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Live updates | Italy summons Russia ambassador over comments

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Live updates | Italy summons Russia ambassador over comments

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president is asking for a secure corridor for Ukrainian vessels to be able to ship out grain and prevent food shortages in Africa and Asia.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a news conference on Monday that Kyiv is in talks with countries like Turkey and the U.K. about security guaranties for Ukrainian ships.

“It is important for us that there is a security corridor … that the fleet of this or that country ensures the shipping of the grain,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy adds that “if now we have 22-25 million tons blocked there, in the fall we might have 75 (million tons).”

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“What are we going to do? he asked. ”That’s why we can’t do without the ports.”

The issue of blocked grain will be on the agenda on Wednesday during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Turkey. Ankara is involved in efforts by the United Nations to reach an agreement for the shipment of Ukrainian grain amid an escalating food crisis.

Zelenskyy says Kyiv hasn’t been invited, possibly because Turkey wants to get security guarantees from Russia for its own ships first.

He explains that Ukraine can’t export large shipments of grain via railways because of long delivery times, even though Kyiv has been in talks with Poland and the Baltic nations. A transport through the territory of Russia’s ally Belarus isn’t an option, he said.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— AP Exclusive: Ukraine recovers bodies from steel-plant siege

— American spy agencies review their misses on Ukraine, Russia

— In eastern Ukraine, keeping the lights on is a dangerous job

— Ukraine’s World Cup quest ends with loss to Wales amid war

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict says sexual violence in Ukraine especially against women and girls remains prevalent and underreported, and the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country is turning into “a human trafficking crisis.”

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Pramila Patten told the U.N. Security Council Monday that there is a gap between its resolutions aimed at preventing rape and other sexual attacks during conflicts and the reality on the ground for the most vulnerable — women and children.

As of June 3, she said, the U.N. human rights office had received 124 allegations of conflict-related sexual violence — 97 against women and girls, 19 against men, 7 against boys and 1 gender unknown. Verification of these cases is on-going, she said.

Patten said Ukraine’s prosecutor general informed her during a visit in May that a national hot line reported the following forms of conflict-related sexual violence between Feb. 24, when Russian troops invaded the country, and April 12: “rape, gang rape, pregnancy following rape, attempted rape, threats of rape, coercion to watch an act of sexual violence committed against a partner or a child, and forced nudity.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says the Russian forces intend to capture the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, a move that could severely weaken Ukraine’s standing and allow the Russian military to advance closer to the center of the country.

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“In the Zaporizhzhia region … there is the most threatening situation there,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters on Monday. He added that part of the region already has been taken and Russia wants to take the city next.

In the south of Ukraine, Russia has already seized large cities of Kherson and Mariupol. The Zaporizhzhia region, with the population of 1.6 million people, is one of the biggest industrial hubs of Ukraine’s southeast. The city itself has 722,000 people.

Zelenskyy also said that the Ukrainian troops continue to fight in the eastern part of the country known as the Donbas. In the Luhansk region, the Ukrainian resistance continues in Sievierodonetsk, one of two cities still not in Russia’s hands, he said.

“There are more of them, they are more powerful, but we have every chance to fight on there,” Zelenskyy said.

In the northern Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian army “step by step de-occupies our lands,” Zelenskyy said.

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MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting lump-sum payments of 5 million rubles ($81,000) to families of Russian National Guard members who die in Ukraine.

The National Guard is Russia’s internal military forces, but has taken part in military operations in Ukraine including the seizure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The lump sum is equivalent to roughly six years of Russia’s average salary.

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MOSCOW — The president of Ukraine’s separatist Donetsk People’s Republic says the region’s supreme court is opening the trial of three British men alleged to have been mercenaries for Ukrainian forces.

If convicted on the charges, including of trying to seize power, the men could face the death penalty.

Separatist president Denis Pushilin on Monday said “the crimes they committed were monstrous,” according to separatist news agency DAN. They are also charged with committing crimes against groups of people.

Two of the men, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, were members of regular Ukrainian military units in Mariupol. The affiliation of Andrew Hill, who was captured in the Mykolaiv area, is unclear.

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ROME — Russia’s ambassador in Rome has been summoned to the Italian foreign ministry, following anti-Italy remarks by Russian government officials.

The foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that Ambassador Sergey Razov was summoned on instructions on Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and “in concert” with the office of Italian Premier Mario Draghi.

Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov derided Di Maio’s peace plan, which had been relayed to the United Nations. Lavrov described the plan, which called for incremental cease-fires as well as humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, as not serious.

Lavrov also insinuated that Di Maio was out for “self-promotion” to gain votes.

The foreign ministry statement said Secretary General Ettore Francesco Sequi “firmly rejects accusations of amorality” aimed at some heads of Italian institutions and media.

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Sequi also rejected “insinuations relative to the alleged involvement of the media of our country in an anti-Russia campaign.” In the same statement, Sequi reiterated Italy’s condemnation of Russia’s “unjustified aggression” against Ukraine.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russia has begun turning over the bodies of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steelworks, the fortress-like plant in the destroyed city of Mariupol where their last-ditch stand became a symbol of resistance against Moscow’s invasion.

