BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says that neither NATO nor U.S. President Joe Biden aim to bring about regime change in Russia.
Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a speech on Saturday that “this man cannot remain in power.” The White House and other U.S. officials rushed to clarify that Biden wasn’t actually calling for Putin to be toppled.
Asked during an appearance Sunday on ARD television whether Putin’s removal is in fact the real aim, Scholz replied: “This is not the aim of NATO, and also not that of the American president.”
Scholz added: “We both agree completely that regime change is not an object and aim of policy that we pursue together.”
Asked whether Biden made a dangerous mistake with his comment, Scholz replied: “No.” He said that “he said what he said” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also had clarified that he wasn’t talking about regime change.
Scholz last month announced a big increase in German defense spending. On Sunday, he confirmed a report by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the government is considering acquiring a missile defense shield along the lines of Israel’s “Iron Dome.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Zelenskyy: West needs more courage in helping Ukraine fight back
— ‘My personal tragedy’: Ukrainians brace for an attack on Black Sea jewel of Odesa
— War shakes Europe’s path to energy independence, climate goals
— World science decouples from Russian experts, creating challenges in exploring space, fighting climate change
– U.S.-funded humanitarian organization delivers lifesaving medicines to thousands in Ukraine
Go tohttps://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with independent Russian news media that Ukraine is prepared to consider declaring neutrality and offering security guarantees to Russia including nuclear-free status. But he also said Russian President Vladimir Putin must meet with him to seek an end to the war.
“Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state — we are ready to go for it,” Zelenskyy said. “We must come to an agreement with the president of the Russian Federation, and in order to reach an agreement, he needs to get out of there on his own feet … and come to meet me.”
Zelenskyy’s interview was conducted with journalists from the Meduza news website and the Dozhd television station, both of which have been blocked by the government, and the liberal business newspaper Kommersant.
LVIV, Ukraine — On Sunday night, a rocket attack hit an oil base in the far northwestern region of Volyn, said regional governor Yuriy Pohulyaiko. He did not give details on casualties or the specific location. Volyn’s capital is Lutsk, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Lviv.
ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed the need for a cease-fire in Ukraine in a telephone call Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said.
Erdogan also called for an improvement to the humanitarian situation in the region, according to the statement.
The two leaders agreed the next meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials should be held in Istanbul, the statement added, without giving a time frame.
LVIV, Ukraine — A member of the Ukrainian delegation in talks with Russia on ending the month-long war says the two sides have decided to meet in person in Turkey beginning on Monday.
Davyd Arakhamia, the leader in parliament of the faction of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, said on Facebook that the in-person talks were agreed upon in a video consultation. He did not give further details.
However, Russia’s chief negotiator said the in-person talks would begin on Tuesday, rather than Monday.
The two sides have met previously with no deal reached.
WARSAW, Poland – The 16th edition of a popular half-marathon in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday was dedicated in support of Ukraine.
The annual event was called the “Warsaw Half-Marathon of Peace” this year. The organizers are donating part of the proceeds and funds raised to a Polish charity and to three hospitals in Ukraine. Some of the 7,000 participants were also running to raise funds for Ukrainian refugee children.
More than 2.2 million people have fled to Poland since Feb. 24, when Russia launched its invasion of Poland’s neighbor, Ukraine.
Ukrainian refugees were among the female runners Sunday. Valentina Dushko, who belongs to one of Ukraine’s oldest running clubs, said she and her companions were thankful to the organizers for the opportunity to run in the event.
“We thank all the Poles for helping us to get through this difficult period of life. Thanks to the Poles, we feel as much at home here as possible,” Dushko told The Associated Press.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed a law restricting the reporting on troop and military equipment movement unless such information has been announced or approved by the military general staff.
The state news agency Ukrinform reported Sunday that the law calls for potential prison terms of three to eight years for violations.
The law bans “unauthorized dissemination of information about the direction, movement of international military assistance to Ukraine, the movement, movement or deployment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine or other military formations of Ukraine, committed in a state of martial law or a state of emergency,” Ukrinform said.
ROME — Ukraine’s energy minister says no leaks of radioactive material have been detected since Russian tanks fired at nuclear power plants in Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia but that nightmares about a nuclear disaster keep him awake at night.
In an interview with one of Corriere della Sera’s correspondents in Kyiv, German Galushchenko was quoted as saying that his country’s nuclear plants “are a constant worry.”
“I haven’t slept for an entire night with the nightmare of nuclear disaster,” said Galushchenko, who is also an official of the state company that manages the nation’s four nuclear power plants.
Referring to the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia facilities, Galushchenko said that “luckily both facilities are still in the hands of our technicians, but Russian armored carriers fired against the facilities.” In the interview published Sunday, he called those actions “criminal” and “totally irresponsible.”
Without citing a location, Galushchenko said “another gas pipeline was just hit” and “entire areas are left in the darkness and in the cold, especially in the region of Mariupol.”
He said Russian bombs have left 800,000 homes without electricity and 250,000 homes without gas.
