Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Russia of using hunger as weapon in war

Using hunger as a weapon

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war by deliberately targeting Ukraine’s essential food supplies.

In an address to Irish lawmakers Wednesday, Zelenskyy said Russian forces “are destroying things that are sustaining livelihoods” including food storage depots, blocking ports so Ukraine could not export food and “putting mines into the fields.”

“For them hunger is also a weapon, a weapon against us ordinary people,” he said, accusing Russia of “deliberately provoking a food crisis” in Ukraine, a major global producer of staples including wheat and sunflower oil.

He said it would have international ramifications, because “there will be a shortage of food and the prices will go up, and this is reality for the millions of people who are hungry, and it will be more difficult for them to feed their families.”

Zelenskyy spoke by video to a joint session of Ireland’s two houses of parliament, the latest in a string of international addresses he has used to rally support for Ukraine.

MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says negotiations with Ukraine are continuing despite allegations of war crimes against civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

Peskov said Wednesday the talks continued with Ukraine but that the Bucha revelations — which he referred to as a “staging” — had hampered talks and there was “a fairly long road ahead.”

“The working process continues but it is going much more tough than we would like. Of course we would like to see more dynamism from the Ukrainian side, but the process has not been broken off and is continuing,” Peskov said.

Russia retreated from areas around Kyiv and the northern cities of Chernihiv and Sumy after talks with Ukraine in Turkey last week. Ukrainian troops entering the areas found evidence of widespread killings of civilians. Russia denies any war crimes and has alleged Ukraine has faked the incidents.

Since the talks in Turkey, Russia and Ukraine’s delegations have continued talks via video link.

BRUSSELS — A senior European Union official says the bloc’s member countries should think about ways of offering asylum to Russian soldiers willing to desert Ukraine battlefields.

European Council president Charles Michel on Wednesday expressed his “outrage at crimes against humanity, against innocent civilians in Bucha and in many other cities.”

He called on Russian soldiers to disobey orders.

“If you want no part in killing your Ukrainian brothers and sisters, if you don’t want to be a criminal, drop your weapons, stop fighting, leave the battlefield,” Michel, who represents the bloc’s governments, said in a speech to the European Parliament

Endorsing an idea previously circulated by some EU lawmakers, Michel added that granting asylum to Russian deserters is “a valuable idea that should be pursued.”

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister has accused Russia of spreading disinformation to justify its war in Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Wednesday that “as Russian tanks destroy Ukrainian cities, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine is censoring news, restricting social media, spreading disinformation and punishing those who dare to speak the truth.”

She said the aim was “both clear and cynical: to demoralize the courageous people of Ukraine while keeping Russians in the dark.”

Baerbock spoke in a video message to a conference on disinformation organized by her ministry at which participants also cited examples of Russian efforts to stoke resentment in Europe against refugees from Ukraine.

LONDON — Intel says it is suspending all its business operations in Russia, becoming the latest foreign company to leave because of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

“Effective immediately, we have suspended all business operations in Russia,” the U.S. chipmaker said late Wednesday.

The company had already suspended shipments to customers in Russia and neighboring ally Belarus after the war broke out.

Intel said it’s working to support its 1,200 employees in Russia and has put in place “business continuity measures” to reduce disruption to its global operations, though it didn’t provide details.

“Intel continues to join the global community in condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine and calling for a swift return to peace,” it said in a statement.

BEIJING — China says the reports and images of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha are “deeply disturbing” and is calling for an investigation.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Wednesday that China supports all initiatives and measures “conducive to alleviating the humanitarian crisis” in the country and is “ready to continue to work together with the international community to prevent any harm to civilians.”

The killings in Bucha may serve to put further pressure on Beijing over its largely pro-Russian stance and attempts to guide public opinion over the war.

China has called for talks while refusing to criticize Russia over its invasion. It opposes economic sanctions on Moscow and blames Washington and NATO for provoking the war and fueling the conflict by sending arms to Ukraine.

Zhao’s remarks echo those the previous day of China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, who called for an investigation, describing the reports and images of civilian deaths in Bucha as “deeply disturbing.”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has kissed a battered Ukrainian flag that was brought to him from the Ukrainian city of Bucha and called again for an end to the war.

Francis welcomed a half-dozen Ukrainian children up to the stage of the Vatican audience hall at the end of his Wednesday general audience and gave them each a giant chocolate Easter egg. He urged prayers for them and for all Ukrainians.

“The recent news from the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, brought testimony of new atrocities, like the massacre in Bucha, even more horrendous cruelty carried out against civilians, defenseless women and children," the pope said. "They are victims whose innocent blood cries up to the sky and implores that this war be stopped, and that the weapons be silenced. Stop disseminating war and destruction.”

He told the crowd: “These children had to flee to arrive in a safe place. This is the fruit of war.”

The pontiff held up a grimy Ukrainian flag that he said had arrived the previous day at the Vatican from Bucha, where evidence has emerged of what appears to be intentional killings of civilians during the city’s occupation by Russian troops.

Kissing it, he said: “This flag comes from the war, from that martyred city Bucha ... Let us not forget them. Let us not forget the people of Ukraine.”

RUSSIA — The governor of Russia’s Kursk region on the border with Ukraine said Wednesday that Russian border guards were fired at with mortars on Tuesday.

Governor Roman Starovoit said on the messaging app Telegram that the border guards returned fire and that there were “no casualties or destruction” on the Russian side as a result of the incident.

The Ukrainian military has not yet commented on the allegation, and it could not be independently verified.

LONDON — British defense officials say 160,000 people remain trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Russian airstrikes and heavy fighting are continuing.

The Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Wednesday that those in the city have “no light, communication, medicine, heat or water.” It accused Russian forces of deliberately preventing humanitarian access, “likely to pressure defenders to surrender.”

Repeated attempts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to get a humanitarian convoy into the southern port city have failed. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian forces stopped buses accompanied by Red Cross workers from traveling to Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of about 400,000. She said Russian troops allowed 1,496 civilians to leave the Sea of Azov port on Tuesday.

LVIV, Ukraine - Russian forces overnight struck a fuel depot and a factory in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, and the number of casualties remains unclear, the region’s Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said Wednesday on the Telegram messaging app.

“The night was alarming and difficult. The enemy attacked our area from the air and hit the oil depot and one of the plants. The oil depot with fuel was destroyed. Rescuers are still putting out the flames at the plant. There is a strong fire,” Reznichenko wrote.

In the eastern Luhansk region, Tuesday’s shelling of Rubizhne city killed one and injured five more, Governor Serhiy Haidai said Wednesday on Telegram.

The Russian military continues to focus its efforts on preparing for an offensive in Ukraine’s east, according to a Wednesday morning update by Ukraine’s General Staff, with the aim “to establish complete control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

Parts of the two regions have been under control of Russia-backed rebels since 2014 and are recognized by Moscow as independent states.

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