Dozens of fighters’ bodies recovered from the bombed-out mill’s now Russian-occupied ruins have been transferred to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where DNA testing is underway to identify the remains.

That is according to Maksym Zhorin, a military commander and former leader of the Azov Regiment, which was among the Ukrainian units that defended the plant for nearly three months before surrendering.

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MOSCOW — The Russian foreign minister has warned the West that if it provides Ukraine with long-range rockets, Moscow will respond by taking over larger areas of Ukraine.

Speaking during an online news conference Monday, Sergey Lavrov said that “the longer the range of weapons you supply, the farther away the line from where neo-Nazis could threaten the Russian Federation will be pushed.”

The U.S. and Britain have announced they will provide Ukraine with multiple rocket-launchers capable of striking targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away. The systems are capable of firing longer range rockets that can hit areas of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) away, but U.S. said it wouldn’t supply the rockets.

Asked how Moscow would respond if the U.S. and its allies change their mind and provide Ukraine with long-range rockets, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in televised comments Sunday that Moscow will “draw appropriate conclusions and use our strike means, which we have plenty of, in order to hit the facilities that we haven’t struck yet.”

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said Monday that Ukraine’s ambassador to Sofia has requested Bulgarian arms deliveries for his embattled country.

Ambassador Vitaly Moskalenko confirmed in a TV interview that his country needs Soviet-era weapons including heavy artillery.

“We need weapons, we are talking about howitzers and missile systems — Soviet, old weapons that we can handle,” he said.

In the wake of Russia’s stepped-up military efforts in eastern Ukraine, he added: “Imagine the firepower concentrated now against Ukraine in Donbas.”

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On May 4, Bulgaria’s Parliament approved military technical assistance to Ukraine, which provides only for the repair of Ukrainian weapons and equipment, not the provision of combat systems and small arms.

Parliament would need to revise its previous decision, which seems uncertain because of the divisions between the political parties on this issue.

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KYIV, Ukraine — A regional governor in Ukraine says that the situation in a key eastern town has worsened.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Monday that fierce fighting was continuing in the city of Sievierodonetsk in the epicenter of the Russian offensive. He described the combat situation as “quite dynamic.”

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“Our defenders managed to conduct counteroffensive and free nearly half of the city, but the situation has worsened again now,” Haidai told the AP. “Our guys are defending the positions in the industrial zone on the outskirts of the city.”

“The shelling of Sievierodonetsk has intensified, (the Russians) are destroying everything in line with their scorched earth tactics,” he alleged.

Haidai said that the Russians have continued intensive bombardment also of nearby Lysychansk.

The Russians “have an enormous amount of equipment and personnel, they have pulled up a lot of reserves,” he said. He added that they had shelled a humanitarian center in Lysychansk and destroyed a bakery, and that 98 people had left the town over the past 24 hours.

Haidai said that a key highway between Bakhmut and Lysychansk has been under constant shelling even though it remains in Ukrainian hands.

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COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France — Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had strong words about the war in Ukraine at a ceremony Monday commemorating the 78th anniversary of D-Day.

Speaking in the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach, Milley said that “Kyiv may be 2,000 kilometers away from here, they too, right now, today, are experiencing the same horrors as the French citizens experienced in World War II.”

He spoke in the presence of more than 20 World War II veterans and several thousand people who came to pay tribute to those who fell that day.

“The world has come together in support of the defense of Ukraine against a determined invader. The fight in Ukraine is about honoring these veterans of World War II,” he said.

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“It’s about maintaining the so called global rules-based international order that was established by the dead who are buried here at this cemetery.”

Gen. Milley recalled the principle underlined in that order that “strong countries cannot just invade small countries. Each country is sovereign and each country has the right to territorial integrity.”

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MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has struck a Ukrainian factory that was being used to repair armor.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that Russian warplanes fired long-range missiles to destroy a plant on the edge of the town of Lozova in the northeastern Kharkiv region that was fixing armored vehicles.

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Konashenkov said that the Russian aircraft hit 73 areas of concentration of Ukrainian troops and equipment, while the Russian artillery struck 431 military targets. His claims couldn’t be independently verified.

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Donors pledge $160 million, Palestinian refugees need more

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Donors pledge $160 million, Palestinian refugees need more

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UNITED NATIONS — Donors pledged about $160 million for the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees, but it still needs over $100 million to support education for more than half a million children and provide primary health care for close to 2 million people and emergency cash assistance to the poorest refugees, the agency’s chief said Friday.

Briefing reporters on the outcome of Thursday’s donor conference, Philippe Lazzarini said the pledges when turned into cash will enable the U.N. Relief and Works Agency known as UNRWA to run its operations through September. But “I do not know if we will get the necessary cash to allow us to pay the salaries after the month of September,” he said.

