SYDNEY — Australia’s prime minister has described Russia and China’s closer relationship as opportunistic rather than strategic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday labeled the alliance an “Arc of Autocracy” and said Russia and China would prefer a new world order to the one that has been place since World War II.
Morrison has criticized Beijing’s failure to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s expansion of trade in Russian wheat while other countries are imposing sanctions.
Australia last week promised Ukraine $50 million in missiles, ammunition and other military hardware to fight Russian invaders.
Morrison said on Monday: “Our missiles are on the ground now.”
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House is exploring legislation to further isolate Russia from the global economy, including banning the import of its oil and energy products into the U.S.ADVERTISEMENT
Amid rising gasoline prices in the U.S., the Biden administration has yet to call for an oil import ban on Russia.
In a letter to Democrats released Sunday night, Pelosi says the legislation under consideration would also repeal normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus and begin the process of denying Russia access to the World Trade Organization.
Pelosi says the House would also empower the Biden administration to raise tariffs on Russian imports.
Congress intends to approve the Biden administration’s request for $10 billion in humanitarian, military and economic support for Ukraine, Pelosi said, as part of omnibus government funding legislation this week.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said more than 20,000 people from 52 countries have already volunteered to fight in Ukraine, where they will serve in a newly created international legion. He did not say how many of the foreign volunteers have arrived in Ukraine.
“The whole world today is on Ukraine’s side not only in words but in deeds,” Kuleba said on Ukrainian television Sunday night.
He did not name the home countries of the volunteers, saying that some of them forbid their citizens from fighting for other countries.
Kuleba also urged Ukrainians living in other countries to begin a campaign to push for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union.
NEW YORK — Two of the so-called Big Four accounting firms are pulling out of Russia over its war in Ukraine.
KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers both said Sunday they would end their relationships with their Russia-based member firms. KPMG said it was also pulling out of Belarus.
KPMG International said in a statement it would be “incredibly difficult” to have its Russia and Belarus firms leave the network. KPMG has more than 4,500 employees in the two countries.ADVERTISEMENT
PricewaterhouseCoopers said it has 3,700 employees at its PwC Russia firm and is working on an “orderly transition” for the business.
The two other Big Four companies – Deloitte and Ernst & Young – didn’t immediately return requests for comment Sunday.
LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces stepped up their shelling of Ukrainian cities in the center, north and south of the country late Sunday, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.
“The latest wave of missile strikes came as darkness fell,” he said on Ukrainian television.
He said the areas that came under heavy shelling include the outskirts of Kyiv, Chernihiv in the north, Mykolaiv in the south, and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
Kharkiv officials said the shelling damaged the television tower and heavy artillery was hitting residential areas.
In Chernihiv officials said all regions of the city were coming under missile attack.
Arestovich described a “catastrophic” situation in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, where efforts to evacuate residents on Sunday failed. He said the government was doing all it could to resume evacuations.
Evacuations also failed in Mariupol in the south and Volnovakha in the east because of the shelling.
LVIV, Ukraine — As Russian forces increased their shelling of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to the West to strengthen sanctions.
In a video statement Sunday evening, Zelenskyy heaped criticism on Western leaders for not responding to the Russian Defense Ministry’s announcement that it would strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex, while telling employees of these defense plants not to go to work.
“I didn’t hear even a single world leader react to this,” Zelenskyy said. “The audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal to the West that the sanctions imposed on Russia are not sufficient.”
Zelenskyy called for organizing a “tribunal” to bring to justice those who order and carry out such crimes.
“Think about the sense of impunity of the occupiers that they can announce such planned atrocities,” he said.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced Sunday that its forces intend to strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex with what it said were precision weapons.
“We urge all personnel of Ukrainian defense industry plants … to leave the territory of their enterprises,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement carried by the state news agency Tass.
Netflix said Sunday that it’s suspending its service in Russia.
A statement from the company cited “circumstances on the ground” for its decision to suspend its Russian service but didn’t offer any additional details.
The announcement comes after TikTok said users on its platform in Russia have been blocked from posting and viewing videos shared from elsewhere in the world. American Express also announced earlier in the day it would suspend operations in Russia, as well as in Russian-allied Belarus.
NEW YORK — TikTok said Sunday that users won’t be able to post new videos in Russia in response to the government’s crackdown on social media.
