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Putin warns Russia cannot be isolated from the West; U.S. and UK investigate reports of chemical weapons attack – CNBC

New Russian military convoy spotted in Eastern Ukraine, Pentagon says

A satellite image shows armoured vehicles at the northern end of a military convoy moving south through the Ukrainian town of Velykyi Burluk, Ukraine, April 8, 2022.

Maxar Technologies | Reuters

A senior U.S. Defense official told reporters on a call that a new convoy of Russian vehicles is approximately 37 miles north of Izyum, in eastern Ukraine.

The town of Izyum lies on a major road between Kharkiv and the Russian-separatists areas of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share new details from U.S. intelligence reports, said the Pentagon believes the miles-long convoy is working to resupply Russian forces.

Satellite images of the convoy emerged as the Kremlin appears to reorient its war in Ukraine to the east after failing to seize Kyiv.

A satellite image shows armoured vehicles and trucks at the southern end of a military convoy moving south through the Ukrainian town of Velykyi Burluk, Ukraine, April 8, 2022. Picture taken April 8, 2022.

Maxar Technologies | Reuters

“We do assess that it’s moving but not at breakneck speed,” the official said, adding that it was not clear how many vehicles are in the convoy and how fast it is traveling.

The official added that is not entirely clear where the convoy is going but reiterated that Western intelligence reports assess Russia will soon intensify its military campaign in eastern and southern Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

Russian strikes on Mariupol intensify

A Russian national flag flies by destroyed buildings in Mariupol on April 12, 2022, as Russian troops intensify a campaign to take the strategic port city, part of an anticipated massive onslaught across eastern Ukraine, while Russia’s President makes a defiant case for the war on Russia’s neighbour. – *EDITOR’S NOTE: This picture was taken during a trip organized by the Russian military.*

Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

The coastal Ukrainian city of Mariupol is taking the brunt of Russia’s ongoing siege as Western security officials warn that the Kremlin will soon intensify its military campaign there.

“It’s obvious that the Russians want Mariupol because of its strategic location,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, noting that it’s a major port city that gives them “unfettered and unhindered land access between the Donbas and Crimea.” The two territories are held by Russia and Russian-back separatists.

Kirby said the Pentagon has observed Russian forces focus a lot of their strikes on Mariupol and on the Donbas area.

“I don’t have perfect knowledge of every missile or long-range fire that the Russians are firing into Mariupol. It continues to be under attack from airstrikes,” Kirby added. Earlier in the day, a senior U.S. Defense official told reporters on a call that since the Kremlin’s Feb. 24 invasion, Russian forces have launched more than 1,540 missiles into Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials claimed on Monday that Russian forces have used chemical weapons in Mariupol.

— Amanda Macias

UK prime minister tells Biden about surprise visit to Kyiv

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands before a meeting, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022. 

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

President Joe Biden held a secure 45-minute call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this morning, just days after Johnson returned from a surprise trip to Ukraine.

Johnson told Biden he was “humbled” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s “strength and resolve” after meeting the unlikely war hero in Kyiv, according to a Downing Street spokesman.

Johnson also updated the president on Britain’s latest package of weapons for Ukraine, which includes the Harpoon anti-ship missile that experts say Ukraine could use to break Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports.

A White House statement on the call said Biden and Johnson, “welcomed ongoing cooperation with allies and partners to impose severe costs on Russia for its unprovoked and unjustified war.”

— Christina Wilkie

Pentagon ‘actively looking’ at reports of Russian chemical weapons use, U.S. Defense official says

Residential buildings that were damaged during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 3, 2022.

Pavel Klimov | Reuters

The Pentagon is not yet able to confirm reports of Russian forces using chemical weapons in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

“We are not on the ground. We don’t have perfect visibility. And so we’re doing the best we can to try to get get to some better conclusion. We are still actively looking at this,” a senior U.S. Defense official said on a call with reporters.

“We know that the Russians have a history of using chemical agents and they have shown a propensity in the past and so we’re taking it seriously,” the official said, referencing Russian use of chemical weapons in Syria.

On Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby described the reports of a potential chemical munition in Mariupol as “deeply concerning.”

“These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine,” Kirby wrote in a statement.

— Amanda Macias

Ukrainian official says peace talks with Russia are very hard but continuing

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, asked about comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier on Tuesday that peace talks between the two countries were at a dead-end, said negotiations were very hard but they were continuing.

Podolyak also told Reuters that Russia was trying to put pressure on the talks with its public statements and that negotiations were continuing at the level of working sub-groups.

— Reuters

$800 million U.S. aid package to Ukraine, which includes ‘killer drones,’ is nearly complete

Vehicles of the US army are seen at a temporary base installed close to the Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, south eastern Poland, February 16, 2022.

Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images

The $800 million U.S. weapons package approved by the Biden administration last month for the fight in Ukraine is nearly complete, a senior U.S. Defense official confirmed.

“We’re very close to finishing it out. We believe we’ll be done by the middle of the month and that should, that should close it out. We’re also working on the next one, which you know is $100 million for the Javelins,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on a call with reporters.

AeroVironment Switchblade 600 Drone

Courtesy: AeroVironment

The official also said that a significant number of the 100 Switchblade drones included in the package have arrived in Ukraine.

“They’ve gotten a significant number and it won’t take long before the rest of them are in the country,” the official said, declining to elaborate on when the rest of the drones would arrive. “I’m not going to talk about the specifics of how things are moving in, we are flowing things in every single day.”

Manufactured by U.S.-based firm AeroVironment, the Switchblades, dubbed “kamikaze” drones, are equipped with cameras, navigation systems and guided explosives. The weapons can be programmed to strike targets that are miles away automatically, or can loiter above a target until engaged by an operator to strike.

Deploying Switchblades to the fight in Ukraine could be the most significant use of the weapons in combat, as it is not clear how often the U.S. military has used the killer drones on the battlefield.

— Amanda Macias

Portraits of war: How Russia’s assault has affected Ukrainians

Six weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow faces renewed global outrage following reports of a Russian massacre in Bucha and a missile strike on a crowded train station in Kramatorsk.

More than 4.6 million people have been displaced, and the United Nations has confirmed 1,892 civilian deaths and 2,558 injuries in Ukraine.

Western intelligence reports warn that Russian forces will soon focus their military might in eastern and southern Ukraine after weeks of stalled ground advances on the capital city of Kyiv.

Here is a look at some of the faces and lives affected by Russia’s horrific war. (For a full version of the story, click here.)

Editor’s note: Graphic content. The following post contains photos of dead and wounded civilians and soldiers

A woman waves to say good bye to her husband as she leaves on a bus, a day after a rocket attack at a train station in Kramatorsk, on April 9, 2022.

Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB Service members of pro-Russian troops carry the charred body of a person killed during Ukraine-Russia conflict into a vehicle to transport it to the morgue in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 4, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

A monument to Taras Shevchenko is seen near a residential building destroyed by the russian army shelling in Borodyanka, Kyiv Region, north-central Ukraine.

Hennadii Minchenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

A photo shows a civilian evacuated from the Hostomel region, as Russian attacks on Ukraine continue, on April 03, 2022 in Hostomel in Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine.

Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

People, mostly women and children, cross from war-torn Ukraine into Poland at the Medyka border crossing on April 07, 2022 in Medyka, Poland.

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images

— Amanda Macias and Adam Jeffery

Blinken says the U.S. is ready to replace Russia as India’s ‘security partner of choice’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint news conference during the fourth U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2022. 

Michael Mccoy | Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are hosting their Indian counterparts in Washington this week and making the case that India should phase out its strategic relationship with Russia and let the U.S. be its primary defense and energy partner.

“India’s relationship with Russia was developed over decades, at a time when the United States was not able to be a partner to India,” Blinken said Monday. “Times have changed. Today, we are able and willing to be a partner of choice with India across virtually every realm of commerce, technology, education, and security.”

