KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials have reported a powerful explosion in central Kyiv, between the Southern Railway station and the Ibis hotel, an area near Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that it was a missile strike.
Officials said it wasn’t immediately clear how damaging the strike was, whether there were any casualties or where exactly the missile hit.
The Southern Railway station is one of two stations that make up the main passenger rail complex that thousands have used to flee the war over the past week. The two stations are connected by an overhead corridor that crosses over about a dozen tracks.
The stations are about 2 miles from Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square that was the site of huge protests in 2014 and 2004.
More developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week will visit six European countries, including the Baltic states and Moldova, which are on particular edge as Russia intensifies its war in Ukraine.
The State Department says Blinken will travel Thursday to Belgium for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers before heading to the Polish border with Ukraine to meet refugees, and then Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Poland and the three Baltics are members of NATO and fall under its Article 5 defense provisions, which means the allies are bound to defend them if they are attacked. Given their location immediately adjacent to Russia, they are believed to be at special risk should the Ukraine conflict spread.
Western-leaning Moldova is not a NATO member but has relations with the alliance and has long objected to the presence of Russian troops in the disputed territory of Transnistria.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has picked up steam, most NATO members, including the Baltics, have steadily increased military and financial assistance to Kyiv even as Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of reprisals for any nation that interferes in what he calls a “special military operation.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has decried Russia’s escalation of attacks on crowded cities as a blatant terror campaign.
WARSAW, Poland — An international organization made up only of democracies held an emergency meeting on Wednesday following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Warsaw-based Community of Democracies said in a statement that its members at the gathering “condemned Russia’s aggression and backed Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democratic aspirations of its people.”
Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, whose country holds the community’s rotating presidency, called for continued support for Ukraine’s right to choose its own foreign policy and for more attention to be given to other places facing Russian pressure, including Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkan region.
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“This seems to be the beginning of the most difficult period in generations. And this is the fight of our generation and a real test on our democracies,” Aurescu said.
Thomas Garrett, the organization’s secretary general, “underlined that democracies worldwide must unequivocally show they stand with Ukraine.”
A Ukrainian lawmaker in Kyiv addressed the political representatives. She called on Russia to “stop bombing our towns and cities” and appealed to the U.N., E.U., and other international organizations to help Ukraine obtain a ceasefire for humanitarian relief. The lawmaker was not identified for security reasons.
WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. defense official says the Russian convoy still appears to be stalled outside the city center of Kyiv, and has made no real progress in the last couple days.
The official on Wednesday said the convoy is still plagued with fuel and food shortages and logistical problems, as well as facing continued fierce resistance from Ukrainians.
He said there has been an increase in the number of missiles and artillery targeting the city, suggesting the Russians are trying to make a more aggressive move to try and take the city.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russians have not been able to achieve air superiority and Ukrainian air defenses remain operable and their aircraft continue to fly.
The official said that about 82% of the Russian troops that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now inside the country — just a slight uptick over the last 24 hours, and that Russia has launched more than 450 missiles at various targets in the country.
In other areas of the country, the U.S. official said that the U.S. is seeing preliminary indications that Russian forces are going to try to move south towards Mariupol from Donetsk, in what appears to be an effort to encircle the city.
Associated Press Writer Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
BRUSSELS — European Union finance ministers on Wednesday convened for the second time in less than a week to weigh the likely impact on Europe of the full-scale Russian military assault on Ukraine, a country that borders the bloc’s eastern flank.
Policymakers are scrambling to recalculate economic projections made less than a month ago, when the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — predicted the bloc’s economic growth would slow from 5.3% last year to 4% this year and 2.8% in 2023.
Top European commissioners said on Wednesday those figures are too optimistic because the conflict in Ukraine will probably stoke rises in energy prices, financial-market turbulence, supply-chain bottlenecks and a weakening of consumer confidence.
“We don’t expect the recovery to be derailed completely but to be weakened,” said European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni.
The gloomier outlook has also raised the prospect of a prolonged period of unrestrained spending by member countries to support their economies.
ZAHONY, Hungary — Some of the nearly 1 million people who have fled Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine in recent days count among society’s most vulnerable, unable to make the decision on their own to flee and requiring careful assistance to make the journey to safety.
