July 1, 2022

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Live Updates | Pope Francis wants Easter truce in Ukraine

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has opened Holy Week with a call for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make room for a negotiated peace. He said leaders need to “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

Francis celebrated Palm Sunday Mass before crowds in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since the pandemic. He used the opportunity to call for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting.” He said a truce should lead to “peace through real negotiations.”

Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the reference was clear. He has repeatedly denounced the war and the suffering brought to innocent civilians.


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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— US: Russia’s new battlefield commander has history of brutality

— Ukraine digs in to fight Russia’s looming eastern offensive

— Analysis: War, economy could weaken Putin’s place as leader

— Zelenskyy, in AP interview, says he seeks peace despite atrocities

— Poland-Ukraine ties seen as target of Russian disinformation

— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. official said Russia has appointed a new commander to oversee its war on Ukraine.

The official speaking on condition of anonymity said Russia has turned to one of its most experienced military officers, Gen. Alexander Dvornikov. U.S. officials say the 60-year-old general has a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and other theaters of war.

The White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told CNN on Sunday that “this general will just be another author of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians.” And he said “no appointment of any general can erase the fact that Russia has already faced a strategic failure in Ukraine.”

The new battlefield leadership comes as Russia gears up for what is expected to be a large and more focused push to expand Russian control in the Donbas after failing to conquer the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Sullivan reiterated support for the Ukrainian government, saying the United States is determined to do all it can to help Ukrainians resist this general and the forces he commands.

— Robert Burns and Hope Yen

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s border guard agency says that about 2,200 Ukrainian men of fighting age have been detained so far while trying to leave the country in violation of martial law.

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The agency said Sunday that some of them have used forged documents and others tried to bribe border guards to get out of the country.

It said some have been found dead while trying to cross the Carpathian mountains in adverse weather, without specifying the number.

Under martial law, Ukrainian men between 18 and 60 are barred from leaving the country so that they can be called up to fight.

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WARSAW, Poland — Sirens have sounded in some Polish cities to mark the anniversary of a 2010 plane crash that killed the country’s president, despite protests that their sound would be unnecessarily traumatic for refugees from the war in Ukraine.

The sirens early Sunday were intended to add to the significance and the plaintive character of observances honoring the late President Lech Kaczynski, the first lady and 94 other prominent Poles killed 12 years ago in the crash of the presidential plane in Russia. Kaczynski was the twin of Jaroslaw Kaczynski — the leader of the main governing Law and Justice party.

Provincial governors ignored calls not to use the sirens out of concern for refugees from neighboring Ukraine, traumatized by air raid alarms. Authorities sent text messages to refugees’ phones that the sirens would mean no danger.

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KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian military says Russia has been beefing up its forces and trying to probe Ukrainian defenses.

The Ukrainian military command said Sunday that the Russian troops have continued attempts to break Ukrainian defenses near Izyum, southeast of Kharkiv. It reported that Russia was sending reinforcements to Izyum while continuing the shelling of Kharkiv.

The military added that the Russians also continued their attempts to take control of Mariupol, the Sea of Azov port that has been besieged by Russian forces for nearly 1 ½ months.

After Russia’s attempt to capture Kyiv and other big cities in northeastern Ukraine quickly failed, Ukrainian and Western officials expect Moscow to launch a new offensive in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he focused on the need to track down perpetrators of war crimes in a phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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Zelenskyy said on Twitter that in Sunday’s call “we emphasized that all perpetrators of war crimes must be identified and punished.”

Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other places near Kyiv, where hundreds of slaughtered civilians, many with their hands bound and signs of torture, were found after Russian troops retreated.

Zelenskyy also said he and Scholz “discussed anti-Russian sanctions, defense and financial support for Ukraine.”

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has opened Holy Week with a call for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make room for a negotiated peace, highlighting the need for leaders to “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass before crowds in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since the pandemic, Pope Francis called for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting, no! A truce to reach peace through real negotiations.”

Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the reference was clear. He has repeatedly denounced the war and the suffering brought to innocent civilians.

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HELSINKI — Finland says that a shipment of art works from Russian museums has been returned to Russia after it was seized under European Union sanctions against Moscow.

Finland’s customs service said late Saturday that the Foreign Ministry granted a special permit to return the consignment with a total insured value of around 42 million euros ($46 million). It said that trucks carrying the art works from the Hermitage Museum and the Pavlovsk State Museum in St. Petersburg, among others, left Finnish territory on Saturday afternoon.

The shipment was seized at the Vaalimaa border crossing at the beginning of April. The works were en route to Russia after loan to museums in Europe and Japan. Experts say that art works loaned from Russia typically travel overland via Finland.

Russia has demanded the return of all works on loan to “unfriendly” nations that imposed sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.

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MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has struck Ukrainian air defense batteries in the country’s south and east.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that the military used air-launched missiles to hit Ukraine’s S-300 air defense missile systems in Starobohdanivka in the southern Mykolaiv region and at an air base in Chuhuiv in the eastern Kharkiv region.

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Konashenkov also said that sea-launched cruise missiles destroyed the headquarters of a Ukrainian military unit near Zvonetske in the Dnipro region.

The Russian military claims couldn’t be independently verified.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says more civilians are expected to leave Mariupol Sunday in their personal vehicles.

Evacuations are also planned from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar in the south and Sieverierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna and Rubizhne in the east.

Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Sea of Azov, has been besieged by Russian forces for nearly 1 ½ months, cut from food, water and power supplies and pummeled by relentless bombardment that has killed at least 5,000, according to local officials.

Ukrainian authorities have urged civilians in the east to evacuate in the face of an imminent Russian offensive. They accused Russia of killing 52 people on Friday at the train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk as they were preparing to evacuate.

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GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency says the number of people who have left Ukraine since the beginning of the war has reached 4.5 million.

A regular update Sunday of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees’ online portal on numbers of refugees fleeing Ukraine since Feb. 24 brought the total to some 4.504 million.

About 2.6 million of those fled at least initially to Poland and more than 686,000 to Romania. However, UNHCR notes that there are very few border controls within the European Union and it believes “a large number of people” have moved on from the first country they arrived in.

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LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defense says that Russia’s armed forces are seeking to respond to mounting losses by boosting troop numbers with personnel who had been discharged from military service since 2012.

In an intelligence update on Twitter, the ministry also said Sunday that the Russian military’s efforts to “generate more fighting power” also include trying to recruit from Trans-Dniester, a breakaway region in Moldova that borders Ukraine.

Russia maintains some 1,500 troops in the region, which is not internationally recognized.

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