Live updates | Turkey on food corridors: UN plan ‘feasible’

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ISTANBUL – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says that a plan by the United Nations for a grain corridor to carry Ukrainian agricultural products was “feasible.”

Speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a news conference Wednesday in Ankara following talks, Cavusoglu said the plan required negotiation between Moscow and Kyiv.

There was no Ukrainian representative at the Ankara meeting. But Kyiv has expressed concerns that if it removes mines from its Black Sea ports, Russia would be more able to attack its southern coast.

Cavusoglu also said Moscow’s request that its involvement in implementing the U.N. plan result in the easing of international sanctions against it was “quite legitimate.”

“If the whole world is in need of the products to be exported by Ukraine and the Russian Federation, then a method needs to be established,” he said, adding that he hoped “technical preparations” could be made “as soon as possible.”

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war and a Russian blockade of its ports have halted much of that flow, endangering global food supplies.

An estimated 22 million tons of grains are sitting in silos in Ukraine. Russia is also a major exporter of food and fertilizer.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

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

— Ukraine’s leader says Russia is trying to capture a key southeastern city

— US general says US, allies will keep sending ‘significant’ aid to Ukraine

— UN: Climate shocks and Ukraine war fuel multiple global food crises

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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:

ROME — Italy is demanding that Russia release grain from Ukrainian silos to ease the global food crisis, saying the continued blockade of Ukraine’s ports “is sentencing to death millions of children, women and men, far from the battleground.”

Speaking at a conference in Rome on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio also warned that increased food insecurity in the developing world will trigger political instability and migratory flows.

Many countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Somalia, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, import much of their grain from Ukraine. Drought and high fuel prices even before the war in Ukraine already had threatened food availability for many developing countries.

Di Maio described the following weeks as crucial. “I want to say clearly that we expect a sign from Russia because blocking exports of wheat means holding hostage and sentencing to death millions of children, women and men far from the battleground.”

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war and a Russian blockade of its ports have halted most of that flow. Complicating export is the heavy mining of Ukrainian ports.

An estimated 22 million tons of grains are sitting in silos in Ukraine.

Di Maio was hosting a conference of Mediterranean governments and international organizations on the world food crisis. He spoke alongside the head of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Qu Dongyu.

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BRUSSELS — Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin is backing Ukraine’s efforts to join the European Union, despite concerns about allowing the war-torn country into the bloc any time soon.

“I strongly support Ukraine’s application for membership,” Martin told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday. He says he hopes EU leaders can “send the people of Ukraine a clear and positive message” at their June 23-24 summit.

The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, is drafting an opinion on Ukraine’s request to join. In recent years, the commission has repeatedly expressed concern about corruption in Ukraine and the need for deep political and economic reforms.

Several EU leaders are wary of opening the door to Ukraine.

But Martin says the EU “should support those looking to join in undertaking the reforms and preparations necessary.” He says Ireland’s experience is that EU “membership is transformative.”

Italian Premier Mario Draghi has also been a proponent of Ukraine’s ambitions to join the bloc. But other European leaders, among them French President Emmanuel Macron opposes fast-track membership for Ukraine, saying it would lead to lowering standards and be unfair to other previous applicants.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway said Wednesday it has donated heavy artillery with equipment, spare parts and munition to Ukraine, enabling the country to “withstand the Russian attacks,” said Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram, who called that “a substantial contribution.”

The Scandinavian country’s Armed Forces recently has replaced M109 artillery guns with new artillery from South Korea, the defense ministry said, and 22 of them had been sent to Ukraine. Norway added that it trained Ukrainian forces to operate the guns in Germany.

The situation in Ukraine means “that it is now necessary to donate heavier materiel and weapons systems as well,” Arild Gram said in a statement.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top two officials on Wednesday stepped up warnings about global food shortages as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The war has left Ukraine unable to export millions of tons of grain via the Black Sea to destinations such as Africa.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, who chairs EU summits, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of preventing Ukraine from fulfilling its traditional role as a major supplier of agricultural commodities, including wheat, to world markets.