HELSINKI — One of the last remaining passenger train links from Russia into the European Union has been suspended following the departure of the last two Allegro high-speed trains from St. Petersburg to Helsinki.
Finland’s state-owned railway company VR said Friday it would suspend services between the Finnish capital and Russia’s second-largest city on Sunday, closing one of the last public transport routes for Russians who want to reach the EU.
Citing the sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, the Finnish railway company said it was no longer appropriate to operate the route. It added that Finnish citizens and “people who wanted to depart from Russia have had adequate time to leave.”
Only a morning departure from Helsinki to St. Petersburg ran on Sunday, while the afternoon train was cancelled. Two departures from St. Petersburg left as scheduled.
Russians wishing to travel to Finland can do so through crossing points on the 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) land border with Russia that remain open for private cars. Bus services to Finland continue to operate both from St. Petersburg and Moscow.
DOHA, Qatar — France’s top diplomat is warning that the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is becoming a “second Aleppo,” the Syrian commercial capital that in 2016 saw widespread Russian-backed destruction.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Sunday told the Doha Forum, a policy conference in Qatar, that Russia’s “siege warfare” against Ukrainian cities should induce “collective guilt.”
“Civilian populations are slaughtered, annihilated, the suffering is horrible,” said a visibly angry Le Drian.
When asked whether he agreed with President Joe Biden’s remark in Warsaw that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power, he said only that diplomacy with both sides remained a French priority.
Le Drian said French President Emmanuel Macron was trying to avert the worst in Ukraine through talks with both the Ukrainian and Russian presidents. A ceasefire remains the most pressing task, he added, so that parties can move onto thornier topics like Ukraine’s security guarantees and a possible neutral military status.
Le Drian said the world is “at a tipping point” as the war continues to spiral, adding, “This is a crisis that affects us all.”
BERLIN — Russian authorities have blocked the website of German newspaper Bild, part of their efforts to control the message on Ukraine.
Communications and media regulator Roskomnadzor said Sunday it blocked Bild’s website at prosecutors’ request.
Instagram and Facebook were already blocked in Russia after Roskomnadzor said they were being used to call for violence against Russian soldiers. Russian authorities also have shut access to foreign media websites, including BBC, European news network Euronews, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.
Bild says it has been putting Russian-language reports on Russia’s war in Ukraine and its slide toward “totalitarian dictatorship” on its website, and parts of its live video broadcasts have been subtitled in Russian. It noted that it also has a Russian-language Telegram channel.
Bild editor-in-chief Johannes Boie said the decision to block its website in Russia “confirms us in our journalistic work for democracy, freedom and human rights.”
WASHINGTON — The top-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has urged U.S. President Joe Biden to “stay on script” as he deals with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sen. James Risch of Idaho’s comments criticizing the president came a day after Biden asserted at the end of a major address in Poland that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other administration officials on Sunday sought to walk back Biden’s remarks, saying that Biden’s was not calling for regime change in Russia.
Risch, however, suggested Biden needs to be more careful with his words on the international stage.
“Please Mr. President, stay on script,” Risch said in an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military intelligence chief says that Russia could try to break Ukraine in two.
Kyrylo Budanov said in remarks released by the Defense Ministry on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has realized “he can’t swallow the entire country” and would likely try to split the country under “the Korean scenario.” That’s a reference to the decades-old division between North and South Korea.
Budanov said that “the occupiers will try to pull the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and pit it against independent Ukraine.” He pointed to Russian attempts to set up parallel government structures in occupied cities and to bar people from using the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia.
Budanov predicted that Ukrainian resistance will grow into a “total” guerrilla warfare, derailing Russia’s attempts.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has distanced himself from U.S. President Joe Biden’s comment that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” He is urging efforts to de-escalate tensions.
Macron, who has spoken several times to the Russian president in so-far unsuccessful peace-making efforts, is due to speak again with Putin on Sunday or Monday.
“We should be factual and … do everything so that the situation doesn’t get out of control,” Macron said Sunday on France-3 television, when asked about Biden’s remark.
Macron said: “I wouldn’t use those terms, because I continue to speak to President Putin, because what we want to do collectively is that we want to stop the war Russia launched in Ukraine, without waging war and without an escalation.”
He stressed that the U.S. remains an important ally, saying, “We share many common values, but those who live next to Russia are the Europeans.”
Macron said he will talk with Putin about a proposed humanitarian corridor for the besieged city of Mariupol, also discussed with Turkey and Greece.
ISTANBUL – The Ukrainian embassy in Ankara says a group of 159 Ukrainian orphans has arrived in the southern Turkish city of Antalya.
The boys and girls aged 4 to 18 were evacuated from care homes in the Dnipro region, traveling first to Poland by train before flying to Turkey.
Welcoming the children and 26 care staff, Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar said the aim was to shelter 2,000 children and staff in Turkey.
“This is the first group to come but we are waiting for the second group,” the Demiroren news agency quoted Bodnar as saying at Antalya airport. “Children will come from cities that the Russian army has bombed or may bomb.”
