By The Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine — In peacetime, Ukraine has a thriving surrogate industry, one of the few countries where foreigners can get Ukrainian women to carry their pregnancies. Now at least 20 of those babies are stuck in a makeshift bomb shelter in Ukraine’s capital, waiting for parents to travel into the war zone to pick them up.
They’re well cared for at the moment. Surrogacy center nurses are stranded with them, because constant shelling makes it too dangerous for them to go home. Russian troops are trying to encircle the city, with Ukrainian defenders holding them off for now, the threat comes from the air.
Nurse Lyudmilla Yashchenko says they’re staying in the bomb shelter to save their lives, and the lives of the babies, some of whom are just days old. They have enough food and baby supplies for now, and can only hope and wait for the newborns to be picked up, and the war to end.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukraine’s leader warns that the war will cost Russia for generations
— Even if Russia is denied an easy victory, Putin can keep pounding Ukraine for months
— Putin rallies behind Russian troops while lethal shelling rains down on Ukraine
— Ukraine’s cultural capital finds that it is no longer distant from the war
— Minister: Clearing the live ordnance now scattered across Ukraine will take years and outside help
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS TODAY:
The British defense ministry said the Ukrainian Air Force and air defense forces are “continuing to effectively defend Ukrainian airspace.”
“Russia has failed to gain control of the air and is largely relying on stand-off weapons launched from the relative safety of Russian airspace to strike targets within Ukraine,” the ministry said on Twitter. “Gaining control of the air was one of Russia’s principal objectives for the opening days of the conflict and their continued failure to do so has significantly blunted their operational progress.”
A Ukrainian military official meanwhile confirmed to a Ukrainian newspaper that Russian forces carried out a missile strike Friday on a missile and ammunition warehouse in the Delyatyn settlement of the Ivano-Frankivsk region in western Ukraine.
But Ukraine’s Air Forces spokesman Yurii Ihnat told Ukrainskaya Pravda on Saturday that it has not been confirmed that the missile was indeed a hypersonic Kinzhal.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said earlier Saturday that Russian military hit the underground warehouse in Delyatyn on Friday with the hypersonic Kinzhal missile in its first reported combat use. According to Russian officials, the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the siege of Mariupol will go down in history for what he’s calling war crimes by Russia’s military.
“To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” he said early Sunday in his nighttime video address to the nation.
Zelenskyy told Ukrainians the ongoing negotiations with Russia were “not simple or pleasant, but they are necessary.” He said he discussed the course of the talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.
“Ukraine has always sought a peaceful solution. Moreover, we are interested in peace now,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s military isn’t even recovering the bodies of its soldiers in some places, Zelenskyy said.
“In places where there were especially fierce battles, the bodies of Russian soldiers simply pile up along our line of defense. And no one is collecting these bodies,” he said. He described as battle near Chornobayivka in the south, where Ukrainian forces held their positions and six times beat back the Russians, who just kept “sending their people to slaughter.”
WASHINGTON — The math of military conquests and occupation may be against Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.
Estimates of Russian deaths vary widely. Yet even conservative figures are in the low thousands. That’s a much faster pace than in previous Russian offensives, threatening support for the war among ordinary Russians. Russia had 64 deaths in five days of fighting during its 2008 war with Georgia. It lost about 15,000 in Afghanistan over 10 years, and more than 11,000 over years of fighting in Chechnya.
Russia’s number of dead and wounded in Ukraine is nearing the 10% benchmark of diminished combat effectiveness, said Dmitry Gorenburg, a researcher on Russia’s security at the Virginia-based CNA think tank. The reported battlefield deaths of four Russian generals — out of an estimated 20 in the fight — signal impaired command, he said.
Researchers tracking only those Russian equipment losses that were photographed or recorded on video say Russia has lost more than 1,500 tanks, trucks, mounted equipment and other heavy gear. Two out of three of those were captured or abandoned, signaling the failings of the Russian troops that let them go.
When it comes to the grinding job of capturing and holding cities, conventional military metrics suggest Russia needs a 5-to-1 advantage in urban fighting, analysts say. Meanwhile, the formula for ruling a restive territory in the face of armed opposition is 20 fighters for every 1,000 people — or 800,000 Russian troops for Ukraine’s more than 40 million people, said Michael Clarke, former head of the British-based Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank
That’s almost as many as Russia’s entire active-duty military of 900,000, and it means controlling substantial Ukrainian territory long term could take more resources than Russia can commit, he said.
