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Ukraine: More than 260 fighters evacuated from Mariupol mill

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Ukraine: More than 260 fighters evacuated from Mariupol mill

By OLEKSANDR STASHEVSKYI and CIARAN McQUILLAN

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian military official said more than 260 fighters, including some who are badly wounded, were evacuated Monday from a steel plant in the city of Mariupol and taken to areas under Russia’s control.

Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken to a hospital in Novoazovsk. An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor. An exchange would be worked out for their return home, she said.

Malyar said missions are underway to rescue the remaining fighters inside the plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the ruined southern port city of Mariupol.

“Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, Ukraine gained critically important time,” she said. “And they fulfilled all their tasks. But it is impossible to unblock Azovstal by military means.”

Earlier Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the steelworks for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists.

After nightfall Monday, several buses pulled away from the steel mill accompanied by Russian military vehicles.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Moscow suffered another diplomatic setback Monday in its war with Ukraine as Sweden joined Finland in deciding to seek NATO membership, while Ukraine’s president congratulated soldiers who reportedly pushed Russian forces back near the border.

Russian forces pounded targets in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, and the death toll, already many thousands, kept climbing with the war set to enter its 12th week on Wednesday.

The eastern city of Sievierdonetsk came under heavy shelling that killed at least 10 people, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region. In the Donetsk region, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Facebook that nine civilians were killed in shelling.

But Ukrainian troops also advanced as Russian forces pulled back from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in recent days. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the soldiers who reportedly pushed all the way to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region in a symbolic gain.

Video showed Ukrainian soldiers carrying a post that resembled a Ukrainian blue-and-yellow-striped border marker. Then they placed it on the ground while a dozen of the soldiers posed next to it, including one with belts of bullets draped over a shoulder.

“I’m very grateful to you, on behalf of all Ukrainians, on my behalf and on behalf of my family,” Zelenskyy said in a video message. “I’m very grateful to all the fighters like you.”

The Ukrainian border service said the video showing the soldiers was from the border “in the Kharkiv region,” but would not elaborate, citing security reasons. It was not immediately possible to verify the exact location.

Ukrainian border guards said they also stopped a Russian attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops into the Sumy region, some 90 miles (146 kilometers) northwest of Kharkiv.

Russia has been plagued by setbacks in the war, most glaringly in its failure early on to take the capital of Kyiv. Much of the fighting has shifted to the Donbas but also has turned into a slog, with both sides fighting village-by-village.

Howitzers from the U.S. and other countries have helped Kyiv hold off or gain ground against Russia, a senior U.S. defense official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment, said Ukraine has pushed Russian forces to within a half-mile to 2.5 miles (1 to 4 kilometers) of Russia’s border but could not confirm if it was all the way to the frontier.

The official said Russian long-range strikes also appeared to target a Ukrainian military training center in Yavoriv, near the Polish border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

A glimmer of hope emerged for wounded Ukrainian troops trapped in the remains of a giant steel plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the shattered port city of Mariupol. The Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the steelworks for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Ukrainian side, and there was no word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war.

After nightfall Monday, several buses pulled away from the steel mill accompanied by Russian military vehicles, but it wasn’t clear who was on the buses.

The international response to the Russian invasion picked up pace.

Sweden’s decision to seek NATO membership followed a similar decision by neighboring Finland in a historic shift for the counties, which were nonaligned for generations.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country would be in a “vulnerable position” during the application period and urged her fellow citizens to brace themselves.

“Russia has said that that it will take countermeasures if we join NATO,” she said. “We cannot rule out that Sweden will be exposed to, for instance, disinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us.”

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member, ratcheted up his objection to their joining. He accused the countries of failing to take a “clear” stance against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists, and of imposing military sanctions on Turkey.

He said Swedish and Finnish officials who are expected in Turkey next week should not bother to come if they intend to try to convince Turkey of dropping its objection.

“How can we trust them?” Erdogan asked at a joint news conference with the visiting Algerian president.