Maintaining its supply of Russian oil and military equipment is the primary driver behind New Delhi’s decision not to publicly blame Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. But rather than chastise India, Austin and Blinken highlighted that the world’s largest democracy has condemned the invasion in broad terms, and noted that New Delhi is sending medicines to Ukraine.

They also said the U.S. and India will increase their defense collaboration in space and cyberspace, even as India takes delivery this spring on a set of Russian S-400 missile systems it purchased in 2018. Nonetheless, Washington is willing and able to be “a security partner of choice for India,” Blinken said.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, India purchased millions of barrels of Russian oil at a discount while European buyers imposed sanctions and cut ties. But here too, India met little resistance from Washington.

“Every country is differently situated and has different needs and requirements,” Blinken said. “We’re looking to allies and partners not to increase their their purchases of Russian energy.”

— Christina Wilkie

Russian politician who criticized Putin’s ‘regime of murderers’ jailed for 15 days, another opposition figure says

A judge in Moscow ordered Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian politician and critic of President Vladimir Putin’s government, to be jailed for 15 days, another opposition figure said.

Police arrested Kara-Murza in Moscow near his home on Monday. That same day, CNN published a video in which Kara-Murza described Putin’s power apparatus as “a regime of murderers.”

Russian journalist and activist Vladimir Kara-Murza attends a conference of Russia’s leading rights group Memorial in Moscow on October 27, 2021.

Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

In an update Tuesday, Russian dissident Ilya Yashin wrote that a judge “issued Kara-Murza in a cell for 15 days,” according to a translation of his tweets.

Yashin also tweeted an image of what he said was the police report in Kara-Murza’s case. The report alleged that when Kara-Murza saw Russian law enforcement officials, he “behaved inappropriately, changed the trajectory of movement and accelerated his step,” according to a translation of Yashin’s tweet.

Kara-Murza has survived two suspected poisoning attempts. Hillel Neuer, a lawyer and activist of the human-rights-focused watchdog UN Watch, called Kara-Murza “the most prominent dissident in Moscow.”

Kevin Breuninger

Russian war worsens fertilizer crunch, risking food supplies

Monica Kariuki is about ready to give up on farming. What is driving her off her 10 acres of land outside Nairobi isn’t bad weather, pests or blight — the traditional agricultural curses — but fertilizer: It costs too much.

Despite thousands of miles separating her from the battlefields of Ukraine, Kariuki and her cabbage, corn and spinach farm are indirect victims of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. The war has pushed up the price of natural gas, a key ingredient in fertilizer, and has led to severe sanctions against Russia, a major exporter of fertilizer.

Kariuki used to spend 20,000 Kenyan shillings, or about $175, to fertilize her entire farm. Now, she would need to spend five times as much. Continuing to work the land, she said, would yield nothing but losses.

“I cannot continue with the farming business. I am quitting farming to try something else,” she said.

Higher fertilizer prices are making the world’s food supply more expensive and less abundant, as farmers skimp on nutrients for their crops and get lower yields. While the ripples will be felt by grocery shoppers in wealthy countries, the squeeze on food supplies will land hardest on families in poorer countries. It could hardly come at a worse time: The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said last week that its world food-price index in March reached the highest level since it started in 1990.

— Associated Press

‘It’s not the end’: The children who survived Bucha’s horrors

In the courtyard of their house, Vlad, 6, stands near the grave of his mother, who died, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022.

Rodrigo Abd | AP

Six-year-old Vlad watched as his mother was carried out of the shelter last month and to the yard of a nearby home. The burial was hurried and devastating.

Now Russian forces have withdrawn from Bucha after a month-long occupation, and Vlad’s father, Ivan Drahun, dropped to his knees at the foot of the grave.

He reached out and touched the dirt near his wife Maryna’s feet. “Hi, how are you?” he said during the visit last week. “I miss you so much. You left so soon. You didn’t even say goodbye.” The boy also visits the grave, placing on it a juice box and two cans of baked beans. Amid the stress of war, his mother barely ate.

