WARSAW, Poland – Sirens sounded in some Polish cities to mark the anniversary of a 2010 plane crash that killed the country’s president, despite protests that their sound would be unnecessarily traumatic for war refugees in Ukraine.
The sirens early on Sunday were meant to add to the significance and plaintiveness of the celebrations honoring the late President Lech Kaczynski, the first lady and 94 other Polish figures killed 12 years ago in the presidential plane crash in Russia. Kaczynski was the twin of Jaroslaw Kaczynski – the leader of the main ruling Law and Justice party.
Provincial governors ignored calls not to use sirens out of concern for refugees from neighboring Ukraine, traumatized by air raid alarms. Authorities sent text messages to the refugees’ phones saying the sirens would mean no danger.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIAN-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukraine mobilizes to counter Russia’s impending offensive in the east
— Analysis: War and economy could weaken Putin’s place as leader
– Zelenskyy, in an interview with AP, says he seeks peace despite the atrocities
— Polish-Ukrainian relations seen as the target of Russian disinformation
— War Crimes Watch: A devastating walk through the horror of Bucha
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s military says Russia has reinforced its forces and tried to probe Ukraine’s defenses.
Ukraine’s military command said on Sunday that Russian troops were continuing their attempts to breach Ukrainian defenses near Izyum, southeast of Kharkiv. He reported that Russia was sending reinforcements to Izyum while continuing the bombardment of Kharkiv.
The army added that the Russians were also continuing their attempts to take control of Mariupol, the port on the Sea of Azov which had been besieged by Russian forces for almost a month and a half.
After the rapid failure of Russia’s attempt to seize kyiv and other major cities in northeastern Ukraine, Ukrainian and Western officials expect Moscow to launch a new offensive in the eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he focused on finding perpetrators of war crimes during a phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Zelenskyy said on Twitter that during Sunday’s call “we stressed that all perpetrators of war crimes must be identified and punished.”
Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other places near kyiv, where hundreds of massacred civilians, many with their hands tied and signs of torture, were found after the withdrawal Russian troops.
Zelenskyy also said he and Scholz “discussed anti-Russian sanctions, defense and financial support for Ukraine.”
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis opened Holy Week by calling for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make way for a negotiated peace, stressing the need for leaders to “make sacrifices for the good of the people.”
Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in front of crowds in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since the pandemic, Pope Francis called for “laying down arms to begin an Easter truce, not to reload arms and resume fighting , Nope ! A truce to achieve peace through real negotiations.
Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the reference was clear. He has repeatedly denounced the war and the suffering inflicted on innocent civilians.
HELSINKI — Finland says a shipment of artwork from Russian museums has been returned to Russia after being seized under European Union sanctions against Moscow.
Finland’s customs service said late on Saturday that the Foreign Ministry had granted a special permit to return the shipment with a total insured value of around 42 million euros ($46 million). He said trucks carrying the works of art from the Hermitage Museum and the Pavlovsk State Museum in St. Petersburg, among others, left Finnish territory on Saturday afternoon.
The cargo was seized at the Vaalimaa border post in early April. The works were on their way to Russia after being loaned to museums in Europe and Japan. Experts say works of art on loan from Russia usually travel overland via Finland.
Russia demanded the return of all works loaned to “hostile” nations that imposed sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.
MOSCOW — The Russian army claims to have hit Ukrainian air defense batteries in the south and east of the country.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday that the army used air-launched missiles to strike Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile systems at Starobohdanivka in the region. south of Mykolaiv and at an air base in Chuhuiv in the eastern Kharkiv region.
Konashenkov also said that sea-launched cruise missiles destroyed the headquarters of a Ukrainian military unit near Zvonetske in the Dnipro region.
Russian military claims could not be independently verified.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said more civilians are expected to leave Mariupol on Sunday in their personal vehicles.
Evacuations are also planned from Berdiansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar in the south and from Sieverierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna and Rubizhne in the east.
Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Sea of Azov, has been besieged by Russian forces for nearly a month and a half, cut off from food, water and electricity and hammered by relentless shelling that has killed in least 5,000 people, according to local officials.
Ukrainian authorities have urged civilians in the east to evacuate in the face of an impending Russian offensive. They accused Russia of killing 52 people on Friday at the train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk as they prepared to evacuate.
GENEVA — The UN refugee agency says the number of people who have left Ukraine since the war began has reached 4.5 million.
A regular update Sunday from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ online portal on the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine since February 24 brought the total to some 4.504 million.
About 2.6 million of them fled at least initially to Poland and more than 686,000 to Romania. However, the UNHCR notes that there are very few border controls within the European Union and it believes that “a large number of people” have left the first country in which they arrived.
LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia’s armed forces were seeking to respond to mounting casualties by boosting troop numbers with personnel who had been discharged from military service since 2012.
In an intelligence update on Twitter, the ministry also said on Sunday that the Russian military’s efforts to “generate more combat power” also include recruitment attempts in Trans-Dniester, a breakaway region of Moldova. which borders Ukraine.
Russia maintains some 1,500 troops in the region, which is not internationally recognised.
BORODIANKA, Ukraine — Firefighters continued Saturday to search for survivors or dead among the rubble of destroyed buildings in a northern Ukrainian town occupied for weeks by Russian forces.
Residents of Borodianka expect to find dozens of casualties under the rubble of several buildings destroyed during fighting between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops. The city is about 75 kilometers (47 miles) northwest of the capital of kyiv and had a population of over 12,000.
Russian troops occupied Borodianka advancing towards kyiv in an attempt to encircle it. They withdrew during the last days of March after heavy fighting. The city is without electricity, natural gas or other services.
A 77-year-old resident, Maria Vaselenko, said the bodies of her daughter and son-in-law had been under rubble for 36 days because Russian soldiers did not allow residents to search for loved ones or their bodies. She said her two teenage grandchildren fled to Poland but are now orphans.
“The Russians were shooting. And some people wanted to come and help, but they were shooting at them,” she told The Associated Press. “They were putting explosives under the dead.”
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — The shelling by Russian forces of Ukraine’s key port, Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov has collapsed several humanitarian corridors and made conditions rarely conducive for people to leave.
It was unclear on Saturday how many people remained trapped in the city, which had a pre-war population of 430,000. Ukrainian officials put the number at around 100,000, but earlier this week British defense officials said 160,000 people remained stuck in the city.
Ukrainian troops refused to surrender the city, although much of it was razed to the ground.
Resident Sergey Petrov said on Saturday that two shells recently hit around him in quick succession, but neither exploded on landing. He was in his garage at the time and said his mother later told him, “I was born again.”
“A shell came in and broke in two parts but it didn’t explode, it looks like it didn’t land on the detonator but on the side,” he said.
He added that when another shell came and hit the garage, “I was in shock. I do not understand what is happening. I have a hole in my garage that is giving off smoke. I run away and leave everything. I come back in a few hours and find another shell on the ground, also unexploded.