AS IT HAPPENED

UN chief 'deeply concerned' about risks of global hunger due to war in Ukraine

A local farm worker unloads Ukrainian-made fertiliser from a truck to use on a wheat field near the village of Yakovlivka after it was hit by an aerial bombardment outside Kharkiv, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, April 5, 2022.
A local farm worker unloads Ukrainian-made fertiliser from a truck to use on a wheat field near the village of Yakovlivka after it was hit by an aerial bombardment outside Kharkiv, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, April 5, 2022. © Thomas Peter, REUTERS

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Wednesday he was "deeply concerned" about the prospect of global food shortages stemming from the war in Ukraine, calling the current food security situation "dramatic". Ukraine said its forces were gradually pushing Russian troops away from the city of Kharkiv, the country's second-largest, signalling a possible shift in the war's momentum. Thank you for joining us during this live coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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We’ll be closing this blog for tonight, but coverage continues. Head over to our new live page for the latest updates: 

5:07am: Russia 'most direct threat to world order', says EU's von der Leyen

Russia is the "most direct threat" to the international order because of its invasion of Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday in Tokyo.

"That brings me to Russia. It is today the most direct threat to the world order with the barbaric war against Ukraine, and its worrying pact with China," she said after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida along with European Council President Charles Michel.

2:50am: NATO to welcome Nordic members as Ukraine pushes back Russian forces

Finland is expected to announce on Thursday its intention to join NATO with Sweden likely to follow soon after, diplomats and officials said, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine reshapes European security and the Atlantic military alliance.

NATO allies expect Finland and Sweden to be granted membership quickly, five diplomats and officials told Reuters, paving the way for increased troop presence in the Nordic region during the one-year ratification period. 

In the wider Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic states are already NATO members, and the addition of Finland and Sweden would likely anger Moscow, which says NATO enlargement is a direct threat to its own security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited the issue as a reason for his actions in Ukraine, which has also expressed a desire to eventually join the alliance.

1:00am: Pro-Moscow leaders of occupied region seek to join Russia

The Russian-occupied region of Kherson in Ukraine plans to ask President Vladimir Putin to incorporate it into Russia by the end of 2022, Russia's TASS news agency reported on Wednesday, quoting the military-civilian administration there.

Kherson is the first region set to be annexed since Moscow began its military campaign in February saying it needed to disarm Ukraine and protect its Russian-speakers from "fascists". That rationale has been dismissed by Ukraine and the West as a baseless pretext for an imperialist war of aggression.

The Kremlin said it was up to residents living in the region to decide whether they wanted to join Russia.

But Hennadiy Lahuta, the ousted Ukrainian governor of the Kherson region, told reporters in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro that the population wanted only "a speedy liberation and return to the bosom of their homeland, their mother – Ukraine".

9:07pm: US ambassador to Russia met with Russian officials on narrow range of issues says State Department

US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan met with Russian officials on Wednesday to discuss a narrow range of issues in the bilateral relationship, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

"Ambassador Sullivan is discussing issues in the bilateral relationship with his Russian counterparts. These tend to be quite narrow. In many cases, these tend to be centered on the functioning of our embassy," Price told a daily news briefing.

9:03pm: Germany says it is assessing Russian announcement on Gazprom Germania sanctions

Germany is examining an announcement from Russia that it is imposing sanctions on parts of Gazprom Germania, a spokesperson for the Economy Ministry said on Wednesday, adding that it has no details.

"The German government and Federal Network Agency, as trustees of Gazprom Germania, are already in the process of taking the necessary precautions and preparing for various scenarios," the spokesperson said in a statement.

9:00pm: More than 560 Ukraine National Guard soldiers killed in war, says Kyiv

More than 560 soldiers from Ukraine's National Guard, a force which includes the Azov regiment currently holed up in Mariupol's steelworks, have been killed since the war with Russia began, its leader said Wednesday. Besides the 561 dead, an additional 1,697 troops had been wounded since the invasion began on February 24, National Guard chief Oleksiy Nadtochy said in an online briefing.

