Live updates | Russia accused of spreading disinformation

May 23, 2022, 4:06 AM | Updated: 7:36 pm
Lyudmila, 85, tends to the garden in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Bern...

Lyudmila, 85, tends to the garden in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

UNITED NATIONS — The United States and Britain are accusing Russia of spreading disinformation online and manipulating public opinion about the war in Ukraine and vehemently rejecting Russian claims that the West is aiming to control all information flows and define what is true or not true.

Britain’s deputy ambassador James Roscoe told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the use of digital technologies in maintaining peace that Russia has conducted cyber-attacks and used “an online troll factory to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion about their war.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Russian government “continues to shut down, restrict and degrade internet connectivity, censor content, spread disinformation online, and intimidate and arrest journalists for reporting the truth about its invasion.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused countries that call themselves a “community of democracies” of building “a cyber-totalitarianism” and along with technology giants like Meta of shutting down Russian TV channels, expelling Russian journalists and blocking access to Russian websites.

Nebenzia again accused Western governments and media of fabricating the story of the Russian military killing civilians in Bucha near Kyiv. He claimed the civilians died from injuries caused by artillery projectiles fired from outdated hardware used by the Ukrainian army.

Britan’s Roscoe countered Russia’s claims of a “staged provocation” and suggestion that the Ukrainians were responsible for the civilian deaths after retaking the town, saying satellite images prove the bodies were there for several weeks when Russia controlled Bucha.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— Russian sentenced to life in Ukraine’s 1st war crimes trial

–‘They ruined everything’: Fleeing the devastation in Ukraine

— Russian offensive turns to key Donbas city, heavy shelling

— ‘A long journey’: Volunteers from Belarus fight for Ukraine

— After 3 months of war, life in Russia has profoundly changed

— Russia’s claim of Mariupol’s capture fuels concern for POWs

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

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai says police are continuing daily evacuations due to the war with Russia and the number of those willing to leave is increasing.

Haidai posted a video Monday on Facebook taken from a vehicle that he said was traveling along a highway near Sievierodonetsk.

The vehicle is racing down the road, dodging debris, mounds of earth, barricades and destroyed vehicles as shells explode in the fields just yards away.

A photo in the post shows about a dozen civilians, with luggage, packed tightly inside what appears to be the back of a vehicle.

Haidai wrote that people “are agreeing to the risk because what is happening in the cities is much worse.”

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia is waging “total war” on his country, and that includes inflicting as many casualties and as much infrastructure destruction as possible.

Zelenskyy made the comments in his nightly address Monday, the eve of the three-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In it, he noted that since Feb. 24, the Russian army has launched 1,474 missile strikes on Ukraine, using 2,275 different missiles. He said the vast majority hit civilian targets. There have been more than 3,000 Russian airstrikes over that period.

“Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,” he said.

Zelenskyy said an attack on the town of Desna, 55 kilometers (34 miles) north of Kyiv, resulted in 87 deaths.

The Russians have now concentrated their forces on Donbas cities like Bakhmut, Popasnaya and Sievierodonetsk, Zelenskyy said.

He called on Ukrainians who are not on the battlefield to help in whatever way they can and said his own task was working to increase international pressure on Russia. “The absolute priority is weapons and ammunition for Ukraine.”

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KRAMATORSK, Ukraine – Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko says three civilians in the region died in Russian attacks on Monday. He did not give further details.

Earlier Monday, Kyrylenko told The Associated Press in Kramatorsk that heavy fighting was continuing near the region of Luhansk and that the front line was under continuous shelling.

Luhansk and Donetsk regions are in the Donbas area, much of which has been held by Russia-backed separatists since 2014. Russia is trying to expand the territory they control with artillery and missile attacks.

Kramatorsk and neighboring Sloviansk are the largest cities in the parts of Donetsk region not held by Russian forces currently.

Kyrylenko said that the “situation is difficult. The front line is under shelling at all times.”

The vast majority of the population has already been evacuated, he said. Of more than 1.6 million people who lived in the region before the Feb. 24 Russian invasion, there are “not more than 320,000 people” left.

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UNITED NATIONS — Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that U.N. staff on the ground remain concerned about the impact on civilians by the reported fierce fighting in eastern Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv regions.

He said people are being killed or injured. Homes, civilian infrastructure and residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed.

In the government-controlled part of Luhansk, local authorities informed the U.N. that a bridge leading to the administrative center of the region – Sievierodonetsk – was destroyed on May 21. He said that left the partially encircled city reachable by only one road.

While some people managed to leave Sievierodonetsk over the weekend, Dujarric said local authorities estimate that thousands of civilians remain in the war-affected city and require urgent support. U.N. humanitarian staff also said that shelling and airstrikes were reported in other areas of Ukraine, including in northern, central and southern parts, claiming civilian lives and damaging civilian infrastructure.

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KRAMATORSK, Ukraine – A Ukrainian official says Russian forces are stepping up their bombardment of the Donbas area.

Pavlo Kyrylenko told The Associated Press on Monday in Kramatorsk that heavy fighting was continuing near the region of Luhansk and that the front line was under continuous shelling.

Kramatorsk and neighboring Sloviansk are the largest cities in the parts of Donetsk region not held by Russian forces currently. The Donbas consists of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Kyrylenko told The Associated Press in Kramatorsk that the “situation is difficult. The front line is under shelling at all times.”

The vast majority of the population has already been evacuated, he said. Of more than 1.6 million people who lived in the region before the Feb. 24 Russian invasion, there are “not more than 320,000 people” left.

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BERLIN — Germany’s banks say refugees from Ukraine will be allowed to exchange a limited amount of Ukrainian currency into euros from Tuesday.

