Live updates | Russia-Ukraine War

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman said the Russian military was holding more than 3,000 civilians from Mariupol at another former penal colony near Olenivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

Seven buses carrying an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant were seen arriving Tuesday at former penal colony No. 120 near Olenivka.

Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova said on Telegram earlier Tuesday that the civilians were being held at former penal colony No. 52, also near Olenivka.

She said most civilians are held for a month, but those considered “particularly unreliable,” including former soldiers and police, are held for two months.

Denisova said those held include about 30 volunteers who delivered humanitarian supplies to Mariupol while it was under Russian siege.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

Targeting schools, Russia bombs the future

Fall of Mariupol appears at hand; fighters leave steel plant

Sweden, Finland push ahead with NATO bids as Turkey objects

— From civilian to soldier: Ukrainian army volunteer buried

— With echoes of Trump, GOP splinters over $40B for Ukraine

Vatican minister visits Ukraine as pope toes delicate line

— Europe accused of `double-standard’ on Ukrainian refugees

— Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

MELITOPOL, Ukraine — Ukrainian guerrilla fighters reportedly have killed several high-ranking Russian officers in the southern city of Melitopol, the regional administration said on Telegram.

Russian forces have occupied the city since early in the war.

According to the regional administration, the occupiers are trying to conceal the situation but Russian troops were more actively checking private cars in the city Tuesday, most likely looking for the guerrillas.

No details of the killings were given and the report could not immediately be confirmed.

Throughout the war, the Ukrainians have claimed to have killed many Russian generals and other officers. A few of the deaths have been confirmed by the Russians.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday began with a combination of Russian attacks with Russian forces firing missiles at the western Lviv region and the Sumy and Chernihiv regions in the northeast and carrying out airstrikes in the eastern Luhansk region.

Zelenskyy said the border regions of Ukraine saw Russian “sabotage activity.”

“All of this is not just creating tension for our state, is not just a test of our strength,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. “This is kind of an attempt to compensate the Russian army for a series of failures in the east and south of our country.”

According to Zelenskyy, the Russians are unable to demonstrate any success in the areas where they are trying to attack.

So “they are trying to show success through their missiles and other activities, but also to no effect,” Zelenskyy said. “These strikes, like the many previous ones, do not fundamentally change anything. Moreover, our air defense and anti-sabotage measures are getting stronger.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — The fall of Mariupol appears at hand as Ukraine is moving to abandon a sprawling steel plant where its soldiers had held out under relentless bombardment for months, which would make it the biggest city to fall into Russian hands.

Much of the steel plant has been reduced to rubble.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine is working to get its remaining troops safely out of the Azovstal steel plant.

In his nightly video address to the nation, Zelenskyy said the evacuation mission was being supervised by Ukraine’s military and intelligence officers and “the most influential international mediators are involved.”

However, hundreds of Ukrainian fighters have left the Azovstal steel plant and turned themselves over to Russian hands.

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CANNES, France — The 75th Cannes Film Festival has kicked off with a video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy appeared Tuesday night live via satellite on video wearing a short-sleeved shirt and flanked by Ukrainian flags. His message played before formally attired attendees at the French Riviera festival that lasts through May 28.

Zelenskyy spoke at length about the connection between cinema and reality, referencing films like Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” as not unlike Ukraine’s present circumstances.

“We need a new Chaplin who will demonstrate that the cinema of our time is not silent,” said Zelenskyy, who drew a standing ovation.

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PARIS — Emmanuel Macron of France has spoken with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for over an hour on the phone to discuss the war, including Mariupol and evacuations at the Azovstal steel plant, according to a communique by the Elysee palace.

The communique said the French president stated his “full determination to respond to all requests for support expressed by Ukraine,” particularly in defense equipment, fuel and humanitarian aid, as well as financial support.

It said Macron also confirmed Tuesday that arms deliveries by France would continue and “increase in intensity in the days and weeks to come,” along with the delivery of humanitarian equipment.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo says concerted efforts by the European Union and the U.S. to cut off Russia’s access to technology over its war on Ukraine have greatly succeeded.

She spoke Tuesday after returning from a meeting near Paris of the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council.

Representatives of the EU Commission, the bloc of 27 nations’ executive body, and the Biden administration agreed to further coordinate their actions “to mitigate the negative impacts” of Russia’s war in Ukraine on the global economy.

Raimondo told reporters on a call that the cooperative efforts to implement a series of export controls against Russia “are having a strong and significant effect.”

For the U.S., she said, exports to Russia have decreased by 80% from February, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

“We’ve essentially stopped sending high-tech to Russia, which is what they need for their military,” Raimondo said.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russian troops kept up their blockade of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Tuesday, the Ukrainian military said in its evening operational update.

The army’s General Staff said in a post on its official Facebook profile that “in Mariupol, the enemy concentrated its main efforts on blocking our units in the area of the Azovstal plant,”

Ukrainian authorities did not disclose the number of fighters who remain in the steel mill, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined port city, after 264 soldiers were extracted Monday and taken to territory held by Russia-backed separatists east of Mariupol.

