By The Associated Press
MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday blamed the West for emerging global food and energy crises and repeated his government’s offers of safe passage for ships exporting grain from Ukraine if mines are removed from the waters.
“Of course, we are now seeing attempts to shift the responsibility for what is happening on the world food market, the emerging problems in this market, onto Russia,” he told Russian TV. “I must say that this is an attempt, as our people say, to shift these problems from a sick to a healthy head.”
As reported by the state-run Tass news agency, Putin also said Western sanctions against Russia would only worsen world markets – reducing the harvest and driving up prices.
He said inflation stemmed from the unprecedented dollar “printing press” during the coronavirus pandemic and blamed short-sighted European policies for under-investment in alternatives to traditional energy supplies and price increases.
The Kremlin leader said Russia wasn’t blocking grain shipments from Ukraine and that the West is using Russia as a scapegoat for its problems.
Putin pledged that if the waters were demined, Russia wouldn’t attack grain shipments and suggested they could be made from the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk or other countries, such as Belarus. Berdyansk is under Russian occupation.
“We won’t take advantage of the situation of demining to undertake any sea attacks,” Putin said.
These were Putin’s most extensive comments to date on the emerging food crisis.
Putin’s positions on these issues conflict with explanations given by Ukraine and its allies.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Deadly secret: Electronic warfare shapes Russia-Ukraine war
— Analysts think Russia may be in Ukraine to stay after 100 days of war
— AP PHOTOS: Russian malls half-empty after Western firms exit
— At 100 days, Russia-Ukraine war by the numbers
— US and allies: Hold Russia accountable for Ukraine crimes
— Russian Orthodox leader skips EU sanctions thanks to Hungary’s Orban
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
GENEVA — Switzerland’s government on Friday said it won’t honor a request by Denmark to send nearly two-dozen Swiss-made armored personnel carriers to Ukraine, citing Swiss “neutrality law” that bans the export of war material to a country at war.
The executive Federal Council confirmed the decision, reported in Swiss media this week, on Friday just as the Swiss government also announced that it would allow the transfer of some military equipment to Germany and Britain as they replenish supplies that the two countries have sent to Ukraine.
The announcement testified to the fine line Swiss authorities are treading to hold to Switzerland’s legal requirement to remain neutral as laid out in the War Materiel Act, which bars the transfer of Swiss-made weapons systems, ammunition and other war material to a country involved in an international conflict.
Denmark had requested that Switzerland transfer 22 Swiss-made Piranha III wheeled armored personnel carriers, which Denmark had procured and stored in Germany, to Ukraine.
Previously, the Swiss rejected a German request to send Swiss-made 35mm ammunition for Gepard anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.
However, the Swiss executive said it would allow the export of some parts for hand-held anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons components sought by Germany and Italy. It acknowledged those parts could end up in Ukraine, but the parts involved would represent less than half the value of the total weaponry’s value.
REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — President Joe Biden on Friday said he thinks a “negotiated settlement” will be necessary to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Asked whether Ukraine should give up some of its territory to Russia in order to end the war and bring peace to the region, Biden said his policy continues to be that the United States will not make any decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine.
He said “it’s their territory” and “I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do.”
But the U.S. leader also said “it appears to me that at some point along the line there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here.” He said he does not know what such an agreement would look like but that the U.S. will continue to help Ukrainians defend themselves.
Biden commented from Delaware on Friday, the 100th day of Russia’s invasion.
PARIS — A French person was killed “in combat” in Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry said Friday.
The ministry did not elaborate in its written response to a journalist’s question about the death of a French volunteer fighter in the Kharkiv region.
The ministry, which holds electronic written briefings, noted that Ukraine “in the totality of its territory is a war zone.” France advises anyone against going there “whatever the motive.”
French are among numerous foreign fighters who headed to Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for volunteers to join an international brigade soon after Russia invaded the country Feb. 24.
The number of French volunteers is not known.
