Live updates: New phase of Ukraine war? Russia shifts focus

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Russian forces in Ukraine appear to have shifted their focus from a ground offensive aimed at Kyiv to instead prioritize what Moscow calls liberation of the contested Donbas region

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It appears too early to know whether this means President Vladimir Putin has scaled back his ambitions in Ukraine, but Russian military moves this week indicate a recognition of the surprisingly stout Ukrainian resistance. Russian-backed separatists have controlled part of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since 2014.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday again appealed to Russia to negotiate an end to the war, but he said Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.

Putin’s forces are under great strain in many parts of the country, and the United States and other countries are accelerating their transfer of arms and supplies to Ukraine. In recent days, US officials have said they see evidence of Ukrainian defenders going on the offensive in a limited way in some areas.

Putting a positive face on it all, the deputy chief of the Russian general staff said his forces had largely achieved the “main objectives” of the first phase of what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— The Associated Press has independently documented at least 34 assaults on Ukrainian medical facilities by Russian forces

— US President Joe Biden visits American troops in Poland, a complex ally at Ukraine’s doorstep

— Russian President Vladimir Putin faces stark choices in Ukraine invasion as armed forces stall

— Ukraine says 300 dead in airstrike on theater in Mariupol; hunger stalking besieged areas

— Some prominent Russians quit jobs, refuse to support the war on Ukraine

— EU, US announce partnership to undercut Russian energy

— A vast apparatus is being built to gather and preserve evidence of potential violations of international laws of war for possible prosecutions

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

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

LVIV, Ukraine — Even as the conflict rages, a vast apparatus is being built to gather and preserve evidence of potential war crimes.

Less than a month after Putin’s order to drop the first bombs on his neighbor, the United States declared that Russian forces were violating international laws of war that were written after World War II. But it remains far from clear who will be held accountable and how.

Possible war crimes that have been reported in Ukraine include destroying homes, firing on civilians as they evacuate through safe corridors, targeting hospitals, using indiscriminate weapons like cluster bombs in civilian areas, attacking nuclear power plants and intentionally blocking access to humanitarian aid or food and water.

But intention matters. Destroying a hospital alone is not evidence of a war crime. Prosecutors would have to show that the attack was intentional or at least reckless.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff is calling on the West to create a new lend-lease program for Ukraine, referring to the World War II effort that sent US supplies to the Soviet Union to help it fight Nazi Germany.

“We need a full lend lease,” Andriy Yermak said in an address late Friday. “Today Ukraine is the holy grail of Europe, and without exaggeration Ukraine is reviving those principles that gave life to current Western civilization.”

He said what Ukraine needs most is real-time intelligence and heavy weapons.

Yermak also repeated the Ukrainian president’s calls for help in closing the skies over Ukraine to stop Russian bombing and missile attacks. The West has refused to impose a no-fly zone for fear of widening the war.

He said options include supplying Ukraine with air defense systems or fighter jets, or creating an “air police force to protect civilian infrastructure.”

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has again appealed to Russia to negotiate an end to the war, but says Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.

In his nightly video address to the nation Friday, Zelenskyy appeared to be responding to Col. Gen Sergei Rudskoi, deputy chief of the Russian general staff, who said Russian forces would now focus on “the main goal, the liberation of Donbas.”

Russian-backed separatists have controlled part of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since 2014, and Russian forces have been battling to seize more of the region from Ukraine, including the besieged city of Mariupol.

Rudskoi’s statement was also a suggestion that Russia may be backing away from trying to take Kyiv and other major cities where its offensive has stalled. Zelenskyy noted that Russian forces have lost thousands of troops but still haven’t been able to take Kyiv or Kharkiv, the second-largest city.

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LVIV, Ukraine — The Associated Press has independently documented at least 34 assaults on Ukrainian medical facilities by Russian forces.

journalists in Ukraine have seen firsthand the deadly results of Russian strikes on civilian targets, including the final moments of children whose bodies were shredded by shrapnel and dozens of corpses heaped into mass graves.

journalists outside Ukraine have confirmed the details of other attacks by interviewing survivors and independently verifying war zone videos and photos posted online. The accounting is part of the War Crimes Watch Ukraine project, a broader effort by and PBS “Frontline.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights confirms at least 1,035 civilians, including 90 children, have died and another 1,650 civilians have been wounded since the war started a month ago. Those numbers are certainly an undercount.

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BRUSSELS — French President Emmanuel Macron called “unacceptable” the publication on Twitter of “propaganda” caricatures by the Russian Embassy in Paris.

Russia’s ambassador to France was summoned Friday to the French Foreign Ministry over the issue. The two posts have since been removed.

“It was a fault. It has been corrected. I hope it won’t happen again,” Macron said in a news conference in Brussels.

One of the caricatures showed a character called “Europe” lying on a table while others representing the United States and the European Union were injecting the body with syringes marked “Russophobia,” “Neo-Nazism” and “Sanctions.” The other showed kneeling Europeans licking the buttocks of a man representing the US

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WASHINGTON — A senior US defense official says Russia’s military advance on Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv appears to have halted as it turns its focus to fighting elsewhere in the country.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe an internal US military assessment of the war, said Friday that Russia appears to be concentrating more on fighting for control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region rather than its ground offensive aimed at capturing Kyiv, at least for now.

The Kremlin seemed to confirm the shift Friday. Col.-Gen Sergei Rudskoi, deputy chief of the Russian general staff, said that the main objective of the first stage of the operation — reducing Ukraine’s fighting capacity — has “generally been accomplished,” allowing Russian forces to focus on “the main goal , liberation of Donbas.”

The Donbas is the largely Russian-speaking eastern industrial heartland of Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

— Military writer Robert Burns

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WARSAW, Poland – Polish President Andrzej Duda says he regrets not being able to welcome US President Joe Biden on his arrival to Poland because his plane malfunctioned and had to make an emergency landing.

Duda was flying to Rzeszow airport, in southeastern Poland, on Friday to greet Biden but about ten minutes into the flight, the flight crew said there was a problem and the plane had to return to Warsaw.

Duda and the delegation took another plane, but arrived in Rzeszow well after Biden had landed and there was no welcoming ceremony. Duda said he didn’t question the pilot’s decision.
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A special commission for air incidents will look into the plane’s malfunction.

In 2010, Poland’s then-president, Lech Kaczynski and a delegation of 95 were killed in a plane crash in Russia, as the pilots tried landing in poor visibility at a rudimentary airport.

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STOCKHOLM — Spotify is halting its services in Russia in light of the country’s strict new censorship law, which it says puts its employees and possibly even listeners at risk.

The Swedish music streaming company’s move comes after other companies pulled out of Russia due to its censorship law. The statute imposes prison sentences of up to 15 years for those spreading information that goes against the Russian government’s narrative on the war.

Netflix and TikTok suspended most of their services in the country earlier this month. US credit card companies Visa, Mastercard and American Express all said over the weekend they would cut service in Russia.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics said it would halt product shipments to the country, joining other big tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Intel and Dell.

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ROME — Pope Francis has presided over a special prayer for Ukraine that harked back to a century-old apocalyptic prophecy about peace and Russia.

An estimated 3,500 people, including cardinals, ambassadors and pilgrims, attended the service at St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday.

The special ritual — of…

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Credit: abcnews.go.com /

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