“Unless the Russians intend to be completely genocidal — they could flatten all the major cities, and Ukrainians will rise up against Russian occupation — there will be just constant guerrilla war,” said Clarke.
MARIUPOL — Evacuations from Ukraine’s besieged cities proceeded Saturday along eight of 10 humanitarian corridors, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, with a total of 6,623 people were evacuated, including 4,128 from Mariupol who were taken northwest to Zaporizhzhia.
Russian forces pushed deeper into the besieged and battered port city of Mariupol, where heavy fighting on Saturday shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more Western help.
The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s worst suffering, would mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside major cities more than three weeks into the biggest land invasion in Europe since World War II.
“Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it is wiped off the face of the earth,” Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin said from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders that was authenticated by The Associated Press.
The Mariupol city council claimed Russian soldiers have forced several thousand city residents to be relocated to Russia.
“The occupiers are forcing people to leave Ukraine for Russian territory,” the council’s statement said. “The occupiers illegally took people out of the Levoberezhny district and a shelter in the building of a sports club, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from constant bombing.”
WASHINGTON — When three Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station wearing yellow flight suits with blue accents, some saw a message in them wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag. They shot that down on Saturday.
Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev said each crew picks the colors about six months before launch because the suits need to be individually sewn. And since all three graduated from Bauman Moscow State Technical University, they chose the colors of their prestigious alma mater.
“There is no need to look for any hidden signs or symbols in our uniform,” Artemyev said in a statement on the Russian space agency’s Telegram channel. “A color is simply a color. It is not in any way connected to Ukraine. Otherwise, we would have to recognize its rights to the yellow sun in the blue sky.
“These days, even though we are in space, we are together with our president and our people!”
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the space agency Roscosmos, tweeted a picture of the university’s blue and gold coat of arms.
Shortly after their arrival at the orbiting station on Friday, Artemyev had a different answer about the flight suits, saying there was a lot of the yellow material in storage and “that’s why we had to wear yellow.”
WARSAW — Hoping to restore some normalcy after fleeing the war in Ukraine, thousands of refugees waited in long lines Saturday in the Polish capital of Warsaw to get identification cards that will allow them to get on with their lives — at least for now.
Refugees started queuing by Warsaw’s National Stadium overnight to get coveted PESEL identity cards allowing them to work, live, go to school and get medical care or social benefits for the next 18 months. Still, by mid-morning, many were told to come back another day. The demand was too high even though Polish authorities had simplified the process.
“We are looking for a job now,” said 30-year-old Kateryna Lohvyn, standing in the line with her mother. “We don’t yet know (what to do),” she added. “But we are thankful to the Poles. They fantastically welcome us.”
Maryna Liashuk said the warm welcome has made her feel at home already. If the situation worsens, Liashuk said she would like to stay permanently in Poland with her family.
WARSAW — A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers visiting Poland said Saturday that the most urgent need in Ukraine’s fight against a Russian invasion is to equip and support the country in every way that will help it defend its independence.
The seven-member delegation led by Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, visited reception centers and noted Poland’s openness in accepting refugees from Ukraine, including in private homes. More than 2 million people fleeing war have come to Poland since Russia’s invasion began.
“We are here to reassure and support the people of Ukraine. We are here to thank the people of Poland for the unbelievable generosity they have shown to the refugees,” said Lynch, chairman of a national security subcommittee.
Meeting online with the media Saturday, the American lawmakers said there is no room for peace talks as long as there is a “hot war.”
“The most urgent action that we can take is to make sure that the Ukrainian fighters — those valiant patriots who are fighting for their freedom — have every bit of equipment, every bit of supply, every bit of support that we can possibly deliver to them,” Lynch said.
ROME — Pope Francis has paid a visit to some of the Ukrainian children who escaped the Russian invasion and are currently being treated at the Vatican’s pediatric hospital in Rome.
The Vatican says the Bambino Gesu hospital is currently tending to 19 Ukrainian refugees, and that overall some 50 have passed through in recent weeks.
