By The Associated Press
CHERNOBYL, Ukraine — The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency says it was possible that an accident could have occurred when Russian troops seized control of the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster during the war in Ukraine.
Speaking on a visit to the former nuclear power plant Tuesday on the 36th anniversary of the meltdown, Rafael Mariano Grossi said “the situation in 1986 was completely different. In this case, what we had was a nuclear safety situation which was not normal, and could have developed into an accident.”
Russian troops moved into the radiation-contaminated Chernobyl exclusion zone in February on their way toward the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and withdrew late last month as Russia switched its focus to fighting in eastern Ukraine. The site is now back in Ukrainian hands and communications which were disrupted have been restored.
Russian forces continue to hold a working nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhia plant, where there was fighting nearby in early March which damaged the plant’s training facility.
“Clearly, the physical integrity of one nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, was compromised, we also had situations where the external power was interrupted including here (Chernobyl) so there were a number of events that were compromising the normal operations of any nuclear power facility,” Grossi said.
“Those were avoided but of course, as I was saying, the situation was not stable and we have to stay on alert.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Putin gets what he didn’t want: Ukraine army closer to West
— Top Russian diplomat warns Ukraine against provoking WWIII
— France’s victorious Macron boosts weapons, stakes in Ukraine
— Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra organized by Met, Polish operas
— Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday announced a 6.2 trillion yen ($48.7 billion) emergency package to reduce the impact of rising prices of gasoline, grains and other raw materials due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The package includes additional gasoline subsidies, financial support for small and medium-scale businesses hit by the pandemic, as well as support for low-income households.
At a time when the pandemic still impacts people’s daily lives and the economy, the Russian invasion of Ukraine heightened global uncertainty while triggering rising costs of oil and grains, disrupting the stable supply of seafood and raw materials, and causing insecurity to people’s lives, Kishida said. “We need to ensure sense of security among the people.”
About one quarter of the package will be used to address soaring crude oil prices. To limit gasoline price increases, the government will raise subsidies to oil distributors and extend the program until the end of September.
The package will also support small and medium-size businesses hit by the pandemic and provide support for low-income households, as well as fisheries, lumber and wheat companies.
Kishida also said Japan will maximize renewable energy and promote nuclear energy following a decision to phase out coal imports from Russia. He said the government will ensure stability of energy, materials and food supply by diversifying exporters.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say the Russian military has hit a strategic bridge linking the southern Odesa region with neighboring Romania.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said the bridge across the Dniester Estuary where the Dniester River flows into the Black Sea was damaged in Tuesday’s missile attack by Russian forces. He said there were no injuries.
The strike has cut off the railway connection to areas of the Odesa region west of the estuary and Romania.
The Russian attack follows a series of strikes on key railway facilities in Ukraine unleashed by the Russian military on Monday.
It comes after last week’s claim by a senior Russian military officer that Russia aims to take control of the entire south of Ukraine and build a land corridor to the separatist Trans-Dniester region of Moldova, where tensions have escalated in recent days.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s government says it is imposing sanctions on 50 Russian entities and individuals over Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said Tuesday that the Polish measures come on top of European Union sanctions and target many Russian individuals and companies that do business in Poland.
Kaminski said the targeted companies will have their assets frozen and will be excluded from participation in public tenders, while Russian oligarchs on the list will be banned from entering Poland.
Gas giant Gazprom and Moshe Kantor, who owns a share of Poland’s state-owned chemicals group Azoty, are on the new list.
Kantor recently resigned as head of the European Jewish Congress after Britain imposed sanctions on him over his alleged ties to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Poland, a strong supporter of Kyiv, has taken in millions of refugees and on Monday announced plans to send an unspecified number of tanks to Ukraine.
STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s foreign minister has decried as “unjustified and disproportionate” a decision by Russian authorities to expel several Swedish diplomats.
Ann Linde vowed in a social-media post that Sweden would respond “appropriately” to the expulsions announced Tuesday of four Swedish diplomats by Moscow. Separately, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said three diplomats “from the Swedish Embassy in Russia” would be expelled.
Swedish news agency TT reported that three of the diplomats were based in Moscow, where the embassy is located, and one in St. Petersburg.
Linde wrote on Twitter: “By expelling Western diplomats, Russia is isolating itself internationally.”
Russia has generally sought to keep expulsions symmetrical to moves by European countries to kick out Russian diplomats over President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Sweden expelled three Russian diplomats.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials were reporting more civilian deaths in various parts of eastern Ukraine as Russian forces stepped up attacks on Tuesday.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said three people died after Russian shells hit a residential building in the city of Popasna, which Russian forces have been trying to capture.
Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko of the neighboring Donetsk region said two people were killed and six others wounded in his region, writing on social media that “Russians continue to deliberately fire at civilians and to destroy critical infrastructure.”
To the north in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said shelling of civilian areas killed three people and wounded seven more.
And further south, regional authorities in Zaporizhzhia said a missile strike killed at least one person and wounded another. Russian forces fired several missiles targeting one of the factories in the city of Zaporizhzhia, they said.
The U.N. human rights office said Tuesday it has counted 2,729 people killed and 3,111 injured in fighting since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, though it acknowledges that tally only includes confirmed casualties and is likely to understate the real toll.
ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to direct talks with his Ukrainian counterpart.
The call comes in the wake of Turkish diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis over Russia’s war in Ukraine, including by hosting Ukrainian and Russian negotiators for talks in Istanbul late last month.
The Turkish presidency said in a statement Tuesday that Erdogan proposed taking the “Istanbul process to the level of leaders, a crucial threshold in the Russia-Ukraine negotiations.” It sought to continue the “positive progress of the Istanbul talks” toward peace.
Talks stalled after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of committing war crimes. Putin later said peace efforts were at a dead end.
Ankara, which maintains close ties to both Kyiv and Moscow, has presented itself as a neutral broker in a bid to end the fighting.
MOSCOW — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a cease-fire in Ukraine at his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Guterres is visiting Moscow and is then scheduled to visit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, this week.
“We are extremely interested in finding ways in order to create the conditions for effective dialog, create the conditions for a cease-fire as soon as possible, create the conditions for a peaceful solution,” Guterres said, speaking in televised comments at the start of the meeting.
Guterres also said he wanted to reduce the impact of fighting in Ukraine on food security in other parts of the world. Lavrov said they would discuss “the situation around Ukraine that acts as a catalyst for a great number of problems which had piled up over recent decades in the Euro-Atlantic region.”
Guterres is also expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later Tuesday.
GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency is launching a new appeal for funds for the crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine that projects up to 8.3 million people will have to flee the country by year-end.
The projection was announced Tuesday as part of a new $1.85 billion regional response plan from UNHCR aimed at supporting refugees from Ukraine after Russia’s war began on Feb. 24. It far outstrips the agency’s previous refugee estimates, which now stand at just over 5.2 million.
The exodus has exceeded the worst-case predictions of the Geneva-based agency, which it has called the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
The response plan would help refugees who have fled to neighboring countries including Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, but also other countries in the region, including Belarus, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.
The U.N. estimates that nearly 8 million people are displaced within Ukraine, and another 13 million people are believed to be trapped in war-affected areas of Ukraine. The country had a pre-war population of about 44 million.
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is vowing that Ukraine’s allies will “keep moving heaven and earth” to fulfill Kyiv’s defense requirements as the war enters a new phase.
Austin convened a meeting with officials from around 40 countries on Tuesday at the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany to work out ways to keep military aid to Ukraine going. Guests included Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.
He said “this gathering reflects the galvanized world” since Russia’s invasion, with more than 30 allies and partners joining the U.S. in sending security assistance to Ukraine and more than $5 billion worth of equipment committed.
Austin cautioned that “we have much more to do: Ukraine needs our help to win today, and they will still need our help when the war is over.”
He said of Ukraine: “We know, and you should know, that all of us have your back and that’s why we’re here today — to strengthen the arsenal of Ukrainian democracy.”
BERLIN — Germany’s defense minister says her country will enable the delivery of self-propelled armored anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.
Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht made the announcement at a U.S.-hosted meeting on arming Ukraine at the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany, according to the text of her remarks Tuesday provided by her ministry.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced mounting pressure, including from within his governing coalition, to approve the delivery of heavy weapons such as tanks and other armored vehicles to Ukraine. Germany has already delivered other equipment.
Lambrecht also reiterated plans for eastern European allies to send Soviet-era material to Ukraine, and then have Germany fill the resulting gaps. She said Germany is working together with the U.S. to train Ukrainian troops on artillery systems on German soil.
Germany decided on Monday to clear the delivery of Gepard anti-aircraft guns, Lambrecht said, without providing details. German media reported that defense company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann would get the green light to deliver technically upgraded guns from former German military stocks.
LONDON — A top British government official says Russia is making “unsound” military decisions because of President Vladimir Putin’s desire to secure some kind of victory in Ukraine by May 9, when Russia marks its victory in World War II.
U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said Tuesday that Russian forces were “giving away whatever advantage they may have won” by launching an offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region before enough troops were assembled.
He told Sky News that Putin’s “desire to stand there on the steps of the Kremlin on May 9 and be a hero, means that thousands of Russian lives are going to be lost and the Russians are going to hand over the numerical advantage that they should have.”
