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Live updates The Chief of Defense of the United Kingdom met with Zelensky in Kyiv

LONDON – British Defense Minister Ben Wallace met with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky during an earlier unannounced visit to Kyiv.

The UK Ministry of Defense says Wallace also held talks with Ukrainian counterpart Alexei Reznikov during a two-day visit this week.

Wallace told Zelensky on Friday that “UK support will continue to meet Ukraine’s needs as the conflict enters a different phase.”

Britain has been one of the largest donors of military equipment to Ukraine and recently agreed to send missile systems that could target Russian artillery positions in eastern Ukraine.

Western officials say the conflict is turning into a slow-moving war as Russian forces advance their offensive to take over Ukraine’s eastern industrial center.

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KEY DEVELOPMENT OF THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

– Ukraine fears that the long war may cause the West to lose interest

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– Ukraine: Drivers risk everyone to bring help, to help civilians escape

– Ukraine: 100-200 soldiers die every day, a new request for heavy guns

– The Ukrainian football club Shakhtar survives in the 9th year of exile

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

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

Russia’s central bank has cut interest rates to pre-war levels, saying inflation and economic activity are doing better than expected, despite broad Western sanctions imposed in response to the war in Ukraine.

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The bank cut its key interest rate on Friday by 1.5 percentage points to 9.5%. It was up to 20% after the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting sanctions, which restrict transactions with Russian banks, individuals and companies.

Economists say sanctions will erode growth and productivity over time, but the central bank has managed to stabilize Russia’s currency and financial system through drastic measures such as high interest rates, restrictions on the country’s cash flow and requiring importers to sell their foreign exchange earnings for rubles. .

These measures helped raise the exchange rate of the Russian currency to 58.12 against the dollar on Friday, compared to 78.8 rubles per dollar on February 23, the day before the invasion.

The central bank says inflation was 17% year on year in May, but appears to have peaked after the 17.8% invasion and will continue down amid lower price increases in May and June.

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Kyiv, Ukraine – President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky urges the European Union to put his country on the path to membership.

In a video address to the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Friday, Zelensky said the EU must act quickly to offer Ukraine candidate status to join the 27-nation bloc.

He said the “gray zone” in which Ukraine was left encouraged Russian aggression. He called on the EU to show that “his words about the Ukrainian people being part of the European family are not empty words”.

Zelenski regretted that “there are still some political skeptics who doubt whether we should be allowed to join the EU.”

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Finland plans to send more defense equipment to Ukraine, but did not specify what it is and when it will be delivered.

The government said on Friday that President Sauli Niinistö had agreed to his request for more military aid. It says it does not provide more information to “ensure that aid arrives”.

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The Scandinavian nation has already sent rifles and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, among other things.

Finland, a member of the European Union that has a long border with Russia, has applied for NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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VATICAN CITY – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has met with Pope Francis to discuss efforts to end the war in Ukraine and alleviate the global food crisis it has exacerbated.

In a tweet after the 20-minute audience on Friday, von der Leyen wrote: “We are with those who are suffering from the devastation in Ukraine. This war must end by bringing peace back to Europe. “

Von der Layen also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Foreign Minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who recently returned from Ukraine. The Vatican said their talks focused on “a common commitment to work to end the war in Ukraine, focusing on the humanitarian and nutritional implications of the continuing conflict.”

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GENEVA – The UN Human Rights Office has expressed concern over the death sentences handed down by pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine to three captured foreigners fighting on the Ukrainian side.

A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has found two Britons and a Moroccan guilty of seeking to forcibly overthrow the government. The men were also convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism.

UN Human Rights Office spokesman Ravina Shamdasani said on Friday that all three were part of Ukraine’s armed forces, according to the Ukrainian military. She said that if so, they “should not be considered mercenaries”

Shamdasani said that since 2015, the service has noticed that the judiciary in rebel-held separatist areas has “failed to respect basic guarantees of a fair trial, such as a public hearing, independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the right not to be forced to testify”.

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She added that “such trials against prisoners of war constitute a war crime.”

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ZAGREB, Croatia – Croatian state television HRT reports that a Croatian citizen who was wounded in the fighting in Ukraine has been relocated and hospitalized in the capital, Zagreb.

HRT reported on Friday that the man was in stable condition after receiving serious injuries to his arm and leg. Doctors say they are assessing his condition to determine if and when to have surgery.

The man fought with Ukrainian forces against Russia. Another Croatian citizen was detained by Russian troops last month after fighting in the port city of Mariupol.

HRT has identified the wounded fighter as Jozinovic Vukovic.

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Kyiv, Ukraine – A regional governor says Ukrainian troops are fighting for every house in street battles in a key city in eastern Ukraine.

Luhansk Governor Sergei Haidai told the Associated Press on Friday that Ukrainian forces had retained control of the industrial zone near the town of Severodonetsk and also controlled some other sections.

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He said “battles are fought for every house and every street.”

Sieverodonetsk, the administrative center of Luhansk province in the Donbass industrial district, has been the focus of Russia’s offensive in recent weeks.

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LONDON – The British government says Russia must take responsibility for the “fake trial” against two Britons sentenced to death for fighting Russian forces in Ukraine.

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Sean Piner, 48, were convicted along with a Moroccan man in a Russian-backed rebel trial in the self-proclaimed internationally unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic.

The two Britons were members of a Ukrainian military unit and were captured in the southern port of Mariupol.

Government Secretary Robin Walker said it was “an illegal trial in a false government”, but that the United Kingdom would use “all diplomatic channels to prove that these are prisoners of war who should be treated accordingly”.

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He said “Russia must take responsibility, its responsibilities under the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is due to speak to Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba later Friday. The United Kingdom has not announced plans to hold talks with Russian officials.

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Kyiv, Ukraine – As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine begins in its fourth month, Kyiv authorities have expressed fears that the specter of “war fatigue” could undermine the West’s determination to help the country repel Moscow’s aggression.

The United States and its allies have provided billions of dollars in arms to Ukraine. Europe has accepted millions of people displaced by the war. And there has been unprecedented unity in post-World War II Europe in imposing sanctions on President Vladimir Putin and his country.

But as the shock of the February 24 invasion subsides, analysts say the Kremlin could take advantage of protracted, entrenched conflict and possibly fading Western interest, which could lead to pressure from Ukraine on an agreement.

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ZAPORIZH, Ukraine – Volunteer drivers are risking everything to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukrainians behind the front lines of the war – and to help many of them escape.

The routes are dangerous and long and drivers risk being detained, injured or killed. Ukrainian activists say more than two dozen drivers have been detained and detained for more than two months by Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, vans and volunteer vans pass through cities and rural roads, vying to evacuate civilians while artillery shells blow through the air. Russian forces are doubling their offensive in the regions.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

Live updates The Chief of Defense of the United Kingdom met with Zelensky in Kyiv

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