Live Updates: Lavrov’s Stepdaughter on New UK Sanction List | World News

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LONDON — Britain is sanctioning 65 more companies and individuals over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The targets include Russia’s largest private bank and a woman the British government said was the stepdaughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the new round of sanctions target strategic industries, banks and business elites. Among those sanctioned are Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private bank and Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company.

The U.K. also targeted billionaires Eugene Markovich Shvidler, who has close ties to Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich and Herman Gref, the chief executive of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.

“These oligarchs, businesses and hired thugs are complicit in the murder of innocent civilians and it is right that they pay the price,’’ Truss said in a statement.

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Polina Kovaleva, who was described as Lavrov’s stepdaughter, was also sanctioned as the U.K. broadens the scope of its sanctions to reach people linked to those responsible for “Russian aggression.”

Britain said it has sanctioned more than 1,000 individuals and companies since the invasion. All of the named entities will have their U.K. assets frozen, and individuals will be banned from travelling to or from Britain.

KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— Ukraine president presses Biden, NATO for more aid as war enters second month

— UN to vote on blaming Russia for Ukraine humanitarian crisis

— Russian stock market, crushed by war, partially reopens

— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage

LVIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry says Russia is making arrangements to forcibly relocate thousands of civilians to Russia from the besieged port of Mariupol.

It said Thursday Russian forces had taken 6,000 Mariupol residents “to Russian filtration camps in order to use them as hostages and put more political pressure on Ukraine.”

The Foreign Ministry expressed concern for 15,000 people from a district of Mariupol under Russian control, saying Russian troops were confiscating their identity documents and insisting they traveled to Russia. Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian troops of obstructing attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, including by seizing bus drivers sent to collect civilians.

Ukrainian military intelligence said Thursday that Ukrainian civilians were being sent through a “filtration camp” in Russian-controlled territory then onward through southern regions of Russia and then to “economically depressed” parts of the country.

Some could be sent as far as the Pacific Ocean island of Sakhalin, Ukrainian intelligence said, and are offered jobs on condition they don’t leave for two years. The claims could not be independently verified.

Russia has said it is helping civilians evacuate from Mariupol and other cities affected by fighting. Russia claims many civilians are keen to find refuge in Russia.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has decried increased spending on weapons, saying more arms and sanctions aren’t the answer to ending conflict.

The pope said in a speech at the Vatican Thursday to a women’s group that he was “ashamed” when he read that some countries have committed themselves to spending 2% of GDP on defense. He said that leaders “continue to govern the world like a chessboard, where the powerful study the moves to extend dominance to the damage of the others.”

“The true response, as I have said, aren’t more arms, more sanctions, more political-military alliances,” the pope said.

Francis separately asked in a tweet for prayers so that government leaders “might understand that buying and making weapons is not the solution to the problem.” The solution, he said, is to “work together for peace.”

BRUSSELS — NATO leaders are extending the mandate of Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg for an extra year to help steer the 30-nation military organization through the security crisis sparked by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Stoltenberg tweeted Thursday that he is “honored” by the decision of NATO leaders to extend his term until 30 September 2023.

“As we face the biggest security crisis in a generation, we stand united to keep our Alliance strong and our people safe,” he said.

The former Norwegian prime minister was named to NATO’s top civilian post in October 2014. It’s the second time that his term of office has been extended. His mandate was due to expire in September.

BRUSSELS — Group of Seven leaders have announced they are restricting the Russian Central Bank’s use of gold in transactions, while the U.S. announced a new round of sanctions targeting more than 400 elites and members of the Russian State Duma.

Previously, sanctions against Russian elites, the country’s Central Bank and President Vladimir Putin did not impact Russia’s gold stockpile, which Putin has been accumulating for several years. Russia holds roughly $130 billion in gold reserves, and the Bank of Russia announced Feb. 28 that it would resume the purchase of gold on the domestic precious metals market.

White House officials said Thursday the move will further blunt Russia’s ability to use its international reserves to prop up Russia’s economy and fund its war against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced more sanctions targeting 48 state-owned defense companies, 328 members of the Duma, Russia’s lower parliament, and dozens of Russian elites. The Duma as an entity was also named in the new sanctions.

The G-7 and the European Union also announced a new effort to share information and coordinate responses to prevent Russia from evading the impact of sanctions that western nations have levied since the Feb. 24 invasion.

WASHINGTON — A White House official says the U.S. is trying to help its Eastern European allies by taking in up to 100,000 of the 3.5 million Ukrainians refugees who have fled Russia’s invasion of their country.

