By The Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine — Panicked residents of eastern Ukraine boarded buses or looked for other ways to leave Saturday, a day after a missile strike killed at least 52 people and wounded more than 100 at a train station.
The attack in in Kramatorsk left the city with no trains running and came with thousands of people seeking to leave. Ukrainian authorities have called on civilians to get out ahead of an imminent, stepped-up offensive by Russian forces in the east.
Residents on Saturday feared the kind of unrelenting assaults and occupations by Russian invaders that brought food shortages, demolished buildings and death to other cities elsewhere in Ukraine.
“It was terrifying. The horror, the horror,” one resident told British broadcaster Sky, recalling Friday’s attack on the train station. “Heaven forbid, to live through this again. No, I don’t want to.”
Western military analysts said an arc of territory in eastern Ukraine was under Russian control. It was from Kharkiv — Ukraine’s second-largest city — in the north to Kherson in the south.
But Ukrainian counterattacks are threatening Russian control of Kherson, according to the Western assessments, and Ukrainian forces are repelling Russian assaults elsewhere in the Donbas region in the southeast.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Zelenskyy, in AP interview, wonders if he’s done enough
— War Crimes Watch: A devastating walk through Bucha’s horror
— S&P downgrade indicates Russia headed for historic default
— Panicked civilians board buses after attack on train station
— Intel: Putin may cite Ukraine war to meddle in US politics
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence officials predict Russian President Vladimir Putin may use U.S. support for Ukraine as justification for a new campaign to interfere in American politics.
Intelligence officials tell The Associated Press that they have yet to find any evidence that Putin has authorized measures like the ones Russia undertook in the last two elections to support former President Donald Trump. Several people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive findings said it remains unclear which candidates Russia might try to promote next.
Trump has repeatedly assailed U.S. intelligence officials and claimed that investigations of Russian influence on his campaigns to be political vendettas. In Ukraine and elsewhere, Russia has been accused of trying to spread disinformation, amplifying pro-Kremlin voices in the West and using cyberattacks to disrupt governments.
Top U.S. intelligence officials are still working on plans for a new Foreign Malign Influence Center, authorized by Congress, that will focus on foreign influence campaigns by Russia, China and other adversaries.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The Associated Press on Saturday that he is committed to seeking peace despite Russian attacks on civilians that have stunned the world.
He said no one wants to negotiate with people who tortured their nation — “as a man, as a father, I understand this very well.” But he said “we don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have them, for a diplomatic solution.”
Zelenskyy said he’s confident Ukrainians would accept peace despite the horrors they have witnessed in the war. But meanwhile, Russian troops are regrouping for an expected surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine, including the besieged port city of Mariupol that Ukrainian defenders are battling to retain.
So Zelenskyy renewed his plea for countries to send more weapons. He says they have to fight for life — not “for dust when there is nothing and no people. That’s why it is important to stop this war.”
KYIV, Ukraine — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, promising so much support that his nation might never be bullied again.
Johnson’s surprise visit included a pledge of 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems, part of another 100 million pounds ($130 million) of high-grade military equipment. Johnson also confirmed an additional $500 million in World Bank lending, taking Britain’s total loan guarantee up to $1 billion.
Johnson said Ukraine defied the odds pushing Russian forces “from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century.″
The prime minister credits “Zelenskyy’s resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people” for thwarting what he calls the “monstrous aims” of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Johnson says Britain and its partners “are going to ratchet up the economic pressure … not just freezing assets in banks and sanctioning oligarchs but moving away from use of Russian hydrocarbons.”
Johnson also described a vision for a future Ukraine so fortified and protected by the equipment, technology and know-how of Britain and its partners that it can never be threatened in the same way again. In the meantime, Johnson said, “there is a huge amount to do to make sure that Ukraine is successful, that Ukraine wins and that Putin must fail.”
MILAN — An Italian government source said Italian Premier Mario Draghi is traveling to Algeria on Monday to sign a deal for more gas.
Italy has been urgently looking for alternatives to natural gas from Russia since its invasion of Ukraine. Russia is Italy’s biggest supplier, representing 40% of total imports.
