Live updates | Portugal sends marines to NATO in Lithuania

Live updates | Portugal sends marines to NATO in Lithuania

KYIV, Ukraine – A regional governor in southern Ukraine says Russian troops are retreating and blowing up bridges to obstruct a possible Ukrainian advance.

Mykolayiv region governor Vitaliy Kim claimed Wednesday on the Telegram messaging app that Russia was on the defensive.

“They are afraid of a breakthrough by the (Ukrainian Armed Forces), but we are not afraid and we support our troops,” he wrote.

Kim didn’t specify exactly where the retreat he described was happening. The parts of the Mykolayiv region which have been held by Russian forces in recent days are close to the large Russia-occupied city of Kherson.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Tuesday that Ukrainian fighters had seen “some success in the Kherson direction.”

Russia is concentrating most of its military power on trying to capture all of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.



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BRUSSELS – The European Union’s asylum agency says the number of people from former Soviet countries seeking international protection in Europe has skyrocketed since Russia launched its war in Ukraine.

The agency said Wednesday that about 14,000 Ukrainians sought asylum in March, a figure some 30 times higher than before the war that started Feb. 24.

The number is on top of the estimated 3 million Ukrainians who have applied for emergency protection under an EU program that provides shelter, access to jobs, medical treatment and education to war refugees.

The biggest increases in asylum-seekers were recorded among citizens from Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. But the EU agency says it’s not clear whether these people came from their home countries or were living in Ukraine when the war started.

The number of Russians seeking asylum in the EU also rose to 1,400 in March, the highest level since 2018.

Asylum is usually granted to people in danger of suffering serious harm due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a social group, and to those fleeing war, torture and degrading treatment.


BERLIN – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says his country will supply Ukraine with modern anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems, stepping up arms deliveries amid criticism that Germany isn’t doing enough to help Kyiv.

Scholz told German lawmakers on Wednesday that the government has decided to provide Ukraine with IRIS-T missiles developed by Germany together with other NATO nations.

He said Germany will also supply Ukraine with radar systems to help locate enemy artillery.

The announcements come amid claims at home and abroad that Germany has been slow to provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend itself against Russia.


KYIV, Ukraine – A regional governor in eastern Ukraine says Russian forces control 70% of Sievierodonetsk, a city that in recent days became the focus of Moscow’s offensive.

Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai said in a Telegram post on Wednesday that some Ukrainian troops were fighting with the Russians in the city while others had pulled back.

“The evacuation (of civilians) has been halted. There is no possibility to bring in humanitarian aid,” Haidai said.

He said the only other city in the Luhansk region not taken by Russia or Moscow-backed separatists — Lysychansk — is “fully” under Ukrainian control.


KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s president says the country is loosing between 60 and 100 soldiers a day in the fighting with Russian forces.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told American TV channel Newsmax that “the most difficult situation is in the east of Ukraine,” including Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

“The situation is very difficult. We’re losing 60-100 soldiers per day as killed in action and something around 500 people as wounded in action. So we are holding our defensive perimeters,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine has largely refrained from disclosing its military losses since the beginning of the Russian invasion, but Zelenskyy previously said the country was losing between 50 and 100 soldiers a day.


VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has appealed for an end to the grain shipment standoff in Ukraine, pleading for an all-out effort to prevent an important commodity from “being used as a weapon of war.”

Francis made the appeal on Wednesday at the end of his general audience.

The pope said he was concerned a Russian naval blockade was holding up millions of tons of grain and depriving poor countries of such a basic foodstuff that is necessary to feed millions.

“I appeal for everyone to do everything possible to resolve this question and guarantee the universal human right of being nourished,” Francis said.

He added: “Please don’t use grain, a basic food, as a weapon of war.”

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed the West to lift the sanctions imposed against Moscow over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for the growing world food crisis.


MOSCOW – Russian state gas giant Gazprom confirms that it has cut gas supplies to Shell Energy Europe and Denmark’s Ørsted after the two companies refused to pay for the deliveries in rubles.

Gazprom said in a statement on Wednesday morning that it hadn’t received payments from either company for gas supplied in April and therefore was halting deliveries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year signed a decree saying foreign buyers needed to pay in rubles for Russian gas as of April 1.

Moscow offered customers receiving its natural gas to establish an account in dollars or euros at Russia’s third-largest bank, Gazprombank, then a second account in rubles. The importer would pay the gas bill in euros or dollars and direct the bank to exchange the money for rubles.

Shell Energy Europe, Ørsted and Dutch gas trader GasTerra refused to pay in rubles, and Gazprom halted supplies to the three companies this week.


BEIJING – China has barred Russia’s airlines from flying foreign-owned jetliners into its airspace, Russian news outlet RBK reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin put the ownership of the jetliners in doubt by allowing planes to be re-registered in Russia to avoid their seizure under sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union, home to major aircraft-leasing companies, banned the sale or lease of aircraft to Russian carriers in February. Putin responded by approving a law that allowed plans to register in Russia.

China’s air regulator asked all foreign carriers last month to update their ownership information and other details, RBK said, citing two unidentified sources.

Russian airlines that couldn’t provide documents showing their aircraft had been “de-registered abroad” were barred from flying to China, RBK said.


WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said in a guest essay Tuesday evening in The New York Times that he’s decided to provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield.

The expectation is that Ukraine could use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Sievierodonetsk.

That town 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of the Russian border is in an area that is the last pocket under Ukrainian government control in the Luhansk region of the Donbas.

In his New York Times’ essay, Biden said the U.S. is not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders and does not want to prolong the war “just to inflict pain on Russia.”

U.S. officials familiar with the decision did not detail how much the aid will cost, but it will be the 11th package approved so far and will be the first to tap the $40 billion in assistance recently passed by Congress.


WASHINGTON – The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it will send Ukraine a small number of high-tech, medium-range rocket systems.

That’s a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders have been begging for as they struggle to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region.

The U.S. plan tries to strike a balance between the desire to help Ukraine battle ferocious Russian artillery barrages while not providing arms that could allow Ukraine to hit targets deep inside Russia and trigger an escalation in the war.

U.S. officials say the aid package expected to be unveiled Wednesday would send what the U.S. considers medium-range rockets – they generally can travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers).

The expectation is that Ukraine could use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Sievierodonetsk.

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