The group will stay in hotels in the Mediterranean resort.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has stepped up his pleas for negotiations to end the fighting in Ukraine.
Francis told the public in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that “this cruel and senseless war” continues after more than a month, representing “a defeat for all.”
He lamented that parents are burying their children, and “the powerful decide and the poor die.” Once again, he didn’t cite Russia by name as the aggressor.
Referring to reports that about one-half of all the children in Ukraine have been displaced by the conflict, Francis said that “war doesn’t just devastate the present but also the future of society.”
The pontiff reiterated his condemnation of war as barbarous and sacrilegious. He said that “humanity must understand that the moment has come to abolish war, to cancel war from the history of man before it cancels man from history.”
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised Russia’s National Guard on the sixth anniversary of its creation.
Putin specially addressed the service staff of the National Guard units involved in the military operation in Ukraine.
“Comrades, indeed, combat conditions involve increased risk. I am well aware of how you act in this situation: highly courageously and professionally, skillfully and fearlessly. You resolve the most complicated tasks set before you competently and precisely while showing personal heroism,” Putin said in a video statement issued Sunday.
The National Guard, which numbers over 300,000 personnel, was established by Putin in 2016 as an internal military force to fight terrorism and organized crime, guard state facilities, control weapons turnover and to provide riot control.
The service reports directly to the president.
“Our entire vast country is rightly proud of each of you,” Putin said. “I want to thank you for your stamina and your impeccable service to Russia, for your loyalty to our fatherland, to your oath of allegiance and your duty.”
KYIV, Ukraine — A manager at a UNESCO world heritage site in Kyiv says bombings in the capital are being felt in the landmark building and could threaten its foundations.
“We and the landmark feel the vibrations,” said Vadim Kyrylenko, an engineer who now is the most senior on-site manager at the St. Sophia Cathedral. “It’s a minimal threat but we feel it. If there would be a strike nearby as I say it would be a point of no return for our landmark because it is very fragile and vulnerable.”
The site shut its doors to visitors as soon as the war in Ukraine started last month. Kyrylenko said that the only people left on site apart from him are a cook, a carpenter and engineers who are keeping the main functions running.
The Orthodox shrine dates back nearly 1,000 years to the dawn of Christianity in the region. It is considered the heart of Ukrainian spiritual and national identity. The grand structure survived despite being in the crosshairs of numerous invaders and armies.
A separatist leader in eastern Ukraine says that his region wants to hold a vote on joining Russia.
Leonid Pasechnik, the head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, said Sunday that it could hold a referendum “in the nearest time” asking voters whether they support making the region part of Russia.
Russia has supported the separatist rebels in Luhansk and the neighboring Donetsk regions since an insurgency erupted there in 2014 shortly after Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Moscow recognized their independence on Feb. 21 and then cited their call for military assistance to launch the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
In talks with Ukraine, Moscow has urged it to acknowledge Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea and the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Pasechnik’s statement could herald a shift in the Russian position.
BERLIN — Germany’s president is hosting a “solidarity concert” with Ukraine featuring musicians from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.
The Berlin Philharmonic was playing pieces by Ukrainian, Russian and Polish composers at President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s Bellevue palace in Berlin. Steinmeier — who addressed the event by video because he tested positive for the coronavirus last week — described it Sunday as a “signal for freedom and peace.”
Steinmeier said: “Let us be vigilant against sweeping animosities, and let us not succumb to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s pseudo-historical nationalist delusion. Let us not allow Putin’s hatred to become a hatred between people … in our own society either.”
However, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany tweeted that he had spurned an invitation. Andriy Melnyk wrote that “ONLY RUSSIAN (!) SOLOISTS” were performing, “no Ukrainians.” He added: “An affront. Sorry, I’m staying away.”
JERUSALEM — Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. is not trying to topple Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite its harsh condemnations of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Blinken spoke a day after President Joe Biden said of Putin during a speech in Warsaw: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
At a news conference in Jerusalem, Blinken said Biden’s point was that “Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else.”
He said the U.S. has repeatedly said that “we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else for that matter.”
“In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people,” Blinken said.
KYIV, Ukraine —- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has again urged the West to provide Ukraine with warplanes and air defense missiles.
Speaking in a video address early Sunday, Zelenskyy said that “our partners have all that, and it’s just collecting dust. And in fact it’s necessary not just for Ukraine’s freedom, but for the freedom of Europe.”
Zelenskyy warned that the Baltic states, Poland and Slovakia could eventually face a Russian attack “just because they will have kept in their hangars just 1% of all NATO warplanes and 1% of all NATO tanks. Just 1%! We aren’t asking for more and we have been waiting for that for 31 days!”
He said that “our partners must step up their aid to Ukraine.”
The president said: “Ukraine can’t shoot down Russian missiles with shotguns and machine guns that have accounted for the bulk of supplies. And we can’t unblock Mariupol without the necessary number of tanks, other armor, and warplanes. All defenders of Ukraine know about it.”
He added that the United States and “all European politicians” also know that.