Italy’s foreign minister has traveled to Algeria as well as Azerbaijan, Qatar, Congo, Angola and Mozambique to secure more deals. Algeria is Italy’s second-largest supplier of natural gas, which is the main source of the nation’s electricity, providing some 21 billion cubic meters of gas via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline.
Italian energy company ENI has operated in Algeria for 40 years. ENI announced a significant oil and gas discovery in Algeria last month and said it would work with Algerian partner Sonatrach to fast-track its development for the third quarter of this year.
— Italy business reporter Colleen Barry.
Julian Lennon has explained why he decided to sing his father’s song “Imagine” for the first time publicly.
He’s posted on social media that he always said he would only sing the song if it was the End of the World. He says it’s the right song to sing now because “the War on Ukraine is an unimaginable tragedy,” and he felt compelled to respond in the most significant way he could.
The son of John Lennon says murderous violence in Ukraine is forcing millions of innocent families to leave the comfort of their homes. He says the lyrics reflect our collective desire for peace worldwide, and “within this song, we’re transported to a space, where love and togetherness become our reality, if but for a moment in time.”
Lennon joined celebrities around the world calling on world leaders to do more to support refugees in the Stand Up For Ukraine campaign.
KYIV, Ukraine — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer says the Austrian embassy staff will return to Kyiv from western Ukraine.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Nehammer announced the move during a visit on Saturday to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Nehammer said that “since the situation around Kyiv has now stabilized somewhat, the Austrian embassy’s team will resume its work in the Ukrainian capital.” He said it’s a sign of Austria’s “full support for Ukraine at this very difficult time.”
The team had been moved at the beginning of the war to an outpost in Uzhhorod, near the Slovak border in Ukraine’s far west.
The European Union also has returned its ambassador to Kyiv and Italy also reportedly plans to reopen its embassy there.
BOSTON — The International Monetary Fund has created an account to give donor countries a secure way to funnel financial assistance directly to war-ravaged Ukraine.
The multilateral lender said in a statement Friday that it’s launching the account at the request of several member countries.
The goal is to help Ukraine meet its payment obligations and help stabilize its economy using loans or grants from pooled resources.
The IMF says Canada has proposed routing up to 1 billion Canadian dollars ($795 million) to Ukraine through the new account.
Two weeks after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the IMF approved a $1.4 billion emergency loan to Ukraine.
BOSTON — S&P Global Ratings has downgraded its assessment of Russia’s ability to repay foreign debt, signaling increased prospects that Moscow will soon default on such loans for the first time in more than a century.
The credit ratings agency issued the downgrade to “selective default” Friday night after Russia arranged to make foreign bond payments in rubles last week when they were due in dollars. It said it didn’t expect Russia to be able to convert the rubles into dollars within a 30-day grace period.
S&P said it believes sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine are likely to increase, impeding its willingness and ability to honor its obligations to foreign debtholders.
The Kremlin has signaled it’s willing to pay its debts but warned it would do so in rubles if its overseas accounts in foreign currencies remain frozen.
WARSAW, Poland – The head of the European Union’s executive branch says 10.1 billion euros ($11 billion) have been raised globally in a fundraising event for Ukraine and people who have fled the country invaded by Russia.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was joined at the event in Warsaw by Polish President Andrzej Duda and — remotely — by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
At the end of the 90-minute event, a smiling von der Leyen said the donations will go to help refugees, both outside and inside Ukraine.
“We will continue providing support. And once the bombs have stopped falling, we will help the people of Ukraine rebuild their country,” von der Leyen said.
Saturday’s pledging event was held in Warsaw because more than 2.5 million of the 4.4 million people who have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24 have entered Poland. Many have stayed, though some have moved on to other countries. The event aimed to prompt political leaders and global celebrities to provide funding and other donations for the people of Ukraine.
It ended with Julian Lennon singing his father John Lennon’s peace song “Imagine.”
MOSCOW — YouTube has banned the channel of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, prompting government officials to renew longtime threats against the platform.