Bucha witnessed some of the ghastliest scenes of Russia’s invasion and almost no children have been seen in its silent streets since then. The many bright playgrounds in the once-popular community with good schools on a far edge of the capital, Kyiv, are empty.

It is here that Bucha’s fragile renewal can be seen.

A small group of neighborhood children gathered, finding distraction from the war. Bundled up in winter coats, they kicked a football, wandered around with bags of snacks handed out by visiting volunteers, called out from a glass-less window above.

Rodrigo Abd | AP

— Associated Press

Obama: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shows new recklessness, but ‘the danger was always there’

Former U.S. President Barack Obama said Vladimir Putin’s brazen invasion of Ukraine may have been hard to foresee, but the brutal Russian leader has always posed a threat.

“Putin has always been ruthless against his own people, as well as others. He has always been somebody who’s wrapped up in this twisted, distorted sense of grievance and ethnic nationalism,” Obama told NBC’s Al Roker in a interview set to air in full on “Today” on Wednesday.

“That part of Putin, I think, has always been there. What we’ve seen with the invasion of Ukraine is him being reckless in a way that you might not have anticipated eight, 10 years ago,” Obama said. But “the danger was always there,” he added.

Obama was in office in 2014 when Putin invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Asked by Roker if he ever thinks about what he might have done differently, Obama said, “I think that what we’re seeing consistently is a reminder of why it’s so important for us to not take our own democracy for granted.”

“I think that the current administration’s doing what it needs to be doing,” Obama said.

Kevin Breuninger

UN says 1,892 civilians killed and 2,558 injured in Ukraine

Local resident Pavel, 42, stands next to the grave of his friend Igor, who was killed by shelling while they were riding together in a car during Ukraine-Russia conflict, in a residential area in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 30, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The United Nations has confirmed 1,892 civilian deaths and 2,558 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

Of those killed, the U.N. has identified at least 30 girls and 52 boys as well as 71 children whose sex is unknown.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adds that the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, citing delayed reporting due to the armed conflict.

The international body said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

Civilians fleeing from conflict zones in Donetsk and Luhansk take shelter

Civilians fleeing from conflict zones in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, take shelter at Semeinuy Hostel as its owner opened his doors to Ukrainian refugees in Dnipro on Apr. 11.

Currently, 87 refugees are guests of the unfinished hostel. From the first days of March more than 1,000 people have found refuge in this structure. 

Currently, 87 refugees are guests of the unfinished hostel, Semeinuy. From the first days of March more than 1000 people have found refuge in this structure. 

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Currently, 87 refugees are guests of the unfinished hostel, Semeinuy. From the first days of March more than 1000 people have found refuge in this structure. 

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Currently, 87 refugees are guests of the unfinished hostel, Semeinuy. From the first days of March more than 1000 people have found refuge in this structure. 

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Civilians fleeing from conflict zones in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, take shelter at Semeinuy Hostel as its owner opened his hostel’s doors to Ukrainian refugees in Dnipro, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Civilians fleeing from conflict zones in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, take shelter at Semeinuy Hostel as its owner opened his hostel’s doors to Ukrainian refugees in Dnipro, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Civilians fleeing from conflict zones in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, take shelter at Semeinuy Hostel as its owner opened his hostel’s doors to Ukrainian refugees in Dnipro, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Civilians fleeing from conflict zones in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, take shelter at Semeinuy Hostel as its owner opened his hostel’s doors to Ukrainian refugees in Dnipro, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Civilians fleeing from conflict zones in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, take shelter at Semeinuy Hostel as its owner opened his hostel’s doors to Ukrainian refugees in Dnipro, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

-Anadolu Agency via Getty Image

Zelenskyy renews calls for EU to sanction Russian oil and gas

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has renewed his push for the European Union to impose sanctions on Russian energy.

Speaking via video address to Lithuania’s Parliament, Zelenskyy criticized the bloc for dragging its feet on sanctioning Russian oil and gas even in the wake of mounting evidence of war crimes by Russian forces.

The EU met on Monday to discuss the bloc’s sixth round of punitive measures against the Kremlin, which could have included Russian energy imports, but it failed to reach an agreement.

