KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s State Security Service released a video of a Ukrainian politician charged with treason offering himself in exchange for the evacuation of trapped civilians from Mariupol, while two British men who surrendered to Russian forces in Mariupol appeared on Russian media asking to participate in an exchange.
The video of Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party with personal ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was released on Monday. In it, he specifically calls on Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to consider the swap.
Medvedchuk was arrested last Tuesday in a special operation by the Ukrainian State Security Service, or SBU. The 67-year-old oligarch escaped house arrest several days before the outbreak of hostilities on February 24 in Ukraine. He faces between 15 years and life in prison for treason and complicity with a terrorist organization for having negotiated coal purchases for the separatist republic of Donetsk, supported by Russia, in eastern Ukraine.
The British men identified themselves as Sean Pinner and Aiden Aslin. In a video, Pinner asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson he hoped to be traded. Pinner had deep dark circles under his eyes and looked exhausted, but he said both men were treated appropriately.
Ukrainian officials said kyiv wanted to try Medvedchuk and eventually exchange him for Ukrainian prisoners.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIAN-UKRAINE WAR:
— ‘No surrender’: Ukrainians fight at Mariupol steelworks
— Russia renews its strikes on the Ukrainian capital and strikes other cities
— Mother and grandmother mourn 15-year-old boy killed in Kharkiv bombing
Follow all AP stories about Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian government has halted humanitarian evacuations for the second day, saying Russian forces were targeting civilian evacuation corridors.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Monday that Russia was bombing and blocking humanitarian evacuation routes. Humanitarian evacuations have been interrupted several times since the start of the war after civilian convoys were bombed.
According to Vereshchuk, the government had negotiated the passage of Mariupol and Berdyansk, among other cities, as well as the Luhansk region. The Luhansk government said four civilians trying to flee the area were shot dead by Russian forces.
Separately, a shelling on Monday in a residential area of the eastern city of Kharkiv killed at least three people and injured three others, according to AP journalists on the spot.
One of the dead was a woman who appeared to be fetching water in the rain. She was found lying bloodied with a can of water and an umbrella next to her body.
BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the secret services of Ukraine and an unidentified European Union country of being behind a series of false bomb threats against flights from Air Serbia to Russia.
The Serbian flag carrier is the only European airline that has not joined international anti-flight sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine. Several of its flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg were delayed or had to return to Belgrade after the anonymous bomb threats.
In an interview with pro-government Pink TV on Sunday night, Vucic said that “foreign (intelligence) services from two countries do this. One is an EU country and Ukraine is another.
The pro-Russian Serbian leader did not provide evidence to support his claims. Other Serbian officials alleged that the threatening emails were sent either from Ukraine or Poland.
Vucic said that although Air Serbia’s flights to Russia are unprofitable due to frequent returns to their base in the Serbian capital, the flights will continue “as a matter of principle”.
Despite voting in favor of UN resolutions condemning Russia’s bloody carnage in Ukraine, Serbia has so far rejected the imposition of international sanctions against its allies in Moscow.
MADRID — Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said Spain will reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv within days.
Following similar decisions by several European neighbors, Sánchez said the reopening was “to show again the commitment of the Spanish government and the Spanish people with the Ukrainian people”.
“Spain is with Ukraine and we are against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Sánchez said in an interview with Spanish television Antena 3. “It’s a Putin war against what the Union stands for. European.”
Spain closed the embassy hours after the Russian invasion on February 24.
KYIV, Ukraine – Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said six people were killed and 11 others, including a child, injured by Russian strikes in the western Ukrainian city.
Plumes of thick black smoke could be seen rising above the city as multiple explosions were reportedly caused by hit missiles, according to AP Lviv staff.
Lviv Regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said there were four Russian missile strikes, three of which hit military infrastructure and one hit a tire store. He said emergency crews were putting out fires caused by the strikes.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the chairman of Ukraine’s railway service, said the strikes hit near railway facilities. He said rail traffic had resumed with some delays and he pledged to restore the damaged network.
Lviv and the rest of western Ukraine have been less affected by the fighting than other parts of the country and are considered a relatively safe haven.
MOSCOW — The Russian military claims to have hit more than 20 Ukrainian military targets with missiles.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Monday that precision-guided air-launched missiles destroyed 16 military installations, including five command headquarters, a fuel depot, three ammunition depots and concentrations of Ukrainian military vehicles and personnel in several areas of the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro regions.
Konashenkov also said the army fired land-based Iskander missiles to destroy four ammunition dumps and three groups of Ukrainian troops near Popasna and Kramatorsk in the east and Yampil in central Ukraine.
He said the military used artillery to strike 315 Ukrainian targets and Russian warplanes carried out 108 strikes to target Ukrainian troops and military equipment.
Konashenkov’s claims could not be independently verified.
LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defense says the continued siege of Mariupol is pinning down Russian forces and slowing its advance ahead of a planned major offensive in eastern Ukraine.
In a daily intelligence update, the British Army says “concerted Ukrainian resistance has strained Russian forces and diverted men and materiel, slowing Russia’s advance elsewhere.”
The Sea port city of Azov has been devastated in weeks of Russian strikes. Britain says “large areas of infrastructure have been destroyed” and that there are “significant” civilian casualties.
Britain accuses Russia of using similar all-out war tactics against civilian areas it has deployed in Chechnya and Syria, despite Russian claims at the start of its invasion “that Russia would not hit cities or threaten the Ukrainian people”.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian troops in southern Ukraine had committed torture and kidnappings, and he called on the world on Sunday to take action.
“Torture chambers are being built there,” Zelenskyy said in an evening address to the nation. “They are kidnapping local government officials and anyone considered visible to local communities.”
Zelenskyy said humanitarian aid was stolen, creating famine.
In the occupied parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, he said, the Russians are creating breakaway states and introducing the Russian currency, the rouble. Intensified Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, has killed 18 people and injured 106 in the past four days alone, Zelenskyy said.
“This is nothing but deliberate terror. Mortars, artillery against ordinary residential neighborhoods, against ordinary civilians,” he said.
He said a planned Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine “will begin in the near future”.
Zelensky again called for increased sanctions against Russia, including its entire banking sector and oil industry. “Everyone in Europe and America already sees Russia openly using energy to destabilize Western societies,” Zelenskyy said. “All of this requires greater speed on the part of Western countries in preparing a powerful new sanctions package.”
WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s foreign minister describes the situation in Mariupol as dire and heartbreaking and says Russia’s continued attacks could constitute a “red line” that would end all efforts to achieve peace through negotiation.
Dmytro Kuleba told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the remaining Ukrainian military personnel and civilians in the port city are essentially surrounded by Russian forces.
He says the Ukrainians “continue their struggle” but the city effectively no longer exists because of the massive destruction.
Kuleba says his country has held “expert-level” talks with Russia in recent weeks in hopes of reaching a political solution for peace. But citing Mariupol’s importance, he echoed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in saying eliminating Ukrainian forces could be a “red line” stopping peace efforts.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says he prays this Easter for those living in the “dark shadow” of war, persecution and poverty.
Biden released an Easter message on Sunday in which he says he also prays for peace, freedom, basic dignity and respect for all of God’s children.
Biden hasn’t said what war he has in mind, but the president has been deeply involved in trying to force an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The US President says he is grateful that the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed many people around the world to celebrate by attending religious services and family gatherings in person. It also acknowledges that the holiest day in the Christian calendar “falls on the hearts of those who have lost loved ones and those of us who live in the shadow of war, persecution and poverty.” .