LATEST: Italy not considering Russian gas embargo

The latest events of the war in Ukraine:

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ROME — Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said no Russian gas embargo is currently being considered as the European Union considers its next round of sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

“I don’t know if it will ever be on the table,” he said.

Draghi told reporters that if an embargo is proposed, Italy “will be happy to follow” if it contributes to peace.

“If the price of gas can be exchanged for peace… What do we choose? Peace? Or have air conditioning in the summer? This is the question we need to ask ourselves,” he added.

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ANDRIIVKA, Ukraine – The mayor of Mariupol reported Wednesday that some 5,000 civilians have been killed there in the month since Russian forces began besieging the Ukrainian city.

Vadym Boichenko said 210 children were among the dead and Russian forces raided hospitals, including one where 50 people were burned to death.

He added that more than 90% of the city’s infrastructure is destroyed due to Russian bombs and shelling.

Russian forces cut off water, food and fuel supplies to the town, while attacking it with bombs and artillery.

Taking the city would give Russia a land corridor to Ukraine’s former Crimean peninsula, which Russia invaded in 2014.

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BERLIN — A German government spokesman said on Wednesday the government had information that the bodies found after Ukraine took over Bucha last week had been there since at least March 10, when troops Russians controlled this Ukrainian city.

Steffen Hebestreit told reporters in Berlin that the information was based on non-commercial satellite images taken March 10-18 of Yablonska Street in Bucha.

“Credible information shows that from March 7 to March 30, Russian soldiers and security forces were deployed in this area,” he added. “They were also tasked with interrogating prisoners who were then executed.”

Hebestreit added that “targeted assassinations by units of the Russian military and security forces are therefore proof that the President and Supreme Commander of Russia have at least sanctioned human rights violations and war crimes for achieve their goals.

“The Russian side’s claims that these images are fabrications or that they are not responsible for the murders are therefore untenable,” he added.

Asked about the source of his information, Hebestreit said the images examined by Germany were “not commercial satellite images”. He declined to give further details.

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COPENHAGEN — Norway announced on Wednesday the expulsion of three Russian diplomats.

Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said the emissaries carried out activities incompatible with their status.

The timing of the evictions “is not accidental” and comes “at a time when the whole world is shocked by reports that Russian forces are abusing civilians, especially in the town of Bucha,” Huitfeldt said in a statement. .

In recent days, many European countries have expelled Russian diplomats and staff from Russian diplomatic missions.

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LONDON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war by deliberately targeting the country’s essential food supplies.

In a speech to the Irish parliament on Wednesday, Zelenskyy said Russian forces are “destroying things that sustain life”, including food stores, blocking ports to prevent food exports and “laying mines in fields “.

“For them, hunger is also a weapon, a weapon against us ordinary people,” he added, accusing Moscow of “causing an intentional food crisis” in Ukraine, one of the main producers of elements of base like wheat and sunflower oil. .

This will have international consequences, he added, as “there will be food shortages and prices will rise, and that is a reality for millions of hungry people who will find it harder to feed their family”.

Zelenskyy spoke via video conference to a joint session of the two houses of the Irish parliament, in the latest in a series of international speeches with which he asks for help for his country.

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BRUSSELS — European Union member states should consider ways to offer asylum to Russian soldiers ready to desert on the battlefield in Ukraine, the president of the European Council has said.

Charles Michel on Wednesday expressed his “outrage at crimes against humanity, against innocent civilians in Bucha and many other cities” and called on Russian troops to disobey orders from their superiors.

“If you don’t want to participate in the massacre of your Ukrainian brothers and sisters, if you don’t want to be criminals, lay down your arms, stop fighting, leave the battlefield,” said Michel, who represents the governments of the block. , in a speech to the European Parliament.

Supporting an idea already raised by some MEPs, Michel added that granting asylum to Russian defectors is “a valid idea that should be pursued”.

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister accuses Russia of spreading disinformation to justify its war in Ukraine.

Annalena Baerbock said Wednesday that “while Russian tanks destroy Ukrainian cities, Kremlin propaganda censors information, restricts access to social media, spreads disinformation and punishes those who dare to speak the truth”.

