Live updates: France intercepts Russian cargo ship

The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis:

PARIS — French officials say marines patrolling the English Channel area have intercepted a cargo ship sailing under the Russian flag and escorted it to the port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer for an investigation.

The interception of the ship, carrying cars, early Saturday was triggered by financial sanctions levied days ago against Russia for its invasion of the Ukraine. Maritime spokesperson Veronique Magnin said it appeared to be the first such action in the English Channel.

The approximately 130-meter-(427-foot) ship was headed from Rouen, in Normandy, to Saint Petersburg, and was stopped near Honfleur, Magnin said.

Customs officials carrying out the investigation were verifying if the vessel is indeed linked to Russian financial interests, the spokesperson said. The process could take up to 48 hours.

The French government has given maritime officials the power to intercept vessels suspected of contravening the sanctions, she said.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country’s armed forces are successfully fighting back against Russian troops.

Zelenskyy said in a video released Saturday that Russian attempts to forge into Kyiv have been repelled and Moscow’s plan to quickly seize the capital and install a puppet government has been thwarted. In an emotional speech, he accused the Russian forces of hitting civilian areas and infrastructure.

Zelenskyy pushed for Ukraine’s urgent ascension to the European Union, saying he discussed the issue with the EU leaders. He also urged cutting Russia from the SWIFT international electronic bank payment system, noting that Germany and Hungary should show “courage” and agree to the move.

Briefly switching to Russian, Zelenskyy hailed Russia’s cultural figures who denounced the invasion and urged them to redouble efforts to force the Kremlin to halt the attack. He claimed that thousands of Russian troops were killed and hundreds of those who were taken prisoner “can’t understand why they were sent into Ukraine to kill and get killed.” “The sooner you say to your government that this war should be immediately stopped, the more of your people will stay alive,” he said.


MOSCOW — A senior Russian official has warned that Moscow could react to Western sanctions over its attack on Ukraine by opting out of the last remaining nuclear arms pact and freezing Western assets.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, shrugged off a set of crippling sanctions that the U.S., the European Union and other allies slapped on Russia as a reflection of Western “political impotence.”

In comments posted on his page on Russian social media VKontakte, Medvedev said the sanctions could offer Moscow a pretext for a complete review of its ties with the West, suggesting that Russia could opt out of the New START nuclear arms control treaty that limits the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Medvedev also raised the prospect of cutting diplomatic ties with Western countries, saying “there is no particular need in maintaining diplomatic relations” and adding that “we may look at each other in binoculars and gunsights.” He pointed at the possibility of freezing Western assets in the country if the West proceeds with threats to freeze Russian assets.


PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s government has approved a plan to send more arms to Ukraine.

The Defense Ministry said it is immediately sending machine guns, submachine guns, assault rifles and pistols together with ammunition worth 188 million Czech crowns ($8.6 million).

The ministry said the Czechs will transport the weapons and deliver them to a place determined by the Ukrainian side.

The Czech Republic has already agreed to donate some 4,000 pieces of artillery shells worth 36.6 million Czech crowns ($1.7 million) to Ukraine.


WARSAW, Poland — The Polish Football Association says it will not play its World Cup qualifying match against Russia due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“No more words, time to act!” said association president Cezary Kulesza on Twitter, saying the move was prompted by the “escalation of the aggression.”

The match had been scheduled for March 24.


KYIV, Ukraine — A rescue worker says at least six civilians were injured by a rocket that hit a high-rise apartment building on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.

Petro Prokopov, a firefighter who was taking part in rescue efforts, said the building on the southwestern edge of Kyiv near Zhuliany airport was hit between 16 and 21 floors on Saturday. He said at least six people were injured and apartments on two floors were gutted by fire. Emergency responders have evacuated 80 people.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko posted an image showing a gaping hole on one side of the apartment building.

Separately, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said a Russian missile was shot down before dawn Saturday as it headed for the dam of the sprawling water reservoir that serves Kyiv. “If the dam is destroyed, the flooding will cause catastrophic casualties and losses – including flooding of residential areas of Kyiv and its suburbs,” the ministry said.

Russian troops were pressing their attack on the Ukrainian capital, trying to advance on the city from several directions. Russia has repeatedly claimed its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets.

“Let me stress once again that only infrastructure sites of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are being targeted, ruling out damage to residential and social infrastructure,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing Saturday.


KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian health minister says that 198 people have been killed and more than 1,000 others have been wounded in the Russian offensive.

Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said Saturday that there were three children among those killed. His statement made it unclear whether the casualties included both military and civilians.

He said another 1,115 people, including 33 children, were wounded in the Russian invasion that began Thursday with massive air and missile strikes and troops forging into Ukraine from the north, east and south.


WARSAW, Poland — The UN refugee agency says that over 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have left the country since Russia began its attack on its neighboring country this week.

Speaking as Russian troops were engaging in battle with Ukrainian forces in the capital Kyiv on Saturday, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, said in an interview on CNN the situation was expected to get worse.