Wednesday's statement marked a rare move as both Ukrainian and Russian officials have been tight-lipped about their losses in the war.

8:08pm: Ukraine proposes swapping injured Azovstal defenders for Russia prisoners

Ukraine has proposed to Russia that badly injured defenders in the Azovstal plant in the port of Mariupol be swapped for Russian prisoners of war, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Wednesday.

"There is no agreement yet. Negotiations are continuing," she said in an online post.

8:00pm: Ukraine's Zelenskiy says he spoke to Scholz, discussed more Russia sanctions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday said he had spoken to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and discussed defensive aid, energy sector cooperation and increasing sanctions on Russia.

"We appreciate the high level of dialogue with Germany and support in our struggle!" he said in a tweet.

7:45pm: Russia's economy to start stabilising in 'new equilibrium' near year's end says central bank

Russia's economy will begin stabilising in its "new equilibrium" closer to the end of this year after beginning to go through a structural transformation in the second and third quarters, the central bank said in a report on Wednesday.

"Although monetary policy conditions have changed significantly, price stability remains the unconditional priority of the Bank of Russia's monetary policy," the bank said. It said the ruble would stay floating and was assuming that the country's fiscal rule would remain unchanged.

7:39pm: Russian village bordering Ukraine shelled, one injured says governor

One person died and three more were injured in southwestern Russia as a result of shelling from Ukraine, the governor of Belgorod said on Wednesday. "As of now, one person lost his life, he died in an ambulance, and there are three wounded," the governor of the southwestern region of Belgorod, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on messaging app Telegram.

7:32pm: Pro-Russian hackers target Italy defence ministry, senate websites

Pro-Russian hackers have attacked the websites of several Italian institution, including the defence ministry and the senate, ANSA news agency reported on Wednesday. The hacker group "Killnet" claimed the attack, ANSA said, which also involved the National Health Institute (ISS) and the Automobile Club d'Italia, a national drivers' association.

The websites were offline at 7.00 p.m. (1700 GMT). The defence ministry website displayed a message saying it was under maintenance. Police said an investigation was ongoing, but made no further comment. The defence ministry and the Italian cyber security agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

7:12pm: Finland's President tells Putin to look in the mirror

Finnish president Sauli Niinisto said on Wednesday that it "would not be against anyone", if the Nordic country joined NATO, despite Russia warning against membership. "Joining NATO would not be against anyone. It is not a zero-sum game", the president said at the signing of a political declaration of mutual assistance with the UK prime minister Boris Johnson.

He also added that Russian President Vladimir Putin should look in the mirror if Finland decides to join NATO to increase its own security.

7:07pm: Russia sanctions Gazprom Germania units and owner of Polish part of Yamal –Europe pipeline

Russia has imposed sanctions against units of Gazprom Germania, in which its gas producer Gazprom ceded ownership, and also against EuRoPol GAZ SA, owner of the Polish part of the Yamal–Europe gas pipeline. The list of sanctioned entities published by the Russian government on its website on Wednesday includes 31 companies.

It does not spell out the nature of the sanctions to be imposed. Under a decree issued by President Vladimir Putin, no Russian entity is allowed to make deals with the entities under sanctions, or fulfil its obligations under existing deals.

7:00pm: Separatists in Donetsk celebrate eighth anniversary of self-proclaimed independence

Separatists in Donetsk on Wednesday celebrated the eighth anniversary of self-proclaimed independence from Ukraine. Constitution square in the city center was renamed after a Russian officer who was among the first Russian servicemen killed in the special military operation.

The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, and Engels Gadzhimagomedov, the father of the killed officer, installed a new street sign. Local residents who support the pro-Russian separatists came to lay flowers. "The Day of Donetsk People’s Republic” was celebrated without the usual mass events this year due to security reasons.

Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas since 2014. Ahead of its Feb. 24 invasion, Moscow recognized the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as independent states.

6:08pm: Putin does not want to take on NATO says Pentagon chief

The United States does not believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to militarily take on the NATO  alliance, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday, as Moscow struggles to achieve its goals in Ukraine three months into its invasion.

"As you look at Putin's calculus, my view - and I'm sure the chairman has his own view - but my view is that Russia doesn't want to take on the NATO alliance," Austin said during a congressional hearing.

5:42pm: Russia's foreign currency reserves decline as sanctions bite

Russia's foreign currency reserves have declined from a record high before the start of the Ukraine military operation as Moscow grapples with sanctions, the Central Bank figures showed Wednesday.  The reserves – about half of which are frozen abroad – fell by $14 billion in a week to $593.1 billion on April 29, according to the data.

Western sanctions imposed after the start of the military conflict in Ukraine delivered a major blow to Moscow by blocking around $300 billion of foreign currency reserves it held overseas. These overall reserves, which totalled $643.2 billion on February 18, were built up over years on the back of oil and gas revenues and seen as a key buffer for the Kremlin to weather any international isolation.

Moscow has so far found other solutions to prop up its currency and pay its international debts. Faced with the collapse of the rouble in the first weeks of the conflict, the authorities asked major exporting companies to convert a large part of their foreign currency into roubles to help bolster it. But Moscow could find itself in deeper trouble if the decline in its foreign currency stash continues, with some in the West mooting handing over the frozen funds to Kyiv.

5:41pm: Italy's Draghi sees little risk of gas disruption over Russian rouble demand

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday he was confident Moscow's demand that European buyers pay for Russian gas in roubles will not lead to a disruption of supplies.

The European Commission has warned that complying with Russia's scheme might breach EU sanctions, but Draghi said it was a "grey zone" with no official ruling on the matter. "As a matter of fact, most of the gas importers have already opened their accounts in roubles with Gazprom," Draghi told reporters during a visit to the United States.

5:32pm: Berlin 'open' to seizing Russian central bank assets for Ukraine

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said Wednesday he was "open" to a discussion about confiscating assets from Russia's sanctions-hit central bank to help pay for Ukraine's reconstruction. But he said seizing the private assets of Russian individuals or companies would be more complex because of different legal considerations.

"That would be expropriation, in that case we are dealing with legal norms that can't just be ignored politically," Lindner said. "Even non-German citizens are protected by our legal system."

5:28pm: US and Russia need to talk, seek way out of Ukraine conflict says Draghi

The United States and Russia need to talk to each other to try to put an end to the fighting in Ukraine, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, a day after meeting US President Joe Biden. Draghi told a news conference that he and Biden recognised that the road to peace was very complicated, but said that everyone needed to make an effort to help Russia and Ukraine find an end to the conflict.

"There are so many possibilities, but before we even get to that point, there is an effort that needs to be made and it is an effort that all allies, particularly Russia and the United States, need to make to sit down at a table," Draghi said.

5:02pm: Ukraine gas chiefs blame Russia for reduction in Russian gas flows to Europe

Ukraine's top gas officials said Russia was fully responsible for the reduction in Russian gas flows to Europe via Ukraine on Wednesday. The head of the state gas transit operator told a news briefing that Ukraine had never been the cause of a transit stoppage and blamed the reduction in gas flows on Russian forces occupying parts of Ukraine.

4:57pm: WHO's European countries say Moscow office should be moved

Members of the World Health Organization’s European region have condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine, which could result in moving one of the agency’s offices out of Russia and suspending all meetings there until Moscow pulls its troops out of Ukraine. In a statement after a resolution passed on Tuesday, countries in the WHO’s European region said they were “highly concerned” over the situation in Ukraine that was “triggered by the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.” More than 40 countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK, voted in favor of the statement, while Russia, Belarus and Tajikistan voted against it.

