia.”

Putin has listed “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine, recognition of Russian-annexed Crimea as part of Russia and separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states as the Kremlin’s main demands.

According to the readout of Sunday’s call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “hope was expressed that during the planned next round of negotiations, the representatives of Ukraine would show a more constructive approach, fully taking into account the emerging realities.”

A third round of talks is scheduled for Monday.

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MEDYKA, Poland — The head of the United Nations’ refugee agency says the international Red Cross and the U.N. are negotiating access to the cities in Ukraine most impacted by fighting since Russia invaded Feb. 24.

Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said Sunday that “those discussions continue” with hope for success, but didn’t name specific cities. He said during a visit to Poland’s border with Ukraine that “these corridors are mainly to bring humanitarian goods basic goods to people that are really in desperate need and also to extract maybe the most vulnerable people.”

Grandi stressed that wide international assistance is needed for Poland and other countries receiving refugees from Ukraine. He said that “predictions are difficult, hundreds of thousands are on the move inside Ukraine, and it is very likely that we will see a large influx continuing in the next few days.” Earlier Sunday, he said that more than 1.5 million people have already fled Ukraine for neighboring countries.

Grandi said that “what is needed really is a ceasefire, is the end to hostilities because that’s the only way to stop this tragedy.”

A Ukrainian woman dressed in military attire prays inside the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in Lviv, western Ukraine, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says a second attempt to evacuate civilians from a southern city under siege for a week has failed due to continued Russian shelling.

Ukrainian military authorities said earlier Sunday that evacuations from the port city of Mariupol were scheduled to begin at noon local time (10 a.m. GMT) during a 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. local ceasefire.

Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said the planned evacuations along designated humanitarian corridors were halted because of an ongoing assault.

He said on Telegram that “there can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom.”

A similar cease-fire planned for Mariupol and the nearby city of Volnovakha collapsed Saturday, trapping residents under more shelling and aerial bombardment by Russian forces.

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ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office says he has called for an urgent cease-fire in Ukraine in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a statement following Sunday’s one-hour call, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan had urged a halt to fighting to “address humanitarian concerns” and “seek a political solution” to the conflict. The war is now in its 11th day.

Erdogan called for the opening of humanitarian corridors and a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine.

Turkey has extensive ties with both Russia and Ukraine and has sought to place itself as a mediator. It has invited both to a diplomatic forum in Antalya next week.

Erdogan’s office said he told Putin that he was “ready to make every contribution” to resolving the crisis.

Refugees, mostly women with children, rest inside a tent after arriving at the border crossing, in Medyka, Poland on Sunday, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

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WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s border guard agency says that over 922,000 refugees have crossed the border from Ukraine since Feb. 24, when Russia launched its invasion.

The agency said on Twitter that a record one-day number of over 129,000 crossed into Poland on Saturday, and almost 40,000 between midnight and 7 a.m. on Sunday.

A nation of some 38 million people, Poland is receiving the largest number of refugees among Ukraine’s neighbors. Some who entered Poland have continued to other countries.

The head of the United Nations’ refugee agency said Sunday that more than 1.5 million refugees have crossed from Ukraine into neighboring countries since Russia invaded.

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SIRET, Romania — Romania’s border police say more than 227,000 Ukrainian citizens have entered Romania in total since the crisis began and more than 155,000 of them have already left the country.

During a visit on Saturday to Romania’s northern border at Siret, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that “no Ukrainian will be denied entry into Romania.”

He said Romanian authorities believe that the situation “will continue for a long time, and the complications will worsen.” The president added: “We believe that this humanitarian catastrophe will spread, that a lot of help will be needed here, but also in Ukraine.”

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says he has dispatched two cardinals to Ukraine, a highly unusual move.

The pontiff said Sunday that “the Holy See is willing to do everything to put itself in service for peace.” The papal almsgiver, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, has been dispatched with aid, along with Cardinal Michael Czerny, who is head of the papal office that deals with migration, charity, justice and peace.

Francis did not say where exactly the cardinals had gone, but said they represented him and all Christian people with the message that “war is madness.”

Referring to Ukraine as “that martyred country,” Francis called for a cessation of violence, the establishment of humanitarian corridors and a return to negotiations.

“In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing. This is not just a military operation, but a war that sows death, destruction and misery,” he said in his traditional Sunday blessing.

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HELSINKI — The top U.S. military officer says Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike have put up an “extraordinarily courageous” fight since the Russian invasion.

Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke Sunday during a visit to an air base in Amari, Estonia. He is visiting the three Baltic nations to pledge U.S. and NATO support to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, former Soviet republics that border Russia.

Milley said that “the will of the Ukrainian people, the importance of their national leadership and the fighting skills of the Ukrainian army has come through loud and clear.”

He said Ukrainians have put up “an extraordinarily courageous and brave fight” and “they’ve been doing very, very well. But it’s a little bit early to draw any definitive lessons.”

Milley said the U.S. currently has no indications that Moscow is planning to attack on the Baltic countries and “we want to make sure it stays that way.”

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskyy is pushing his call for foreign countries to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Establishing a no-fly zone would risk escalating the conflict by involving foreign militaries directly. Although the United States and many Western countries have backed Ukraine with weapons shipments, they have sent no troops.

Zelenskyy said in a video address on Sunday that “the world is strong enough to close our skies.”

NATO countries have ruled out policing a no-fly zone, which would bar all unauthorized aircraft from flying over Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that Moscow would consider any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine as “participation in the armed conflict.”

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s prime minister says his country will continue to assist in finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, even if the chances for success are few.