“We now see over 120,000 people that have gone to all of the neighboring countries,” she said. “The reception that they are receiving from local communities, from local authorities, is tremendous. But it’s a dynamic situation. We are really quite devastated, obviously, with what’s to come.”

Most are heading to Poland and Moldova, but also to Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron says he is convinced that “this war will last” and warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have tough consequences for Europeans.

Macron told farmers at France’s Agricultural Fair in Paris on Saturday that sectors from wine to cereals to exports and energy prices will be affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“War has returned to Europe. This war was unilaterally chosen by Putin,” he said of the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. “This war will last and all the crises that go with it will have durable consequences,” Macron said. “We must prepare ourselves with lots of determination and also lots of solidarity.”

He said a “plan of resilience” was being put in place, but did not elaborate.

The European Union, along with the U.S. and numerous other countries, has announced sanctions against Russia.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government has shifted its embassy staff out of Ukraine amid Russia’s military onslaught on its neighbor.

The foreign ministry announced early Saturday that ambassador Jennes de Mol and his staff, who had already moved from Kyiv to Lviv before Russia’s invasion, will relocate to Jaroslaw, Poland.

The ministry said the diplomatic post that is helping Dutch citizens who want to leave Ukraine has been moved out of the country because of the deteriorating security situation in Lviv.


ISTANBUL — About a hundred protestors have gathered in Turkey’s capital Ankara to demonstrate against the Russian invasion. Ukrainians living in Turkey, including children, as well as Turks joined the protest, holding up Ukrainian flags and banners that read “Putin get out of Ukraine.” The Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, was also at the protest and said the war was a “genocide against the Ukrainian people,” according to Turkish news agencies.

Separately, Turkey began evacuating its citizens from Ukraine by land. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said about 20,000 Turks live in Ukraine and 5,000 had already returned.


LONDON — Britain says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been slowed by strong Ukrainian resistance.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said fighting in the capital, Kyiv, was so far confined to “very isolated pockets of Russian special forces and paratroopers.”

He said that “the main armored columns approaching Kyiv are still some way off.”

He said: “It looks like the Russian plan is nowhere near running to schedule. I think that will be a great cause of concern for President Putin and rather points to the fact that there was a lot of hubris in the Russian plan and that he may be awfully advised.”


MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has launched a barrage of cruise missiles at Ukrainian military facilities.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Saturday that the military struck a range of Ukrainian military installations with long-range Kalibr cruise missiles.

He said that since the start of Russia’s attack Thursday, the military has hit 821 Ukrainian military facilities, including 14 air bases and 19 command facilities, and destroyed 24 air defense missile systems, 48 radars, seven warplanes, seven helicopters, nine drones, 87 tanks and eight military vessels.

Konashenkov didn’t say how many Ukrainian troops were killed and didn’t mention any casualties on the Russian side. His claims and Ukraine’s allegations that its forces have killed thousands of Russian troops couldn’t be independently verified.

Konashenkov claimed that the Russian military has taken full control of the southern city of Melitopol, about 35 kilometers inland from the Azov Sea coast, and said Russia-backed separatists have made significant gains in the eastern region of Donbas.


KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of the Ukrainian capital says a missile hit an apartment building but no casualties were immediately reported.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the missile slammed into a high-rise building on the southwestern outskirts of Kyiv near Zhuliany airport on Saturday. He said rescue workers were heading there.

He posted an image on a messaging app, showing a gaping hole on one side of the building that ravaged apartment units and several stores.

Russian troops were pressing their attack on the Ukrainian capital, trying to advance on the city from several directions. The Russian invasion of Ukraine began Thursday with massive air and missile strikes and ground troops moving in from the north, east and south.


KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of a city south of the Ukrainian capital says that the country’s military has fended off a Russian attempt to take control of a military air base.

Natalia Balansynovych, the mayor of Vasylkiv, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Kyiv, said Saturday that Russian airborne forces landed near the city overnight and tried to seize the base. She said fierce fighting also raged on Vasylkiv’s central street.

She said that Ukrainian forces repelled the Russian attacks, and that the situation is now calm. Balansynovych said there were heavy casualties, but didn’t give any numbers.


KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukraine’s president says that fighting is raging in the capital and in the country’s south, and that the Ukrainian military is successfully fending off Russian assaults.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Saturday that small groups of Russian forces tried to infiltrate Kyiv and engaged in fighting with Ukrainian troops. He said that Russia wants to seize control of the Ukrainian capital and destroy the country’s leadership, but said the Russian military has failed to make any gains and that the Ukrainian forces control the situation in Kyiv.

He said Russian forces were also focusing on the country’s south, where intense fighting is underway in Kherson just north of Crimea, and in the Black Sea ports of Mykolaiv, Odesa and around Mariupol.

He said that Russia considers it a priority to seize the south, but it has failed to make any significant gains.