The resolution said the WHO should do “whatever is possible to support the government in Ukraine” and to consider the possible relocation of the United Nations health agency's Moscow-based European Office for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases to another country. It also asked the WHO’s European director to consider temporarily suspending all meetings in Russia until the country withdraws its military forces from Ukraine.

4:32pm: Russian deputy foreign minister meets US ambassador in Moscow

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Washington's ambassador, John Sullivan, met in Moscow on Wednesday. The US Embassy said that "the United States remains committed to open channels of communication with the Russian government, both to advance US interests and to reduce the risk of miscalculation between our countries".

Russia's foreign ministry issued a short statement with no details of the conversation. Relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to their lowest level since the Cold War after Moscow sent its armed forces into Ukraine.

4:25pm: Russian spy boss compares US to German Nazi propaganda machine

A Russian spy chief on Wednesday compared the US State Department to the World War Two Nazi propaganda machine constructed by Joseph Goebbels, saying Washington had launched an anti-Russia messaging campaign across social media.

Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia's foreign intelligence agency (SVR), said the United States was encouraging the spreading of fake information on the popular Telegram messaging service in an attempt to "discredit" and "dehumanise Russia's political and military leadership in the eyes of the Russian people".

4:24pm: Pro-Russia authorities in Ukraine's Kherson say will seek annexation

The Moscow-installed authorities in Ukraine's southern Kherson region said Wednesday they plan to appeal to President Vladimir Putin for the region to become part of Russia. Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the start of their military operation in Ukraine on February 24. Moscow gained full control of the region in late April. 

"There will be a request to make Kherson region a full subject of the Russian Federation," said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the civilian and military administration, Russian news agencies reported. Kherson will be fully governed by Russian law "by the end of the year", he added.

4:20pm: Fighting in Luhansk behind drop in Russian gas flow, says German Economy Minister

A drop in the volume of Russian gas arriving to Germany from a key transit point in Ukraine resulted from fighting in the Luhansk region and was not because Russia had reduced supplies, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday.

"Gas deliveries to Germany are stable," Habeck said during a news conference in Berlin. "We see no reason to raise the alert level". Germany had in March triggered the early for gas supplies, setting up a crisis team to monitor imports. It was the first step of a three-step emergency plan.

4:16pm: World Bank says Ukraine war slowing global remittances growth

The war in Ukraine will help slow the growth of officially recorded remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries to an estimated 4.2% this year from a strong 8.6% rebound in 2021, the World Bank said on Wednesday.

The World Bank said in its latest Migration and Development Brief that it expects remittances to Ukraine, the largest recipient in Europe and Central Asia, to rise by over 20% in 2022, but remittance flows to many Central Asian countries, will likely fall dramatically. Russia, hit with crippling sanctions by Western countries over its invasion of Ukraine, is the main source of remittances to Central Asia.

4:11pm: Ukraine will feel aftermath of Russia war 'for 100 years', Scholz says

Ukraine can expect to feel the aftermath of Russia's war "for 100 years" because of unexploded ordnance littering cities, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday, adding that allies would help the country rebuild.

"Those who live in Germany know that bombs from World War II are still frequently discovered," Scholz told reporters. "Ukraine should brace itself to battle with the consequences of this war for 100 years. That is why we will also have to work together on the reconstruction."

4:01pm: Ukraine appeals over worsening conditions in 'medieval ghetto' Mariupol 

Ukrainian officials issued dire warnings on Wednesday about the fate of civilians and the last fighters in Mariupol after weeks of Russian bombardment which the city's mayor said had turned it into a "medieval ghetto".

Human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova appealed to the United Nations and Red Cross to help evacuate wounded fighters holed up in the southern city's vast steel works, saying the destruction of a makeshift hospital there meant many were dying.