Among the first Ukrainians refugee coming to the U.S. will be those who have family already in the United States, senior Biden administration officials said in a conference call with reporters.

U.S. refugee efforts will also focus on helping refugees who are considered particularly vulnerable following the Russian invasion, groups that include LGBTQ people, those with medical needs as well as journalists and dissidents, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the efforts ahead of their formal release.

The officials said further details of the refugee effort will be released later but they don’t expect to raise the overall cap of 125,000 refugees, from around the world, for budget year 2022 that the administration set last year in consultation with Congress.

That’s because the 100,000 Ukrainians can come in through other admission programs such as humanitarian parole, which was used to bring in thousands of Afghans following the U.S. withdrawal in August.

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president has pleaded with NATO to provide his embattled nation with military assistance.

In a video address to the NATO summit Thursday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs “military assistance without limitations,” as Russia is “using its entire arsenal” against the country.

Zelenskyy urged NATO to provide Ukraine with “1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks.” “We can’t just buy those,” Zelenskyy said. “When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100% security.”

Ukraine is also in dire need of multiple launch rocket systems, anti-ship weapons and air defense systems, Zelenskyy said. “Is it possible to survive in such a war without this?,” he asked.

Zelenskyy said Russia used phosphorous bombs on Thursday morning, killing both adults and children. He reminded NATO leaders that thousands of Ukrainians have died in the past month, 10 million people have left their homes, and urged NATO to give “clear answers.”

“It feels like we’re in a gray area, between the West and Russia, defending our common values,” Zelenskyy said emotionally. “This is the scariest thing during a war — not to have clear answers to requests for help.”

Zelenskyy did not reiterate his request for a no-fly zone or ask to join NATO, according to a senior Biden administration official.

BERLIN — Germany says it has sent about 10,000 metric tons of essential aid to Ukraine using a recently created “rail bridge” of trains shuttling back and forth between the two countries.

Transport minister Volker Wissing told the Funke media group in an interview published Thursday that the rail link was established two weeks ago to bring much-needed food, drink and hygiene products from Germany to Ukraine.

Speaking at a Berlin cargo terminal Thursday, Wissing said many of the goods being sent to Ukraine by train had been donated.

“We hope this war is over soon and will do everything to ease the suffering,” he said.

German rail company Deutsche Bahn has separately organized additional trains to bring refugees from the Polish-Ukrainian border to Germany.

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s Parliament has approved a plan to deploy up to 650 Czech service members to Slovakia as part of an multinational NATO force set up in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Parliament’s lower house approved the deployment Thursday after the upper house gave the green light last week.

The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia will also contribute troops to the unit, expected to include up to 2,100 soldiers.

The plan is part of the NATO initiative to reassure member countries on the alliance’s eastern flank.

The alliance stationed troops in the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by Russia. After Russia attacked Ukraine, NATO decided to boost its presence along the entire eastern flank by deploying forces in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

STOCKHOLM — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited Sweden to help rebuild his country as he marked one month of the Russian invasion during an address to the Swedish parliament.

“This is a month now,” Zelenskyy said during a speech by video link Thursday. “We have not seen a destruction of this scale since World War II.”

“Just look at what the Russian army has done to our country … A month of bombings similar to what we have seen in Syria,” Zelenskyy said, adding 10 million people have been displaced.

He called on “Swedish companies and state to come rebuild” the country.

Zelenskyy, speaking through an interpreter, also raised an alarm about the possibility of Russia using nuclear and chemical weapons.

His speech was broadcast live before members of the 349-seat Riksdagen which gave him a standing ovation.

BEIJING — China is rejecting accusations of helping Russia spread disinformation over Washington’s involvement in Ukraine, while repeating Moscow’s baseless claims about secret American biological warfare labs in Ukraine.

“Accusing China of spreading disinformation on Ukraine is disinformation in itself,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily Briefing Thursday. He said China has acted in “an objective and just manner.”

Wang claimed the international community continues to have “grave concerns” about U.S. biolabs in Ukraine, despite rebuttals from independent scientists.

China claims it is neutral in the conflict, although it maintains what it calls a limitless friendship with Russia, which it calls its “most important strategic partner.” China has refused to criticize Russia over its invasion — or even to refer to it as such — and Chinese state media repeatedly regurgitate Moscow’s false claims over the conflict.

