The Latest: New Zealand condemns Russian actions in Ukraine
The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis:
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s government summoned Russian Ambassador Georgii Zuev to meet Wednesday with top diplomatic officials who are urging Russia to return to diplomatic negotiations over Ukraine.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta is currently out of the country but said in a statement that the ambassador was called in “to hear New Zealand’s strong opposition to the actions taken by Russia in recent days, and condemn what looks to be the beginning of a Russian invasion into Ukraine territory.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon that the meeting had taken place but declined to provide any further details.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has announced additional sanctions on Russia and is warning businesses to prepare for retaliation through Russian cyberattacks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that targeted financial sanctions and travel bans will be a first batch of measures in response to Russian aggression toward Ukraine.
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Australia and Russia have imposed sanctions on each other since 2014. The sanctions were initiated by Australia in protest of Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
The National Security Committee of Morrison’s Cabinet approved sanctions and travel bans that target eight members of the Russian Security Council. They also agreed to expand previous sanctions and to align with the United States and Britain by targeting two Russian banks.
TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister has announced sanctions targeting Russia and two separatist Ukrainian regions recognized as independent by Russian President Vladimir Putin, joining an international effort seeking to pressure Russia to return to diplomatic solutions.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday that his government will ban new issuance and distribution of Russian government bonds in Japan in response to the “actions Russia has been taking in Ukraine.”
He said Japan will also suspend visa issuance to the people linked to the two Ukrainian rebel regions and freeze their assets in Japan, and will ban trade with the two areas.
Kishida repeated his “strong condemnation” of Russia for violating Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as international law.
He added: “We strongly urge Russia to return to diplomatic process in resolving the development.”
UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations chief says the world is facing “the biggest global peace and security crisis in recent years” and is calling Russia’s declaration of the “so-called `independence’” of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine a violation of its territorial integrity and accusing Moscow of “the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Tuesday he is proud of the achievements of the U.N.’s far-flung peacekeepers, but when troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, as Russian forces have done, “they are not impartial peacekeepers -- they are not peacekeepers at all” as Moscow has called them.
Guterres said Russia’s unilateral actions also “conflict” with the U.N. Charter and are “a death blow to the Minsk Agreements” aimed at restoring peace to eastern Ukraine.
OTTAWA, Ontario — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is sending hundreds more troops to eastern Europe and imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to the deployment of forces into Ukraine.
The prime minister says up to 460 additional Canadian Armed Forces members are being sent to Latvia and the surrounding region to bolster NATO in the face of Russian aggression.
He also says Canada is taking a number of steps alongside its allies to isolate Russia financially.
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he has cancelled plans to meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva later this week as Russia presses ahead with recognition of separatist regions of Ukraine.
Blinken told reporters on Tuesday that Russia’s actions indicated Moscow was not serious about a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis. As a result, he said he had called off his Thursday meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Echoing President Joe Biden, Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s Donbass region was a violation of international law. And, he said the placement of Russian troops there constituted the beginning of an invasion.
Although he held out hope for a peaceful resolution through diplomacy, he said he did not believe a meeting with Lavrov would be productive at this time.
KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s president has called up some of the country’s military reservists as the threat of a Russian invasion grows, but says there is no need for a full military mobilization.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation Tuesday night that he had signed a decree to that effect.
“Today there is no need for a full mobilization. We need to quickly add additional staff to the Ukrainian army and other military formations,” Zelenskyy said.
He said the decree only applies to those assigned to the so-called operational reserve, which is typically activated during ongoing hostilities, and covers “a special period of time,” without clarifying what that means.
“Ukrainians are a peaceful nation, we want silence, but if we keep silent today, we will disappear tomorrow,” Zelenskyy said.
There are about 250,000 troops in Ukraine’s armed forces.
NEW YORK -- Stocks are closing lower on Wall Street after Russia sent forces into Ukraine’s eastern regions, escalating tensions.
The benchmark S&P 500 index fell 1% to 4,304.76 on Tuesday, and is now more than 10% below it’s all-time high set in January. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq also lost more than 1%. Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of rebel-held regions of Ukraine, raising fears of an imminent full-scale invasion.
The U.S. and European Union responded with sanctions. Technology shares also weighed on the broader market. Bond yields rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.93%.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the U.S. will be sanctioning Russian oligarchs and their families, as well as Russian sovereign debt in retaliation for the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Biden said those sanctions were just the “first tranche” of what the U.S. and its allies stand ready to put in place if Russia launches a larger invasion of Ukraine.
“He’s setting up a rationale to take more territory by force,” Biden said of recent comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Biden added that he was authorizing the movement of some U.S. troops in Europe to NATO’s Baltic allies as a show of support and solidarity amid the Russian threat.
BERLIN — Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has chaired a call of the G-7 nations in which ministers strongly condemned Russia’s recognition of the separatist-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and the decision to deploy Russian troops there.
Those involved included the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S., along with the European Union.