At the train station in the Hungarian town of Zahony on Wednesday, more than 200 young Ukrainians with disabilities — residents of two orphanages in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv — disembarked into the cold wind of the train platform after an arduous escape from the violence gripping Ukraine.
The refugees, most of them children with mental and physical disabilities, were evacuated from their care facilities once the Russian assault on the capital intensified.
“It wasn’t safe to stay there, there were rockets, they were shooting at Kyiv,” said Larissa Leonidovna, the director of the Svyatoshinksy orphanage in Kyiv. “We spent more than an hour underground during a bombing.”
The U.N. refugee agency says more than 874,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last week and the figure is “rising exponentially,” putting it on track to cross the 1 million mark on Wednesday.
Moving from the train in groups of 30, the children — also from the Darnytskyy orphanage in Kyiv — were escorted to buses waiting to take them to Opole, Poland, where they would be settled and receive further care
WASHINGTON — The White House has announced additional sanctions against Russia and its ally Belarus, including extending export controls that target Russian oil refining and entities supporting the Russian and Belarusian militaries.
Among Wednesday’s new measures are sanctions targeting 22 Russia defense entities that make combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, electronic warfare systems, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles for Russia’s military.
The U.S. Commerce Department also announced additional export controls on oil and gas extraction equipment that would hurt Russia’s refining capacity over the long term.
The Biden administration, and Western allies, have largely stayed away from hitting the Russian energy sector to avoid causing tremors to the global supply of energy. The White House, however, said in a statement that U.S. and allies “share a strong interest in degrading Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier over time.”
The latest sanctions imposed on Wednesday include the U.S. closing off its air space to all Russian flights. President Joe Biden previewed that he would making the move in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, shortly after a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Israeil officials said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office confirmed that the calls with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders took place but provided no further details.
Israel has close relations with both countries and has acted as an intermediary between the two countries.
Israeli media reported that that Zelenskyy repeated Ukraine’s request for Israeli military equipment, but that Bennett said Israel wouldn’t give Ukraine anything that could potentially be used by the military. Bennett’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy’s official Facebook page posted a Hebrew translation of his remarks, in which he called on “all Jews of the world” not to remain silent about Russia’s invasion.
Israel has largely refrained from taking actions to anger Moscow, in part because it relies on Russia for security coordination in neighboring Syria, where Russia maintains a military presence supporting President Bashar Assad, and where Israel frequently carries out airstrikes targeting Iranian forces and their Lebanese proxies.
Israel has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has also offered to act as broker for cease-fire talks.
In addition, Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it is weighing sending additional humanitarian aid to Ukraine, after having dispatched 100 tons of supplies this week. It says it is also evaluating the possibility of setting up a field hospital in Ukraine.
LONDON — With the threat of financial sanctions looming, Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich confirmed Wednesday he is trying to sell the Premier League club he turned into an elite trophy-winning machine with his lavish investment.
The speed of Abramovich’s pending exit from Chelsea is striking as he was trying to instigate a plan this past weekend to relinquish some control in order to keep the club under his ownership.
But as Russia’s war on Ukraine entered a seventh day, pressure was growing on the British government to include him among the wealthy Russians to be targeted in sanctions.
“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners,” Abramovich said in a statement.
Abramovich said he will not be asking to be repaid 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion) in loans he has granted the club during 19 years of injecting cash to elevate the team into one of the most successful in Europe.
“I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated,” he said. “The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine.”
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A pretrial panel of International Criminal Court judges has been assigned to evaluate an upcoming request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
The court took the procedural step Wednesday to be ready when Prosecutor Karim Khan files the request.
He announced his intention on Monday to launch an investigation dating back to 2013 but also including “any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my office that are committed by any party to the conflict” that erupted following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
There have been widespread reports of Russian military strikes killing civilians in Ukraine.
The court says in a statement that the pretrial chamber “will have to consider whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, upon examination of the Prosecutor’s request and the supporting material.”
Canada and Lithuania have both said they plan to ask him to investigate alleged crimes in Ukraine. If they do, Khan can open an investigation without first seeking approval from judges.
