BUCHA, UKRAINE - APRIL 12: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) The forensic team exhume the bodies of a mother and two children buried near the mass grave by the church on April 12, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. The Russian retreat from Ukrainian towns and cities has revealed scores of civilian deaths and the full extent of devastation from Russia's attempt to dominate the country. (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The presidents of four countries on Russia’s doorstep are visiting Ukraine in a show of support for the embattled country. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia all worry they may face Russian attack in the future if Ukraine falls. The trip Wednesday by the countries’ presidents comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to continue his bloody offensive until its “full completion.” Russia invaded on Feb. 24. According to Western officials, its goal was to take taking Kyiv and topple the government. In the seven weeks since, the ground advance stalled and Russian forces lost potentially thousands of fighters. The war has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee, rattled the world economy and shattered Europe’s post-Cold War balance.

___

LONDON — The Channel Island of Jersey says it is freezing assets connected to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich estimated to be worth over $7 billion.
The Law Offices Department of Jersey, a tax haven long known for drawing large amounts of foreign direct investment, said Wednesday that the assets being targeted were either located in Jersey, or owned by Jersey-incorporated entities.
It said that police also executed a search warrant Tuesday at addresses suspected to be connected to Abramovich’s business activities. It didn’t provide details.
Abramovich, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been sanctioned by the U.K. government and the European Union. The 55-year-old tycoon has assumed an unofficial role in the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia aimed at ending the war.
___
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukraine probes claim poisonous substance dropped in Mariupol
— A look at Russia’s military objectives and challenges it faces
— ‘It’s not the end’: The children who survived Bucha’s horror
— Russian war worsens fertilizer crunch, risking food supplies
— Czechs provide free shooting training for local Ukrainians
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
___
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:
KYIV, Ukraine — The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia traveled by train to Kyiv on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The presidents of the four NATO countries on Russia’s doorstep planned to deliver “a strong message of political support and military assistance,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.
Nauseda, Estonian President Alar Karis, Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Egils Levits of Latvia also planned to discuss investigations into alleged Russian war crimes, including the massacre of civilians. Nauseda said the leaders had visited Borodyanka, one of the towns near Kyiv where evidence of atrocities has been found.
“This is where the dark side of humankind has shown its face,” he wrote on Twitter. “Brutal war crimes committed by the Russian army will not stay unpunished.”
____
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has reopened its embassy in the Ukrainian capital that was closed after Russian troops invaded the country.
The Foreign Ministry said the diplomats have returned to Kyiv and the Czech flag is flying again at the embassy.
It said Wednesday’s move is “one of the steps to show our support for Ukraine.”
____
BERLIN — Experts commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say they found “clear patterns” of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in Ukraine.
OSCE member countries authorized a study in early March, and the three professors chosen to conduct it — Wolfgang Benedek, Veronika Bílková and Marco Sassòli — were selected by Ukraine.
Their report, issued Wednesday, said that if the Russian forces had respected their obligations “in terms of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack and concerning specially protected objects such as hospitals, the number of civilians killed or injured would have remained much lower.”
The experts found “some violations and problems” in Ukrainian practices, voicing concern about the treatment of prisoners of war.
The report said Russia responded by saying it considered the mechanism under which the experts were appointed “largely outdated and redundant” and declined to appoint a liaison person, referring them to official government statements and briefings.
____
LONDON — Britain has announced a new round of sanctions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, targeting 178 individuals who have helped prop up Kremlin-backed breakaway regions in the eastern part of the country.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Wednesday that the sanctions were coordinated with the European Union. The move comes after rocket attacks that targeted civilians in eastern Ukraine.
Those sanctioned include Alexander Ananchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and Sergey Kozlov, the chair of government in the Luhansk People’s Republic. Also targeted are Pavel Ezubov, cousin of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, and Nigina Zairova, executive assistant to Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman.
Truss says Britain is sanctioning “those who prop up the illegal breakaway regions and are complicit in atrocities against the Ukrainian people. We will continue to target all those who aid and abet Putin’s war.”
____
BERLIN — The German government is defending the country’s president after a diplomatic snub by Ukraine.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the largely ceremonial head of state, said Tuesday that his presence apparently “wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.” He said his Polish counterpart had suggested that they both travel to Ukraine along with the presidents of the three Baltic countries.
German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat as saying that Steinmeier is not welcome in Kyiv at the moment because he had close relations with Russia in the past. Steinmeier was previously Germany’s foreign minister and recently admitted mistakes in policy toward Russia.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Wednesday she regrets that Steinmeier was unable to visit.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany said Chancellor Olaf Scholz would be welcome, but some German lawmakers said the snub to Steinmeier would complicate that.
Government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner defended Steinmeier, saying that he “has clearly taken a stand on Ukraine’s side.”
____
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Sweden said Wednesday that the Scandinavian country’s customs will donate 8,000 respiratory protection, 263 chemical and gas protection suits and 88 protective suits to Ukrainian colleagues as well as vests and helmets.
The Swedish government said that Swedish Customs has asked for consent to send the equipment to Ukraine.
___
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Latvia says it will train Ukrainian troops to handle drones.
“At the moment, we must do everything we can to promote Ukraine’s victory and to defend its principles of self-determination and sovereignty,” Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said.
He added that two Latvian companies had delivered unmanned aerial vehicles.