The German foreign ministry said Tuesday night that the G-7 foreign ministers agreed to step up restrictive measures responding to Russia’s actions and reiterated their unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Germany continues to rule out the delivery of arms to Ukraine despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to deploy troops to separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.
Scholz told German public broadcaster ARD on Tuesday night that Germany had made a decision to not export weapons to crisis regions a long time ago, “and we stick to that.”
Scholz also pointed out that “Ukraine has a lot of weapons ... and the point is that we have to protect Ukraine not by giving more weapons, but by standing together as an international community and saying that we will not simply accept such a breach of international law.” He stressed that Germany has been the biggest financial supporter of Ukraine since 2014.
The chancellor added “we must insist that the peace order in Europe is again based on the fact that borders are not moved and that the state sovereignty of countries is not questioned.”
BERLIN — Protesters have flocked to the Russian embassy in Berlin to decry Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to deploy troops to separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.
People were waving yellow-blue Ukrainian flags and chanting “We stand united with Ukraine!” as they assembled in front of the building near the German capital’s landmark Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday evening.
Some held up banners saying “Ukraine will resist,” “Say no to Putin” or “Implement sanctions immediately,” while others wrapped themselves into huge Ukrainian flags.
“I’m here to protest against Russia invading our independent Ukrainian territory,” said Victoria Baron, 27, who moved from Odesa in Ukraine to Berlin last summer to work for a data science company.
“It’s very important that we support our people even though we’re abroad,” she said adding that she talked to her family back home almost every day and spends hours on social media following the latest developments.
CAIRO -- The interim government in chaos-stricken Libya says it rejects Russia’s decision to recognize two separatist regions in southeast Ukraine.
In a statement Tuesday, the Government of National Unity has urged Russia to de-escalated and resort to diplomacy to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis. It also called for Russia to withdraw Wagner mercenaries from Libya that fought along with forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter when he unsuccessfully attempted in 2019 to capture the capital of Tripoli..
MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry said that it has decided to evacuate Russian diplomatic personnel from Ukraine, pointing at threats.
The ministry said Tuesday that Russian diplomats in Ukraine have received multiple threats, adding that they will be evacuated “in the nearest time.” It did not elaborate.
The move follows Russia’s recognition of Ukraine’s rebel regions and the Russian parliament’s vote to grant President Vladimir Putin a permission to use military force in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv is only a three hour drive from the border of Belarus, where Russia has stationed troops for earlier war games.
BRUSSELS — French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the European Union’s 27 members have unanimously agreed on an initial set of sanctions targeting Russian officials involved in Ukraine.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday this first package of sanctions “will hurt Russia and it will hurt a lot.”
He said the sanctions would affect members of Russia’s duma who voted against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine as well as another 27 people and “entities” which are often companies, banks or agencies.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said sanctions will directly target individuals and companies, as well as banks financing “the Russian military apparatus” and contributing to the destabilization of Ukraine.
In addition, von der Leyen said the EU will limit the Russian government’s ability to raise capital on the bloc’s financial markets.
“We will make it as difficult as possible for the Kremlin to pursue its aggressive actions,” she said.
BERLIN — Germany’s top security official says authorities are preparing for possible cyberattacks in response to the crisis with Russia.
The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that security agencies have taken protective measures to avert such attacks and Germany’s national cyber defense center is monitoring developments.
Interior Minister Nancy Faser said on Twitter that authorities “are prepared for all conceivable impacts of this conflict.”
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said Tuesday after a phone call with his Polish counterpart that they have agreed to hold an “extraordinary summit” Friday in Warsaw between the Bucharest Nine members to “coordinate our response and demonstrate our unity” amid Russia’s moves against Ukraine.
“Today I discussed with the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, the serious security situation in the Black Sea region, following Russian actions, which flagrantly violates international law,” Iohannis wrote online. “We stand with Ukraine!”
The Bucharest Nine, which Romania and Poland launched in 2015, is a group comprised of NATO’s easternmost members and also includes Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
BELVOIR CASTLE, England — Defense ministers from the Baltic states urged world leaders to move swiftly and impose harsh sanctions on Russia, saying their countries know firsthand the dangers of trying to appease a bully.
The Baltic countries’ position on NATO’s eastern flank was at the forefront of discussions Tuesday as defense ministers from the Joint Expeditionary Force met in central England. The U.K.-led force is a group of 10 nations designed to react more quickly in the event of threats like those now posed by Russia.
Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said in an interview with the Associated Press that world leaders must act swiftly to impose punishing sanctions or it will be too late to stand up for freedom and democracy.
He said failure to stop the Russian president’s “aggression” now would send the message that Moscow can “play around with the Europeans” and the U.S.
LONDON — Sanctions experts say Western measures against Russia will have to go much further to have a chance of deterring President Vladimir Putin from further military intervention in Ukraine.
Tyler Kustra, a University of Nottingham politics professor, said sanctions announced Tuesday by Britain on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals were “a paper cut.”
He said “the U.K. could be doing a lot more. There are certainly far more oil oligarchs in London that could be sanctioned. They could have their assets frozen, they could be kicked out of the country.”