3:33pm: Germany says it detected a 25% drop in gas deliveries by one of the main pipelines via Ukraine detected

The volume of Russian gas flowing to Germany through one of the main pipelines crossing Ukraine has fallen by 25% since Tuesday, the German government's energy agency said on Wednesday.

"Due to the reduction in transit, gas volumes to Germany via Ukraine (through the Megal pipeline) have decreased by 25% compared to Tuesday," the agency said on its website, but said that "these volumes are currently being offset by larger flows, notably from Norway and the Netherlands".

3:31pm: UN chief 'deeply concerned' about risks of global hunger due to war in Ukraine 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he was deeply concerned about hunger becoming widespread in different parts of the world due to food shortages in the wake of the war in Ukraine. Speaking alongside Austria's chancellor and foreign minister in Vienna, Guterres also said talks were ongoing to evacuate more civilians from conflict zones in Ukraine.

"I have to say that I am deeply concerned, namely with the risks of hunger becoming widespread in different parts of the world because of the dramatic food security situation we are facing because of the war in Ukraine," he said.

3:15pm: UK and Sweden say relations with Putin can never be normalised

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Swedish counterpart said that relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin can never be normalised following the invasion of Ukraine. Johnson met Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to discuss topics including security in Europe.

"The leaders agreed that the aftershocks of Putin's abhorrent invasion of Ukraine had fundamentally changed international security architecture," a spokesperson for Johnson said after the meeting. "They underlined that relations with Putin could never be normalised."

2:25pm: Russia does not plan to close its Warsaw embassy after incident

Russia is not considering closing its embassy in Warsaw, embassy representatives told Reuters, after the country's ambassador to Poland was doused in a red substance on Monday by people protesting against the war in Ukraine.

"The closing of the Russian Embassy in Warsaw is not being considered, unless the Polish authorities make its functioning impossible," the embassy said in an e-mailed statement.

2:17pm: US and Polish ambassadors arrive at Russian foreign ministry 

The US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, has arrived at Russia's foreign ministry along with Polish ambassador Krzysztof Krajewski, RIA news agency reported.

Krajewski had been summoned to the foreign ministry after protesters poured red liquid over Russia's envoy to Poland at a wreath-laying ceremony in Warsaw on Monday, Poland's PAP news agency reported.

2:16pm: Finnish PM says joining NATO will strengthen security

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said her country is considering joining NATO for the security of its citizens. On a visit to Japan, she also called on the international community to unite in stepping up sanctions against Russia.

“If Finland makes this historical step it is for the security of our own citizens," Marin told a news conference after holding talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “Joining NATO will strengthen the whole international community that stands for common values.” 

Marin said she and Kishida discussed “Russia's horrible aggression against Ukraine and its consequences.” She said that sanctions against Moscow need to cover energy, finance and transport sectors “more broadly than now.”

2:15pm: Sweden inks mutual defence deal with UK ahead of NATO decision

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson on Wednesday announced a mutual defence agreement in case of an attack, as Sweden considers whether to join NATO.

"If Sweden were attacked and looked to us for support then we would provide it," Johnson told reporters at a joint press conference in Sweden.

1:55pm: Sovereign states must be free to make difficult decisions, UK's Johnson says in Sweden

Sovereign states must be free to make difficult decisions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said during a visit to Sweden, aimed at inking a new defence and security agreement.

"The war in Ukraine is forcing us all to make difficult decisions, but sovereign nations must be free to make those decisions without fear or influence or threat of retaliation," Johnson said.

1:48pm: Gazprom says Ukraine left only one entry point for Russian gas into Europe

Russian energy giant Gazprom says that Ukraine has left only one entry point for transiting Russian gas to Europe and that this is undermining the security of gas supplies, RIA news agency reports.

Russian gas flows to Europe via Ukraine fell by a quarter on Wednesday after Kyiv halted the use of a major transit route.

1:38pm: Zelensky addresses students at Paris university via videolink

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to French University Sciences Po, said he wanted to restore the country's territory before an end of the war with Russia could be envisioned.

