MOSCOW — Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says that the barrage of Western sanctions against Russia has failed.
Putin said Monday that the West “expected to quickly upset the financial-economic situation, provoke panic in the markets, the collapse of the banking system and shortages in stores.” I have added that “the strategy of the economic blitz has failed.”
The Russian leader spoke in televised remarks during a video call with top economic officials.
Putin noted that “Russia has withstood the unprecedented pressure,” arguing that the ruble has strengthened and the country has recorded a historic high trade surplus of $58 billion in the first quarter of the year.
Instead, I have contended that the sanctions backfired against the US and its European allies, speeding up inflation and leading to a drop in living standards.
Putin acknowledged a sharp hike in consumer prices in Russia, saying they rose by 17.5% as of April on a year-to-year basis and directing the government to index wages and other payments to alleviate the impact of inflation on people’s incomes.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— ‘No Surrender’: Ukrainians fight on in Mariupol steel plant
— Russia renews strikes on Ukraine capitalhits other cities
— Mother, grandmother weep over 15-year-old killed in shelling of Kharkiv
Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said Russia can be prosecuted for war crimes over its refusal to allow humanitarian corridors for civilians trapped in the city of Mariupol.
Earlier on Monday, Iryna Vereshchuk had said no evacuations were possible for the second day in a row because of Russian attacks on civilian convoys.
“Your refusal to open these humanitarian corridors will in the future be a reason to prosecute all involved for war crimes,” she wrote on her Telegram and Facebook channels.
Vereshchuk called again on Russia to allow safe evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, especially the Azovstal steel mill, which covers more than 11 square kilometers (4 square miles) and is laced with tunnels.
According to Vereshchuk, the government had been negotiating passage from Mariupol and Berdyansk, among other towns, as well as from the Luhansk region. The Luhansk government said four civilians trying to flee the region were shot to death by Russian forces.
The Russians, in their turn, have accused the “neo-Nazi nationalists” in Mariupol of hampering the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s state security service has posted a video of a Ukrainian politician held on a treason charge offering himself in exchange for the evacuation of Mariupol’s trapped civilians, while two British men who surrendered to Russian forces in Mariupol appeared on Russian media asking to be part of 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 posted Monday. In it, he appeals to Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by name to consider the exchange.
Medvedchuk was detained last Tuesday in a special operation carried out by Ukraine’s state security service, or the SBU. The 67-year-old oligarch escaped from house arrest several days before the hostilities broke out Feb. 24 in Ukraine. He is facing between 15 years and life in prison on charges of treason and aiding and betting a terrorist organization for mediating coal purchases for the separatist, Russia-backed Donetsk republic in eastern Ukraine.
The British men identified themselves as Sean Pinner and Aiden Aslin. In one video, Pinner asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hoped to be exchanged. Pinner had deep circles beneath his eyes and appeared exhausted, but he said the two men had been treated appropriately.
Ukrainian officials have said Kyiv wants to try Medvedchuk and ultimately exchange him for Ukrainian prisoners.
The circumstances of the videos were unclear. The two videos were released within an hour of each other.
ROME — Italian officials will go ahead with an energy-deal trip to Africa this week as part of Premier Mario Draghi’s efforts to quickly reduce the country’s heavy reliance of Russian gas, but he won’t be going because he has tested positive for COVID- 19.
The premier’s office, announcing the infection, said on Monday that Draghi has no symptoms. The mission to Angola and Congo, set for Wednesday and Thursday, will instead see the government represented by its ministers of foreign affairs and of ecological transition.
Italy buys almost 40% of its gas from Russia. Draghi is determined to drastically reduce that reliance in the next two or three years, in large part by sealing deals with other energy producing countries. Draghi recently traveled to Algeria to make such an agreement as part of the strategy.
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 Air Serbia flights to Russia.
The Serbian national carrier is the only European airline that has not joined international flight sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine. Several of its flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg have been delayed or had to return to Belgrade after the anonymous bomb threats.
In an interview with the pro-government Pink TV late Sunday, Vucic said that “foreign (intelligence) services of two countries are doing that. One is an EU country, and Ukraine is another.”
The Serbian pro-Russian leader did not provide evidence for his claim. Other Serbian officials had alleged that the threatening emails have been sent either from Ukraine or from Poland.
Vucic said that although the Air Serbia flights to Russia are not making profit because of frequent returns to their base in the Serbian capital, the flights will continue “as a matter of our principle.”
MADRID — Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain will reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in a few days.
Following similar decisions by several European neighbors, Sánchez said the reopening was “to show again the commitment of the Spanish government and Spanish people with the Ukrainian people.”
“Spain is with Ukraine and we are against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Sánchez said in an interview on Spain’s Antena 3 television. “This is a war by Putin against what the European Union stands for.”
Spain closed the embassy within hours of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
KYIV, Ukraine — Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said seven people were killed and another 11, including a child, were wounded by Russian strikes in the western Ukrainian city.
Plumes of thick black smoke could be seen rising over the city as multiple explosions believed to be caused by missiles struck, according to AP staff Lviv.
Lviv Regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said there were four Russian missile strikes, three of which hit military infrastructure facilities and one struck a tire shop. He said emergency teams were putting out fires caused by the strikes.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the chairman of the Ukrainian rail service, said the strikes hit near railway facilities. He said train traffic has resumed with some delays, and he vowed 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 is considered to be a relatively safe haven.
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has struck over 20 Ukrainian military targets with missiles.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that precision-guided air-launched missiles destroyed 16 military facilities, including five command headquarters, a fuel depot, three ammunition depots and concentrations of Ukrainian military vehicles and personnel in several areas in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro regions .
Konashenkov also said that the military fired Iskander land-based missiles to destroy four ammunition depots and three groups of Ukrainian troops near Popasna and Kramatorsk in the east and Yampil in central Ukraine.
He said that the military used artillery to hit 315 Ukrainian targets, and Russian warplanes performed 108 strikes to target Ukrainian troops and military equipment.
Konashenkov’s claims couldn’t be independently verified.
LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says the continuing siege of Mariupol is tying up Russian forces and slowing its advance ahead of a planned major offensive in eastern Ukraine.
In a daily intelligence update, Britain’s military says “concerted Ukrainian resistance has severely tested Russian forces and diverted men and materiel, slowing Russia’s advance elsewhere.”
The Sea of Azov port city has been devastated in weeks of Russian pummeling. Britain says “large areas of infrastructure have been destroyed” and there are “significant” civilian casualties.
Britain accuses Russia of using similar tactics of all-out war on civilian areas that it deployed in Chechnya and Syria, despite Russian claims at the start of its invasion “that Russia would neither strike cities nor threaten the Ukrainian population.”
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian troops in southern Ukraine have been carrying out torture and kidnappings, and he called on the world Sunday to respond.
“Torture chambers are built there,” Zelenskyy said in an evening address to the nation. “They abduct representatives of local governments and anyone deemed visible to local communities.”
Zelenskyy said humanitarian aid has been stolen, creating famine.
In occupied parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, he said, the Russians are creating separatist states and introducing Russian currency, the ruble. Intensified Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, has killed 18 people and wounded 106 in the last 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 greater speed from Western countries in preparing a new, powerful package of sanctions requires.”