By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the war in Ukraine has worsened problems in the Western Hemisphere caused by the coronavirus pandemic, such as rising poverty.
Concerns about the war decreasing the availability of food and increasing prices have sparked fears of increasing hunger and starvation in other nations. Blinken told the annual Conference of the Americas Luncheon on Tuesday that the effects of the war are being felt after the pandemic inflicted “massive economic harm throughout the region.”
Giving the luncheon’s keynote address in Washington, Blinken said: “Now, with the Russian government’s brutal war of aggression on Ukraine, many of these preexisting problems, these preexisting conditions, have been made worse, raising the price of essential commodities throughout the Americas, from fertilizer to wheat to petroleum, cutting off key export markets for many industries in the Americas, and forcing households across the region to make very wrenching choices as the cost of living skyrockets.”
Blinken plans to chair two United Nations meetings later this month aimed at spotlighting how the war in Ukraine and other conflicts is affecting the availability of food and prices.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Aid workers prepare to receive civilians evacuating from Mariupol steel plant
— Push to arm Ukraine putting strain on US weapons stockpile
— Pope Francis offers to meet Putin, but hasn’t heard back
Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
UNITED NATIONS — The United States says it will spotlight the impact of the war in Ukraine and other conflicts on the diminishing availability of food and rising prices at two U.N. events later this month.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a news conference Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will chair a ministerial meeting on food insecurity across the globe on May 18 to review current and future humanitarian needs.
The United States holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month and on May 19, Blinken will chair a meeting where its 15 members will consider how to make sure that food insecurity does not “drive new conflicts, instability, particularly in fragile states,” she said.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say the Russian military has struck railroad infrastructure across the country.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the Ukrainian railways, said the Russian strikes on Tuesday hit six railway stations in the country’s central and western regions, inflicting heavy damage.
Kamyshin said at least 14 trains were delayed because of the attacks.
Dnipro region Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian missiles struck railway infrastructure in the area, leaving one person wounded and disrupting train movement.
The Ukrainian military also reported strikes on railways in the Kirovohrad region, saying there were unspecified casualties.
Ukraine’s railroads have played an important role in moving people, goods and military supplies during the war as roads and bridges have been damaged.
TROY, Ala. — President Joe Biden on Tuesday credited the assembly line workers at a Javelin missile plant for doing life-saving work in building the antitank weapons that are being sent to Ukraine to stifle Russia’s invasion as he made a pitch for Congress to approve $33 billion so the U.S. can continue hustle aid to the front lines.
“You’re allowing the Ukrainians to defend themselves,” Biden told the workers, his podium flanked by Javelin missile launchers and shipping containers. “And, quite frankly, they’re making fools of the Russian military in many instances.”
The president’s visit to the Lockheed Martin factory in Alabama also drew attention to a growing concern as the war drags on: Can the U.S. sustain the cadence in shipping vast amounts of arms to Ukraine while maintaining a healthy stockpile it may need if conflict erupts with North Korea, Iran or elsewhere?
The U.S. has provided at least 7,000 Javelins, including some transferred during the Trump administration, or about one-third of its stockpile, to Ukraine in recent years, according to an analysis by Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies international security program. The Biden administration says it has committed to sending 5,500 Javelins to Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion.
Analysts also estimate that the United States has sent about one-quarter of its stockpile of shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told investors last week during a quarterly call that his company, which makes the weapons system, wouldn’t be able to ramp up production until next year, due to parts shortages.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. humanitarian chief in Ukraine says about 30 people who came out of the besieged Avostal steel plant in Mariupol chose not to leave the city, saying they were “horrified” at its total devastation and first wanted to find out if their loved ones were still alive.
Osnat Lubrani told a virtual press conference from the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia soon after the arrival Tuesday of 127 people evacuated from the plant and the town of Manhush on Mariupol’s outskirts that she wants to believe the successful operation will be “a stepping stone to more such operations” from Avostal and other towns and cities being shelled and bombarded by the Russians.
She said “there is knowledge that there are civilians still trapped in the Avostal plant,” but the U.N. has no numbers.
“Some of them may have been afraid to come out, some of them probably couldn’t make it,” Lubrani said. “It’s a huge area” and some of the elderly people could hardly walk and a broken bus with flat tires was used to help some of them leave.
Speaking of the people who wanted to stay in Mariupol, she said, “These are people that have lived their lives and worked in Mariupol and so it was difficult for them to just leave without knowing what the fate of their loved ones is.”