MOSCOW — A top aide for Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukrainians are on their way to Belarus for talks that have been scheduled for Thursday.
“As far as I know, the Ukrainian delegation has already departed from Kyiv, is en route ... We’re expecting them tomorrow,” Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, told reporters Wednesday evening
According to Medinsky, the two sides agreed on the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland, as the site of the talks.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office confirmed to The Associated Press that the delegation is on its way, but gave no details on the time of the arrival.
NEW DELHI — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the second time in the past week as Moscow intensified its invasion of Ukraine.
Putin and Modi on Wednesday reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck, according to a statement from Arindam Bagchi, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson. They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas, Bagchi said.
The telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Putin came as the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution demanding that Russia stop war in Ukraine and withdraw all troops.
India last week had abstained from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Russia cease its invasion of Ukraine. Russia vetoed the resolution while China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained.
Earlier in the day, India asked all its nationals to leave Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv by Wednesday evening based on information received from Russia.
Bagchi also said nearly 17,000 Indian nationals, mostly students, out of an estimated 20,000, have left Ukraine. India is trying to evacuate the rest to nearby countries.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has continued even at the United Nations Environment Assembly, where some delegates walked out on Wednesday when Russia’s representative began to speak.
The assembly also gave Ukraine’s representative a standing ovation.
TIRANA, Albania —The Albanian Football Federation has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and will offer shelter to Ukrainian players’ families.
The federation passed a resolution at its assembly on Wednesday in support of the Ukrainian people.
“Stop to military violence and occupation! Stop to the war that brings only destruction and victims! Respect to Ukraine’s sovereignty!” said that resolution.
The federation is in contact with its Ukraine’s counterpart to offer shelter to some players’ families “in a sign of human support and solidarity.”
A few days earlier Albania’s government joined the wave of European opposition to playing any sports games against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
Albania is among the few national teams in men’s soccer with games scheduled against Russia in official competitions.
Albania was due to host Russia in Tirana on June 2 in the group stage of the UEFA Nations League competition.
MOSCOW — The spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry says 498 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine and 1,597 more sustained wounds.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday rejected reports about “incalculable losses” of the Russians as “disinformation.” It was the first time Russia has addressed the number of military casualties in Ukraine since the start of the invasion last Thursday. He assured that families of those killed are receiving all necessary assistance.
Konashenkov also said that neither conscripts, nor cadets have been involved in the operation in Ukraine, dismissing media reports alleging otherwise.
Konashenkov also said more than 2,870 Ukrainian troops have been killed and some 3,700 more sustained injuries, while 572 others have been captured by the Russians. Ukrainian officials have not yet commented on the claim and it could not be immediately verified.
PARIS — France’s National Center for Scientific Research, a huge state-run network of scientists across the country, is suspending all new collaboration with Russian counterparts.
In its announcement Wednesday, the CNRS, as it is known, strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It is unacceptable that in the 21st century such a conflict could see the light of day within Europe,” a statement said.
It acknowledged that its own move was exceptional because “science has no borders,” but added that shared scientific values “cannot tolerate this war.”
The CNRS praised the courage of “several hundred” Russian scientists who have spoken out against their country’s aggression. It assured that Russian scientists currently working in its labs can continue their activities.
The CNRS said it is ready to take in Ukrainian researchers under the Pause program which provides emergency funds from the Ministry of Higher Education to help Ukrainian scientists in danger.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria’s foreign ministry says two Russian diplomats accused of spying by Bulgarian prosecutors will be expelled from the country.
An official note in which Bulgaria declares the two diplomats “persona non grata” was handed to the Russian Embassy. They have been given 48 hours to leave the country.
Earlier on Wednesday, the prosecution announced that a pre-trial investigation established that they allegedly had carried out “unregulated intelligence activities, incompatible with their diplomatic status.” It added that the suspects could not be charged with espionage because of their diplomatic immunity.
The prosecution said also a Bulgarian army retired general has been taken into custody and faces charges of espionage. He is accused that as a Defense Ministry employee he had passed NATO-related classified information to Russian diplomats.
Bulgaria, Moscow’s closest ally during the Cold War, has expelled nine Russian diplomats for suspected spying over the last couple of years.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday to demand that Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all troops, with nations from world powers to tiny island states condemning Moscow’s actions.