All 30 current NATO members must agree to let the Nordic neighbors join.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow “does not have a problem” with Sweden or Finland as they apply for NATO membership, but that “the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will of course give rise to our reaction in response.”

Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24 in what he said was an effort to check NATO’s expansion but has seen that strategy backfire. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the membership process for both could be quick.

Europe is also working to choke off funding for the Kremlin’s war by reducing the billions of dollars it spends on imports of Russian energy. A proposed EU embargo faces opposition from some countries dependent on Russian imports, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations.

“We will do our best in order to deblock the situation,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. “I cannot ensure that it is going to happen because positions are quite strong.”

Also Monday, McDonald’s said it has started selling its business in Russia, ending a relationship that has lasted more than three decades. It cited the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, noting that staying in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.” The company was the first fast-food restaurant to open in the Soviet Union.

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McQuillan reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov and Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Elena Becatoros in Odesa and other AP staffers around the world contributed.

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Sainted & Tainted: Half of my summer is gone because you didn’t yield

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Sainted & Tainted: Half of my summer is gone because you didn’t yield

Tainted & Sainted

Tainted: June 3, between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. at Johnson Parkway and Sixth Street. The male driver in a black pickup didn’t yield to me and crossed into the bike path where I fell under the bike to avoid hitting your truck. All you did was sit in the truck and say you’re sorry. You left as soon as I got off the street. Half of my summer is gone because of this.

Tainted: Whoever designed this bike path. Hardly anyone stops at the stop sign. Just stop at the corner. Many close calls to me and I’ve told all to stop. Maybe put a yield sign or stop signs on the west side of Johnson. They don’t know how to yield.

Sainted: To the one driver who asked if I was OK. Much appreciated. Felt fine at the time but did break my elbow.

Barb Anderson, St. Paul

 

Tainted

I think It would be desirable if those responsible for the St. Paul skyway system could maintain uniform hours for the operation of the system.

They have posted operating hours indicating a close of 11 p.m., but this is contradicted by one posting indicating a 12 p.m. closing. The reality is that neither apply as I discovered this past Saturday when returning to my apartment from a downtown restaurant.

The location in the general vicinity (east) of the Subway operation was closed at 10 p.m. This is not the first time this has happened to me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect uniform operating hours to be observed.

Roger A. Godin, St. Paul

 

Sainted

An incredible Sainted to Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. I had surgery this past Tuesday and had never been there before. The care I received was phenomenal. The staff was incredible and compassionate.

I was on the first floor and it was like a party when they came in for vitals, etc. Kelly always referred me to as The Boss. Thank you for such kindness and for helping me through such a painful surgery. And an even bigger shout out to my personal paramedics Shawna S. and Mary F.  Thank you both so much for everything. I’d be lost without you.

Laura McGinn, St. Paul

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ASK IRA: Could another Heat run at Kevin Durant be in the cards?

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ASK IRA: Could another Heat run at Kevin Durant be in the cards?

Q: Ira, we’ve been burned by Kevin Durant before. We can’t be fooled into fool’s gold again. – Ian.

A: Look, this whole Brooklyn Nets-will-implode storyline is so bizarre, so speculative, so seemingly preposterous that perspective needs to be toned down all around on the possibilities of both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant departing. But to your question, this also is an opportunity to address the notion of the Heat being “burned” when coming up short in free agency, including when Pat Riley and Micky Arison traveled to the Hamptons in an attempt to woo Kevin Durant during 2016 free agency. It was the same narrative when the Heat “came up short” with Gordon Hayward (and even to a degree the supposed previous “failure” to nab Kyrie). Being mentioned in such speculation means your franchise has earned the respect of players and agents. That is a good thing. The Heat get into the room (unless it’s LeBron’s Las Vegas suite). And if Kevin Durant does attempt to work his way elsewhere, they likely will be back in the room.

Q: Nikola Jovic seems a bit slow footed when I watch his clips. I’d like to see him get serious playing time in Sioux Falls, so he can adjust to the NBA speed. – James.