"Once we recoup all that is ours, we will finish this", Zelensky told students via videolink, adding that he was still willing to dialogue with Moscow.

Zelensky said the war would have been prevented if his country had been allowed to join NATO beforehand.

"If Ukraine had been part of NATO before the war, there would have been no war", he said.

His Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said the risk of seeing Ukraine become a member of NATO warranted the invasion that started more than two months ago.

1:31pm: US warns of possible Russian objective to expand Ukraine invasion to Moldova

US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said Tuesday that Putin will not end the war with the Donbas campaign and is determined to build a land bridge to Russian-controlled territory in Moldova.

The threat from Russia has been acknowledged by Moldovan authorities. "Our concern right now, and the biggest threat that we here in Home Affairs are considering, is the threat of destabilisation of internal order," said Moldovan Minister of Internal Affaris, Ana Revenco.

Russia has denied claims that it may target the country.

1:01pm: Nearly a third of jobs lost in Ukraine since invasion, says UN

Thirty percent of jobs in Ukraine – 4.8 million in total – have been lost since the Russian invasion, the United Nations has said, with the outlook even worse if the war drags on. 

"Economic disruptions, combined with heavy internal displacement and flows of refugees, are causing large-scale losses in terms of employment and incomes," the UN's International Labour Organization said.

12:52pm: Authorities in Ukraine's Kherson plan appeal to become part of Russia

The Moscow-installed authorities in Ukraine's southern Kherson region said Wednesday they plan to appeal to President Vladimir Putin for the region to become part of Russia. 

Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the start of their military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

"There will be a request to make Kherson region a full subject of the Russian Federation," said Kirill Stremousov, an official in the Moscow-controlled region, Russian news agencies reported.

He added that "by the end of the year" Kherson will be fully governed by Russian law.  

The Kherson region is located just north of Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and is essential for supplying the peninsula with water for drinking and irrigation. 

Ukrainian police take down the details of civilians arriving from Russian-held areas.
Ukrainian police take down the details of civilians arriving from Russian-held areas. © FRANCE 24 screengrab

 

 

11:47am: Russia has enough buyers for energy resources without Western countries, says Russian foreign minister

Russia has enough buyers for its energy resources outside of Western countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday, as European Union countries try to sharply reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas.

"Let the West pay more than it used to pay to the Russian Federation, and let it explain to its population why they should become poorer," Lavrov said at a news conference in Muscat after talks with his Omani counterpart.

The Russian foreign minister also said that Moscow did not want war in Europe, but that Western countries were keen to see Russia defeated in its military campaign in Ukraine.

"If you are worried about the prospect of war in Europe - we do not want that at all," Lavrov said at the news conference.

"But I draw your attention to the fact that it is the West that is constantly and persistently saying that in this situation, it is necessary to defeat Russia. Draw your own conclusions."

11:20am: Pussy Riot member escapes Russia desguised as delivery worker

Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina has left Russia, she said in an interview, after disguising herself as a food delivery courier to escape police. 

Alyokhina joins thousands of Russians that have fled their country since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24. 

In September, Alyokhina was sentenced to one year restricted movement while protesting in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, but in April authorities moved to convert her sentence into real jail time. 

In an interview with the New York Times late on Tuesday, Alyokhina, 33, described how she dressed up as a food courier to avoid the Moscow police that were staking her out and left her cellphone behind so she couldn't be tracked.

Then a friend drove her to the border with neighbouring Belarus and a week later she managed to cross into EU member Lithuania after several attempts, according to the interview. 

"I was happy that I made it, because it was an unpredictable and big 'kiss-off' to the Russian authorities," she told the NYT.

Her partner and fellow Pussy Riot member Lusya Shtein posted a photo of Alyokhina on Twitter, dressed in a green Delivery Club uniform and wearing a food delivery backpack. 