GENEVA — A Ukrainian ambassador said Russia is playing “hunger games” with the world by trying to depict sanctions against Moscow as the reason that grain can’t transit the Black Sea – and not Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yevheniia Filipenko, Ukraine’s envoy to the U.N. office in Geneva, spoke in an interview on the 100-day mark since Russian military forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
As grain exports dry up through Ukraine’s embattled or captured ports, Filipenko said Russia has sought to pin the blame for the blockage on Ukraine and Western sanctions that have been levied by the thousands against Moscow.
“Russia has played hunger games recently to put the blame on Ukraine and others for blocking Ukrainian food exports,” she said.
Filipenko said Ukrainian forces were intensely motivated to protect their homeland and would one day win the war. She echoed calls from other top Ukrainian officials for more weapons.
“We are fighting for freedom of Europe and the whole world. So the next 100 days will be very busy for all of us,” she said.
BRUSSELS — The European Union says it has targeted Russian military officers linked to atrocities in Ukraine in its latest round of sanctions, including top brass accused of war crimes in Bucha and the siege of Mariupol.
The EU froze the assets of 65 people and imposed travel bans on them. The bloc has now targeted almost 1,160 people, including President Vladimir Putin, pro-Kremlin oligarchs and other top officials over Russia’s actions in Ukraine since 2014.
The EU said Friday that Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov and Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, known as the ‘Butcher of Mariupol,’ were among those on the list.
It said Omurbekov “was leading the actions of his military unit and nicknamed ‘the Butcher of Bucha’ due to his direct responsibility in killings, rapes and torture in Bucha,” on the outskirts of Kyiv.
It accused Mizintsev “of orchestrating the bombardments of the city of Mariupol, killing thousands of civilians, including the shelling of a Mariupol maternity hospital and a theatre, killing hundreds of children.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “there can be no impunity for war crimes.”
CHISINAU, Moldova — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has paid an official visit to Moldova, which borders Ukraine, in a public show of support for the country witnessing Russia’s ambitions in the region up close and sheltering thousands of Ukrainian refugees.
Sánchez said Spain would stand up for Moldova’s territorial integrity, in a reference to Transnistria and Russia’s military presence there.
Transnistria is a disputed, Russian-backed breakaway state that borders southwestern Ukraine. Pro-Russian forces broke it off from Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have been stationed there ever since, ostensibly as peacekeepers.
Sánchez assured President Maia Sandu at a press conference Friday in Chisinau, the capital, that Moldova has Spain’s “resounding” support and “our commitment to solidarity with the Moldovan authorities and the Moldovan people at a time of great difficulty and international political tension.”
KYIV, Ukraine — A regional governor in eastern Ukraine says intense fighting is continuing in a key town that has faced a massive Russian offensive.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that “fierce battles are continuing in Sievierodonetsk,” where about 13,000 residents left in the city are sheltering in basements to escape relentless Russian bombardment.
Haidai said Friday that the Russian forces were also pummeling the nearby city of Lysychansk that has remained under Ukrainian control. Some 20,000 residents, or about one-fifth of Lysychansk’s pre-war population, have remained in the city which has seen 60% of its residential buildings and civilian infrastructure shattered by the Russian shelling. Haidai said a civilian was killed in the Russian shelling of Lysychansk on Friday.
He told the AP that the Russians have been shelling a key highway linking Lysychansk with Bakhmut, but that it remained under Ukrainian control.
LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian military analyst says a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has slowed down amid staunch Ukrainian resistance.
Mykola Sunhurovsky of the Razumkov Center, a Kyiv-based think-tank, said Friday that “the Russians are fighting for every block and every street” in the eastern city of Lysychansk, adding that “it has deprived them of the initiative.” Lysychansk, the administrative center of the eastern Luhansk region has become an arena of fierce fighting this week as it has faced a massive Russian attack.