Latvia already has provided, among other supplies, Stinger anti-air systems to Ukraine but also weapons, personal equipment, dry food supplies, ammunition, anti-tank weapons, worth more than 200 million euros ($222 million), the defense minister said.
___
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ government spokesman says the country is moving to revoke citizenship for four Russians and 17 of their family members, who are included among those sanctioned by the European Union after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Marios Pelekanos confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that procedures are underway to strip citizenship from 21 persons. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had said earlier that the government had authorized the Interior Ministry to begin revocation procedures for the four Russians, who have not been named.
The four received Cypriot passports under the country’s once lucrative citizenship-by-investment program that was scrapped in 2020.
The program’s end came in the wake of an undercover TV report that allegedly showed the parliamentary speaker and a powerful lawmaker claiming that they could skirt rules to issue a passport to a fictitious Chinese investor who had supposedly been convicted of fraud at home.
A 2021 report found that more than half of a total 6,779 passports were issued unlawfully to relatives of wealthy investors over the program’s 13-year run that generated over 8 billion euros.
___
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has steered clear of calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine genocide.
Asked on France-2 television Wednesday about U.S. President Joe Biden’s use of the term, Macron said:
“I would say that Russia has unleashed an excessively brutal war in a unilateral way. It has been established that war crimes have been committed by the Russian army,” Macron said. “We must find those responsible and bring them to justice.”
“I am prudent with terms today….Genocide has a meaning. The Ukrainian people and Russian people are brotherly people. It’s madness what’s happening today. It’s unbelievable brutality and a return to war in Europe,” the French president said.
“But at the same time I look at the facts, and I want to continue to try the utmost to be able to stop the war and restore peace. I’m not sure if the escalation of words serves our cause.”
___
BUCHAREST, Romania __ Visiting a Black Sea air base in Romania, Belgian’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine and said that “Europe has changed forever.”
De Croo was joined by Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca on Wednesday at the southeast Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, where NATO troops are positioned.
The Belgian leader said that “armed aggression and war crimes were unleashed upon innocent people, innocent people of Ukraine.” The aggression, he said, was “aimed at denying the fact the the population has a right to choose freedom.”
He called Russia’s actions “a turning point for Europe — for it is a brutal attack on the core values of Europe,” he said.
President Iohannis said that NATO will continue its “robust response.”
“The fact that we are together in this military base is further proof of the unity, cohesion and solidarity that exists at NATO level,” Iohannis said. He told the troops they are the “concrete expression of our determination to further strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense posture in the Black Sea region.”
___
NEW YORK — JPMorgan Chase has written down $1.5 billion of assets when the bank reported its quarterly results, most of it tied to the bank’s exposure to Russian and Ukrainian assets.
The write offs on Wednesday partially drove JPMorgan to report a noticeable decline in profits in the first quarter, and to miss Wall Street estimates.
JPMorgan is the first of Wall Street’s big giant banks to report its results. Analysts expect the big banks to have to write off billions of assets that are tied to Russia .
___
Russia says more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered in the besieged southeastern port of Mariupol.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said 1,026 troops from the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade surrendered at a metals plant in the city.
Russian forces moved on Mariupol in late February and units in the city have been running low on supplies.
Konashenkov said that the 1,026 Ukrainian marines included 162 officers and 47 female personnel, and that 151 wounded received medical treatment.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych did not comment on the alleged mass surrender, but said in a post on Twitter that elements of the 36th Marine Brigade had managed to link up with other Ukrainian forces in the city as a result of a “risky maneuver.”
___
ROME — Pope Francis says his contention shortly after he became pontiff in 2013 that a third world war “in pieces” was afflicting the globe is ever more actual. Francis writes in an essay published on Wednesday in Italian daily Corriere della Sera that he would never a thought a year ago, while on a pilgrimage in Iraq, that war would be raging in Europe.
After decrying the aggression against Ukraine, Francis called war “a cancer that feeds itself by engulfing everything.” He lamented that women, children and older adults are “forced to live in the belly of the earth to escape bombs.”
The way to rip out “hate from the heart,” the pope said, is through “dialogue, negotiations, listening, diplomatic ability and creativity, long-ranged policies capable of constructing a new system of co-existence that isn’t any longer based on weapons, on deterrence.”
___
WASHINGTON — The United States and its allies are pushing ahead with sanctions aimed at forcing Vladimir Putin to spend Russia’s money propping up its economy rather than sustaining its “war machine” for the fight in Ukraine, a top Treasury Department official said Tuesday.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, one of the main U.S. coordinators on the Russian sanctions strategy, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the goal is to make Russia “less able to project power in the future.”
On the same day that inflation notched its steepest increase in decades, Adeyemo said reducing supply chain backlogs and managing the pandemic are key to bringing down soaring prices that he related to the ongoing land war in Ukraine, which has contributed to rising energy costs.
Adeyemo said the U.S. and its allies will next target the supply chains that contribute to the construction of Russia’s war machine, which includes “everything from looking at ways to go after the military devices that have been built to use not only in Ukraine, but to project power elsewhere.”
___
KYIV, Ukraine — More than 720 people have been killed in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs that were occupied by Russian troops and more than 200 are considered missing, the Interior Ministry said early Wednesday.
In Bucha alone, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said 403 bodies had been found and the toll could rise as minesweepers comb the area.
Ukraine’s prosecutor-general’s office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast.
Authorities said the bodies of six civilians were found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and Russian forces are believed to be responsible.
Vladimir Putin vowed Tuesday that Russia’s bloody offensive in Ukraine would continue until its goals are fulfilled and insisted the campaign was going as planned, despite a major withdrawal in the face of stiff Ukrainian opposition and significant losses.

.