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Live updates: Romania: Putin threatens peace of whole planet

Smoke and flame rise near a military building after an apparent Russian strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian troops have launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine. Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of an Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis:

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BUCHAREST, Romania — The president of Romania has condemned Russia’s “reprehensible” attack on Ukraine and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “threatens the peace of the entire planet.”

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Romania borders Ukraine and is a member of NATO and the European Union. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that Russia “chose the reprehensible and completely illegal path of massive armed violence against an independent and sovereign state.”

Iohannis said that Romania, a country of about 19.5 million people, is ready to deal with economic and humanitarian consequences that the conflict could generate.

He stressed that Romania will not be drawn into the military conflict in Ukraine and said Romanian authorities will take “absolutely all the necessary measures” to ensure the safety of the country’s citizens.

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PRAGUE — Czech President Milos Zeman, who has been a leading pro-Russian voice among European Union leaders, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “an unprovoked act of aggression.”

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Zeman said in an address to the nation that “Russia has committed a crime against peace.”

A week ago, Zeman said that warnings of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine were a failure by CIA. He said repeatedly he didn’t believe Russian wanted to attack Ukraine.

“I admit I was wrong,” Zeman said Thursday. “An irrational decision by the leadership of the Russian Federation will cause significant damages to the Russian state.”

He called for harder sanctions against Russia, declaring that “it’s necessary to isolate a lunatic and not just to defend ourselves by words but also by deeds.”

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BRUSSELS — NATO’s secretary-general says Russia has launched war on Ukraine and shattered peace on the European continent.

Jens Stoltenberg called for a summit of NATO alliance leaders for Friday.

Stoltenberg said that “this is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion.” And he charged that “Russia is using force to try to rewrite history.”

Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine earlier Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling. Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border.

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HELSINKI — NATO member Lithuania, which has borders with Russian ally Belarus and Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, has declared a state of emergency effective early Thursday afternoon due to the situation in Ukraine.

The decree signed Thursday by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda steps up border protection. It gives authorities, among other things, the right to check and inspect vehicles, persons and luggage in the border area.

Lithuania also borders fellow NATO and European Union members Poland and Latvia.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has called on Russia to halt what it describes as “unfair and unlawful” actions in Ukraine.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement on Thursday said the Russian attacks were “unacceptable” and that Turkey “rejects” them.

“This attack, beyond destroying the Minsk agreements, is a grave violation of international law and poses a serious threat to the security of our region and of the world,” the ministry statement said, referring to deals that aimed to restore peace in eastern Ukraine.

The statement added that Turkey opposes moves that “change borders through the use of weapons.”

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine, calling it a “dark day for Europe” and expressing his country’s “full solidarity with Kyiv.”

Scholz said in a statement at the chancellery in Berlin on Thursday that new sanctions to be imposed on Russia by Germany and its allies would show that “Putin has made a serious mistake with his war.”

Addressing NATO allies in eastern Europe, Scholz said Germany understood their worries in light of the latest developments and stands by its commitments within the alliance.

Scholz said he and French President Emmanuel Macron proposed soon holding an in-person meeting of the heads of government of NATO member states.

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BRUSSELS — NATO has agreed to beef up its land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military offensive in Ukraine.

NATO ambassadors said in a statement after emergency talks Thursday that “we have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies.”

While some of NATO’s 30 member countries are supplying arms, ammunition and other equipment to Ukraine, NATO as an organization is not. It will not launch any military action in support of Ukraine.

Countries closest to the conflict – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – are among those to have triggered rare consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which can be launched when “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the (NATO) parties is threatened.”

“We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defense across the Alliance,” the envoys said in a statement. “Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukraine’s president says that Russian forces forged 10-20 kilometers (6-12 miles) deep into the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine and are regrouping to continue the offensive.

But Oleksiy Arestovich said Thursday that “Kyiv is under reliable protection” and “they will face tough battles.”