Heappey also rejected Russia’s claim that NATO is provoking Russia by arming Ukraine, calling accusations of aggression by the alliance “utter nonsense.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused NATO of “pouring oil on the fire” by supply Ukraine with weapons. ___
BUCHAREST, Romania — Police in the Moldovan separatist region of Trans-Dniester say two explosions on Tuesday morning in a radio facility close to Ukrainian border knocked two powerful antennas out of service.
The incident occurred in a small town of Maiac roughly 12 kilometers (7 miles) west of the border with Ukraine, according to the region’s Interior Ministry. It comes just a day after several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades were reported to hit the Ministry of State Security in the city of Tiraspol, the region’s capital.
No one was hurt in the explosions, officials said.
Trans-Dniester, a strip of land with about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova.
Russia bases about 1,500 troops there nominally as peacekeepers, but concerns are high that the forces could be used to invade Ukraine.
A senior Russian military official, Rustam Minnekayev, said last week that Russian forces aim to take full control of southern Ukraine, saying such a move would open the way to Trans-Dniester.
KYIV, Ukraine — Four people died and nine more were wounded on Monday in the Russian shelling of the Donetsk region, the region’s governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Tuesday.
Two of the victims were children: a 9-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, Kyrylenko said in the messaging app Telegram.
Governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said the Russians have shelled civilians 17 times over the past 24 hours, with the cities of Popasna, Lysychansk and Girske suffering the most.
“Popasna withstood four powerful artillery attacks, and Lysychansk withstood two. There is damage to two houses in Lysychansk, two in Popasna, at least one in Girske. We are checking the information about the victims,” Haidai said Tuesday on Telegram.
Rocket strikes were also reported in the Zaporizhzhia region Tuesday morning by local officials.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces have repelled six attacks in the past 24 hours in the two regions that comprise the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, the General Staff said in its Tuesday morning update.
The Ukrainian army has destroyed four Russian tanks, five artillery systems, 13 units of armored vehicles, 15 units of motor vehicles, two tankers and one anti-aircraft gun, the update said.
Ukraine’s General Staff says Russian forces continue offensive operations in the country’s east in an effort to take full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and establish a land corridor to Crimea.
Fighting continues around the cities of Rubizhne and Popasna in the Luhansk region, the update said. The Russian forces also continue to shell Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and to block Ukrainian units in the area of Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol — the last remaining stronghold of the Ukrainian forces in the besieged port city.
In the area of Velyka Oleksandrivka, a village in the Kherson region largely controlled by the Russians, Ukrainian forces destroyed an ammunition depot and “eliminated” more than 70 Russian troops, the General Staff said.
LVIV, Ukraine — The British Defense Ministry says Russian forces have taken the Ukrainian city of Kreminna.
Street-to-street fighting had been going on for days in the city in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, with civilian evacuations there made impossible by the war.
In a tweet early Tuesday, the British military said: “The city of Kreminna has reportedly fallen and heavy fighting is reported south of Izium as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east.”
There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian government. Russia claimed days earlier to have taken the city.
Kreminna is some 575 kilometers (355 miles) southeast of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
The United Kingdom has been providing daily intelligence reports publicly since the start of the war. The British military did not say how it knew that Kreminna had fallen.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Monday that Ukraine risks provoking World War III and said the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated.”
In an in-depth Russian TV interview, Lavrov blamed Ukraine for stalled talks between the two countries, and accused the United States and Britain of pressuring Kyiv not to reach agreement.
“Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III,” Lavrov said, and accused Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to become involved in the conflict.
By providing weapons, NATO forces are “pouring oil on the fire,” he said, according to a Russian transcript on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
Lavrov apparently made the remarks after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that only discussions between Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin would bring resolution.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s foreign minister on Monday urged the U.N. chief to press Russia for an evacuation of the besieged port of Mariupol, calling it something the world body is capable of achieving.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview he was concerned that by visiting Moscow on Tuesday before traveling to Kyiv, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could be vulnerable to falling into a Kremlin “trap” in the war.
Kuleba said Guterres “should focus primarily on one issue: evacuation of Mariupol.
An estimated 100,000 people are trapped in the seaside city while a contingent of Ukrainian fighters hold out against Russian forces in a steel mill where hundreds of civilians also are taking shelter.
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Officials in the embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol say a new mass grave has been identified north of the city.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities are trying to estimate the number of victims in the grave about 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) north of Mariupol.
Satellite photos released over the past several days have shown what appear to be images of other mass graves.
Mariupol has been decimated by fierce fighting over the past two months. The capture of the city would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
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