More than six weeks into the Kremlin’s war with Ukraine, energy-importing countries continue to top up Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war chest with oil and gas revenue on a daily basis.

— Sam Meredith

Russia cannot be isolated from the West, Putin says

Putin has described Russia’s unprovoked onslaught in Ukraine as a “special military operation.”

Mikhail Klimentyev | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed there is no doubt that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he has described as a “special military operation,” will achieve its objectives. He also warned Russia “cannot be isolated” from the West.

“There’s no doubt that the goals and objectives in operation in Ukraine will be fulfilled,” Putin said, according to a translation.

“Russia will not self-isolate and it cannot be isolated,” he added.

Putin was speaking alongside Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome to mark Russia’s annual Cosmonautics Day.

Russia’s unprovoked onslaught in Ukraine has resulted in a devastating humanitarian crisis and triggered an outpouring of global condemnation over mounting evidence of war crimes. The U.S. and international allies have also imposed an unprecedented barrage of economic sanctions against Russia to try to weaken the Kremlin’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

— Sam Meredith

Mercedes-Benz chairman says Russia-Ukraine crisis is a ‘wake-up call’ for Europe

Mercedes-Benz Group Chairman Ola Källenius has described Russia’s war in Ukraine as a “wake-up call” for Europe.

Källenius said the conflict has thrust energy security — which had previously been “taken for granted” — back into the spotlight.

— Sam Meredith

More than 600 companies have scaled back operations in Russia, research shows

French bank Societe Generale has announced plans to quit Russia.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

More than 600 companies have announced plans to stop or reduce their work in Russia as a result of the Kremlin’s unprovoked onslaught in Ukraine, research shows, but some companies continue to operate undeterred.

A list compiled by academics at Yale School of Management has been tracking the responses of over 1,000 companies since the invasion began on Feb. 24.

It now shows that over 600 firms have voluntarily scaled back operations in Russia to some degree beyond what is required by international sanctions.

— Sam Meredith

Russia is likely to be more successful in battle for the Donbas, says Harvard professor

The line of control in the Donbas is likely to “move west, not east” as Russia regroups and concentrates its forces, predicts Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard University.

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia may gain control of more land in the Donbas as Moscow shifts its focus toward the eastern region of Ukraine, according to Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon professor of government at Harvard University.

“I would suspect that they will be more successful in the battle for Donbas,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

Russia is “perfectly willing” to reduce a city to rubble if that’s what it takes to win, and could leave “no bricks standing” in Mariupol, said Allison, a former assistant secretary of defense.

The line of control in the Donbas is likely to “move west, not east” as Russia regroups and concentrates its forces, he predicted.

Russia controls pockets of the region, but “they’re solidifying their land corridor to Crimea” now, Allison said. Moscow illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.

“I suspect this is going to be a long war, it’s going to get ever more brutal,” he said.

— Abigail Ng

Russian-backed forces deny using chemical weapons in Mariupol — Ifax

Russian-backed separatist forces did not use chemical weapons in their attempts to take full control of the city of Mariupol despite Ukrainian allegations to the contrary, Eduard Basurin, a separatist commander, told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said earlier on Tuesday that Kyiv was checking unverified information that Russia may have used chemical weapons while besieging the southern Ukrainian port city.

— Reuters

Japan ‘seriously concerned’ about the possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine

Japan’s top government spokesperson has expressed concern about the possible use of nuclear weapons during Russia’s unprovoked onslaught in Ukraine.

“We are seriously concerned about the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference, Reuters reported.

“We, as a sole country that has suffered nuclear attacks during war, intends to keep on appealing firmly that any threat of the use of nuclear weapons, let alone their actual use, should never be allowed.”

— Sam Meredith

Fighting will intensify over next 2 to 3 weeks, UK ministry predicts

Ukrainian soldiers take aim from their frontline position in eastern Ukraine, on April 11, 2022. British Defence authorities predict fighting will worsen there over the next two to three weeks.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Fighting will get worse in eastern Ukraine over the coming two to three weeks as Moscow redirects its attacks to that part of the country, the U.K. Ministry of Defence said Tuesday.

Russia is already focusing attacks on Ukrainian defenders near Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, the ministry said, with a renewed push toward the town of Kramatorsk.

Further fighting is now taking place around Kherson and Mykolaiv, which both lie near the Black Sea to the east of Odesa. Russian troops have been trying to break out of the Crimean Peninsula for weeks in that area, British mapping of the region shows. Those attempted advances threaten Ukraine’s entire southern coastline and its outlet to the sea.

The British ministry said in a daily intelligence update that Russian forces which had retreated into Belarus following the failed attempt to take Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv are now rotating toward the east.

Several military analysts have observed that Russian units defeated around Kyiv have taken heavy losses and are suffering from low morale.

— Ted Kemp

Russia’s war in Ukraine means there’ll be no return to normality for Europe’s economy

Japan has never felt any pressure from the U.S. to withdraw from Sakhalin projects, says minister

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, Koichi Hagiuda, speaks at a conference on 16 September, 2020. Hagiuda said on Tuesday Japan has never felt any pressure from the U.S. to withdraw from the Sakhalin oil and gas projects, according to Reuters.

Charly Triballeau | Afp | Getty Images

Japan’s industry minister said the country has never felt any pressure from the U.S. to withdraw from the Sakhalin oil and gas projects, according to Reuters.

“We intend to continue to hold the concessions in Sakhalin 1 and 2 projects as they are stable sources of long-term and inexpensive energy and are important to the lives of the Japanese citizens and business activities,” Koichi Hagiuda, Japan’s industry minister, told a news conference on Tuesday.

Russia and Japan both own stakes in the Sakhalin 1 and Sakhalin 2 integrated oil and gas development projects. Japan’s involvement has fallen under scrutiny since Russia invaded Ukraine and Western oil companies exited Russia.

“While ensuring a stable energy supply, Japan will work to reduce our dependence on Russian energy by diversifying energy sources, including renewable and nuclear power, and diversifying supply sources,” Hagiuda said, Reuters reported.

He also said the ministry was not aware of any Japanese companies being asked by Russian state-owned companies to pay in rubles for natural gas transactions.

— Chelsea Ong

U.S. and Britain working to verify unconfirmed reports of Russian chemical weapons attack in Mariupol

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in Warsaw, Poland, on April 5, 2022

Mateusz Wlodarczyk | Nurphoto | Getty Images

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says that her government is working “urgently” to verify details of an alleged chemical weapons attack Monday on residents of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

“Reports that Russian forces may have used chemical agents in an attack on the people of Mariupol. We are working urgently with partners to verify details,” Truss tweeted.
 
“Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime to account,” she added.

The original report was a Telegram message posted by the Azov Regiment, an ultra-nationalist part of the Ukrainian National Guard. The Azov message said Russian forces used “a poisonous substance of unknown origin.” 

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the United States was also aware of the alleged attack.

“We cannot confirm at this time and will continue to monitor the situation closely,” he told reporters.

“These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine,” said Kirby.

U.S. officials have been warning for several days that the Russian army will continue to commit what they call “atrocities” as it doubles down on attacks in the eastern regions of Ukraine.

—- Christina Wilkie

Ukrainian troops gather on the front lines in Donbas

Ukrainian soldiers are seen at a front line in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers talk to each other at a Ukrainian frontline in Donbass, Ukraine on April 11, 2022.

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Military personnel are seen at a Ukrainian frontline in Donbass, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A rocket in the ground is seen in Lysychansk, Donbass, Ukraine on April 11, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian soldiers are seen at a Ukrainian frontline in Donbass, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian soldiers talk to each other at a Ukrainian frontline in Donbass, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A Ukrainian soldier is seen at a Ukrainian frontline in Donbass, Ukraine on April 11, 2022. 

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A dummy with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face on a Ukrainian frontline in Donbass, Ukraine on April 11, 2022.

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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