The military also said that the eastern Donetsk region remained the focus of the fighting on Tuesday, with particularly fierce clashes around the Ukrainian-held cities of Siverodonetsk, Avdiivka, and Bakhmut.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s main federal investigative body said Tuesday that it intended to interrogate Ukrainian troops extracted from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, as part of its probe into alleged “crimes by the Ukrainian regime against the civilian population” in Ukraine’s industrial east.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a Telegram post that “Russian investigators will identify the nationalists (and) test whether they have been involved in crimes committed against the civilian population; the information obtained during interrogations will be compared with other data available in records pertaining to criminal cases."

It did not provide any additional information regarding the location or legal status of the Ukrainian fighters.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he and his French counterpart have discussed issues ranging from the evacuation of Ukrainian fighters from Mariupol to Ukraine’s EU membership prospects.

Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening that he had finished "a long and meaningful phone conversation with Emmanuel Macron."

Zelenskyy said he told Macron about “the course of hostilities, the operation to rescue the (Ukrainian) military from Azovstal and the vision of the prospects of the negotiation process.”

He said he also raised the issue of fuel supply to Ukraine.

“We also discussed defense support from France, preparation of the 6th package of sanctions (against Russia), possible ways to export Ukrainian agricultural products,” Zelenskyy added, saying that the two had also held a “substantive” discussion of Kyiv’s potential bid to gain EU candidate status.

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Ukraine’s deputy defense minister expressed hope on Tuesday that the 264 Ukrainian fighters extracted from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol will be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war, despite remarks by a top Russian official who called them “criminals” who have to be “brought to justice.”

Hanna Maliar said at a briefing Tuesday that the comment by Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin is a political statement, “conceived as internal propaganda, (with an eye to) internal political processes in the Russian Federation.”

Maliar said that from Ukraine’s perspective both the negotiation process and rescue operation itself is ongoing.

Earlier Tuesday, the Russian news agency Interfax cited Volodin as calling the Azovstal fighters “Nazi criminals” who should be excluded from any future exchanges.

Volodin was cited calling the fighters “war criminals” and that Russia “must do everything to bring them to justice.”

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justifiable, they are never OK and they must be investigated,” he said, adding that the U.N. health agency would be sharing details of the attacks with Ukrainian authorities and other independent investigators.

Kluge also said he was “deeply troubled” by reports of increasing sexual violence in Ukraine and the potential for cholera outbreaks in occupied parts of the country. He said WHO was preparing cholera vaccines to combat water-borne disease.

Dr. Dorit Nitzan, WHO Europe’s emergencies director, said the organization was worried about the situation in Mariupol, citing reports of numerous broken pipes.

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Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin visited the Kherson region of southern Ukraine on Tuesday, according to the RIA Novosti state news agency.

It's a sign of Russia’s increasing influence over areas held by its forces,

The Kherson region is in southern Ukraine outside of the areas claimed by Russia-backed separatists and has been under control of Russian forces since soon after the invasion began in February.

Khusnullin was quoted by RIA as saying Kherson could take “a worthy place in our Russian family.” He also said Russia was organizing road and bridge repairs and signaled produce from the largely agricultural region could be exported to Russia.

A Kremlin-installed politician in the Kherson region said last week that officials there planned to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate the region into Russia.

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BRUSSELS — The International Criminal Court prosecutor says he’s sent a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support personnel to Ukraine as part of a probe into suspected war crimes during Russia’s invasion.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said Tuesday that the team “will significantly enhance the impact of our forensic and investigative actions on the ground.”

Khan says the team will improve the gathering of witness testimony, the identification of forensic materials and help ensure that “evidence is collected in a manner that strengthens its admissibility in future proceedings” at the Netherlands-based court.

Several thousand civilians are believed to have died since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24. Exact figures are impossible to verify. Incidents of summary executions and the use of cluster bombs by Russian forces have regularly been reported.

To be classed as crimes against humanity, attacks have to be part of what the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, calls “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.”

Khan says that “now more than ever we need to show the law in action” in Ukraine.

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HELSINKI — A small Finnish brewery has launched a NATO-branded beer as Finland has sought membership in the 30-member Alliance along with neighboring Sweden.

The OTAN beer features a blue label, a beer-drinking cartoon character in a metal armor emblazoned with NATO’s compass symbol.

The words “OTAN olutta” means “I will have a beer” in Finnish.

According to a Twitter posting, the Olaf brewery in the eastern Finnish town of Savonlinna, the pun is intended. OTAN is French abbreviation for NATO -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization which has two official languages, English and French.

The town of Savonlinna which houses the Olavinlinna Castle from 1475, has been the site of numerous battles and lies close to the Russian border.

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HELSINKI, Finland — Finland’s Parliament has overwhelmingly endorsed a bid from the Nordic country’s government to join NATO.