Lubrani said the people still trapped underground in the Avostal plant will hear about the safe evacuation to Zaporizhzhia which is very important, “so if we do another operation, I think hopefully more will come out.”
The Russian military says its artillery has hit over 400 Ukrainian targets during the last day.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the targets included Ukrainian artillery positions, troops strongholds and two fuel depots.
Konashenkov said Russian aircrafts have hit 39 other targets, including concentrations of troops and weapons and two command posts.
He charged that a U.S.-supplied artillery radar, four air defense radars and six ammunition depots were among the targets destroyed with precision-guided weapons over the last day.
Konashenkov’s claims couldn’t be independently verified.
LVIV, Ukraine — Russian strikes have apparently targeted the western Ukraine city of Lviv.
The strikes happened in multiple directions just before 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday — about about an hour and a half after air raid sirens sounded in the city and reportedly went off across the entire country. At least four distinct explosions could be heard from downtown Lviv.
Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said the strikes damaged three power substations, knocking electricity off in parts of Lviv. Two pump stations were also without power, affecting water supply in the city. Two people were injured in the attack, according to the mayor.
Sadovyi wrote on a social message app that those in the city should take shelter. Trains coming out of Lviv stopped service. Car alarms went off after the blasts, and emergency sirens could be heard.
The mayor on Monday had a news conference with the country’s top U.S. diplomat, discussing how America planned to reopen its diplomatic presence in the city located near the Polish border.
The last major attack targeting the city came April 18, which killed at least seven people. Lviv has become a haven for those fleeing the war’s front line in the east.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron, in a phone call Tuesday with Vladimir Putin, stressed the extreme gravity of the consequences of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, and called on the Russian leader to allow evacuations from the Mariupol steel mill to continue, the Elysee Palace said.
Macron urged Russia to rise to the level of its responsibility as a permanent member of the U.S. Security Council by ending this devastating aggression, an Elysee statement said.
Macron asked Putin to restart evacuations at the Azovstal plant, which has served as a refuge for Ukrainians, in coordination with humanitarian units, while allowing evacuees to choose their destination, as called for under international law.
It was the first time that the French president has had a conversation with Putin since March 29 — before the discovery of the exactions in the Ukrainian town of Bucha — after multiple telephone talks. The call came three days after Macron last spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Concerned about world food security, Macron said he was willing to work with international organizations to try to help seek a lifting of the Russian blockade on exports of food goods via the Black Sea, according to the statement.
He also restated his willingness to work on conditions for a negotiated solution to the war, for peace and for full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and reiterated his oft-stated demand for a cease-fire, the statement said.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Donetsk regional governor said the Russian troops on Tuesday shelled a chemical plant in Avdiivka, a city in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 10 people and wounding 15 more.
“The Russians knew exactly where to aim — the workers just finished their shift and were waiting for a bus at a bus stop to take them home,” Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post. “Another cynical crime by Russians on our land.”
GENEVA — A top Red Cross official helping oversee a dramatic, five-day effort that led to the evacuation of dozens of civilians from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol to a government-held city said he remains “extremely concerned” about new clashes between Ukrainian and Russian forces there — with some other civilians still inside.
Pascal Hundt, who heads the Ukraine office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the humanitarian agency and the United Nations carried out the evacuation after Russia and Ukraine agreed that it would only include civilians. He said some people simply chose not to leave, and he didn’t know why — but suspected fear about continued fighting played a part.
A total of 127 people were evacuated from Azovstal and the Mariupol area in buses that arrived in government-controlled Zaporizhzia on Tuesday.
“We are today with a mixed feeling. We have done everything to help these people to basically leave the place where they were — to leave hell,” Hundt said in a call with reporters from Kyiv. “But we would have hoped that much more people would be able to join the convoy and to get out of hell.”
Hundt said about a dozen people taken out in the convoy were sick or injured, but none were in critical condition.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Latvia has summoned Russia’s ambassador to the Baltic country over Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s anti-Semitic statements, the Latvian foreign minister said Tuesday.
The ambassador was “to provide explanations” on May 5 and receive a protest, Edgars Rinkevics wrote on Twitter.
In an interview with an Italian news channel, Lavrov said that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures — including the country’s president — were Jewish, claiming that “Hitler also had Jewish origins.”
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat says the bloc’s executive branch is on the cusp of proposing a new raft of sanctions against Russia, including on oil.
EU policy commissioners have been discussing the new sanctions and are set to send their proposals later Tuesday to the 27 member countries for debate.
