GENEVA – The UN refugee agency says more than 4 million people have now fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, a new milestone in Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Wednesday posted on a website that monitors refugee flows around the world that 4.01 million people have now fled Ukraine. Of that, 2.3 million entered Poland.
Aid workers say the flow has eased in recent days as many people wait for developments in the war. An estimated 6.5 million people have also been displaced from their homes in Ukraine.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WAR IN RUSSIA-UKRAINE:
– Russian promise to scale back in Ukraine arouses skepticism
– Germany causes warning on gas amid Russian ruble demand
UN food chief: Ukraine war over food crisis is the worst since World War II
– Sanctioned oligarch Abramovich seen at Russia-Ukraine talks
– Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s prime minister says his country will take steps to end Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday that Poland had already greatly reduced its dependence on Russian oil.
Morawiecki told a news conference that Poland was launching the most radical plan among European nations to wean Russian energy sources.
Poland said on Tuesday it was banning the import of Russian coal. Morawiecki said he expected gas imports to be reduced in May and called on other European countries to follow suit.
Poland claims that money from oil and gas exports is fueling Russia’s war machine and that it must stop.
BERLIN – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is visiting a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on a trip designed to help strengthen the security of the country’s nuclear facilities.
Rafael Mariano Grossi arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday. He tweeted on Wednesday that he was at the South Ukrainian power station to meet with Ukrainian government officials and staff and begin IAEA technical assistance.
He said it was “essential to be on the ground to provide effective support to (Ukraine) in these extremely difficult times” and that the IAEA’s presence “would help prevent the danger of a nuclear accident which would have serious consequences for public health and environment in Ukraine and beyond. ”
The nearest large city to the plant is Mykolaiv.
Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four plants – one of which, at Zaporizhzhia, is under Russian military control. It is also home to the 1986 Chernobyl plant, which was occupied by the Russian army early in the war.
As of Tuesday, eight reactors were in operation, including two in southern Ukraine, while the rest were closed for regular maintenance.
ISTANBUL – Turkey says Ukrainian and Russian delegations have decided to return home for consultations after making progress in negotiations.
The talks hosted by Turkey on Tuesday outlined what could be a framework to end the war. Talks are expected to resume on Wednesday, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two parties would return the proposals to their capitals.
At the conference in Istanbul, the Ukrainian delegation laid down a framework according to which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by a variety of other nations.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow would meanwhile cut back on military activity in the direction of Kiev and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”
Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian delegation, said negotiators would take Ukraine’s proposals to Russian President Vladimir Putin and then Moscow would give an answer, but he did not say when.
Cavusoglu said he expected a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers at an unspecified time. He said another meeting between the presidents of the two countries was also on the agenda.
The Russian state news agency Tass reported that Moscow’s delegates arrived back in Russia late Tuesday.
LONDON – Britain says Russia’s growing reliance on mercenaries to fight in Ukraine is a sign of the war’s heavy toll on Moscow’s forces.
Western officials say up to 1,000 fighters from the private Wagner group have been sent to eastern Ukraine. Moscow is also trying to recruit Syrians to fight in the country.
British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said “this is a worrying sign, but it probably also shows you how dependent they have become on other fighters due to the weakness and fragility of the professional forces.”
He told Sky News that “the Russian war machine, which had a rather frightening reputation, was found to stutter and stumble, at least in the early stages of this campaign.”
The British Ministry of Defense says some Russian units withdrew from Ukraine to Russia and Belarus after suffering heavy losses.
The governor of Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region says Russian attacks have continued overnight despite Moscow saying it would reduce military activity in the area.
Viacheslav Chaus said in a video message on social media that homes and infrastructure, including libraries and shopping malls, were damaged in the cities of Chernihiv and Nizhyn.
Chaus did not say whether anyone was killed or injured.
Of Russia’s statement that it would cut back on its military activities, he said: “Do we believe that? Of course not. “
During talks in Istanbul on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow would cut back on military activity in the direction of Kiev and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”
BERLIN – Germany’s economy minister says he is causing the early warning level for gas supplies amid Russia’s persistent demand for payment in rubles.
Robert Habeck told reporters on Wednesday that this is the first of three warning levels and involves the establishment of a crisis team in his ministry that will intensify monitoring of the gas supply situation.
Habeck said he took the measure after Moscow indicated it would demand payment in rubles despite the group of seven countries rejecting such claims on Monday.
He says Germany’s gas storage facilities are currently filled to about 25% capacity.
LONDON – Britain’s Defense Ministry says Russia’s stated focus on the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine “is likely to be a tacit acknowledgment that it is struggling to maintain more than one significant advance.”
In a daily war evaluation, the ministry said on Wednesday that Russian units suffering heavy losses had been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganize and provide. It says such activities put further pressure on Russia’s already tense logistics and demonstrate the difficulties Russia is facing in reorganizing its units in forward areas within Ukraine.
However, it noted that the relocation would probably not mean relief for civilians in cities subjected to relentless Russian bombing. It expects Moscow to continue to compensate for reduced ground maneuvers by mass artillery and missile attacks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday night expressed skepticism about Russia’s announcement that it would significantly scale down military operations near Ukraine’s capital and a northern city.
“Yes, we can call those signals we hear in the negotiations positive. “But those signals do not stop the explosions of Russian shells,” Zelenskyy said. “Of course we see the risks. Of course we see no basis for trusting the words uttered by those or other representatives of the state who continue to fight for our destruction.”
Negotiations are expected to resume on Wednesday, five weeks after what turned into a bloody war of attrition, with thousands dead and nearly 4 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.
“Ukrainians are not naive people,” Zelenskyy said. “Ukrainians have already learned during the 34 days of invasion and during the past eight years of war in the Donbas that you can only trust concrete results.”
Ukraine’s delegation to the conference, which was held in Istanbul, set out a framework according to which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by a variety of other nations.