Shtein tweeted that Alyokhina "did not flee Russia, she has gone on tour" to raise money for Ukraine that will start with a concert in Berlin on May 12.

Shtein was also sentenced to restricted movement over Navalny protests but in April she fled Russia, posting a video of herself cutting off a police anklet monitor. 

A veteran member of the Pussy Riot feminist group, Alyokhina spent two years in prison for taking part in the group's 2012 protest performance in neon balaclavas inside Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

10:42am: Ukrainian gas line supplying a third of Europe's gas from Russia to be turned off 

Ukraine says it has been forced to cut off gas supply at the Novopskov compressor station in eastern Ukraine as it can no longer ensure safety at the facility. Throughout the war in Ukraine the station has continued to run as normal, providing Europe with almost a third of its gas supply from Russia.

The gas flow will stop at 17:00 local time on Wednesday, Ukraine's national gas supplier said.

9:12am: US says no end in sight for war in Ukraine as Zelensky warns against 'excessive emotions'

The US has warned that there is no end in sight for the conflict in Ukraine, even as Russian forces have been pushed back from the city of Kharkiv. 

"The next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory," said US Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, on Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the Ukrainian success in Kharkiv but also warned against "excessive emotions" in a video address on Tuesday evening.

"We should not create an atmosphere of excessive moral pressure, where victories are expected weekly and even daily," Zelensky said.

7:17am: Russian gas transit to Europe via key Ukraine route falls to zero

Nominations for Russian gas transit via Ukraine at the Sokhranovka entry point for May 11 declined to zero, data from Ukraine's gas pipeline operator showed on Wednesday, following Kyiv's warning of shutting down supplies through the route.

Ukraine said on Tuesday it would suspend the flow of gas through the transit point which it said delivers almost a third of the fuel piped from Russia to Europe through Ukraine, blaming Moscow for the move and saying it would move the flows elsewhere.

The data also showed that requests for Russian gas transit to Europe via Ukraine at the Sudzha entry point stood at almost 72 million cubic metres for Wednesday.

6:56am: Russian troops pushed away from Kharkiv, says Zelensky

Russian troops are being pushed away from Ukraine's second city Kharkiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday.

The president said he had "good news" from the northeastern Kharkiv region.

"The occupiers are gradually being pushed away," he said. "I am grateful to all our defenders who are holding the line and demonstrating truly superhuman strength to drive out the army of invaders."

The head of the Kharkiv regional state administration Oleg Synegubov said on Telegram that "fierce battles" were ongoing in the region, and that the city itself was under heavy fire.

"Due to successful offensive operations, our defenders liberated Cherkasy Tyshky, Rusky Tyshky, Rubizhne and Bayrak from the invaders," he said.

"Thus, the enemy was driven even further from Kharkiv, and the occupiers had even less opportunity to fire on the regional centre."

5:32am: War in Ukraine revives France-Spain gas pipeline project

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Madrid has revived calls to build a huge gas pipeline between Spain and France dubbed MidCat that would boost Europe's energy independence from Russia.

Initially launched in 2003, the 190-kilometre (120-mile) Midi-Catalonia (MidCat) pipeline would pump gas across the Pyrenees from Hostalric just north of Barcelona to Barbaira in southern France.

Its aim was to transport gas from Algeria through Spain to the rest of the European Union. There are currently only two small gas pipelines linking Spain and France.

But following several years of work, the project was abandoned in 2019 after energy regulators from both countries rejected it amid questions over its environmental impact and profitability.

4:18am: US House approves $40 billion Ukraine aid

US lawmakers voted Tuesday to send a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, as Washington warned that Russia was likely girding for a long conflict with its neighbor.

The defence, humanitarian and economic funding passed the House of Representatives by 368 votes to 57, with the two parties' leaders having already reached an agreement on the details. It will likely pass the Senate by the end of the week or next week.

All the dissenting votes came from the Republican ranks.

"With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine until victory is won," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues ahead of the vote.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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