The objective was “as clear as it is cynical: to demoralize the courageous Ukrainian population and to keep the Russians in ignorance”.

Baerbock spoke in a video message at a disinformation conference organized by his ministry where attendees also cited examples of Russian efforts to stoke resentment in Europe against Ukrainian refugees.

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LONDON — Intel has said it is suspending all business operations in Russia, becoming the latest major company to leave the country because of the war in Ukraine.

“With immediate effect, we have suspended all operations in Russia,” the US chipmaker said in a statement.

The company had already halted shipments to customers in Russia and its neighbor and ally Belarus after the conflict began on February 24.

Intel said it was working to help its 1,200 employees in Russia and had taken “business continuity measures” to reduce disruption to its global network of operations, without giving further details.

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BEIJING — China says reports and images of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha are “deeply disturbing” and calls for an investigation.

Beijing respalda todas las iniciativas y medidas “que conduzcan al alivio de la crisis humanitarian” en Ucrania y “está dispuesto a seguir trabajando junto con la comunidad internacional para evitar cualquier daño a los civiles”, dijo Zhao Lijian, vocero del Ministerio de Exteriores chino , Wednesday.

The Bucha killings could serve to increase pressure on Beijing for its broadly pro-Russian stance and its attempts to shape public opinion on the war.

China called for dialogue between the parties, but they refused to criticize Russia for the invasion. Moreover, he opposes sanctions against Moscow and blames Washington and NATO for provoking the war and fueling the conflict by sending arms to Ukraine.

Zhao’s remarks echo those made the day before by China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, who called for an investigation after calling reports and photos of the killing of civilians in the city “deeply disturbing”. “.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis kisses a battered Ukrainian flag brought to him from the city of Bucha and calls again for an end to the war.

The pontiff received half a dozen Ukrainian children at the end of his weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday and presented each with a chocolate Easter egg. Moreover, he asked to pray for them and for all Ukrainians.

“These children had to flee to reach a safe place. It is the fruit of war,” the pope told the audience.

Francis raised a grimy Ukrainian flag which he said arrived at the Vatican the day before Bucha, where evidence emerged of what appears to be intentional killings of civilians during the occupation of the city by Russian troops.

Kissing it, he said: “This flag comes from the war, from this martyred city of Bucha… Let’s not forget them. Let’s not forget the Ukrainian people.”

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The governor of Russia’s Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, said Russian border guards came under mortar attack on Tuesday.

Roman Starovoit noted on the Telegram messaging app that the guards returned fire and the incident caused “no casualties or destruction” on the Russian side.

The Ukrainian military has not commented on the allegation, which could not be independently verified.

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LONDON — British defense officials say 160,000 people remain stranded in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Russian airstrikes and heavy fighting continue.

In an intelligence update released Wednesday, the Department of Defense said there was “no power, communications, medicine, heat or water” in the city, and charged Russian forces to deliberately prevent humanitarian access “probably to pressure defenders to surrender”. “

Repeated attempts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to bring a humanitarian convoy to the port city in southern Ukraine have failed. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian forces blocked buses accompanied by Red Cross workers from entering Mariupol, but allowed 1,496 civilians to leave.

Before the war, the city, by the Sea of ​​Azov, had 400,000 inhabitants.

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LEOPOLIS, Ukraine — Russian forces attacked a fuel depot and factory in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region overnight, Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on the Telegram messaging app. At the moment, the number of victims is unknown.

“The night was alarming and difficult. The enemy attacked our area from the air and hit the oil depot and one of the factories. The oil depot with fuel was destroyed. Rescue teams are still trying to put out the flames at the factory. There is a mighty fire,” Reznichenko wrote.

In the eastern region of Lugansk, Tuesday’s shelling of the town of Rubizhne left one dead and five injured, Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram on Wednesday.

The Russian military continues to focus its efforts on preparing for an offensive on eastern Ukraine, according to an update from the Ukrainian General Staff on Wednesday morning, with the aim “to establish full control in the territory of Donetsk and Lugansk”.

Parts of both regions have been under the control of Moscow-backed rebels since 2014 and are recognized by the Kremlin as independent states.

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