Lawmakers at the 200-seat Eduskunta legislature voted 188-8 Tuesday to approve Finland seeking membership in the 30-member Western military alliance.

The vote was considered a formality as Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced the intention to join on Sunday.

Lawmakers’ approval wasn’t necessarily required. However, both Niniisto and Marin stressed that it was important for the Parliament to weigh in on the NATO bid, described by the Finnish head of state as “historic.”

Finland is now expected to sign a formal application and file it to NATO headquarters in the coming days together with Nordic neighbor Sweden where the government announced a similar NATO bid on Monday.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Sweden and Finland “can always rely on our assistance” as they wait to join NATO, and is voicing confidence that Turkey will back their membership bid.

Scholz pledged Tuesday that Germany will push for quick accession by the Nordic nations. He noted that United Nations and European Union provisions call for mutual protection.

Asked whether that means Germany is giving the two countries a security guarantee for the period between their application and becoming members, Scholz replied: “Both countries can always rely on our assistance, particularly in this very special situation.”

Scholz signaled that he’s confident a skeptical Turkey can be won over to the Nordic membership bid, though he sidestepped a question on whether it’s time to rethink restrictions on arms exports to Ankara.

He said: “I am as confident as the NATO secretary general that this (accession) will succeed quickly with the support of all countries, including Turkey as a NATO member.” He said that Turkey has made “very many constructive contributions” in addressing the war.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden Biden will host Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at the White House for a meeting Thursday amid their push to join NATO.

The White House said they would discuss the two countries’ applications to join the alliance, as well as European security broadly. The meeting is set to take place before Biden departs for a four-day trip to South Korea and Japan.

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MOSCOW — Russia says it is expelling two Finnish diplomats and will leave a multinational organization focused on the Baltic Sea, as tensions remain high over Finland and Sweden’s ambitions to join NATO.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday framed the expulsion of the two Finnish diplomats as a response to Finland expelling two Russians last month.

It also said the Finnish ambassador was read a protest against “Finland’s confrontational course in relation to Russia,” including its role in international sanctions against Russia and arms supplies to Ukraine. The statement made no mention of NATO.

Russia said it was leaving the Council of the Baltic Sea States, an 11-nation grouping where Finland and Sweden are prominent members, and the related Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, a grouping of national lawmakers.

Moscow says European Union and NATO member countries were seeking to use the CBSS as “an instrument of anti-Russian policy.” Russia was suspended from participating in the CBSS in March by the other members.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden has signed a formal request to join NATO, a day after the country announced it would seek membership in the alliance. In neighboring Finland, lawmakers are expected later Tuesday to formally endorse Finnish leaders’ decision also to join.

The moves by the two Nordic countries, ending Sweden’s more than 200 years of military nonalignment and Finland’s nonalignment after World War II, have provoked the ire of the Kremlin.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto arrived in Sweden for an official two-day visit and said: “we took peace for granted; on Feb. 24 the peace was broken,” in a reference to the date that Ukraine was invaded by Russia.

“Our old ways of handling things no longer correspond to the new situation,” Niinisto told Swedish lawmakers. “Our relations with Russia have changed.”

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister says she is “very confident” that Sweden and Finland will be cleared to join NATO, despite objections from Turkey.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that the two Nordic nations’ military standards are “more than NATO-compatible” so it is in the alliance’s own interest for them to become members.

Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at the weekend, said the allies had “taken note” of Turkish concerns over “some things.” She adds that “this is being talked about now, but I am very confident that there will be a quick accession of Sweden and Finland because everyone is very aware that this is a decisive moment, a historic moment.”

All 30 current NATO members must agree to let the Nordic neighbors join. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that they failed to take a “clear” stance against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists, and imposed military sanctions on Turkey.

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STOCKHOLM — Finnish President Sauli Niinisto says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments on Finland’s accession to NATO were “surprising and interesting.”

“Turkey’s statements have changed and toughened very quickly in recent days, but I am sure that we will resolve the situation with the help of constructive talks,” Niinisto said during a visit to neighboring Sweden, which also has sought membership in the 30-member Alliance.

The twin move comes after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Also Tuesday, Turkey’s justice minister accused Sweden and Finland of topping a list of European Union countries that he says “openly support” organizations that his country views as terrorists.

Bekir Bozdag said the two countries “have not returned a single” suspect that Turkey wants extradited for alleged links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, or to the movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a failed military coup in 2016.

Turkish media say Turkey has sought the extradition of 33 suspects from Finland and Sweden.

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VIENNA — The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says that it plans to send another team of experts to the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in “the coming weeks.”

Tuesday’s announcement by the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, came after he led a first mission to the site in northern Ukraine late last month. Russian forces took control of Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, at the beginning of the invasion and withdrew at the end of March.

Grossi said in a video message that, after that trip and a previous visit to the active South Ukraine nuclear plant, “we now have a clear picture of what needs to be done.” He said he has drawn up a “comprehensive program of assistance” to Ukraine.

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The Associated Press

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