Russia’s foreign ministry sanctions Wednesday on 287 members of the British parliament, accusing them of “demonizing” Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
The list includes members of both major parties and some former lawmakers and also bans them from entering the country. The ministry statement cited “hostile rhetoric and far-fetcheds coming from the mouths of British parliamentarians … aimed at demonizing our country.” It accused the lawmakers of promoting Russia’s international isolation and undermining “the foundation of bilateral cooperation.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unmoved by Russia’s rhetoric.
“All those 287 should regard it as a badge of honor,” Johnson told parliament.
Dozens of Americans have been sanctioned in recent weeks, from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton posted a tongue-in-cheek response on Twitter last month: “I want to thank the Russian Academy for this Lifetime Achievement Award.”
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►The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that the safety level at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, now under Russian occupation in Ukraine, is like a “red light blinking.” , Rafael Grossi said the agency has tried in vain to get access for repairs.
►Germany’s economy minister said the government is considering “all scenarios” and did not reject the possibility that a Russian-owned oil refinery in Schwedt could be nationalized. Robert Habeck said Russia’s decision to stop supplies of gas to Poland and Bulgaria was an example of “the reality where energy is used as a weapon.”
►Italian Premier Mario Draghi’s office says he will meet President Joe Biden in Washington on May 10 with Ukraine at the center of discussions. Energy security will also be discussed, the statement said.
►Chinese drone maker DJI Technology has suspended activities in Russia and Ukraine while “reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions.” China itself has refused to join nations sanctioning Russia because of the invasion.
Russia suspended from UN tourism agency
Russia announced its intention Wednesday to withdraw from the United Nations World Tourism Organization – hours before the agency voted on a proposal to suspend the country’s membership over the invasion of Ukraine. The agency’s assembly, meeting in Madrid, voted in favor of suspending Russia anyway. The resolution included the clause saying the suspension could be reversed if Russia alters its behavior.
“UNWTO Members have made their voices heard and decided to suspend Russia from UNWTO membership,” Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the agency, said on Twitter. “The message is clear: Actions will always have consequences. Peace is a fundamental human right. Guaranteed to all. Without exception.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the decision would not hinder Russian tourism.
Putin unbowed: Goals of war ‘will be unconditionally fulfilled’
Russian leader Vladimir Putin vowed Wednesday that the goals of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine will be achieved. Putin, in an address on Wednesday to both houses of parliament, emphasized that “all the tasks of the special military operation we are conducting in the Donbas and Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24, will be unconditionally fulfilled.” Putin has declined to describe the invasion as a war, instead repeatedly referring to the “special military operation.”
Putin said he will “guarantee the security of the residents” of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia recognized as independent shortly before launching its military action in Ukraine, as well as Crimea – which Russia annexed in 2014 – “and our entire country in the historical perspective.”
Russia shuts off gas supply to Poland, Bulgaria
Russia said Wednesday that it was shutting off gas supplies to two European Union nations that staunchly back Kyiv. The action came one day after the US and dozens of allies announced plans to increase military support to embattled Ukraine – and two days after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed his nation had sent tanks to aid its neighbor’s battle to repel invading Russian forces.
State-controlled Russian giant Gazprom said it had cut natural gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria until payments are made in Russian rubles, as President Vladimir Putin had demanded.
“We should do the same with other countries that are unfriendly to us,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s state Duma, in a Telegram post.
Morawiecki said Poland was safe thanks to years of efforts aimed at securing gas from other countries. Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said Wednesday that Bulgaria can meet the needs of users for at least one month. European Commission President Urs von der Leyen accused Russia of using gas “as an instrument of blackmail” and said the region’s 27 countries are prepared to Russia’s cutoffs.
Silenced by Putin: A USA TODAY investigation
During Vladimir Putin’s rise to power and fortune, he and his associates are suspected of silencing some of those who raised questions about the source of his apparent wealth. Potentially dozens of people have been killed or survived poisonings and other assassination attempts or have had their investigations blocked or shut down, according to USA TODAY interviews and a review of documents and reports. Untold numbers of others have long looked the other way for fear of similar retribution.
You can read about some of the more high-profile victims here and how he became one of the richest men in the world here. Details on sanctions now faced by his family and associates are here.
– Josh Meyer
Why Moldova and Transnistria are becoming key factors in the war
The Russian-aligned Transnistria region of Moldova sits on the Ukraine border, and its neighbors have long worried that Russia would use it as a staging area for an invasion either east into Ukraine or west into Moldova. Border guards in the breakaway region wear Russian-style camouflage, and even the Soviet-style hammer and sickle is on the flag.
On Monday night, explosions rocked the headquarters of Transnistria security forces, who are paid by Russia. More explosions Tuesday destroyed transmission towers used for Russian broadcasts. Moldovan officials said the Monday explosions were caused by grenade launchers and that the attacks were designed “to create pretexts for tensioning the security situation” in the disputed area.
“Most of those troops are people who are born in Transnistria and have Russian citizenship. They’re not really Russian troops,” said Keith Harrington, an Irish scholar who studies the area about the troops stationed in Transnistria. “And from what I’ve heard, there’s no appetite for those armed forces to get involved in the Ukraine conflict.” Read more here.
– Trevor Hughes
US diplomats begin returning to Ukraine
US diplomats are starting to return to Ukraine, the Department of State said, the latest sign pointing toward heightened American diplomacy in the country. According to the State Department, diplomats are making day trips to temporary offices in the western city of Lviv beginning Tuesday. The first group crossed from Poland to Lviv on Tuesday morning, returning to Poland later that day.
The return of American diplomats to Ukraine follows Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. In addition to promising that the United States would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition to Ukraine, Blinken said American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country as soon as this week.
President Joe Biden also announced his nomination of Bridget Brink to serve as the US ambassador to Ukraine this week, a position that’s been empty for three years.
UN Secretary-General and Putin agree ‘in principle’ UN should help evacuate Mariupol citizens
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one Tuesday, a UN spokesperson said.
During their one-on-one meeting, Guterres and Putin “discussed the proposals for humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, namely in relation to the situation in Mariupol,” according to Stephane Dujarric.
They agreed “in principle” that the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians from a besieged steel plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol.
Ukrainian officials had previously criticized the meeting between Guterres and Putin. Ukrainian ambassador Igor Zhovkva said Guterres was “not really” authorized to speak for Ukraine and that “we did not understand his intention to travel to Moscow and to talk to President Putin,” on NBC News.
Contributing: The Associated Press