“Ukraine hasn’t simply withstood it. Ukraine is winning,” Podolyak said at a briefing.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made a renewed assurance that the country’s military will stand up to the Russian invasion.

In a video recorded on the street in downtown Kyiv, Zelenskyy said that he hasn’t left the city and dispelled claims that Ukraine’s military would lay down its weapons.

“We will protect the country,” he said. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it’s our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that.”


KYIV, Ukraine — Kyiv officials are warning residents that street fighting is underway against Russian forces, and they are urging people to seek shelter.

The warning issued Saturday advised residents to remain in shelters, to avoid going near windows or on balconies, and to take precautions against being hit by debris or bullets.

The Ukrainian military said a battle was underway near a military unit to the west of the city center.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said new explosions shook the area near a major power plant that the Russians were trying to attack.


TOKYO — A Panamanian-registered cargo ship owned by a Japanese company was hit by a shell off Ukraine’s southern coast and one of its 20 crew members suffered a non-life-threatening injury, according to its owner and media reports.

The ship’s owner, Nikko Kisen K.K., based in Imabari in western Japan, confirmed media reports Saturday that its bulk carrier Namura Queen suffered damage and that one of its 20 Filipino crew members was injured.

The company gave no further details.

The 47,167-ton ship, which was just off the coast of Ukraine in the Black Sea at the time of the incident, has headed to Turkey to assess the extent of its damage, Kyodo News agency said.


SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday to discuss the two allies’ cooperation over the Russia-Ukraine crisis, including Seoul’s participation in a U.S.-led economic pressure campaign against Moscow.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Chung and Blinken reaffirmed the allies’ “strong condemnation” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and they urged Russia to immediately cease its takeover attempt.

Blinken thanked South Korea for its support of Ukraine and its willingness to participate in international sanctions against Russia, the ministry said.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was asked to evacuate Kyiv at the behest of the U.S. government but turned down the offer.

Zelenskyy said in response: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” according to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation, who described Zelenskyy as upbeat.

Invading Russian forces closed in on Ukraine’s capital on Saturday, in an apparent encircling movement after a barrage of airstrikes on cities and military bases around the country.


KYIV, Ukraine — A second Russian Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles (85 kilometers) south of Kyiv, according to two American officials with direct knowledge of conditions on the ground in Ukraine.

On Friday, Ukraine’s military said it had shot down a Russian military transport plane with paratroopers on board.

According to a statement from the military’s General Staff, the first Il-76 heavy transport plane was shot down near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles south of Kyiv. The Russian military has not commented on either incident so far, and the reports could not be immediately verified.


UNITED NATIONS—Russia has vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops.

Friday’s vote was 11-1, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining. It showed significant but not total opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbor.

The United States and other supporters knew the resolution wouldn’t pass but argued it would highlight Russia’s international isolation. The resolution’s failure paves the way for backers to call for a swift vote on a similar measure in the U.N. General Assembly. There are no vetoes in the 193-member assembly. There’s no timetable as yet for a potential Assembly vote.


SYDNEY—Australia is imposing sanctions against all 339 members of the Russian parliament and is considering sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also announced on Saturday sanctions against eight Russian oligarchs close to Putin. Australia was also taking steps to imposed sanctions on key figures in the Belarusian government who had aided the Ukraine invasion.

Payne said she was seeking advice from her department on following western allies’ example in sanctioning Putin.

“It is an exceptional step to sanction leaders, but this is an exceptional situation,” Payne said.


LONDON—British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is in “close contact” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as he hailed “the fierce bravery and patriotism” of Ukraine’s government and people.

In a recorded message, Johnson said “the scenes unfolding in the streets and fields of Ukraine are nothing short of a tragedy,” calling it bloodshed Europe has not seen in a generation or more.

He said “the people of the United Kingdom stand with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in the face of this unjustifiable assault on your homeland.”

Johnson also urged Russians to oppose the invasion, which he called “a tragedy for Russia” as well as for Ukraine.

Speaking in Russian, he said: “I do not believe this war is in your name.”

Britain has imposed asset freezes and other sanctions on scores of Russian companies and several oligarchs, and has joined the U.S., Canada and the European Union in slapping sanctions on President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.


TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is announcing sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, his chief of staff and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Trudeau also says Canada supports the removal of Russia from the SWIFT banking system.

The prime minister is also announcing sanctions against Belarus.

Meanwhile, Canada’s largest province is pulling Russian products from shelves from government owned liquor stores. The French-speaking province of Quebec is also considering banning Russian liquor.


UNITED NATIONS—The U.N. plans to seek over $1 billion in donations for humanitarian relief in Ukraine over the next three months, the world body’s humanitarian chief said Friday.

Martin Griffiths said at a news briefing that the exact amount of the appeal is still being decided but will be “well north of $1 billion.”

The U.N. announced Thursday that it was immediately allocating $20 million to expand its humanitarian operations in Ukraine. Even before Russia’s attack this week, the world body estimated about 3 million people were in need of aid after years of fighting between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government in the country’s east.


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