Naftali Bennett spoke Sunday to a meeting of his Cabinet, hours after he returned from a surprise meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the two discussed the war with Ukraine. He then traveled to Germany where he met Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Bennett revealed no details from his talks with Putin, but called the country’s mediation efforts “our moral duty.” Earlier, his office said he and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke by phone Sunday morning, the third such call between the two leaders over the past day.

Bennett also told his Cabinet Israel was readying for a wave of Jewish immigration from Ukraine. Israel is also preparing to allow entry to a small number of non-Jewish Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

Israel is one of the few countries that has good working relations with both Russia and Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool via AP)

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LVIV, Ukraine — An official in one of Ukraine’s pro-Russia separatist region says Russian forces will observe a temporary cease-fire Sunday in two Ukrainian cities. An agreement to allow civilians to evacuate collapsed a day earlier amid continued shelling and the flight of refugees to neighboring nations.

Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the military in separatist-held Donetsk, said safe passage corridors for residents of the besieged port city of Mariupol and the city of Volnovakha would reopen Sunday. He did not say for how long nor whether a cease-fire would accompany the evacuation.

Ukrainian officials confirmed that evacuations from Mariupol would take place starting from 12 p.m. local time. Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said a ceasefire would be in effect between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.

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BERLIN — The head of the United Nations’ refugee agency says that more than 1.5 million refugees have crossed from Ukraine into neighboring countries since Russia invaded.

Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, tweeted on Sunday that it is “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”

His agency didn’t immediately give a more precise update on the refugee figures. Grandi is visiting countries that border Ukraine.

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PRAGUE — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty says it has suspended its operations in Russia after Moscow intensified a crackdown on what it deems to be “fake” reports and tax authorities initiated bankruptcy proceedings against it.

The U.S.-funded, Prague-based broadcaster’s president and chief executive, Jamie Fly, said “this is not a decision that RFE/RL has taken of its own accord, but one that has been forced upon us by the Putin regime’s assault on the truth.”

The broadcaster, which has had a physical presence in Russia since 1991, plans to continue reporting on Russia and the war in Ukraine from abroad.

The announcement came after Russia on Friday passed a law foreseeing prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading what is deemed to be fake information about its armed forces.

In addition, RFE/RL said that Russian authorities initiated bankruptcy proceedings on Friday. It said it is seeing “the culmination of a years-long pressure campaign against RFE/RL.”

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BERLIN — Austrian energy company OMV says it has decided not to pursue any future investments in Russia and is starting a “strategic review” of its stake in the Yuzhno Rosskoye gas and oil field, which could result in its exit.

OMV said in a statement late Saturday that “Russia will no longer be a core region” in its business. CEO Alfred Stern said that “the war in Ukraine is a tragic and perilous situation that is causing great suffering for many and that we view with the utmost consternation.”

OMV holds a 24.99% stake in the Yuzhno Rosskoye gas field. It said that the review it has now launched “comprises all options including possibilities to divest or exit.” It said that it expects to take costs of 500 million-800 million euros ($547 million-875 million).

It said it also will take a charge of 987 million euros related to financing for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, whose certification was suspended by Germany last month, which “may be unrecoverable.”

The Austrian company has already ended negotiations with Russia’s Gazprom about the potential purchase of a stake in the Urengoy gas field in Siberia.

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CHISINAU, Moldova – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Moldova pledging America’s support to the small Western-leaning former Soviet republic that is coping with an influx of refugees from Ukraine and warily watching Russia’s intensifying war with its neighbor.

Blinken was meeting on Sunday with senior Moldovan officials who are appealing for international assistance in dealing with more than 120,000 refugees from Ukraine that it is now hosting while also seeking security reassurances against potential Russian aggression. More than 230,000 people have fled into Moldova from Ukraine since the war began 11 days ago.

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

“We admire the generosity of hospitality, the willingness to be such good friends to people who are in distress, and, indeed, I want to do everything we can to help you deal with the burden that this has imposed,” he said.

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

Ukrainian soldiers drive on an armored military vehicle in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

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LONDON — British military officials on Sunday compared Russia’s tactics in Ukraine to those used in Chechnya and Syria, where cities were bombarded and heavily damaged after Russian forces faced unexpected resistance from their defenders.

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

“This is likely to represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale,” the ministry said in a statement. “Russia has used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, employing both air and ground-based 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 disguise fuel trucks to reduce losses.

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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 made “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 delivered humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but also maintains ties with Moscow to make sure that Israeli and Russian warplanes do not come into conflict in neighboring Syria.

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KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian paramedic 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 to “get under bullets.’

She was always “running to the most dangerous places” to rescue to the injured, Nataliia Voronkova said.

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

Several women, including some dressed in camouflage jackets, cried as her body lay in a casket at a service. A portrait of Pushych was on a wall nearby.

At the cemetery, red roses were placed on Pushych’s body. After she was buried, the dirt was covered with the flag of Ukraine.

People with disabilities and injured soldiers walk after crossing the Irpin river on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

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

An order from Ukraine’s government prohibited men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country to keep them available for military conscription.

But some like Volodymyr Onysko volunteered to fight.

“We know why we are here. We know why we defend our country. And our guys that are actually standing there and fighting Russian military forces,” he told Britain’s Sky News. “We know what we are doing and that’s why we will win.”

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

Ayres said the Ukrainian people have been inspiring and “it’s galvanized everybody.”

“I’ve got no illusions. I’ve got no romantic ideas of war or like ‘I’m going to be some hero’ or make a difference … but it is what I do,” Ayres said.

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

Blinken says the world is watching to see 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 U.S. and Europe should pay attention to the negative impact of NATO’s eastward expansion on Russia’s security.

The U.S. State Department says Blinken underscored that the world is acting in unison in response to Russian aggression and ensuring that Moscow will pay a high price.

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

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

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

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

 

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