Live updates from Ukraine: “Honour Badge”

Russia’s Foreign Office on Wednesday imposed sanctions on 287 MPs in Britain, accusing them of “demonizing” Russia since invading Ukraine.

The list includes members of both major parties and some former lawmakers, and also bans them from entering the country. The ministry’s statement cited “hostile rhetoric and far-fetched accusations from the mouths of British MPs… aimed at demonizing our country.” It accused lawmakers of promoting Russia’s international isolation and undermining “the basis of bilateral cooperation.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unfazed by Russia’s rhetoric.

“All these 287 should consider it a badge of honour,” Johnson told Parliament.

Dozens of Americans have been sanctioned in recent weeks, from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton posted a tongue-in-cheek reply on Twitter last month: “I want to thank the Russian Academy for this Lifetime Achievement Award.”

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Latest developments:

►Chinese drone maker DJI Technology has suspended its operations in Russia and Ukraine amid “reassessment of compliance requirements in various jurisdictions.” China itself has refused to join the nations sanctioning Russia for the invasion.

►Germany’s Economics Minister Robert Habeck said his country had reduced the share of its oil imports from Russia to about 12% from 35% before the war, making a supply embargo “manageable”. However, Berlin said it will take longer to overcome major cuts in gas supplies from Russia.

►British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he does not expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, a day after a Russian diplomat said the possibility of nuclear war “should not be underestimated”.

►Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seemed to suggest that Russia was targeting Ukraine and other countries because they were “part of Russia,” a remark that drew criticism that he was touting Putin’s talking points.

Russia stops gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria

Russia on Wednesday said it was halting gas supplies to two European Union countries that are staunchly supporting Kyiv. The action came a day after the US and dozens of allies announced plans to increase military support to embattled Ukraine – and two days later Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed his country had sent tanks to fight his to support neighbors against the invading Russian forces.

State-controlled Russian giant Gazprom said it has halted natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria pending payment in Russian rubles, as President Vladimir Putin has demanded.

“We should do the same with other countries that are unfriendly to us,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s State Duma, said in a Telegram post.

Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said Wednesday Bulgaria could meet user demand for at least a month. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused Russia of using gas “as a tool of blackmail” and said the region’s 27 countries are ready to weather Russia’s shutdowns.

Silenced by Putin: A USA TODAY investigation

During Vladimir Putin’s rise to power and wealth, he and his associates are suspected of silencing some of those who have raised questions about the source of his apparent wealth. Dozens of people may have been killed or survived poisoning and other assassination attempts, or their investigations blocked or dropped, according to USA TODAY interviews and a review of documents and reports. Countless others have long looked the other way for fear of similar retribution.

You can read about some of the more famous victims here and learn how he became one of the richest men in the world here. Details of sanctions his family and associates are now facing can be found here.

Josh Meyer

Why Moldova and Transnistria are becoming key factors in the war

Moldova’s Russian-aligned Transnistria region borders Ukraine, and its neighbors have long feared that Russia could use it as a staging ground for an invasion either east into Ukraine or west into Moldova. Border guards in the breakaway region wear Russian-style camouflage patterns, and even the Soviet-style hammer and sickle can be seen on the flag.

On Monday night, explosions shook the headquarters of the Transnistrian security forces, which are paid by Russia. Further explosions on Tuesday destroyed transmission towers used for Russian broadcasts. Moldovan officials said Monday’s blasts were caused by grenade launchers and the attacks were intended to create “pretexts for straining the security situation” in the disputed area.

“Most of these troops are people who were born in Transnistria and have Russian citizenship. They’re not really Russian troops,” said Keith Harrington, an Irish scholar studying the area about troops stationed in Transnistria. “And from what I’ve heard, there is no interest in these forces interfering in the Ukraine conflict.” Read more here.

Trevor Hughes

US diplomats begin returning to Ukraine

U.S. diplomats are beginning to return to Ukraine, the State Department said, the latest sign of increased American diplomacy in the country. According to the Foreign Ministry, diplomats will start making day trips to makeshift offices in the western city of Lviv from Tuesday. The first group crossed Poland to Lviv on Tuesday morning and returned to Poland later in the day.

The return of American diplomats to Ukraine follows the meeting of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. Blinken not only promised that the United States would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and approved a $165 million ammunition sale to Ukraine, but also said that American diplomats who visited Ukraine before the war would return to the country immediately week.

President Joe Biden also announced his nomination of Bridget Brink as US ambassador to Ukraine, a position that has been vacant for three years.

UN Secretary-General and Putin agree “in principle” that the UN should help evacuate Mariupol citizens

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for talks on Tuesday, a UN spokesman said.

During their face-to-face meeting, Guterres and Putin “discussed the proposals for humanitarian aid and the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, particularly in relation to the situation in Mariupol,” according to Stephane Dujarric.

They agreed “in principle” that the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians from a besieged steel mill in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

Ukrainian officials had previously criticized the meeting between Guterres and Putin. Ukrainian Ambassador Igor Zhovkva told NBC News that Guterres was “not really” qualified to speak for Ukraine and “we didn’t understand his intention to go to Moscow and speak to President Putin.”

Contribution: The Associated Press

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