The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions. It came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997.
Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion. A Russian veto sank a similar resolution in the more powerful U.N. Security Council on Friday, but the assembly allows no vetoes. Under special emergency session rules, a resolution needs approval of two-thirds of those countries voting, and abstentions don’t count.
More than 90 countries co-sponsored the assembly resolution. It deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine “in the strongest terms” and demanded an immediate halt to Moscow’s use of force and the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. The measure also called on Russia to reverse a decision to recognize two separatist parts of eastern Ukraine as independent.
GENEVA — A top Ukrainian diplomat received a standing ovation from diplomats after a heartfelt speech Wednesday to the U.N.’s top human rights body, calling on the Human Rights Council to help hold Russia’s government accountable by creating a panel of experts to scrutinize the invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking by video from Kyiv, Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of foreign affairs, described being awoken by the sound of an explosion on Feb. 24 as the invasion began. She said her government was “fully operational” and lashed out at “false claims” by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine was committing “genocide.”
“Do you know how Russia treats and deals with genocide in Ukraine? By airstrikes using cruise and operational tactical missiles, tanks and artillery, reconnaissance groups and sabotage groups,” she said. “Ukrainian babies are born in the bomb shelters in bunkers … As we speak here today, Russian armed forces keep attacking maternity wards, kindergartens, orphanages, hospitals.”
Dzhaparova noted an “urgent debate” at the council about the situation in Ukraine, calling for countries in the 47-member-state body’s to set up a Commission of Inquiry – the council’s most powerful tool to scrutinize human rights violations and abuses.
GORENKA, Ukraine — Amid the sounds of shelling, Ukrainian reservists — some wearing civilian clothes and carrying rifles — have set up checkpoints in the road to stop vehicles.
Andrey Goncharuk, 68, is a pensioner who said there might be good people among those invading Ukraine but that doesn’t matter to him because they weren’t invited.
“They have come to kill my people,” he said. He said he was prepared to take weapons from enemies killed in combat. “In my old age, I had to take up arms. I have this rifle. We will try to get (more) weapons even if they don’t bring them to us. We’ll do it ourselves. We’ll kill (the) enemy and take their weapons,” he said.
KHARKIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says the advance of Russian troops in Kharkiv has been stopped, but that Russians have responded by shelling the city with heavy rocket launchers and air attacks.
“Kharkiv today is the Stalingrad of the 21st century,” said Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said that over the past 24 hours 21 people were killed and at least 112 were injured by Russians.
Explosions on Wednesday thundered on Constitution Square, near the buildings of the City Council and the Palace of Labor. A missile attack also destroyed the building of the regional police department in Kharkiv and the university building, which is located across the street.
Arestovich said that several Russian planes were shot down over Kharkiv.
The Russians used Iskander missile systems to bombard Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv and Chernihiv.
Arestovich said Iskander missile systems can deviate from their target, making them “a danger to civilian objects.”
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accused President Vladimir Putin of committing war crimes in Ukraine.
Johnson told lawmakers on Wednesday: “What we have seen already from Vladimir Putin’s regime in the use of the munitions that they have already been dropping on innocent civilians, in my view, already fully qualifies as a war crime.”
When asked about Russian attacks on the Babi Yar holocaust memorial in Kyiv and targeting of apartment blocks, Johnson’s spokesman said that “no one can be in any doubt that what we’re seeing daily, almost hourly now, are horrific acts that would certainly appear to be war crimes.”
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday that he plans to open an investigation “as rapidly as possible” into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
BRUSSELS — The European Union has slapped 22 more Belarus officials with sanctions and is slated to impose additional sanctions on Russia’s ally for its involvement in the invasion of Ukraine.
The EU already punished 20 Belarus officials last week when it imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia itself. Now 22 more have been added.
The EU is set to expand economic sanctions either later Wednesday or Thursday.
The 27 nation bloc has sanctioned some 200 Belarus officials over the past years linked to what it saw were fraudulent elections to keep authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in office two years ago and added more sanctions last June when a passenger jet was diverted to arrest a dissident journalist.