MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country has faced a barrage of cyberattacks from the West amid the invasion of Ukraine but has successfully fended them off.
Speaking Friday to members of Russia’s Security Council, Putin noted that “the challenges in this area have become even more pressing, serious and extensive.”
He charged that “an outright aggression has been unleashed against Russia, a war has been waged in the information space.”
Putin added that “the cyber-aggression against us, the same as the attack on Russia by sanctions in general, has failed.”
He ordered officials to “perfect and enhance the mechanisms of ensuring information security at critically important industrial facilities which have a direct bearing on our country’s defensive capability, and the stable development of the economic and social spheres.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Senate ships $40B Ukraine aid bill to Biden for signature
— Rebutting Turkey, Biden lauds NATO bids of Sweden, Finland
— In Ukraine, surviving when your home is blasted
— War fuels surging prices in Europe
— Red Cross registers hundreds of Ukrainian POWs emerging from Mariupol steel plant
— Captive medic’s bodycam shows firsthand horror of Mariupol
— Explainer: What will happen to the Ukraininan soldiers from Mariupol?
— UN chief ‘hopeful’ of Ukraine grain deal to help food crisis
— Russia-Ukraine war impact draws focus of G7 finance leaders
— US intel shows Russians fear Mariupol abuse will backfire
— Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
BERLIN — Germany and Qatar have signed an agreement to deepen their cooperation on energy, as Berlin seeks to diversify its natural gas supplies and ultimately stop using Russian gas.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a news conference alongside Qatar’s emir that the agreement signed Friday “opens many opportunities for successful cooperation.” He said that Qatar also “has enormous potential for renewable energies and for the production of hydrogen.”
Germany plans to build two liquefied natural gas terminals to bring in gas from suppliers such as Qatar.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said that “whatever we can provide for energy security in Europe even during this period, we will make sure that we can provide.” He didn’t give any figures.
Russia’s defense minister says 1,908 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up at the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the port city of Mariupol, have surrendered so far.
“Nationalists blocked off at the plant started to surrender. As of now, 1,908 people have laid down arms,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by the Russian media as saying Friday.
On Thursday, the Russian military put the total of surrendered fighters at 1,730. It remains unclear how many fighters are still holed up in the giant steel plant’s maze of underground tunnels and bunkers.
Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov Regiment, said Friday that the defenders of Mariupol — a group of Ukrainian fighters from various military and law enforcement units — have received an order to “cease the defense of the city.” The intention is to “save lives and health of the servicemen of the garrison,” he said.
Speaking in a video statement released on Telegram, Prokopenko also said that “the seriously wounded received the necessary assistance and they were able to be evacuated with further exchange and delivery to the territory controlled by Ukraine.”
It was not clear from the video whether Prokopenko was still at the plant. His right arm was bandaged above the elbow.
GENEVA — The international Red Cross says it has been visiting prisoners of war on “all sides” since the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine almost three months ago.
The International Committee of the Red Cross didn’t specify what “all sides” meant, but it is believed to mean Russian and Ukrainian government forces, as well as pro-Russian separatists who have been waging an armed struggle in eastern Ukraine against the Kyiv government since 2014. It could also include foreign fighters who might have been captured.
A Red Cross statement Friday said the POW visits had enabled it to pass on information to hundreds of families about their loved ones.
The ICRC did not specify how many families had been informed about their relatives, or where the visits took place. It said only that the visits had taken place “in recent months.”
The statement came a day after the humanitarian agency broke its silence about prisoners of war in the nearly three-month-long conflict, announcing it has registered “hundreds” of Ukrainian prisoners of war this week from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. It remains unclear how many fighters are still holed up in the giant steel plant’s maze of underground tunnels and bunkers.
“Many more families need answers; the ICRC must have full access to POWs and civilian internees, wherever they are held, in order to provide those answers,” the Geneva-based organization said.
Some humanitarian law experts have questioned why the ICRC took so long to announce its POW visits, a key part of its mandate.
The ICRC often operates confidentially in its role to help protect civilians, prisoners of war and other noncombatants in conflicts, and ensure the respect of the rules of war.
KOENIGSWINTER, Germany — Germany’s finance minister says the Group of Seven leading economies and global financial institutions are providing $19.8 billion in aid to bolster Ukraine’s public finances.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner told reporters Friday that $9.5 billion of the total was mobilized at meetings of the G-7 finance ministers in Koenigswinter, Germany, this week.
He said the goal is to ensure that Ukraine’s financial situation does not affect its ability to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.
“We agreed on concrete actions to deepen multilateral economic cooperation and underlined our commitment to our united response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and to our unwavering support to Ukraine,” a G-7 statement said.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Finnish state-owned energy company Gasum says natural gas imports from Russia will be halted on Saturday, after the Finns refused to pay for it in rubles.
Russia demanded payment in rubles after sanctions were imposed against Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine in February.
Gasum’s CEO Mika Wiljanen called it “highly regrettable” that the gas supplies will now be stopped.
But there “will be no disruptions in the gas supply network,” he said in a statement.
The group was informed by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom in April that future payments in the supply contract must be made in Russian currency instead of euros.
In Finland, natural gas accounted for 6% of the total energy consumption in 2020, Finnish broadcaster YLE said. Almost all gas is imported from Russia and last year the share of Russian natural gas imports was 92%.
Poland and Bulgaria, which also have refused to pay Gazprom in rubles, have had their gas cut off.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president says he is engaged in “telephone diplomacy” with foreign counterparts over the bids by Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Friday that his country is determined not to approve membership of the alliance for countries accused by Turkey of supporting what it calls “terror organizations.”