Sunhurovsky charged that “the Russian offensive in the region has started to slow down, they have lost too many forces and need a tactical break.”
He noted that “time is working in Ukraine’s favor as supplies of Western weapons are increasing, making the Kremlin nervous,” but added that Western supplies have taken time to reach Ukraine, forcing Kyiv to “drag out time in the east to accumulate forces for a counter-offensive.”
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says it will press on with its military operations in Ukraine until its goals are met.
Asked how the Kremlin views progress in Ukraine 100 days into the war Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian troops have succeeded in their main task of protecting civilians in areas on Ukraine’s east controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
Peskov said that Russian forces have “liberated” many areas in Ukraine from the “pro-Nazi” Ukrainian military and nationalist units, adding that “this work will continue until all the goals of the special military operation are achieved.”
Speaking during a conference call with reporters, Peskov was evasive when asked whether Russian authorities are planning to hold referendums in those areas to join Russia, saying that it will depend on how the situation evolves. Peskov and other Russian officials have said repeatedly that it will be up to the residents of those regions to determine their status.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country won’t stop its resistance against the Russian invasion.
Zelensky on Friday issued a video message to mark 100 days of war. Surrounded by other top officials, Zelenskyy appeared defiant.
“Our team is much larger,” says Zelenskyy. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces are here. Most importantly, our people are here.”
“We have defended Ukraine for 100 days already,” he adds.” Victory will be ours!”
BERLIN — The German government has rejected suggestions by Russia that western sanctions and not Moscow’s war in Ukraine are to blame for the global shortage of grains.
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Berlin Friday that “the danger is very big that Russia will try, that President Putin will try to establish a narrative that it’s the West that’s responsible for the famine threatening Africa.”
“This is a narrative that we want to strongly resist,” said spokeswoman Andrea Sasse.
Responding to an AP question about Putin’s meeting with Senegal’s President Macky Sall in Sochi Friday, Sasse said it was a fact that the threat of famine in parts of the world and that some countries will be cut off from grain imports are “a result of the Russian war of attack and not the result of western sanctions.”
A spokesman for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Wolfgang Buechner, rejected what he called Putin’s “anti-western propaganda” claiming that the West’s economic and financial policies as well as “anti-Russian sanctions” are responsible for the problem.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia’s foreign ministry says a Croatian citizen has been wounded in Ukraine and will be transferred to Croatia.
Croatia’s state HRT television says that the man was fighting as a volunteer in Ukraine. The foreign ministry told the station that the man is safe and receiving medical attention.
No other details were immediately available.
Last month, Croatian authorities said that Russian troops detained a Croatian citizen who was fighting alongside Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol.
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says that Ukrainian grain supplies to world markets will be on the agenda for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s talks with the chairman of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. Ukrainian authorities and their Western supporters have accused Russia of endangering world food supplies with a naval blockade of Ukraine’s ports. Russia has denied blocking the ports and said Ukraine needed to remove sea mines to allow safe shipping.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin plans to give Sall a “detailed explanation” of Russia’s view of the situation and “explain again what’s going on there, who mined the ports, what is necessary to do to allow the grain flow to resume.”
African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures. Wheat prices have spiked 45% as a result of the war-related disruption of supplies, according to the African Development Bank.
ANKARA, Turkey — A Ukrainian ambassador says grain stolen from Ukraine has been sold in several countries, including Turkey.
Vasyl Bodnar, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, told journalists in Ankara on Friday that his embassy was preparing to start criminal proceedings against individuals, companies and ships involved in the sale of the stolen grain.
Turkish authorities and international police agency Interpol are assisting, Bodnar said.
“Anyone involved in the sale of stolen goods will be found and will be brought to justice,” the ambassador said.
Bodnar warned that companies conducting business with Russia would be barred from taking part in future projects toward Ukraine’s redevelopment.
Turkey, which has close ties to Ukraine and Russia, has criticized Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine but has refused to join sanctions against Russia.
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