MOSCOW – The Kremlin says that Ukrainian grain supplies to world markets will be part of 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 UN figures. Wheat prices have spiked 45% as a result of the war-related disruption of supplies, according to the African Development Bank.
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 was 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
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.
BRUSSELS – The European Union on Friday formally approved an embargo on Russian oil and other sanctions targeting major banks and broadcasters over Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
EU headquarters says Russian crude oil will be phased out over six months, and other refined petroleum products over eight months.
It says that “a temporary exception is foreseen” for landlocked countries – like Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – that “suffer from a specific dependence on Russian supplies and have no viable alternative options.”
Bulgaria and Croatia will also get “temporary derogations” for certain kinds of oil. EU leaders say the move means that around 90% of Russia’s oil exports to Europe will be blocked by the end of the year. The EU imports around 25% of its oil from Russia.
Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, plus Credit Bank of Moscow, Russian Agriculture Bank and the Belarusian Bank for Development and Reconstruction have also been blocked from using the SWIFT system for international bank transfers.
Broadcasters Rossiya RTR / RTR Planeta, Rossiya 24 / Russia 24 and TV Center International have been hit over allegations that they are being used by Moscow “to manipulate information and promote disinformation about the invasion of Ukraine.”
BERLIN, Germany – The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament has met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and attended a session of Germany’s parliament during a visit to Berlin.
Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, was greeted with a standing ovation as he was welcomed Friday by German counterpart Baerbel Bas.
Stefanchuk told Germany’s Funke newspaper group ahead of his meeting with the chancellor that he wanted to invite Scholz to Kyiv to give a speech to Ukrainian lawmakers.
Scholz has not visited Ukraine since the war began, though Germany’s foreign and development ministers have.
UNITED NATIONS – The United States and its allies are vowing to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed by its forces since they invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
US Undersecretary of State Uzra Zeya told a UN Security Council meeting on strengthening accountability and justice for serious violations of international law that Russian forces have bombed maternity hospitals, train stations, apartment buildings and homes and killed civilians cycling down the street.
Zeya said on Thursday that the United States was working with its allies to support a broad range of international investigations into alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.
Ireland’s attorney general, Paul Gallagher said Ireland was one of 41 countries that quickly referred the situation in the country to the International Criminal Court.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, accused Western nations of “hypocrisy” for suddenly seeking international criminal justice over what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said fighting was brutal in the country’s eastern Donbas region but there has been “some progress” in the city of Sievierodonetsk, which Russian forces have been trying to capture.
“It’s the toughest there right now. As in the cities and communities nearby – Lysychansk, Bakhmut and others, ”Zekenskyy said late Thursday in his nightly video address to the nation. “There are many cities where the Russian attack is powerful.”
Zelenskyy said Russian forces were mobilizing people from areas of the Donbas that were already under the control of Moscow-backed separatists and sending them into battle in the first line of attack, with Russian troops coming in behind them.
“The longer the war goes on, the more vile, shameful and cynical things Russia is forever inscribing in its history,” he said.
Zelenskyy said he was grateful to the United States for agreeing to send advanced rocket systems.
KYIV, Ukraine – Some 60 percent of the infrastructure and residential buildings in Lysychansk, one of only two cities in the east still under at least partial Ukrainian control, have been destroyed from attacks, a local official said Thursday.
Oleksandr Zaika, head of Lysychansk City Military-Civil Administration, said on an “information telemarathon” cited by the Unian news agency that non-stop shelling had knocked out electricity, natural gas, telephone and internet service.
One of the most critical pathways for supplies and evacuations, the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway, is still open but under constant bombardment.
Humanitarian supplies are still reaching the city, where shrapnel and mines dot the landscape, he said.
Zaika said 20,000 people are left in the city, down from a pre-war population of 97,000.
Lysychansk is separated by a river from the other city in the region that’s still under at least partial Ukrainian control, Sievierodonetsk. It, too, is under Russian siege.