Arestovich said that fighting is going on 4-5 kilometers (2 ½-3 miles) north of Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, in the country’s northeast. He said Ukrainian troops destroyed four Russian tanks there.

The adviser said that Russian troops that moved into Ukraine from Russian-annexed Crimea are trying to advance toward Melitopol and Kherson.

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JERUSALEM— Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “a grave violation of the international order.”

Lapid told reporters on Thursday that Israel is prepared to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine and urged Israeli citizens to leave the country.

“Israel is a country well-versed in war. War is not the way to resolve conflicts,” he said, adding that there was still a chance for a negotiated solution.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Moldova’s president says the country’s Supreme Security Council has decided to ask parliament to introduce a state of emergency following Russia’s attack on neighbouring Ukraine.

President Maia Sandu said Thursday that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a “flagrant violation of international norms.”

Sandu urged Moldovan citizens in Ukraine to return home. Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, has a population of around 3.5 million and is not a NATO member.

There are now concerns in Moldova that the neighboring conflict could trigger an influx of refugees. Sandu said that “at the border crossing points with Ukraine there is an increase in traffic flow.”

She added that “we will help people who need our support. At this moment, we are ready to accommodate tens of thousands of people.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukraine’s president says about 40 people have been killed so far in the Russian attack on the country.

Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that several dozen people have been wounded.

He didn’t specify whether the casualties included civilians.

Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian authorities will hand weapons to all those willing to defend the country.

“The future of the Ukrainian people depends on every Ukrainian,” he said, urging all those who can defend the country to come to the Interior Ministry’s assembly facilities.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey has called on the NATO member country to close its airspace and to shut down the straits at the entrance of the Black Sea to Russian ships.

“We are calling for the airspace, Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to be closed,” Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar told reporters on Thursday. “We have conveyed our relevant demand to the Turkish side. At the same time, we want sanctions imposed on the Russian side.”

A 1936 convention gives Turkey control over the straits connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, and allows it to limit the passage of warships during wartime or if Turkey is threatened.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan convened an emergency security meeting to discuss the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Turkey, which enjoys close relations with both Ukraine and Russia, had been pressing for a diplomatic solution to the tensions.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says his country has cut diplomatic ties with Russia after it was attacked.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the decision to rupture ties with Moscow on Thursday after it launched a massive air and missile attack on its neighbor and Russian forces were seen rolling into Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials say the country’s military is fighting back and asked for Western defense assistance.

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KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian presidential adviser says that Russian forces have launched an attack on Ukraine from the north, east and south. The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said “the Ukrainian military is fighting hard.”

Podolyak said Thursday that “our army is fighting back inflicting significant losses to the enemy.” He said that there have been civilian casualties, but didn’t give details.

He said that “Ukraine now needs a greater and very specific support from the world — military-technical, financial as well as tough sanctions against Russia,” he said.

Another adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia has targeted air bases and various other military infrastructure.

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BEIJING — China’s customs agency on Thursday approved imports of wheat from all regions of Russia, a move that could help to reduce the impact of possible Western sanctions imposed over Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

The two governments announced an agreement Feb. 8 for China to import Russian wheat and barley after Russian President Vladimir became the highest-profile foreign guest to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics.

China’s populous market is a growth area for other farm goods suppliers, but Beijing had barred imports until now from Russia’s main wheat-growing areas due to concern about possible fungus and other contamination.

Russia is one of the biggest wheat producers but its exports would be vulnerable if its foreign markets block shipments in response to its attack on Ukraine.

Thursday’s announcement said Russia would “take all measures” to prevent contamination by wheat smut fungus and would suspend exports to China if it was found.

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister says that “we woke up in a different world today.”

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a televised statement that “after months of preparing lies and propaganda, President Putin decided today to let his threats be followed with terrible deeds.”

Baerbock said that “the Russian government is breaking the most elementary rules of the international order in front of the eyes of the world.”

Baerbock said German diplomats remaining in Kyiv would leave the capital. A decision would be made whether the embassy could resume its work from Lviv.

