By The Associated Press
PARIS __ Societe Generale has announced it is ending its Russian activities — making it the first big Western bank to announce it’s quitting Russia.
SocGen is also selling its entire stake in Rosbank to a company linked to a Russian oligarch, costing the French bank some 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion).
Rosbank is a heavyweight in the Russian banking sector, and Societe Generale was the majority shareholder.
“After several weeks of intensive work,” the bank said in a statement, it had signed an agreement with Russian investment fund Interros Capital to sell all of its stake in Rosbank as well as its insurance subsidiaries in Russia.
Interros is one of the largest funds in the country, which holds assets in heavy industry and metallurgy.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Mariupol mayor says siege has k illed more than 10K civilians
— Biden, Modi to speak as US presses for hard line on Russia
— Ukrainian nuns open their monastery doors to the displaced
— US doubts new Russian war chief can end Moscow’s floundering
— Analysis: War, economy could weaken Putin’s place as leader
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
MILAN — Italian Premier Mario Draghi secured a deal Monday for more natural gas imports across a Mediterranean pipeline from Algeria, in the latest push by a European Union nation to reduce dependence on Russian energy following its invasion of Ukraine.
Draghi told reporters in the Algerian capital after meeting with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune that an agreement to intensify bilateral cooperation in the energy sector along with the deal to export more gas to Italy “are a significant response to the strategic goal” of quickly replacing Russian energy.
Russia is Italy’s biggest supplier of natural gas, representing 40% of total imports, followed by Algeria, which provides some 21 billion cubic meters of gas via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline.
The new deal between Italian energy company ENI and Algeria’s Sonatrach would add up to 9 billion cubic meters of gas from Algeria, just eclipsing Russia’s current 29 billion cubic meters a year. The increased flows will start in the fall, ENI said in a statement.
LVIV, Ukraine — The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol tells The Associated Press that more than 10,000 civilians have died in the southeastern city since the Russian invasion in February.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko told The Associated Press by telephone Monday that corpses were “carpeted through the streets of our city” and that the death toll could be more than 20,000.
Boychenko also said Russian forces have brought mobile crematoria to the city to dispose of the bodies and accused Russian forces of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city in an attempt to disguise the carnage.
The mayor had previously claimed 5,000 dead. He explained that these data were on March 21, but “thousands more people were lying on the streets, it was just impossible for us to collect them.”
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s latest assessment is that Russia is gearing up for, but has not yet begun, an intensified offensive in the Donbas.
A senior U.S. defense official said the Russians are moving more troops and materiel toward that area and are focusing many of their missile strikes there. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. military assessments.
The official said a lengthy convoy of vehicles that is headed south toward the eastern city of Izyum contains artillery as well as aviation and infantry support, plus battlefield command-and-control elements and other materials.
The official said the convoy appeared to originate from the Belgorod and Valuyki areas in Russia, which are shaping up as key staging and marshalling grounds for the Russian buildup in the Donbas.
The official said the Russians also are bolstering their presence in the Donbas by deploying in recent days more artillery southwest of the city of Donetsk.
— By Robert Burns
VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer says his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow was “very direct, open and tough.”
In a statement released by his office after the meeting, Nehammer said Monday his primary message to Putin was “that this war needs to end, because in war both sides can only lose.”
Nehammer was the first European leader to meet Putin in Moscow since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.
The Austrian leader stressed that the Monday trip was “not a friendly visit,” but rather his “duty” to exhaust every possibility for ending the violence in Ukraine.
Nehammer’s Moscow visit comes after a trip on Saturday to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In his conversation with Putin, Nehammer said he raised the issue of “serious war crimes” committed by the Russian military in the Ukrainian city of Bucha and others. “All those who are responsible will be held to account,” he added.
Austria is a member of the European Union and has backed the 27-nation bloc’s sanctions against Russia, though it so far has opposed cutting off deliveries of Russian gas. The country is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. children’s agency says nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since Russia’s invasion, and the United Nations has verified that 142 children have been killed and 229 injured though these numbers are likely much higher.
Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s emergency programs director who returned from Ukraine last week, told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that of the 3.2 million children estimated to have remained in their homes “nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food,” and attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages have left an estimated 1.4 million people in the country without access to water.
He said the situation is worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson in the south, which have been besieged by Russian forces where children and their families have spent weeks without running water, sanitation or a regular supply of food.
“Hundreds of schools and educational facilities have been attacked or used for military purposes,” Fontaine said. “Others are serving as shelters for civilians.”
He said school closings are affecting the education of 5.7 million school-age children and 1.5 million students in higher education.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Relatives of the victims of the genocide in Srebrenica are worried that the history is repeating itself in the war in Ukraine.
Hundreds of women who lost their sons, husbands and other relatives in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 people in the eastern Bosnian town, on Monday demanded that all those who committed war crimes be brought to justice.
An association of the relatives of the Srebrenica victims, the Mothers of Srebrenica, has been active in keeping the memory alive of the Bosnian Serb execution of the Bosniak men and boys — who are mostly Muslim — in the late months of the 1992-95 War in Bosnia.
Sehida Abdurahmanovic says “we spent all these years working to prevent this Srebrenica (killings) from happening to anyone else.” But, she adds, “we are really sad to say, but in today’s Europe its happening again – Srebrenica is happening again.”
LONDON — The World Bank says Ukraine’s economy will shrink by 45% this year because of Russia’s invasion, which has shut down half of the country’s businesses, choked off imports and exports, and damaged a vast amount of critical infrastructure.
Unprecedented sanctions imposed by Western allies in response to the war, meanwhile, are plunging Russia into a deep recession, lopping off more than a tenth of its economic growth, the Washington-based lender said in a report Sunday.
The report said economic activity is impossible in “large swathes of areas” in Ukraine because productive infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports and train tracks have been destroyed.
Ukraine plays a major role as a global supplier of agricultural exports like wheat but that’s in question now because planting and harvesting have been disrupted by the war, the report said. The war has cut off access to the Black Sea, a key route for exports, including 90% of Ukraine’s grain shipments.
WARSAW, Poland – The mayor of Warsaw says a disputed compound administered by Russia’s diplomatic mission is being taken over by the city and will be made available to the Ukrainian community.
Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski was at the site Monday and said that a bailiff had entered the two apparently empty buildings, dubbed “spyville” by Warsaw residents, to check their condition and to mark them as seized by the Town Hall.
“It is very symbolic that we are closing this procedure of many years now, at the time of Russia’s aggression” on Ukraine, Trzaskowski said on Twitter.
Russia’s Embassy, which had the tall apartment blocks built in the 1970s, has been refusing court orders to pay lease or to hand it over. Once busy, the buildings became empty in the 1990s, after Poland shed its communist rule and dependence from Moscow and after the Soviet Union dissolved.
Ever since, Poland has been saying that lease on the plot of land had expired and demanded it be returned.
BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungary plans to modify its natural gas contract with Russian energy company Gazprom in order to satisfy a demand by President Vladimir Putin that Russian gas be paid for in rubles.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference on Monday that the subsidiary of Hungary’s energy group MVM, CEE Energy, would pay its gas bills in euros to Russia’s Gazprombank, which would convert the payments into rubles and transfer them to the gas provider Gazprom Export.
Putin, in retaliation over sanctions against Russia by the European Union, has demanded that countries pay for Russian gas in rubles or risk having their supply shut off.
While Hungary has voted with the European Union on most sanctions against Russia, it has lobbied heavily against blocking Russian energy imports, arguing that would cripple its economy.
Szijjarto said that modifying Hungary’s contract with Gazprom ensured the country’s energy supply while staying in line with the EU’s sanctioning policy.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish Health Authority said Monday it will buy 2 million iodine tablets in case of “a nuclear accident in our immediate area.”
The COVID-19 pandemic “has shown us that it is important to be prepared,” while the war in Ukraine shows that “the world is unpredictable,” the health authority said, adding it had based its recommendation on advice by the Danish Emergency Management Agency as well as impact calculations for the risk of a nuclear incident in Denmark’s immediate area.
The tablets would cover the risk group which includes those up to age 18, health and emergency personnel under the age of 40, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.
BUCHAREST, Romania — The Republic of Moldova received on Monday in Luxembourg a questionnaire from the European Commission to assess the small country’s readiness to become a European Union member, authorities said.
“A period of hard work is ahead starting today,” Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu wrote online.
The former Soviet republic of around 2.6 million people is one of Europe’s poorest nations. Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova has pushed to accelerate joining the EU since Russia launched its attacks on Ukraine in late February.
Becoming a EU member will take years and be contingent on reforms, including cleaning up widespread corruption.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on Monday became the latest Western leader to visit Ukraine to express support to the nation under Russian attack,
“Today, my visit in Ukraine started in Borodyanka. No words could possibly describe what I saw and felt here,” Simonyte wrote on Twitter. She also posted photos of her looking at the at the blackened hole in a high-rise apartment building in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv.
During the unannounced visit, she is expected to meet with the Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy, who plans to address the Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia has denied its S-300 air defense missile system it transported to Ukraine has been destroyed by the Russian armed forces.
“Our S-300 system has not been destroyed,” Lubica Janikova, spokeswoman for Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
She said any other claim is not true.
Earlier on Monday, the Russian military said it destroyed a shipment of air defense missile system provided by the West on the southern outskirts of the city of Dnipro.
The Russian side said Ukraine had received the air defense system from a European country that he didn’t name. Last week, Slovakia said it has handed over its Soviet-designed S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine, which has pleaded with the West to give it more weapons, including long-range air defense systems.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Latvia has arrested a citizen of Belarus, who is suspected of spying for Belarusian special service by allegedly gathering information about the Baltic country’s Armed Forces and critical infrastructure facilities, news report said Monday.
The Baltic News Service, the region’s main new agency, said Latvia’s State Security Service (VDD) and the Military Intelligence and Security Service detained the man in February.
The Belarusian suspect had been secretly filming and taking photos, BNS said, adding that the state security service had seized technical equipment and data carriers.
Latvian public broadcaster LSM said criminal proceedings were initiated on Feb. 15.
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