Ukraine live: Russia is waging ‘total war’ on Ukraine, says President Zelenskyy

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Flowers placed on a Ukrainian military armoured vehicle destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 1, 2022

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(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Today marks the three-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last night accusing Russia of inflicting as many casualties and as much infrastructure destruction as possible.

Elsewhere, a Russian court has upheld a nine-year prison sentence for opposition leader Alexei Navalny, while workers digging through the rubble have found 200 bodies in Mariupol.

Meanwhile, the European Union is likely to agree on an embargo on Russian oil imports “within days”, according to Germany’s economy minister.

See a summary of the latest developments in our live coverage below.

07:53

    Russian court upholds nine-year prison sentence for opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

    France reassures Ukraine it will eventually become part of the European Union.

    Workers uncover 200 bodies in Mariupol.

    Ukrainian foreign minister urges faster weapons deliveries.

    EU likely to agree Russian oil embargo ‘within days’, says Germany’s economy minister.

    Biden says crisis in Ukraine is a global issue which has heightened the importance of maintaining international order.

    Russia is waging “total war” on Ukraine, says President Zelenskyy, which includes inflicting as many casualties and as much infrastructure damage as possible.

    Western countries have agreed to send more advanced weaponry to Ukraine, to aid it in its fight against Russia.

14:38

EU leaders should not discuss ban on Russian oil at summit, says Viktor Orbán

When EU leaders meet next week for a two-day summit they should not discuss the proposed EU-wide ban on Russian oil imports, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said.

His request was included in a letter addressed to European Council President Charles Michel and seen by the Financial Times on Tuesday.

Hungary is the main hold-out preventing the approval of the radical measure, arguing it would wreak economic havoc and expose citizens and companies to price shocks. 

“Discussing the sanctions package at the level of leaders in the absence of a consensus would be counterproductive,” Orbán wrote in the letter. “It would only highlight our internal divisions without offering a realistic chance to resolve differences. Therefore, I propose not to address this issue at the next European Council.”

A new plan by the European Commission earmarks up to €2 billion to revamp oil systems but most of the money can only be accessed through Next Generation EU, the bloc’s pandemic recovery fund, which has been repurposed to cope with the costly effort to slash Russian fossil fuels.

Hungary’s national recovery plan has not yet been approved by Brussels due to long-standing concerns related to the rule of law. 

Reacting to the news, a EU official confirmed Michel had received Orbán’s letter and was consulting “all leaders” in preparation for next week’s extraordinary summit, whose agenda is expected to include energy, defence and the war in Ukraine.

Orbán’s words contrast with the optimistic assessments of German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who this week said a deal on the oil ban could be clinched within the next days. Unanimity is required to approve EU sanctions.

14:21

14:14

Russian court upholds nine-year prison sentence for Alexei Navalny

An appeals court in Russia has upheld a nine-year prison sentence for opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

The 45-year-old is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year prison term for violating parole on old fraud charges, and he had his jail time extended in March to nine years after he was found guilty of embezzlement and contempt of court.

Allies of Navalny — who is a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin — say the imprisonment is politically motivated.

Read more below:

Russian court upholds nine-year prison sentence for Alexei Navalny

14:01

France reassures Ukraine it will eventually be part of European Union

Ukraine will eventually be part of the European Union, France’s Europe minister said on Tuesday, reassuring Kyiv that an initiative to forge closer ties between the bloc and aspiring members would not replace their bids to join.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month suggested creating a “European political community” that would create a new structure allowing closer cooperation with countries seeking EU membership.

“I am convinced that Ukraine will be part of the European Union,” Clement Beaune told reporters. “We know with honesty that it takes time and in this time we can’t allow ourselves to simply wait. We have to nurture the European hope.”

Beaune, who earlier this week said it could take 15-20 years for Ukraine to join added that the project “was not an alternative.”

Speaking alongside Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, he said the next step would be to discuss the details of the initiative with European partners.

The aim is to create a community of countries who aspire to join the bloc or wish closer ties and adhere to the EU’s core values in areas such as political cooperation, security, cooperation in energy, transport, investment of infrastructure or circulation of people.