Some were suffering oncological, neurological and other problems before the war and fled in the early days. Others are being treated for wounds incurred as a result of the invasion.
The Vatican says Francis traveled the short distance up the hill to the hospital on Saturday afternoon. He met with all the young patients in their rooms before returning back to the Vatican.
Francis has spoken out about the “barbarity” of the war and especially the death and injury it has caused Ukrainian children.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a “turning point for the world,” arguing that victory for President Vladimir Putin’s forces would herald “a new age of intimidation.”
Speaking to a Conservative Party conference on Saturday, Johnson claimed Putin was “terrified” that the example of a free Ukraine would spark a pro-democracy revolution in Russia.
He said “a victorious Putin will not stop in Ukraine, and the end of freedom in Ukraine will mean the extinction of any hope of freedom in Georgia and then Moldova, it will mean the beginning of a new age of intimidation across eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”
BERLIN — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the Swiss government to freeze the bank accounts of all Russian oligarchs.
Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported that Zelenskyy, who spoke via livestream on Saturday to thousands of antiwar protesters in the Swiss city of Bern, said “in your banks are the funds of the people who unleashed this war. Help to fight this. So that their funds are frozen. (…) It would be good to take away those privileges from them.”
The Ukrainian president also criticized the Swiss multinational food conglomerate Nestle, which has decided not to withdraw from Russia for the time being, as opposed to many other international companies.
Zelenskyy’s speech was dubbed into German. When he called for the blocking of oligarchs’ accounts, great applause erupted.
BEIJING — A Chinese diplomat says NATO should stick to what he claimed was a promise not to expand eastward.
In a speech on Saturday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng criticized the far-reaching Western sanctions imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine and said the root cause of the war in Ukraine “lies in the Cold War mentality and power politics.”
Echoing a Kremlin talking point, the Chinese envoy said if NATO’s “enlargement goes further, it would be approaching the ‘outskirts of Moscow’ where a missile could hit the Kremlin within seven or eight minutes.”
“Pushing a major country, especially a nuclear power, to the corner would entail repercussions too dreadful to contemplate,” he said.
He expressed an understanding for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oft-repeated position, saying that NATO should have disintegrated and “been consigned to history alongside the Warsaw Pact.”
He said Chinese President Xi Jinping in talks with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday urged the parties in Ukraine to “keep the dialogue and negotiation going. The U.S. and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.”
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has repeated his call for the European Union’s executive body to block all trade with Russia and force Moscow to end the war on Ukraine.
Morawiecki spoke Saturday at the Telesystem-Mesko armaments maker in Lubiczow that produces anti-aircraft homing parts that Poland has made available to Ukraine, which is fighting a military invasion by Russia.
Morawiecki said that “a blockade of sea ports, a ban on entry by Russian ships under Russian flags with Russian cargo into sea ports, but also a ban on trade by land,” should be added to sanctions on Russia.
He said cutting Russia completely off sea and land trade with the 27-nation EU “will additionally force Russia to rethink ‘Maybe it’s best to stop this cruel war.”’
Morawiecki said he would make the appeal at the next meeting of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.
LVIV, Ukraine — Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have fired at eight cities and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, using aviation, rocket and heavy artillery.
Ukraine’s National Police said on Telegram Saturday that at least 37 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities were damaged and dozens of civilians were killed or injured as a result of the attacks. It said the Russian military was firing at Mariupol, Avdiivka, Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, Novoselydivka, Verkhnotoretske, Krymka and Stepne.
The statement said “among the civilian objects that Russia destroyed are multistory and private houses, a school, a kindergarten, a museum, a shopping center and administrative buildings.”
The northwestern suburbs the Ukrainian capital — Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun — were also under Russian fire on Saturday. The Kyiv regional administration reported that the city of Slavutich, north of the capital, was “completely isolated,” and that Russian military equipment was spotted northeast and east of Kyiv.
LVIV, Ukraine — The office of the Prosecutor General in Ukraine has accused Russian security and military forces of kidnapping a Ukrainian journalist covering the Russian offensive in the east and the south of Ukraine.
In a Facebook statement Saturday, the Prosecutor General’s office alleged that Russia’s Federal Security Service, or the FSB, and the Russian military abducted the journalist from the Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske on Tuesday in Berdyansk, an occupied port city in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region.