“This is a cold, callous and calculated siege by Putin on some of the most vulnerable countries and people in the world,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “Food has become now part of the Kremlin’s arsenal of terror and we cannot tolerate this.

Said Michel to the 27-nation EU assembly: “Russia is using food as a weapon of war, stealing grain, blockading ports and turning farmlands into battlefields.”

Von der Leyen said that the EU must work to persuade trading partners to keep their markets open, offer aid to countries at risk and support an expansion of food production in Africa. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine reverberates around the world,” she said. “It is about the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.”

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LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says fighting continues in Sievierodonetsk and that Ukrainian forces will not cede the city, even if they have to retreat.

“Fighting is still ongoing there, no one will cede Sievierodonetsk,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press in written comments. “Everything the Russian army has — artillery, mortars, tanks, aviation — all of that they’re using in Sievierodonetsk in order to wipe the city off the face of the earth and capture it completely.”

Ukrainian troops have moved back to the industrial outskirts of the city, and Haidai said the Russian assault might push the Ukrainians to retreat even further. But, he insisted, “even if our military have to retreat, it won’t mean that we lost the city.” “Yes, maybe (they) will have to retreat, but right now battles are ongoing in the city.”

Haidai said that Sievierodonetsk is being shelled round the clock.

According to the governor, the Russian troops plan to capture Sievierodonetsk and seize control of the key road between Bakhmut and Lysychansk by Friday.

The road, Haidai said, is under constant shelling, and it is no longer possible to use it, but “the Russians don’t control it just yet.”

In Lysychansk, the barrage of shelling and bombardment has intensified. “Even in the central areas it is dangerous, but the city on a hill is a tough target for the Russians,” Haidai said.

The most recent round of shelling killed one Lysychansk resident and wounded another one.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russian shelling of the northern Kharkiv region killed five people and wounded 12 more over the past 24 hours, the Kharkiv governor Oleh Syniehubov said Wednesday.

In the city of Kharkiv, the shelling damaged houses, administrative buildings, a supermarket and other facilities, the official said. Six other settlements in the region came under fire, and the shelling damaged multiple houses there.

“These are grave war crimes against the civilians of the Kharkiv region!” Syniehubov said in a Telegram post.

The Russian military said Wednesday that Moscow used “air-launched, high-precision missiles” to hit an armor repair plant near Kharkiv. There was no confirmation from Ukrainian officials of such a plant being hit.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military intelligence agency says Russia has so far turned over the bodies of 210 Ukrainian fighters killed in the battle for Mariupol. It says most of them were among the last holdouts in the Azovstal steelworks.

The agency did not specify Tuesday how many more bodies are believed to remain in the rubble of the plant.

Russia now controls the destroyed port city. It began turning over bodies last week. Ukraine said Saturday that the two sides had exchanged 320 bodies, with each getting back 160. It is unclear whether any more bodies have been given to Russia.

The Ukrainian fighters defended the steelworks for nearly three months before surrendering in May under relentless Russian attacks from the ground, sea and air.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his government is working to raise money to fund the army and rebuild cities and towns destroyed in the fighting.

He said in his nightly address Tuesday that work is already underway to restore electricity, gas, running water and phone service in places from which Russian forces have been pushed out. He says much also needs to be done to re-equip hospitals and remove landmines.

Zelenskyy says one of the ways money is being gathered is through the government fundraising platform UNITED24, which in its first month brought in more than $50 million.

He says Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina on Tuesday joined former Ukrainian soccer player Andriy Shevchenko in becoming an ambassador for the fundraising platform.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces have made no significant advances in the eastern Donbas region over the past day.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said late Tuesday that “the absolutely heroic defense of the Donbas continues.”

Zelenskyy says the Russians clearly did not expect to meet so much resistance and are now trying to bring in additional troops and equipment. He says the same is true in the southern Kherson region, which Russian troops occupied early in the war.

Zelenskyy slso says that Ukraine plans to release a special “Book of Executioners” next week with confirmed information about war crimes committed by the Russian army. He says those named will include not only those who carried out war crimes but their commanders.

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