The union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet that the executive is “working on the 6th package of sanctions which aims to de-swift more banks, list disinformation actors and tackle oil imports.” Swift is the most widely used international system for bank transfers.
Member countries have been involved in drawing up the proposals, but they routinely take days to endorse them. The sanctions can only enter force once they are published in the EU’s Official Journal. Hungary and Slovakia have already expressed reservations about signing on.
EU ambassadors are scheduled to meet on Wednesday. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is also likely to explain the proposals early Wednesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has told French President Emmanuel Macron that Moscow is ready for talks with Ukraine.
The Kremlin said in its readout of Tuesday’s call that “despite Kyiv’s inconsistency and its lack of readiness for serious work, the Russian side is still ready for dialogue.”
The Kremlin added that Putin also informed Macron about the course of Russia’s “special military operation.” It added that the two leaders also discussed the global food security and Putin underlined that Western sanctions have exacerbated the situation.
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — The U.N.’s aid coordinator for Ukraine says 127 people have been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal plant in Mariupol and nearby areas to a government-controlled city, in an operation carried out along with the international Red Cross.
Osnat Lubrani, the humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said Tuesday that those evacuated included 101 people who “could finally leave the bunkers below the Azovstal steelworks and see the daylight after two months.”
Another 58 people joined the convoy in Manhush, a town on the outskirts of Mariupol.
“Today, we brought people safely to Zaporizhzhia,” Lubriani said. “However, I worry that there may be more civilians who remain trapped.”
The evacuees were receiving humanitarian assistance, including health and psychological care, from the U.N, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and partner agencies after arriving in Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday.
Some of the evacuees opted to be dropped off before arriving in the city, which is in government-controlled territory, Lubriani said in a statement.
— This item has been corrected to fix the spelling of Osnat Lubrani’s last name.
KYIV, Ukraine — The deputy commander of the Azov Regiment that is holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol has confirmed to The Associated Press that Russian forces have started to storm the plant on Tuesday.
The move comes almost two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered its military not to storm the plant, but rather block it off.
Asked about the reports in Ukrainian media that the huge steelworks — the last holdout of Ukrainian resistance in a city otherwise controlled by Moscow’s forces — was being stormed, Sviatoslav Palamar told the AP that “it is true.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Mariupol patrol police chief Mykhailo Vershinin was quoted by Ukrainian television as saying that the Russian military “have started to storm the plant in several places.”
The reports come amid a U.N. effort to evacuate civilians from the plant, which helped scores of people escape the sprawling facility.
According to Denys Shlega, commander of the 12th Operational Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard who is also currently at Azovstal, 200 civilians including children remain at the plant.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told reporters Tuesday that about 150 civilians have been taken from Azovstal and a few hundred remain at the plant. “We need a few more days to continue this operation,” Vereshchuk said.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has urged her visiting Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, to try to influence Russia to end the war in Ukraine.
“Putin has to stop this war,” Frederiksen said Tuesday, adding immediately, “I hope that India will influence Russia.”
India’s neutral stance in the war has raised concerns in the West and earned praise from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who lauded India for judging “the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way.”
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Ukraine’s parliament that their country has achieved the “greatest feat of arms of the 21st century” by repelling Russia’s attempt to capture Kyiv.
Johnson addressed lawmakers in Ukraine’s legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, by video link on Tuesday. He is the first world leader to do so since Ukraine was invaded on Feb. 24.
Johnson, one of Ukraine’s most prominent international supporters, announced a new 300 million pound ($375 million) package of military aid to Ukraine, including radar, drones and armored vehicles.
Johnson said Ukraine had “exploded the myth of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s invincibility,” and expressed confidence Ukraine would win the war.
The British leader said Western allies had not done enough to stop Russia after it annexed Crimea and triggered a conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014, and said Ukraine’s allies should not press it to give up territory to make peace.
He said “you are the masters of your fate, and no-one can or should impose anything on Ukrainians. We in the U.K. will be guided by you and we are proud to be your friends.”
The Russian military says they have resumed strikes on the Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol.
Vadim Astafyev, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday Ukrainian fighters holed in at the plant “came out of the basements, took up firing positions on the territory and in the buildings of the plant.” Astafyev said Russian forces along with rebel forces from Donetsk were using “artillery and aircraft … to destroy these firing positions.”
The steel plant is the last holdout of Ukrainian resistance in a city that is otherwise controlled by Moscow’s forces. More than 100 civilians, including small children, were making their way out of the steelworks in an evacuation effort overseen by the United Nations and the Red Cross.
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