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Live updates The EU is launching urgent gas talks

BRUSSELS – European Union officials are holding urgent gas talks following Russia’s decision to abruptly cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, according to a senior bloc official.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Gazprom’s announcement was “another attempt by Russia to use gas as a tool for extortion”.

Von der Layen focused on what she described as an “unjustified and unacceptable” move, stressing “Russia’s unreliability as a gas supplier.” Von der Leyen, head of the EU’s executive branch, said a meeting of the gas coordination group was under way, adding that the 27 countries in the region were ready to withstand Russia’s interruptions.

“Member States have put in place contingency plans for just such a scenario, and we have worked with them in coordination and solidarity,” she said. “We are outlining our coordinated EU response. We will also continue to work with international partners to provide alternative flows. “

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KEY DEVELOPMENT OF THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

– The UN chief and Russian President Putin agreed on a key evacuation of Ukraine

– Poland and Bulgaria say that Russia is stopping natural gas supplies

– Russia has been eliminated as the host of the 2023 Men’s Ice Hockey Worlds

– The United States is pushing for more weapons for Ukraine amid fears of a growing war

Follow all AP stories about Russia’s war against Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

LONDON – British military officials say Ukraine retains control of much of the country’s airspace because Russia has failed to destroy Ukraine’s air force or suppress its air defenses.

The UK Ministry of Defense in an intelligence update released on Wednesday morning said Russian air activity was focused on supporting ground forces in southern and eastern Ukraine.

The ministry says Russia’s air force has “very limited” access to northern and western Ukraine, limiting it to long-range attacks with missiles and other “repulsive” weapons.

The ministry also says most air strikes on the southern city of Mariupol are likely to be carried out with unguided bombs, which are difficult to target and increase civilian casualties.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria – Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said on Wednesday that Bulgaria could meet consumer needs for at least a month after the country received a one-day notice from Russia’s Gazprom that gas supplies would be cut off.

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He said gas was still flowing as he spoke.

“Alternative supplies are available and Bulgaria hopes that alternative routes and supplies will also be provided at EU level,” Nikolov said, referring to a meeting of EU experts expected later Wednesday to plan next steps. . He added that Poland and Lithuania are in the same situation as Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian side has fully fulfilled its obligations and made all payments under this agreement in a timely manner, strictly and in accordance with its terms, Nikolov said, and Bulgaria paid in advance for deliveries in April, indicating that Gazprom has failed to fulfill its agreement.

“Obviously, gas is being used as a political tool,” he said. As long as I am a minister, Bulgaria will not negotiate under pressure, Bulgaria is not for sale and does not give in to any trade partner.

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LONDON – United Kingdom Foreign Minister Liz Truss has called on Britain to increase defense spending and provide heavier weapons to Ukraine as the West seeks to counter Russian aggression.

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In a speech on Wednesday night, Trus said that a “generation of underinvestment” in the military had led to the invasion of Ukraine, according to excerpts from the Daily Telegraph. She added that the goal of NATO members spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense should be considered a minimum.

Trus will also say Britain needs to “double” support for Ukraine, dig into reserves and increase production to provide heavy weapons, tanks and planes to help repel Russian President Vladimir’s invasion. Putin.

“If Putin succeeds, there will be indescribable additional misfortunes throughout Europe and terrible consequences around the world,” Truss plans to say. “We will never feel safe again.”

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LVIV, Ukraine – Gas prices in Europe have risen by as much as 24% after Gazprom said it had cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria since Wednesday because it had not received any payments since April 1st. Comparative Dutch futures are traded at one time about 125 euros per megawatt hour.

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Fatih Birol, executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, called Russia’s decision to cut off natural gas to Bulgaria and Poland as “armament of energy supplies”.

“Gazprom’s move to cut off gas supplies to Poland completely is another sign of Russia’s politicization of existing agreements and will only accelerate Europe’s efforts to withdraw from Russian energy supplies,” he tweeted Wednesday morning.

He said Russia’s decision “shows more clearly than ever that Europe must act quickly to reduce its dependence on Russian energy”.

The jump comes even as the weather warms in Europe, reducing the demand for natural gas for heating homes and businesses.

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MOSCOW – Russian state gas giant Gazprom has said it has cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to pay for supplies in rubles.

He warned that if they suck gas destined for other European customers, supplies to Europe would be reduced to that amount.

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The move follows an order from Russian President Vladimir Putin to switch to rubles in payments for Russian gas supplied to Europe.

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BEIJING – Drone Company DJI Technology Co. stated that it would suspend operations in Russia and Ukraine to ensure that its products would not be used during hostilities.

“DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions. Pending the ongoing review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine, the company said in a statement.

The declaration makes it one of the few Chinese companies to publicly withdraw from Russia. While many Western brands and companies withdrew from the Russian market in protest of its invasion of Ukraine, many Chinese companies continued to operate in the country. China continues to refrain from direct criticism of Russia over the war.

The suspension comes more than a month after Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov wrote an open letter urging DJI to block sales of their drones in Russia, alleging that the Russians were using “DJI products in Ukraine to control their missile.” to kill civilians. “

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POKROVSK, Ukraine – As Russian forces intensify shelling in eastern Ukraine, more and more people are leaving their homes in search of safety.

In Pokrovsk, a city in the Donetsk region, people lined up on Tuesday to board a train heading to the far west of the country on the border with Hungary and Slovakia. One man was on the train in a wheelchair, another on a stretcher.

The passengers took with them cats, dogs, several bags and boxes, as well as the memory of those who did not escape in time.

“We were in the basement, but my daughter failed and was hit by shrapnel on the doorstep” during Monday’s shelling, said Nikola Kharchenko, 74. “We had to bury her in the garden near the pear tree.”

He said his village, Vremivka, about 70km (40 miles) from Pokrovsk, had been under heavy fire for four days and everything had been destroyed. With tears in his eyes, Harchenko said he had somehow stayed at home, but as soon as he reached the station, he fell apart.

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UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed in principle that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in evacuating civilians from the besieged steel mine in southeastern Ukraine’s Mariupol.

UN spokesman Stefan Dujarric said that during their one-on-one meeting on Tuesday, Guterres and Putin “discussed proposals for humanitarian aid and the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, namely in connection with the situation in Mariupol.”

Azovstal’s extensive steel production has been almost completely destroyed by Russian attacks, but it is the last pocket of organized Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol.

It is estimated that about 2,000 soldiers and 1,000 civilians were hidden in bunkers under the destroyed structure.

Dujarric said that after the Guterres-Putin agreement in principle, discussions would be held with the UN humanitarian service and the Russian Ministry of Defense on the evacuation.

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WASHINGTON – The State Department says US diplomats have begun returning to Ukraine on day trips to temporary offices in the western city of Lviv in neighboring Poland.

The ministry said the first group of diplomats crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border and traveled to Lviv on Tuesday morning before returning to Poland later in the day.

The move came just two days after Secretary of State Anthony Blinken briefed Ukrainian leaders during a secret visit to Kyiv that the United States would begin renewing its diplomatic facilities in Ukraine this week.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the agency had speeded up its review of the reopening of the US embassy in Kyiv, which was closed shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th. He said operations at the embassy would resume as soon as possible, depending on the security situation in the capital.

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

Live updates The EU is launching urgent gas talks

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