Live updates | Norway sends air defense systems to Ukraine

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway is donating about 100 air defense systems to Ukraine with the Scandinavian country’s defense minister saying that “the country is depending on international support to resist Russian aggression.”

Bjørn Arild Gram said Norway had donated French-made Mistral short-range missile systems which currently are being phased out by the Norwegian Armed Forces, “but it is still a modern and effective weapon that will be of great benefit to Ukraine,” Arild Gram said.

The weapons have already left Norway which previously has donated 4,000 anti-tank missiles, protective equipment and other military equipment to Ukraine, he added.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

Russia hits Ukrainian cities, pours more troops into war

— Japan formally revokes Russia’s ‘most favored nation’ status

— Russia’s Chernobyl seizure seen as nuclear risk ‘nightmare’

— China looks to learn from Russian failures in Ukraine

— Ukrainian opera singer in Japan prays for peace in melody

Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says the Russian military is expanding its presence on Ukraine’s eastern border as fighting in the Donbas region intensifies.

In an intelligence update released Wednesday morning, the ministry says Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine are an attempt to disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weapons to the east.

While Russian air operations in northern Ukraine are likely to remain at a low level following the withdrawal of forces from the Kyiv region, there is still a risk of “precision strikes against priority targets throughout Ukraine,” the ministry says.

In a briefing released late Tuesday, the ministry said Ukrainian forces had repelled “numerous attempted advances” by Russian troops as shelling and attacks increased along the line of control that has separated Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces in the Donbas region for the past eight years.

“Russia’s ability to progress continues to be impacted by the environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with the resilience of the highly motivated Ukrainian armed forces,” the ministry said.

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BERLIN — Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany is criticizing Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s reluctance to commit to direct deliveries of heavy weapons such as tanks.

Scholz faces pressure from parts of his own coalition and Germany’s main opposition party to deliver such weapons. But he avoided a direct response Tuesday, pledging further weapons deliveries but not specifying any system and saying one possibility is for eastern NATO allies to supply Soviet-era equipment that could be delivered and used quickly.

Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk told German news agency dpa in comments published Wednesday that Scholz’s comments were greeted in Kyiv “with great disappointment and bitterness.”

Scholz said Germany is reaching the limits of its ability to supply Ukraine from its own stock and will finance Ukrainian purchases of equipment from a list drawn up by the German defense industry.

Melnyk, a frequent critic of German politicians in recent weeks, welcomed that readiness but said many questions remained and questioned the assertion that Germany’s military can’t deliver more.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine says its evacuation efforts to bring some civilians out of the war-torn port city of Mariupol will resume Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Wednesday there is a “preliminary” agreement to operate a so-called humanitarian corridor route westward to the Ukraine-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia. It will apply to women, children and older people from Wednesday afternoon local time, she said in a statement on the messaging app Telegram.

She added that Mariupol was the focus of Ukrainian efforts to help civilians because of the “catastrophic humanitarian situation” in the city, which has seen intense fighting for weeks as Russian troops have pushed Ukrainian forces back and now have them encircled in a steel mill complex.

Vereshchuk previously said there would not be an agreed evacuation route out of Mariupol on each of the past three days, saying at the time that an agreement had not been reached with Russia. There was no immediate confirmation from the Russian side. Ukraine and Russia have frequently blamed each other for obstructing evacuations from Mariupol or firing along the agreed route, which has typically only been open to people traveling using private vehicles.

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KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian General Staff said Wednesday in a statement on Facebook that Russia is continuing to mount offensives at various locations in the east as its forces probe for weak points in the Ukrainian lines. The General Staff adds that defeating the last resistance in the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol remains Russia’s top priority.

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UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is calling for a four-day halt in fighting in Ukraine, starting Thursday to coincide with Orthodox Christians’ Holy Week observances.

Noting that Orthodox Easter is coming amid an intensifying Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, the U.N. chief said Tuesday that the need for a “humanitarian pause” is all the more urgent.

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya called on Russia to heed Guterres’ call. But Russian deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said Tuesday he was “a bit skeptical” about the idea.

Guterres said the goal is to allow for evacuating civilians from “current or expected areas of confrontation” and getting more humanitarian aid into desperately needy places such as Mariupol, Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson. More than four million people in those areas need assistance, Guterres said.

The proposal comes after the U.N. recently helped to foster a two-month truce in Yemen’s civil war, halting fighting as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new security assistance package in the coming days that will include additional artillery and ammunition, according to a U.S. official.

The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said details of the latest package are being finalized.

Last week, in anticipation of Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine, Biden approved an $800 million package including additional helicopters and the first provision of American artillery. The U.S. has sent about $2.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded.

Asked by reporters whether he’d be sending more artillery, Biden said, “Yes.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said “providing more ammunition and security assistance to Ukraine” was discussed by Biden and other allied leaders during a video call on Tuesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italy Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took part in the more than 80-minute call.

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Aamer Madhani contributed to this report from Washington.

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will send heavy artillery to Ukraine.

Trudeau says he’s been in close contact with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Canada is very responsive to what Ukraine needs. He says there will be more details on the pledge in the days to come, and that Ukrainians have “fought like heroes.”

Canada’s government has also hit 14 more Russians with sanctions for their close ties with President Vladimir Putin, including his two adult daughters.

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