NEW YORK — The Russian stock market has resumed limited trading under heavy restrictions, almost one month after prices plunged and the market was shut down following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trading of a limited number of stocks including energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft took place under curbs that are meant to prevent a repeat of the massive selloff that took place Feb. 24 in anticipation of Western economic sanctions. Foreigners cannot sell and traders are barred from short selling, or betting prices will fall. The benchmark MOEX index gained 8% in the first minutes of trading.

BRUSSELS — U.S. President Joe Biden and world leaders have opened the first in a trio of summits in Brussels focused on pressuring Russia to end its war in Ukraine.

Europe’s diplomatic capital is hosting an emergency NATO summit as well as a gathering of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and a summit of the 27 members of the European Union.

Biden is attending all three meetings, beginning with NATO.

The president and the leaders of other NATO countries met for a group photo memorializing their urgent gathering before they went into the meeting, which was expected to last for several hours.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg opened Thursday’s meeting by saying the alliance is determined to continue to ratchet up the costs on Russia.

Biden arrived in Brussels on Wednesday with the hopes of nudging allies to enact new sanctions on Russia.

BRUSSELS — NATO leaders are refusing to rule out retaliation against Russia should it launch a chemical weapons attack on Ukraine — but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson thinks Moscow has already gone too far.

“The reality is that (President) Vladimir Putin has already crossed the red line into barbarism,” Johnson told reporters Thursday as he arrived for summit of NATO leaders.

Johnson says that “it’s now up to NATO to consider together the appalling crisis in Ukraine, the appalling suffering of the people of Ukraine, and to see what more we can do to help the people of Ukraine to protect themselves.”

As an organization, NATO is not providing weapons to Ukraine. The 30-nation alliance refuses to send troops to Ukraine, either for combat or peacekeeping, and has said it will not deploy aircraft to protect civilians or police any no-fly zone.

But member countries are providing weapons and other assistance, individually or in groups.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo describes Putin as “a Russian leader who has lost any sense of what is reasonable these days.”

De Croo warns that “if chemical weapons or anything else could be used, that would have definitely grave consequences.” No NATO leader has elaborated yet on what that might mean.

PARIS — French carmaker Renault announced Wednesday night it is suspending “activities at the Renault Moscow plant” with immediate effect.

The move came hours after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke virtually to the French parliament, calling on Renault and other French companies with a Russian presence to stop indirectly supporting the war against Ukraine.

The Renault Group board of directors met Wednesday to decide to halt production at the plant that produces Arkana, Kaptur, Duster and Nissan Terrano SUVs amid mounting criticism of its foothold in the Russian Federation.

However, the lion’s share of the group’s Russian presence goes through its subsidiary AvtoVAZ, through which it sold nearly 500,000 vehicles in Russia in 2021.

Renault said that AvtoVAZ is not immediately withdrawing, but it’s “assessing the available options.”

PARIS — France’s defense ministry announced Wednesday the country successfully tested the modernized version of its nuclear missile, the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée.

In a statement, it said that it was tested “without a military payload” and was fired from a Rafale twin-engine, multirole fighter aircraft that took off from Cazaux Air Force Base 120 in southwestern France.”

The medium-range air-to-ground nuclear ASMP missile, developed by arms manufacturer MBDA, represents part of the air component of the French nuclear deterrence. The announcement comes at the height of the war in Ukraine, as some observers fear the potential for a military escalation by Russia.

BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says any chemical attack by Russia on Ukraine would change the course of the war but he is not saying whether NATO would take military action.

Asked whether a chemical weapons attack is a red line for NATO, Stoltenberg said, “I will not speculate beyond the fact that NATO is always ready to defend, to protect and to react to any type of attack on a NATO-allied country.”

Stoltenberg says “any use of chemical weapons would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. It would be a blatant violation of international law, and it will have widespread and severe consequences.”

His remarks Thursday came as he arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels to chair a summit of the military organization’s 30 national leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden.

NATO allies are worried about Russian rhetoric and fears that Moscow might want to create a pretext to use chemical weapons in Ukraine. The leaders are likely to agree to send equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

They’re also set to endorse a move to set up four new multinational battlegroups in eastern Europe to deter Russia from attacking any NATO members.

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s navy on Thursday reported destroying Russia’s large landing ship, Orsk, near the port city of Berdyansk.

A short Facebook statement about the ship was accompanied with photos and videos of fire and thick plumes of smoke in the port.

The Russian military has not commented on what happened to the ship.

Berdyansk has been under Russian control since Feb. 27.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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