Erdogan has placed an obstacle to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. He accuses Stockholm – and to a lesser extent Helsinki — of supporting the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other groups that Turkey views as terrorists and a threat to its national security.
Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, also accuses the two Nordic countries of imposing restrictions on exports of defense industry equipment to Turkey and of failing to extradite suspects wanted by Turkey.
Erdogan told reporters that he spoke to Netherland’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday and would hold further discussions with British and Finnish leaders on Saturday.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join the military alliance this week. All 30 NATO members need to approve the entry of new members.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland and Portugal are trying to figure out ways of bringing Ukraine into the European Union even if some countries in the bloc balk at granting it speedy access.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the effort after talks Friday in Warsaw with visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
Morawiecki said that “if some EU nations protest vehemently, together with Portugal we want to work out an appropriate package that would be attractive for Ukraine and will show that Ukraine’s place is in the EU.”
Germany, for example, has spoken out against a swift EU membership path for Ukraine, which currently fighting a ferocious war against Russia’s invasion. All 27 EU members need to approve an enlargement to include Ukraine.
Costa said EU leaders should not stick to inflexible regulations but be “pragmatic and respond to the current events.” He urged a decision at an EU summit scheduled for June.
KOENIGSWINTER, Germany — Germany’s finance minister says the Group of Seven leading economies are set to agree on more than $18 billion in aid for Ukrainian defense efforts.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday that Ukrainians resisting Russia’s invasion “are not only defending themselves, they are defending our values.”
A representative from the U.S. Treasury Department declined to confirm the amount set to be allocated at a meeting of G-7 finance ministers in Germany, and a spokesman from the German finance ministry declined to comment to The Associated Press.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other leaders have spoken this week about the need for allies to put together enough additional aid to help Ukraine “get through” the Russian invasion.
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces attacked the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk, the region’s governor said Friday.
Serhiy Haidai said in a Telegram messaging app post on Friday that 12 people were killed in Severodonetsk as a result of the assault, and more than 60 houses were destroyed across the region.
He added that the attack on Severodonetsk “was unsuccessful – the Russians suffered personnel losses and retreated.” His remarks could not be independently verified.
Ukraine’s General Staff in its morning update on Friday also said that the Russians tried to assault Severodonetsk but suffered losses and retreated.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the United States for the $40 billion aid package, which got final congressional approval on Thursday.
“This is a demonstration of strong leadership and a necessary contribution to our common defense of freedom,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.
He also thanked the European Union for its support.
“And for our partners this is not just an expense or a gift. This is their contribution to security,” Zelenskyy said. “For defending Ukraine also defends them from new wars and crises that Russia could provoke if it is successful in the war against Ukraine. Therefore, we must together ensure that Russia’s aggression against our state has no success, not militarily, economically or any other.”
Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s monthly budget deficit is $5 billion “and so to survive in the war for freedom, we need quick and sufficient financial support.”
The U.S. has announced a shipment of $100 million in military equipment to Ukraine, separate from what will be coming from the $40 billion approved by Congress. The latest package includes 18 more howitzers as well as anti-artillery radar systems, both of which the U.S. has provided to Ukraine already since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian troops were intensifying their attacks in the Donbas.
“It is hell there and that’s not an exaggeration,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation. “The brutal and completely senseless bombardment of Severodonetsk. Twelve dead and dozens wounded there in just one day.”
Zelenskyy said Russian strikes on the northeastern Chernihiv region included a terrible strike on the village of Desna, where he said many were killed and rescuers were still going through the rubble.
“The bombing and shelling of our other cities, the air and missile strikes by the Russian army, are not simply military operations in a time of war… It is a conscious and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible,” Zelenskyy said. “To destroy more homes, public sites, businesses. This is what will be qualified as genocide of the Ukrainian people and for which the occupiers will definitely be brought to justice.”
A veteran Russian rock musician faces charges of discrediting the army for remarks made at a concert on Wednesday.
Charges against Yuri Shevchuk, singer for the band DDT, were sent to an administrative court on Thursday. He could face a fine of up to 50,000 rubles ($800).
After the war began, Russia passed a more severe law making the spread of “fake news” about the conflict punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
During the concert in Ufa, Shevchuk questioned the aims of the war and why young Russians and Ukrainians are fighting and dying in a war that is also costing the lives of civilians.
“Old people, women and children are dying,” he said. “For some kind of Napoleonic plans of our latest Caesar, yes?”
“The motherland, my friends, is not the ass of a president that you have to lick and kiss all the time. The motherland is a poor grandmother selling potatoes at the train station. That is the motherland,” he added.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. has announced a shipment of $100 million in military equipment to Ukraine, separate from what will be coming from the $40 billion approved Thursday by Congress.
The latest package includes 18 more howitzers as well as anti-artillery radar systems, both of which the U.S. has provided to Ukraine already since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the equipment will be in the hands of Ukrainian forces “very, very soon.”
With this latest shipment, the U.S. has provided nearly $4 billion in military aid since Feb. 24 and $6.6 billion since 2014, when Russia seized and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
Kirby said the U.S. will consult with Ukraine, as it has frequently since the invasion, about what it needs in terms of equipment.
WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, the country’s defense minister and the U.S. ambassador to Poland watched a joint military exercise dubbed DEFENDER-Europe 22 by Polish, U.S., French and Swedish troops in northeastern Poland on Thursday.
The troops’ task was to cross the Narew River near the town of Nowogrod, in a region about two hours’ drive from the borders of Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad and of Russian ally Belarus.
Duda said that, as Ukraine is fighting Russia’s invasion, everyone is “aware of the potential threat” in the region.
Duda said the exercise — which had been planned earlier — would help “show the cooperation and the efficiency of NATO in collective defense.”
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