The statement didn’t identify the journalist, but went on to say that the reporter’s whereabouts are currently unknown and a criminal investigation has been launched.
Hromadske on Friday tweeted that they lost contact with reporter Victoria Roshchyna last week.
“As we learned from witnesses, at that time the journalist was in the temporarily occupied Berdyansk. On March 16, we learned that the day before (probably March 15), Victoria Roshchyna was detained by the Russian FSB. Currently, we do not know where she is,” the outlet tweeted.
The FSB and the Russian military haven’t yet commented on the allegations.
LONDON — Former British Prime Minister David Cameron is helping to drive a truckload of supplies for Ukrainian refugees to Poland.
Cameron, who led the U.K. between 2010 and 2016, tweeted a photo of himself behind the wheel of a truck along with the hashtag #standwithukraine. He said it was carrying “everything from nappies (diapers) to sanitary products, warm clothes to first-aid kits.”
The trip is organized by Chippy Larder, a food bank in Cameron’s home town of Chipping Norton in southern England.
Cameron tweeted a video Saturday shot from the truck as it drove, and said he and two colleagues would be “heading into Poland” to give the supplies to the Red Cross.
LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using talks with Ukraine as a “smokescreen” while he ramps up violence against the country.
Liz Truss told the Times of London newspaper that she was “very skeptical” about Russia’s seriousness in the talks, accusing Russian forces of trying to create space to regroup and unblock their stalled campaign.
She said that “we don’t see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table” and said Russia would resort to “worse and worse” violence as its military campaign falters.
The head of Britain’s defense intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull, says Russian forces have shifted to a “strategy of attrition” after failing to take major Ukrainian cities during the three-week invasion.
BERLIN — Germany’s federal police has registered more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees in the country since the outbreak of the war more than three weeks ago.
The country’s interior ministry said 207,747 Ukrainian refugees had arrived as of Saturday. However, the real number of Ukrainian refugees in Germany is expected to be much higher.
Ukrainians don’t need a visa to come to Germany, and federal police only register refugees entering Germany by train or bus. There are not thorough border controls inside the European Union’s internal borders, so Ukrainians coming to Germany from Poland by car are normally not registered. Those who stay with family and friends in Germany are also not counted unless they apply for financial aid from German authorities.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has ruled out providing military aid to Ukraine but says his country, a NATO ally, will continue to provide humanitarian assistance.
“Being so close to the conflict, right now I have to say that currently we will not be able to send military assistance to Ukraine. This will not be possible,” Petkov said Saturday at a news conference in the Bulgarian capital with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Bulgaria, which does not border Ukraine but has received thousands of refugees, has agreed to host a new contingent of NATO troops as part of the alliance’s push to reinforce its eastern flank. That contingent includes about 150 U.S. Army infantry soldiers.
LVIV, Ukraine — Zaporizhzhia regional governor Oleksandr Starukh has announced a 38-hour curfew in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, to last from 4 p.m. local time on Saturday until 6 a.m. on Monday.
Starukh said on Telegram on Saturday: “For your safety, do not go out into the streets and other public places during this time.”
Two missile strikes on the suburbs of Zaporizhzhia killed nine people on Friday, wounded 17 more and left five others with injuries, a spokesman of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration Ivan Arefiev reported Saturday.
Local authorities continue to evacuate people from settlements taken over by the Russians and deliver humanitarian aid to them, he said.
OSLO, Norway — The prime minister of Norway says four U.S. service members have died in a plane crash during NATO drills.
Jonas Gahr Støre tweeted that the service members were participating in the NATO exercise “Cold Response,” which is taking place in northern Norway. He wrote: “Our deepest sympathies go to the soldiers’ families, relatives and fellow soldiers in their unit.”
The annual drills in Norway are unrelated to the war in Ukraine. This year they included around 30,000 troops, 220 aircraft and 50 vessels from 27 countries. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden are also participating. The exercises began on March 14 and end on April 1.
According to the Norwegian police, the American V-22B Osprey aircraft that crashed belonged to the U.S. Marine Corps. The aircraft had a crew of four and was out on a training mission in Nordland County on Friday.