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MOSCOW — Security camera footage shows a line of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine from Russian-annexed Crimea.

Russian troops launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday. President Vladimir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging global leaders to provide defense assistance to Ukraine and help protect its airspace from the “aggressor.”

Zelenskyy said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has unleased a war with Ukraine and the entire democratic world.” He added that the Russian leader “wants to destroy our state, everything that we have built.”

He praised the nation’s soldiers, hailing their courage and urged civilians not to panic.

“We are starting the creation of an anti-Putin coalition,” he said. “I have already urged global leaders to slam Putin with all possible sanctions, offer large-scale defense support and close the airspace over Ukraine for the aggressor.”

“Together we must save Ukraine, save the democratic world, and we will do it,” Zelenskyy said.

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BEIJING — World stock markets have plunged and oil prices surged by nearly $6 per barrel after President Vladimir Putin launched Russian military action in Ukraine.

Market benchmarks tumbled in Europe and Asia and U.S. futures were sharply lower. Brent crude oil jumped to over $100 per barrel Thursday on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies.

The ruble sank 7.5% to more than $87 to the U.S. dollar. Earlier, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index fell 1.8% to an eight-month low after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked for military assistance.

Investors already were uneasy about the possible impact of the Federal Reserve’s plans to try to cool inflation.

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BEIJING — China’s Foreign Ministry is repeating calls for talks to resolve the worsening crisis in Ukraine, while refusing to criticize Russia’s actions and accusing the U.S. and its allies of worsening the crisis.

Spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters Thursday that “the Ukraine issue is complex in its historical background … what we are seeing today is the interplay of complex factors.”

Hua said China still hopes “that the parties concerned will not shut the door to peace and engage instead in dialogue and consultation and prevent the situation from further escalating,”

Although China has not endorsed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of independence for Ukraine’s separatist areas or his decision to send Russian forces there, Hua said China “called on parties to respect others’ legitimate security concerns.”

Hua said that “all parties should work for peace instead of escalating the tension or hyping up the possibility of war” — repeating the language China has consistently used to criticize the West in the crisis.

Hua asked: “Those parties who were busy condemning others; what have they done? Have they persuaded others?”

Hua did not describe Russia’s actions as an invasion or directly refer to the movement of Russian forces into Ukraine.

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron, who had labored until the last minute for a diplomatic solution, says that “France firmly condemns Russia’s decision to wage war” and is promising support for Ukraine.

Macron said Thursday that “Russia must end its military operations immediately.” He spoke by phone to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who demanded “united European support” for Ukraine, according to a statement from the French presidency.

Macron said France is “working with its partners and allies to end the war.”

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s defense ministry says that two F-16 aircraft from the Romanian military on a NATO air policing mission intercepted a Ukrainian Air Force plane that had entered Romanian airspace, and escorted it to an airbase in Bacau.

The ministry wrote that the Romanian planes “strictly applied national procedures and international rules applicable in such situations, through the interception and visual identification of the aircraft entering the Romanian airspace.”

The ministry said that the Ukrainian military pilot made himself available to Romanian authorities on Thursday morning.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union says it is planning the “strongest, the harshest package” of sanctions it has ever considered at an emergency summit Thursday, as the Russian military attacked Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “the target is the stability in Europe and the whole of the international peace order, and we will hold President (Vladimir) Putin accountable for that.”

“We will present a package of massive and targeted sanctions to European leaders for approval,” she said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called it the “strongest, the harshest package” ever considered.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Western allies will not stand by as Russia attacks Ukraine.

In an early morning call, Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that he was appalled by events in Ukraine, according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office.

“The Prime Minister said the West would not stand by as President Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people,” Johnson’s office said in the statement.

Johnson added that Ukraine was in the thoughts of everyone in the U.K. “during this dark time.”

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

AP

FEB 24, 2022

https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-latest-updates-0224-303b0bfdc6148c8738d6ac0ca78142fd

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