“In light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “Our in-app messaging service will not be affected.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday intensified a crackdown on media outlets and individuals who fail to hew to the Kremlin line on Russia’s war in Ukraine, blocking Facebook and Twitter and signing into law a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports.
TikTok is part of the larger Chinese tech company ByteDance.
NEW YORK — American Express announced Sunday it is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.
Globally issued American Express cards will no longer work at merchants or ATMs in Russia, the company said in a statement. AmEx cards issued locally in Russia by the country’s banks will also no longer work outside of Russia.
The company previously halted its relationships with banks in Russia impacted by the U.S. and international government sanctions, the company said.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister spoke Sunday evening by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a day after his snap trip to Moscow to discuss the more than weeklong Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Naftali Bennett also spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whom he visited in Berlin on Saturday as well, and French President Emmanuel Macron, his office said.
Bennett has also spoken on the phone multiple times with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — most recently Sunday morning — as part of his shuttle diplomacy to mediate between Ukraine and Russia after more than a week of fighting.
Additionally, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid will fly to Riga, Latvia, on Monday to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Foreign Ministry said.
While Israel has condemned Russia’s invasion, it has also refrained from taking action that could anger Moscow, out of concern of jeopardizing military coordination in neighboring Syria.
VIENNA, Austria — The International Atomic Energy Agency has said Russian forces are tightening their grip on the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, Ukraine’s largest, that they seized last week.
The director general of the agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said Sunday Ukrainian staff members are now required to seek approval for any operation, even maintenance, from the Russians, and that they have impeded normal communications by switching off some mobile networks and internet at the site.
Ukraine’s regulatory authority said that phone lines, as well as e-mails and fax, are no longer working. Grossi said he is “extremely concerned about these developments,” adding that for the plant to operate safely, “staff must be allowed to carry out their vital duties in stable conditions, without undue external interference or pressure.”
NEW YORK — The Russian military has warned Ukraine’s neighboring countries from hosting its warplanes, saying Moscow may consider them a part of the conflict if Ukrainian aircraft fly combat missions from their territory.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov charged Sunday that some Ukrainian combat planes had redeployed to Romania and other Ukraine neighbors he didn’t identify.
Konashenkov warned that if those warplanes attack the Russian forces from the territory of those nations, it “could be considered as those countries’ engagement in the military conflict.”
PARIS — The French presidency said the call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday focused primarily on the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear plants.
The call was on request from Macron and lasted almost two hours, the Elysee said.
A French official said Macron insisted on the need to ensure the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safety standards are respected at Chernobyl and in other nuclear plants. He told Putin these facilities must not be targeted by a Russian offensive or caught in the fighting.
Putin said he does not intend to attack nuclear plants and agreed on the principle of a “dialogue” between IAEA, Ukraine and Russia on this issue, according to the official, who spoke anonymously in line with the French presidency’s practices. Potential talks are to be organized in the coming days, he said.
Macron reiterated his call for Russia to stop its military operations and insisted on the need to protect the civilians and allow access to humanitarian aid.
“The (humanitarian) situation is difficult” including in Mariupol on Sunday, the official stressed. “Our demands remain the same: we want Russia to respond to these demands… very quickly and clearly.”
— By Sylvie Corbet
PARIS — European Union leader Charles Michel said Sunday closing Ukraine’s airspace could spark a world war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on NATO countries to stop the Russian onslaught on his country by imposing a no-fly zone. Western leaders have refused for fear of triggering a wider war in Europe. Deploying fighter jets over Ukraine could “in current circumstances” be considered as “NATO’s entry into the war and therefore risk World War III,” Michel said in an interview with the public broadcaster France Inter.
Michel denied that economic sanctions against Russia constitute “a war of the EU or NATO against Russia.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has linked the West’s economic punishment for his invasion of Ukraine to “declaring war” on Moscow.
Michel said European and American allies imposed sanctions “to create pressure and hurt the (Russian) regime”, not the people.
JERUSALEM — A group of 100 Ukrainian Jewish orphans who were evacuated from the country after Russia invaded have landed in Israel.
The children arrived Sunday a few hours before two flights carrying around 300 other Ukrainian Jewish immigrants landed.
The children were evacuated from the central Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr and brought to Israel by the KKL-JNF organization.
The Jewish Agency for Israel, a quasigovernmental organization that manages immigration affairs, said that it had received 5,500 urgent requests by Ukrainian Jews to move to Israel since Russia attacked on Feb. 24.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States and its allies are having a “very active discussion” about banning the import of Russian oil and natural gas in the latest escalation of their sanctions in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.
