BERLIN — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Germany of putting its economy before his country’s security in the run-up to the Russian invasion.
In an address to Germany’s parliament Thursday, Zelenskyy criticized the German government’s support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project meant to bring natural gas from Russia. Ukraine and others had opposed the project, warning that it endangered Ukrainian and European security.
Zelenskyy also noted Germany’s hesitancy when it came to imposing some of the toughest sanctions on Russia for fear it could hurt the German economy.
The Ukrainian president called on Germany not to let a new wall divide Europe, urging support for his country’s membership of NATO and the European Union.
He also called for more help for his country, saying thousands of people have been killed in the war that started almost a month ago, including 108 children.
Referring to the dire situation in the besieged city of Mariupol, he said: “Everything is a target for them,” including “a theater where hundreds of people found shelter that was flattened yesterday.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Russian airstrike hit Mariupol theater where hundreds had been sheltering
— U.N. Security Council to meet ahead of vote on Russian humanitarian resolution
— Biden flatly calls Putin a war criminal, but investigations for determining that have only begun
— Cheap but lethal Turkish drones bolster Ukraine’s defenses
— Palestinians with Ukraine ties empathize with victims of war
— Zelenskyy unites Republicans and Democrats 2 years after featuring in US impeachment
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “has largely stalled on all fronts” amid stiff Ukrainian resistance.
The Ministry of Defence says Russian forces have made “minimal progress” on land, sea or air in recent days, and are suffering heavy losses.
In an intelligence update on social media. It says Ukrainian resistance remains “staunch and well-coordinated.” It says most of Ukraine’s territory, including all major cities, remains in Ukraine’s hands.
Earlier, U.K. defense officials said Russia had probably used up “far more stand-off air launched weapons than originally planned” during its three-week invasion, and was resorting to older, less precise weapons more likely to cause civilian casualties.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say the status of people sheltering in a theater in Mariupol is still uncertain because the entrance was under the rubble caused by a Russian airstrike.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration, said on Telegram on Wednesday evening that “several hundred” residents of Mariupol were sheltering in the Drama Theater. He rejected the claims by the Russian military that the Azov battalion was headquartered in the theater, stressing that “only civilians” were in it when it was struck earlier Wednesday.
Kyrylenko said the airstrike also hit the Neptune swimming pool complex. “Now there are pregnant women and women with children under the rubble there. It’s pure terrorism!” the official said.
At least as recently as Monday, the pavement outside the once-elegant theater was marked with huge white letters spelling out “CHILDREN” in Russian, according to images released by the Maxar space technology company.
LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces freed the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol in exchange for nine of their captured conscripts, an official from Ukraine’s presidential office said Wednesday.
Kyiv accused the Russians of kidnapping Mayor Ivan Fedorov about a week ago. Surveillance video showed him being marched out of city hall apparently surrounded by Russian soldiers.
Residents of Melitopol, a city in southeast currently under Russian control, have been protesting to demand his release.
Daria Zarivna, spokeswoman of the head of Ukraine’s president’s office, said Wednesday that Fedorov has been released from captivity, and Russia “got nine of its captive soldiers, born in 2002-2003, practically children, conscripts Russia’s Defense Ministry said weren’t there.”
Moscow initially denied sending conscripts to fight in Ukraine, but later the Russian military admitted that some conscripts have been involved in the offensive and even got captured by Ukrainian forces.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council will meet Thursday at the request of six Western nations that sought an open session on Ukraine ahead of an expected vote on a Russian humanitarian resolution that they have sharply criticized for making no mention of Moscow’s war against its smaller neighbor.
“Russia is committing war crimes and targeting civilians. Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to us all,” tweeted the U.N. mission of the United Kingdom, one of the six countries that requested the meeting.
Russia circulated a proposed Security Council resolution Tuesday that would demand protection for civilians “in vulnerable situations” in Ukraine and safe passage for humanitarian aid and people seeking to leave the country but without mentioning the war or the parties concerned.
The resolution is expected to be voted on by the council Friday.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian and Russian delegations held talks again Wednesday by video.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s adviser Mikhailo Podolyak said Ukraine demanded a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and legal security guarantees for Ukraine from a number of countries.
“This is possible only through direct dialogue” between Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said on Twitter.
An official in Zelenskyy’s office told The Associated Press the main subject under discussion was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.
Just before the war, Russia recognized the independence of two regions controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. It also extended the borders of those regions to areas Ukraine had continued to hold, including Mariupol, a port city now under siege.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Ukraine was insisting on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations and on the signing of a legally binding document with security guarantees for Ukraine. In exchange, the official said, Ukraine was ready to discuss a neutral status.
Russia has demanded that NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine to the alliance or station forces there.
Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau in Lviv contributed to this report.
PANAMA CITY — Three Panama-flagged ships have been hit by Russian missiles in the Black Sea during Russia’s war in Ukraine and one sank, Panamanian authorities said Wednesday.
The crews of the ships “are safe,” Maritime Authority Director Noriel Araúz said.
The ship that sank was the Helt, but Araúz did not say when that occurred. The others hit were the Lord Nelson and Namura Queen. Panamanian officials previously said the Namura Queen, owned by a Japanese company and operated by a firm in the Philippines, was hit in February.
Araúz said 10 Panama-flagged ships were in the Black Sea, including the three hit. Combined they have about 150 crew members of various nationalities who have not been allowed to leave, he said.
“We are in constant communication with the ships … because we know that the Russian navy is not letting them leave the Black Sea,”Araúz said.
Panama leads the world in registered merchant ships and has advised its merchant fleet to be on high alert in Ukrainian and Russian waters.