The Duma TV channel reported the ban on the messaging app Telegram, noting that it had 145,000 subscribers and over 100,000 million total views. In comments to the Russian news agency Interfax, Google didn’t give an exact reason for the move, but said the company follows “all applicable sanction and trade compliance laws.”
Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor demanded that YouTube unblock the channel. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Saturday that the service “has handed itself a sentence” and urged its users to “download content, transfer it onto Russian platforms. And fast.”
State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin called the move against the parliament’s YouTube channel “another proof of violations of the rights and freedoms of citizens by Washington.”
MILAN — Italy’s foreign minister has reportedly told staff that Italy will reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital after Easter.
News agency ANSA quoted Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Saturday as telling his ministry’s crisis unit that Italy “will be among the first to return” to Kyiv.
He called it “another gesture to demonstrate support for the Ukrainian population, a concrete way to affirm that diplomacy must prevail.”
Di Maio said the return would be coordinated with other European Union nations.
The EU itself announced the return of its ambassador on Friday. On Saturday, EU ambassador Matti Maasikas tweeted a picture of an EU flag atop a flagpole with the words “First things first.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Austria’s leader says he expects more European Union sanctions against Russia but is defending his country’s opposition so far to cutting off deliveries of Russian gas.
Chancellor Karl Nehammer spoke Saturday after becoming the latest of several European leaders to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
Nehammer said at a news conference that “we will continue to ratchet up sanctions inside the European Union until the war stops” and that a package of sanctions imposed this week “won’t be the last one.” He acknowledged that “as long as people are dying, every sanction is still insufficient.”
Austria, which gets most of its gas from Russia, is one of the countries that have been resisting a halt to deliveries. Questioned about that Saturday, Nehammer said that EU sanctions are becoming increasingly “accurate” but that “sanctions are effective when they hit those they are directed against, and don’t weaken those imposing sanctions against the one who is conducting war.”
Austria is militarily neutral and not a member of NATO.
LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defense says Russian naval forces are launching cruise missiles into Ukraine to support military operations in the eastern Donbas region and around the cities of Mariupol and Mykolaiv.
In its Saturday morning briefing, the ministry said Russia’s air forces are expected to increase activity in the south and east of Ukraine to further support these operations.
The ministry said these actions come as attempts to establish a land corridor between Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and Russian-controlled parts of the Donbas region “continue to be thwarted by Ukrainian resistance.”
U.K. officials also say Russia is continuing to attack non-combatants, such as those killed at the Kramatorsk railway station in a rocket strike on Friday.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ten humanitarian corridors for civilian evacuations are to open in Ukraine’s east on Saturday, according to Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. The corridors will allow residents to leave a number cities in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
Those in Mariupol, Enerhodar, Tokmak, Berdyansk and Melitopol will be able to evacuate to the city of Zaporizhzhia, while those in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Girske and Rubizhne can evacuate to the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country’s security service has intercepted communications of Russian troops that provide evidence of war crimes.
“There are soldiers talking with their parents about what they stole and who they abducted. There are recordings of prisoners of war who admitted killing people,” Zelenskyy said in an excerpt of an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Friday.
“There are pilots in prison who had maps with civilian targets to bomb. There are also investigations being conducted based on the remains of the dead,” he said in a translation provided by CBS.
Zelenskyy said “everyone who made a decision, who issued an order, who fulfilled an order” is guilty of a war crime. Asked whether he held Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible, he said: “I do believe that he’s one of them.”
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the missile strike on an eastern train station as another Russian war crime and said Ukraine expects a tough global response.
“Like the massacres in Bucha, like many other Russian war crimes, the missile attack on Kramatorsk should be one of the charges at the tribunal that must be held,” he said during his nightly video address to the nation Friday.
The president told Ukrainians that great efforts would be taken “to establish every minute of who did what,” so that those behind the attack would be held responsible.
Zelenskyy said he spoke with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Friday and urged the EU to impose a full embargo on Russian oil and gas.
“It is energy exports that provide the lion’s share of Russia’s income and allow the Russian leadership to believe in their impunity,” Zelenskyy said.