Thomas Mayne, a corruption expert and visiting fellow at the Chatham House think-tank, also said Britain’s status as a hub for no-questions-asked Russian money was a major problem.
“For at least 20 years, we’ve been welcoming Russian money,” he said. “We’ve been allowing people with very dubious sources of wealth to gain Tier 1 investor visas in the U.K., to buy property, to list their companies on the London Stock Exchange, far more so than American stock exchanges. And we’ve created a situation where now we’re wondering whether that was such a good idea.”
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, an end to Ukraine’s NATO membership bid and a halt to weapons shipments there.
Putin claimed Tuesday that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula should be internationally recognized as a legitimate reflection of the local population’s choice, likening it to a vote for Kosovo independence.
The annexation has been widely condemned by Western powers as a breach of international law.
To end the current crisis, he also called for the renunciation of Ukraine’s NATO bid, saying it should assume a “neutral status,” and said that the West should stop sending weapons there.
BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Russia is taking military action against Ukraine and has condemned Moscow’s decision to recognize separatist areas of southeast Ukraine as independent.
Stoltenberg called the move Tuesday a “serious escalation by Russia and a flagrant violation of international law.” The NATO chief called the military action a “further invasion” of Ukraine by Russia which had already invaded its neighbor in 2014.
He added that there’s “every indication” Russia continues to plan for a full-scale attack on Ukraine.
Stoltenberg said that NATO allies have more than 100 warplanes on high alert and more than 120 warships ready at sea from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean Sea.
He said that the NATO response force remains on high readiness but is not yet being deployed, although some allies are moving troops, ships and planes into the Baltic states and near the Black Sea to defend other NATO members.
MOSCOW — Russian lawmakers have given President Vladimir Putin permission to use military force outside the country.
The unanimous vote in Russia’s upper house on Tuesday could presage a broader attack on Ukraine after the U.S. said an invasion was already underway there.
The vote formalizes a Russian military deployment to the rebel regions, where an eight-year conflict has killed nearly 14,000 people.
MOSCOW — Russia’s closest allies appeared reluctant to immediately back Moscow’s decision to recognize the independence of rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine.
The Foreign Ministry of Belarus said Tuesday it saw Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move “with respect and understanding,” but refrained from saying whether Minsk would follow suit and recognize the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics.
Officials in Kazakhstan, whose president last month asked for a Russia-led security alliance to send troops to quell violent unrest, said the issue of recognizing the separatist regions was not on the country’s agenda.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who’s in Moscow for talks with Putin, made no mention of Moscow’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk in his publicly broadcast remarks, but focused instead on bilateral relations.
Another Russian ally, Armenia, has so far issued no message of support for the Russian move.
Meanwhile, Putin sought to reassure Russia’s ex-Soviet allies that he doesn’t envision resurrecting the Soviet Union. He told the Azerbaijani president that speculation that Russia would attempt to restore its empire “is absolutely not true.”
WASHINGTON — The White House has begun referring to Russian troop deployments in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term — a red line that President Joe Biden has said would result in the U.S. levying severe sanctions against Moscow.
Jon Finer, the principal deputy national security adviser, said Tuesday: “We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine.” He said “latest” was important — “an invasion is an invasion and that is what is under way.”
The White House decided to begin referring to Russia’s actions as an “invasion” because of the situation on the ground, according to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The administration resisted initially calling the deployment of troops because the White House wanted to see what Russia was actually going to do. The official added that, after assessing Russian troop movements, it became clear it was a new invasion.
— By Aamer Madhani in Washington.
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain is slapping sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals over Russia’s latest military moves on Ukraine.
Johnson told lawmakers that sanctions would hit Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank. He said three Russian oligarchs with interests in energy and infrastructure -- Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg -- will have their assets frozen and be banned from traveling to the U.K.
All three have already been sanctioned by the United States.
Johnson accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive” against Ukraine and said “further powerful sanctions” would follow if that happened.
“This the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed,” Johnson told British lawmakers.
He also said Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers have been spotted in the separatist Ukrainian regions recognized as independent by Putin. He said that amounts to “a renewed invasion” of Ukraine.
BERLIN — Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Germany has taken steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.
Scholz told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that his government was taking the measure in response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
The pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia to Germany has long been criticized by the United States and some European countries who argue that it increases Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
Scholz said that the government had decided to “reassess” the certification of the pipeline, which hasn’t begun operating yet.
“That will certainly take time, if I may say so,” he said.
MOSCOW — Russia says its recognition of independence for areas in eastern Ukraine extends to territory currently held by Ukrainian forces.
The statement Tuesday further raises the stakes amid Western fears that Moscow could follow up on Monday’s recognition of rebel regions with a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia has recognized the rebel regions’ independence “in borders that existed when they proclaimed” their independence in 2014.
Ukrainian forces later reclaimed control of large part of both regions during a nearly eight-year conflict that has killed over 14,000 people.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine