By The Associated Press
MOSCOW — The Russian parliament has passed a set of laws allowing Moscow not to comply with the top European human rights court’s rulings.
The move on Tuesday formalized the broken ties between Russia and the Council of Europe, the continent’s foremost human rights body.
In accordance with the new laws passed by the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house, Russian authorities are no longer obligated to comply with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights issued after March 15.
On that date, Russia announced it was withdrawing from the Council of Europe — only to be officially expelled the next day over what the Kremlin calls a special military operation in Ukraine.
Thousands of Russians in recent years have turned to the court as a last resort, after failing to win in Russian courts, on human rights issues ranging from political persecution to domestic violence.
State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on Telegram on Monday described the court as a “tool of a political battle against our country in the hands of Western politicians,” adding that “some of its rulings went directly against Russia’s Constitution, our values, our traditions.”
Volodin cited a ruling demanding that Russia recognize same-sex marriage, which was outlawed two years ago in a set of constitutional amendments.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— AP Exclusive: Ukraine recovers bodies from steel-plant siege
— Ukraine’s leader says Russia is trying to capture a key southeastern city
— US general says US, allies will keep sending ‘significant’ aid to Ukraine
— UN: Climate shocks and Ukraine war fuel multiple global food crises
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian authorities have refused to allow the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog to visit a nuclear plant in southern Ukraine under the Russian control.
The International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Mariano Grossi said that he intends to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest in Europe, to help maintain its safety and security.
Grossi spoke Monday to the IAEA board about the dire situation at the plant, taken by the Russian troops in early March. He noted the pressure on the plant’s Ukrainian staff and voiced concern that some spare parts were not getting to the plant due to supply chain interruptions.
He reiterated his determination to lead an expert mission to the plant, saying that “we must find a solution to the hurdles preventing progress.”
Grossi contended that Ukraine’s government had called on him to lead such a mission, but Energoatom, the Ukrainian state company overseeing the country’s nuclear power plants, said in a blunt statement Tuesday that he wasn’t welcome.
Energoatom said it hadn’t invited Grossi to visit the plant and described his intention to tour it as “yet another attempt to legitimize the occupier’s presence there and effectively approve their action.” The company contended that Grossi’s previous visits to Ukraine were useless. It alleged that he was acting in collusion with Russia, claiming that the Russians hold a quarter of senior managerial positions at the IAEA.
MOSCOW — Using unusually crude language, a top associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin has castigated Moscow’s opponents, reflecting heightening tensions between Russia and the West amid the fighting in Ukraine.
Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president who now serves as the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, explained his harsh criticism of Russia’s foes on his messaging app channel by saying: “I hate them. They are bastards and scum.”
He went on, saying that “they want that Russia and all of us die” and adding that “as long as I’m alive, I will do everything to make them disappear.”
Medvedev served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 when Putin had to shift into the prime minister’s post due to term limits. He had been seen in the West as a liberal, but to Western disappointment, he stepped down after one term to let his mentor reclaim the presidency. He then served as his prime minister for eight years until Putin named him his No. 2 at Russia’s Security Council.
Medvedev has been increasingly critical of the West.
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian presidential advisor has vowed that Kyiv will retake all the lands currently under Russian control and urged Ukrainians to be patient.
“Don’t let the news that we’ve ceded something scare you,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a short video address on Tuesday. “It is clear that tactical maneuvers are ongoing. We cede something, we take something back. Russians outnumber (Ukrainian troops), they have more equipment.
The adviser added: “But we need to make sure that every village we temporarily cede and then take back costs Russians a lot of blood” and make them exhaust ”reserves and resources,.”
Podolyak stressed that Ukraine is still waiting for more weapons from its allies.
MOSCOW — Russia’s defense minister says that the Russian troops have taken control of large swaths of eastern Ukraine.
Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that the Russian forces have fully “liberated” the residential quarters of Sievierodonetsk and are fighting to take control of an industrial zone on its outskirts and the nearby towns.
That city, the administrative center of the Luhansk region, has recently been the focus of the Russian offensive.
Shoigu added that the Russian troops were pressing their offensive toward the town of Popasna, with a pre-war population of 20,000, and lying some 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Sievierodonetsk. He noted that they have taken control of Lyman and Sviatohirsk and 15 other towns in the region. He claimed that 97% of the Luhansk region has already been “liberated.”
VILNIUS, Lithuania — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says his country is ready to increase its military presence in the Baltic region to meet new challenges to regional security.
“We have agreed to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO by creating a new strong brigade here,” Scholz said during a visit on Tuesday to Lithuania. The Baltic country borders Kaliningrad, a Russian region where the country’s Baltic Sea fleet is based. A brigade would be 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers
Scholz also pledged to continue supplies of necessary weapons and troops’ training to Ukraine. He dismissed claims that Germany was hesitating with heavy weaponry supplies, including most modern howitzers, to Ukraine.
Lithuania President Gitanas Nauseda welcomed the German plans to deploy more troops in the country. The Russian military threat “will remain a major source of threat to regional security,” she said. “Baltic states are in an especially vulnerable position here on the front line of NATO external borders.”
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has destroyed several artillery systems provided by the West in the latest series of strikes on Ukrainian targets.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the Russian artillery hit a howitzer supplied by Norway and two other artillery systems given to Ukraine by the United States. He said that the Russian artillery barrage destroyed other Ukrainian equipment in the country’s east while the Russian air force hit Ukrainian troops and equipment concentrations and artillery positions.
Konashenkov’s claims couldn’t be independently confirmed.
LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says Russia has deployed additional troops to eastern Ukraine to help capture a key city.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that the Russian forces control industrial outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, one of two cities in the Luhansk region left to be seized by Russia. The Russian forces have so far failed to take over all of it and have been forced to deploy additional troops, he said.
“Toughest street battles continue, with varying degrees of success, the situation constantly changes, but the Ukrainians are repelling attacks,” Haidai said.
The neighboring Lysychansk — the second city still not taken in the region, 95% of which is under Russian control — is being barraged by artillery. Haidai said. He said the Russian troops shelled a local market, a school and a college building, destroying the latter. Three people with wounds were sent to hospitals elsewhere Ukraine.
“A total destruction of the city is underway, Russian shelling has intensified significantly over the past 24 hours. Russians are using the scorched earth tactics,” Haidai said.
In all, the Ukrainian forces have repelled 10 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours, according to the Luhansk governor.
KYIV, Ukraine — In a latest sign of Ukrainian resilience, a theater in Ukraine’s capital reopened for the first time since Russian forces invaded the country on Feb. 24, and tickets sold out for Sunday’s performance.
Cinemas and the National Opera opened their doors at the end of May in Kyiv.
“We were wondering how it would be, whether spectators would come during the war, whether they think at all about theater, whether it’s of any interest,” said one of the actors, Yuriy Felipenko. “And we were happy that the first three plays were sold out.”
Actor Kostya Tomlyak says he had hesitated to perform in wartime. But the influx of people returning to Kyiv since hostilities there have lessened persuaded him that it’s necessary to go on.
Said Tomlyak: “You continue living, although you don’t forget that there is the war. The main question is how actors can be helpful.”
MOSCOW — Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced Monday that is levying sanctions on 61 U.S. nationals,.
It said the move was being taken “in response to the ever-expanding U.S. sanctions against Russian political and public figures, as well as representatives of domestic business.”
The list includes U.S. officials and former and current top managers of large American companies, such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
UNITED NATIONS — European Council President Charles Michel accused Russia of using food supplies as “a stealth missile against developing countries” and blamed the Kremlin for the looming global food crisis, prompting Moscow’s U.N. ambassador to walk out of a Security Council meeting.
Michel addressed Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia directly at a council meeting Monday, saying he saw millions of tons of grain and wheat stuck in containers and ships at the Ukrainian port of Odessa a few weeks ago “because of Russian warships in the Black Sea.” He said Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s transport infrastructure and grain storage facilities, and its tanks, airstrikes and mines are preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.
“This is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilizing entire regions,” Michel said. “Russia is solely responsible for this looming food crisis. Russia alone.”
Michel accused Russian forces of stealing grain from areas in Ukraine that it has occupied “while shifting the blame of others,” calling this “cowardly” and “propaganda, pure and simple.”
Nebenzia walked out, giving Russia’s seat to another diplomat. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky tweeted later on Telegram’s Russian channel that Michel’s comments were “so rude” that the Russian ambassador left the Security Council chamber.
KYIV, Ukraine — Russia has begun turning over the bodies of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steelworks, the fortress-like plant in the destroyed city of Mariupol where their last-ditch stand became a symbol of resistance against Moscow’s invasion.
Dozens of the dead taken from the bombed-out mill’s now Russian-occupied ruins have been transferred to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where DNA testing is underway to identify the remains, according to both a military leader and a spokeswoman for the Azov Regiment.
The Azov Regiment was among the Ukrainian units that defended the steelworks for nearly three months before surrendering in May under relentless Russian attacks from the ground, sea and air.
It was unclear how many bodies might remain at the plant.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued to fight for control of Sievierodonetsk, an eastern Ukrainian city that is key to Moscow’s goal of completing the capture of the industrial Donbas region.
NEW YORK — U.S. authorities moved Monday to seize two luxury jets — a $60 million Gulfstream and a $350 million aircraft believed to be one of the world’s most expensive private airplanes — after linking both to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
A federal magistrate judge signed a warrant authorizing the seizure of the Gulfstream and a Boeing jet that authorities said was worth less than $100 million before a lavish customization.
The action takes place just days after the United States announced new sanctions and penalties on Russian oligarchs and elites, Kremlin officials, businessmen linked to President Vladimir Putin and their yachts, aircraft and firms that manage them.
President Joe Biden promised after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine to pursue Russian elites’ “ill-gotten gains.”
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Monday that his office was using every legal tool available to respond to “Russian’s illegal war in Ukraine.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president is asking for a secure corridor for Ukrainian vessels to be able to ship out grain and prevent food shortages in Africa and Asia.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a news conference on Monday that Kyiv is in talks with countries like Turkey and the U.K. about security guaranties for Ukrainian ships.
Zelenskyy adds that “if now we have 22-25 million tons blocked there, in the fall we might have 75 (million tons).”
“What are we going to do? he asked. ”That’s why we can’t do without the ports.”
The issue of blocked grain will be on the agenda on Wednesday during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Turkey. Ankara is involved in efforts by the United Nations to reach an agreement for the shipment of Ukrainian grain amid an escalating food crisis.
Zelenskyy says Kyiv hasn’t been invited, possibly because Turkey wants to get security guarantees from Russia for its own ships first.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict says sexual violence in Ukraine especially against women and girls remains prevalent and underreported, and the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country is turning into “a human trafficking crisis.”
Pramila Patten told the U.N. Security Council Monday that there is a gap between its resolutions aimed at preventing rape and other sexual attacks during conflicts and the reality on the ground for the most vulnerable — women and children.
As of June 3, she said, the U.N. human rights office had received 124 allegations of conflict-related sexual violence — 97 against women and girls, 19 against men, 7 against boys and 1 gender unknown. Verification of these cases is on-going, she said.
Patten said Ukraine’s prosecutor general informed her during a visit in May that a national hot line reported the following forms of conflict-related sexual violence between Feb. 24, when Russian troops invaded the country, and April 12: “rape, gang rape, pregnancy following rape, attempted rape, threats of rape, coercion to watch an act of sexual violence committed against a partner or a child, and forced nudity.”