Asked about oil and gas imports, Blinken told CNN on Sunday that President Joe Biden convened a meeting of his National Security Council on the subject the day before. Biden and Western allies have until now held off on sanctions against Russia’s lucrative energy industry to avoid blowback on their own economies.
“We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on world market,” said Blinken. “That’s a very active discussion as we speak.”
BERLIN — The U.N. human rights office says it has confirmed the deaths of 364 civilians in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.
The Geneva-based office said that another 759 civilians had been injured as of midnight Saturday.
The rights office uses strict methodology and only reports casualties it has confirmed.
It says it believes the real figures are considerably higher, “especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days.” That’s because the flow of information has been delayed amid the fighting and many reports still need to be corroborated.
Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers.
NEW YORK — The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart that Russia’s military action in Ukraine could be halted “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities and fulfills the well-known demands of Russia.”
Putin has listed “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine, recognition of Russian-annexed Crimea as part of Russia and separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states as the Kremlin’s main demands.
According to the readout of Sunday’s call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “hope was expressed that during the planned next round of negotiations, the representatives of Ukraine would show a more constructive approach, fully taking into account the emerging realities.”
A third round of talks is scheduled for Monday.
MEDYKA, Poland — The head of the United Nations’ refugee agency says the international Red Cross and the U.N. are negotiating access to the cities in Ukraine most impacted by fighting since Russia invaded Feb. 24.
Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said Sunday that “those discussions continue” with hope for success, but didn’t name specific cities. He said during a visit to Poland’s border with Ukraine that “these corridors are mainly to bring humanitarian goods basic goods to people that are really in desperate need and also to extract maybe the most vulnerable people.”
Grandi stressed that wide international assistance is needed for Poland and other countries receiving refugees from Ukraine. He said that “predictions are difficult, hundreds of thousands are on the move inside Ukraine, and it is very likely that we will see a large influx continuing in the next few days.”
Grandi said that “what is needed really is a ceasefire, is the end to hostilities because that’s the only way to stop this tragedy.”
LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says a second attempt to evacuate civilians from a southern city under siege for a week has failed due to continued Russian shelling.
Ukrainian military authorities said earlier Sunday that evacuations from the port city of Mariupol were scheduled to begin at noon local time (10 a.m. GMT) during a 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. local ceasefire.
Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said the planned evacuations along designated humanitarian corridors were halted because of an ongoing assault.
He said on Telegram that “there can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom.”
A similar cease-fire planned for Mariupol and the nearby city of Volnovakha collapsed Saturday, trapping residents under more shelling and aerial bombardment by Russian forces.
ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office says he has called for an urgent cease-fire in Ukraine in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a statement following Sunday’s one-hour call, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan had urged a halt to fighting to “address humanitarian concerns” and “seek a political solution” to the conflict. The war is now in its 11th day.
Erdogan called for the opening of humanitarian corridors and a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine.
Turkey has extensive ties with both Russia and Ukraine and has sought to place itself as a mediator. It has invited both to a diplomatic forum in Antalya next week.
Erdogan’s office said he told Putin that he was “ready to make every contribution” to resolving the crisis.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s border guard agency says that over 922,000 refugees have crossed the border from Ukraine since Feb. 24, when Russia launched its invasion.
The agency said on Twitter that a record one-day number of over 129,000 crossed into Poland on Saturday, and almost 40,000 between midnight and 7 a.m. on Sunday.
A nation of some 38 million people, Poland is receiving the largest number of refugees among Ukraine’s neighbors. Some who entered Poland have continued to other countries.
HELSINKI — The top U.S. military officer says Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike have put up an “extraordinarily courageous” fight since the Russian invasion.
Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke Sunday during a visit to an air base in Amari, Estonia. He is visiting the three Baltic nations to pledge U.S. and NATO support to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, former Soviet republics that border Russia.
Milley said that “the will of the Ukrainian people, the importance of their national leadership and the fighting skills of the Ukrainian army has come through loud and clear.”
He said Ukrainians have put up “an extraordinarily courageous and brave fight” and “they’ve been doing very, very well. But it’s a little bit early to draw any definitive lessons.”
Milley said the U.S. currently has no indications that Moscow is planning to attack on the Baltic countries and “we want to make sure it stays that way.”