The initiative has been received cautiously by some member states given the lack of details. Kyiv has also expressed its concern that it could be used as an alternative to membership.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, will give its opinion on Ukraine’s candidacy request in June, but even if approved the process takes several years and can be vetoed by a member state.

(Reuters)

13:34

Turkey should consider leaving NATO if necessary, says Erdogan ally

The leader of a Turkish nationalist party that is allied with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey should consider leaving NATO if “circumstances become inextricable” and Turkey is forced to approve Sweden and Finland membership.

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party, said in a speech on Tuesday that Turkey isn’t without alternatives and could be part of a possible security alliance that could be made up of Turkic-speaking states and Muslim nations.

“Turkey is not without options. Turkey is not helpless. Leaving NATO should be put on the agenda as an alternative option if the circumstances become inextricable,” Bahceli said.

A delegation made up of officials from Sweden and Finland is expected to arrive in Turkey later today, according to Turkey’s foreign minister, to discuss Ankara’s objection to their membership in NATO.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a group of journalists that the delegation would meet with Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal on Wednesday.

(Euronews / AP)

13:28

Russia can be reintegrated if it returns to democracy, rule of law, says von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says Russia can be reintegrated into the orbit of European nations if it finds its way back to “democracy, the rule of law, the respect for the international rules-based order.”

Von der Leyen spoke at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering Tuesday. Insisting on the historical and cultural links between Europe and Russia, the head of the EU’s executive arm said reconciliation is “certainly a distant dream and hope.

“But this also says that our standing up against this brutal invasion is standing up against the leadership in Russia. It is the Russian people who are the ones who decide about the future of their country. They have it in their hands.”

(AP)

13:16

Russia orders detention of blogger, accusing him of disseminating false information

A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered the detention in absentia of Russian blogger Michaïl Nake, accusing him of discrediting the Russian army and its offensive in Ukraine.

Nake, who hosts a video blog on YouTube with more than 700,000 subscribers, is accused of having disseminated false information about the Russian armed forces, according to the Basmani court in Moscow, which ordered his detention, according to a post on his site.

The crime is now punishable by a prison term, under new Russian laws passed since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. In particular, it’s forbidden to use the terms ‘war’ or ‘invasion’ in relation to the Russian offensive, or to accuse the army of war crimes.

(AFP)

12:34

Workers uncover 200 bodies in Mariupol

Workers digging through rubble found 200 bodies in Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday, another grim discovery in the ruined port city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the war. 

The bodies found in the basement of a collapsed apartment building were in a state of decomposition and a stench permeated the neighborhood, said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor.

Mariupol, which the Russians recently claimed full control over, has endured some of the worst suffering of the war, and became a worldwide symbol of defiance for the diehard defense put up for months by fighters at a steelworks.

The announcement of the discovery of the bodies came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of waging “total war,” seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.

(AP) 

11:29

Jailed opposition leader Navalny attacks Putin in court

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Tuesday lambasted President Vladimir Putin in a live court hearing, casting him as a madman who had started a “stupid war” in Ukraine based on lies.

“This is a stupid war which your Putin started,” Navalny, 45, told an appeal court in Moscow via video link from a corrective penal colony. “This war was built on lies.”

Navalny, by far Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was appealing against a nine-year jail sentence he was handed in March for fraud and contempt of court, on top of 2-1/2 years he is already serving. He denies all the charges against him and says they were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.

Repeatedly interrupted by the judge, Navalny cast the prosecution’s “facts” as “lies” – and compared them to the lies he said Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since the last day of 1999, had used to begin the 24 February invasion of Ukraine.

“What do you want to achieve – do you want short-term control, to fight with future generations, fight for the future of Russia?” Navalny asked the court. “You will all suffer historic defeat.”

Navalny said Putin’s Russia was run by thieves and criminals who had become enemies of the Russian people.

“One madman has got his claws into Ukraine and I do not know what he wants to do with it – this crazy thief,” Navalny said of Putin.

(Reuters)

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