“We are in an early warning mode,” Lazzarini said. “Right now, I’m drawing the attention that we are in a danger zone and we have to avoid a situation where UNRWA is pushed to cross the tipping point, because if we cross the tipping point that means 28,000 teachers, health workers, nurses, doctors, engineers, cannot be paid.”

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UNRWA was established to provide education, health care, food and other services to the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.

There are now 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, including their children and grandchildren, who mostly live in camps that have been transformed into built-up but often impoverished residential areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. But UNRWA only helps the more than 500,000 in school and close to 2 million who have health benefits.

Lazzarini said the more than $100 million shortfall in funding for 2022 is about the same as the shortfall that UNRWA has faced every year for almost a decade, but while income has stagnated costs have increased.

In past years, UNRWA has been able to absorb the shortfall through austerity and cost control measures, he said, but today it’s not possible because there is very little left to cut without cutting services.

“Today, we have some classrooms with up to 50 kids,” the UNRWA commissioner-general said. “We have a double shift in our schools. We have doctors who cannot spend more than three minutes in medical consultation. So if we go beyond that, it will force the agency to cut services.”

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Lazzarini said UNRWA’s problem is that “we are expected to provide government-like services to one of the most destitute communities in the region, but we are funded like an NGO because we depend completely on voluntary contributions.”

Funding the agency’s services has been put at risk today because of the “de-prioritization, or maybe increased indifference, or because of domestic politics,” he said.

Lazzarini said the solution to UNRWA’s chronic financial problem requires “political will” to match the support for the agency’s work on behalf of Palestinian refugees.

He said UNRWA has a very strong donor base in Europe and last year the Biden administration resumed funding which was cut by the Trump administration, but he said the overall contribution from the Arab world has dropped to less than 3% of the agency’s income.

Donors have also faced financial difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and now there’s a major effort to help Ukraine in its war with Russia, he said.

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“We will know better at the end of the year how much it will impact the agency,” Lazzarini said.

Some donors have already warned UNRWA “that we might not have the traditional top-up at the end of the year, which would be dramatic” for the agency, he said.

Ahead of Thursday’s donors conference, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Erdan Calls on countries to freeze contributions until all UNRWA teachers that it claims support terrorism and murdering Jews are fired.

Lazzarini said UNRWA received a letter from Israel’s U.N. Mission Friday which he hadn’t read, but he said all allegations will be investigated and if there is a breach of U.N. values and misconduct “we will take measures in line with U.N. policies.”

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Mexico climber dies scaling active, off-limits volcano

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Mexico climber dies scaling active, off-limits volcano

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MEXICO CITY — A woman mountain climber in Mexico died and a climbing companion was injured when they scaled the highly active, off-limits peak of the Popocatepetl volcano.

Mexico’s volunteer Mountain Rescue and Assistance Brigade confirmed Friday that the climbers fell into a gully about 1,000 feet (300 meters) from the volcano’s crater, suggesting they had reached the crater or near it.

The crater of the 17,797-foot (5,426-meter) tall volcano has been belching toxic fumes, ash, and lumps of incandescent rock persistently for almost 30 years.

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Civil defense authorities have strictly prohibited climbers from going within 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) of the peak since it began erupting again in 1994.

Valentín Martínez Castillo, the mayor of the nearby town of Ozumba, identified the dead woman as a 22-year-old resident of the town.

Martínez Castillo wrote in his social media accounts that the climbers fell about 150 feet (50 meters) down a gully, and that the woman’s body and the surviving climbers had been successfully removed from the peak.

The Mountain Rescue and Assistance Brigade posted a notice on their social media Friday reading: “She shouldn’t have died. Don’t put your life or those of others at risk. The Popocatepetl volcano is closed.”

The country’s National Disaster Prevention Center said it “calls on people not to go near the volcano, especially the crater, due to the risk of falling ballistic fragments.”

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Popocatepetl is located 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City, and occasionally showers ash on surrounding towns and some parts of the capital.

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Bill Clinton: Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision has ‘put our democracy at risk’

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Bill Clinton: Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision has ‘put our democracy at risk’

Former President Clinton is slamming the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, saying it contributes to putting “democracy at risk” and calling the high court “radical” and “activist.”

“This decision puts partisanship ahead of precedent, ideology ahead of evidence, and the power of a small minority ahead of the clear will of the people,” Clinton said in a statement on Friday.

“This jarring removal of rights that had long been guaranteed, along with decisions gutting the Voting Rights Act and abolishing any judicial remedy for admittedly unconstitutional gerrymandering by state legislatures and abuses of power by federal authorities, has put our democracy at risk in the hands of a radical, activist Court,” he added.

He said said voters should be electing people “who will defend, not deny, our cherished rights and liberties” in addition to confirming judges who put the importance of the Constitution over partisanship.

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His wife, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, called the decision “a step backward for women’s rights and human rights.”

The development comes as the high court ruled on Friday to eliminate federal-level abortion protections, which many anticipated after a leaked draft ruling last month. 

Several states, including Missouri, South Dakota, Louisiana and Kentucky, have now effectively banned abortion. More are expected to follow.

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