In a statement Monday, the banks said they had signed an agreement with the German Finance Ministry and the national banks of Germany and Ukraine to allow a total of 1.5 billion hryvnia ($50.8 million) to be converted.

Every adult Ukrainian refugee with an account at a major German bank will be allowed to exchange up to 10,000 hryvnia, or about 317 euros ($339).

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DAVOS, Switzerland — A veteran Russian diplomat in Geneva says he handed in his resignation before sending out a scathing letter to foreign colleagues inveighing against the “aggressive war unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.

Boris Bondarev, 41, confirmed his resignation in a letter Monday after a diplomatic official passed on his English-language statement to The Associated Press.

“For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24 of this year,” he wrote, alluding to the date of Russia’s invasion.

Reached by phone, Bondarev – a diplomatic counselor who has focused on Russia’s role in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva after postings in places like Cambodia and Mongolia – confirmed he handed in his resignation in a letter addressed to Amb. Gennady Gatilov.

“Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy. It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred,” he said, telling the AP that he had no plans to leave Geneva.

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MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin says Russian economy is “withstanding the blow” of international sanctions well, even though it “is not easy.”

Putin on Monday hosted his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“The Russian economy withstands the sanctions blow, it withstands it very worthily,” Putin said, opening the talks. “All the main macroeconomic indicators speak of this.”

At the same time, the Russian leader noted that “everything is not easy, everything that happens requires special attention and special efforts from the economic bloc of the government.”

Putin has repeatedly assured the public that Russia is coping well under the pressure, which many experts describe as unprecedented. However, the ruble has briefly lost half its value at some point, prices for food and other goods spiked and even temporary shortages of sugar, sanitary products and some medications were reported.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country has objected to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, called on Stockholm on Monday to take “concrete steps” that would alleviate Turkey’s security concerns.

Turkey has said it opposes the two Nordic states membership in the alliance citing their alleged support to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK and other groups that Turkey views as terrorists. The country is also demanding a lifting of military export bans on Ankara.

“We can in no way ignore the fact that Sweden is imposing sanctions against us,” Erdogan said Monday during a ceremony marking the docking of a submarine. “Turkey’s rightful expectations concerning (an end to the) support to terrorism and sanctions must be met.”

In his speech, Erdogan made no reference to Finland amid reports that most of Turkey’s grievances are directed at Sweden, which has a large community of Kurdish exiles.

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A Russia-installed governor of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region says that starting Monday, the region will officially become an area with dual currency — Russian rubles and Ukrainian hryvnyas.

Vladimir Saldo also said that an office of a Russian bank will open in the region, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

The Russian forces have took control over the Kherson region, which borders the Donetsk region to the east and Crimea to the south, early on in the war and installed a pro-Kremlin administration there. One official in this administration has announced plans to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate the region into Russia.

Putin has previously said that Russia doesn’t plan to occupy Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the residents of Ukrainian regions must “determine how and with whom they want to live.”

KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian court sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison on Monday for killing a Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crimes trial held since Russia’s invasion.

Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin was accused of shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the early days of the war.

He pleaded guilty and testified that he shot the man after being ordered to do so. He told the court that an officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his cellphone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.

KYIV, Ukraine — A Mariupol official on Monday sounded the alarm about the growing threat of an epidemic in the ravaged port city captured by the Russians, pointing to unsanitary conditions compounded by the weather.

Mayor advisor Petro Andryushchenko said on Telegram that rain drains and sewers make rainwater spread across the city “along with rotting garbage and corpse poison.”

“The threat of an epidemic becomes a reality with each thunderstorm,” Andryushchenko wrote, adding that the Russian forces in the city “continue to ignore sanitary challenges and are only engaged arranging ‘good photos’ depicting fictional ‘life improvements’.”

The official said that Mariupol “desperately needs a new wave of evacuations.”

The head of the Russia-backed separatist region in eastern Ukraine says that Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol who were captured by Russian forces are being held in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and will face “international tribunal” there.

“The plan is to arrange the international tribunal on the territory of the republic as well,” Denis Pushilin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. Pushilin added that “at the moment the charter for the tribunal is being worked out.”

Pushilin said earlier that 2,439 people from Azovstal were in custody, including some foreign citizens, though he did not provide details.

Family members of the steel mill fighters, who came from a variety of military and law enforcement units, have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine.

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MOSCOW — The Russian military on Monday released footage of de-mining specialists working at the recently overtaken Azostal steel mill in the captured port city of Mariupol.

Russia’s Defense Ministry was quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency as saying that over the past two days, more than 100 explosives have been destroyed.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces overnight shelled the Dnipropetrovsk region in southeastern Ukraine, its governor Valentyn Reznichenko said Monday morning.

The Dnipropetrovsk region borders with the Donetsk region, which remains the focus of the Russian offensive in the east.

According to Reznichenko, the Russians used the Uragan or “Hurricane” multiple-rocket launch system and the shelling hit “between the two settlements.” No one was hurt, he added.

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LONDON — British military officials say Russian forces in Ukraine have experienced a death rate similar to that suffered by the Soviet Union during its nine-year war in Afghanistan.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense, in a briefing posted Monday morning, says the high casualty rate during the first three months of the war is due to poor tactics, limited air cover, a lack of flexibility and a command approach that reinforces failure and repeats mistakes.

The ministry says the death toll may weaken support for the war among the Russian public, who have been sensitive to losses in past wars.

“As casualties suffered in Ukraine continue to rise they will become more apparent, and public dissatisfaction with the war and a willingness to voice it, may grow,” the ministry said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Live updates | Russia accused of spreading disinformation