A: But I’m not sure the G League game, which can be helter skelter at times, is the preferred tempo, either. This could be more along the lines of Omer Yurtseven’s rookie season with the Heat, where it will be mostly developmental, with some as-needed time as warranted/merited. Remember, Nikola Jovic will become the youngest Heat player ever to appear in a game in the franchise’s 35 seasons. That has to be about patience, for more than just foot speed.

Q: Ira, you listed players the Heat passed on to get Nikola Jovic. Who would you have preferred? – Anthony.

A: So basically you’re asking me to trump my preference in the moment at the 2020 draft for Desmond Bane? I’m not sure there is anyone in that category this year. But of those selected after Nikola Jovic (who I think can turn into an inspired choice), I do believe that Patrick Baldwin’s skillset could still yield something special and was curious about E.J. Liddell as a Heat fit. But I don’t believe there is a reason for second guessing when you’re talking about No. 27.

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‘Everything’s gonna get caught’: Orioles outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins share favorite parts of each other’s defense

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‘Everything’s gonna get caught’: Orioles outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins share favorite parts of each other’s defense

Presented the choice between the two highlight defensive plays he made Thursday night — a fourth-inning throw to the plate to prevent a run and his rally-killing diving catch across the right field line in the eighth — Orioles right fielder Austin Hays made his decision based on sound logic.

“I’d probably say the throw because the dive hurt a lot worse,” Hays said with a smile. “It was totally worth it because I caught it. But I’d like to not have to dive on the warning track ever again.”

But speaking as an observer, center fielder Cedric Mullins went the other way.

“The throw, for him, was pretty easy,” Mullins said. “That [dive] definitely crushed some spirits out there.”

The difference of opinion is perhaps one of the few ways Hays and Mullins aren’t in sync when it comes to outfield defense. Having played together since 2017 as minor leaguers, the pair has developed an innate ability to communicate with each other before and during plays.

Thursday, along with Hays’ highlights, Mullins ranged into right-center field for a handful of impressive catches, with Hays also finishing in the vicinity. Add in a well-tracked catch in left from Anthony Santander, and the result is what manager Brandon Hyde said “might have been the best defensive game from an outfield group that I’ve seen in the big leagues.”

“It’s two Gold Glovers,” Hyde said. “You see them doing a lot of nonverbal [communication] while they’re running to the ball. They know each other so well now. When you play next to a guy, you know their mannerisms, you know what balls they can get to and what they can’t, where they’re playing, so there’s some comfort.”

Mullins said with a wave of his hand, he can let Hays know what areas he has covered based on positioning. Both noted that if a ball is hit between them and one can catch it with a dive, it usually means the other can get to it standing up. That cue helps them avoid collisions, with one moving up to make the catch while the other veers deeper into the outfield as backup.

“It’s a really big peace of mind for an outfielder to know that the other guy is always going to be there,” Hays said. “I think we’ve built a lot of trust with one another.”

Hays said that trust is a byproduct of years of games alongside each other, with those instincts becoming second nature “once those plays happen over and over and over and over again.”

That aggregate time together means they have both seen the other blossom into standout defenders in their own way. Hays praised Mullins’ jumps, routes and speed. Mullins is in the 72nd percentile in the majors in outfield jump, 84th percentile in sprint speed, and 91st percentile in outs above average, according to Baseball Savant.

“He’s as good as they come for center fielders,” Hays said.

His favorite play by Mullins happened last year, when the All-Star slid on the warning track in right-center field at Camden Yards to rob Nelson Cruz of extra bases. With experience playing center field in Baltimore, Hays knows the challenge of that play.

“That’s one of the most difficult plays for a center fielder, when you’re running wide open,” he said. “That gap gets small right there before it jets out to where it’s 373 [feet]. I think that’s probably the most impressive one I’ve seen him make. He robbed Gary [Sánchez of a home run] last year, but I still think that the one where he slid on the track up against the wall, that’s just such a difficult play.”

Mullins said picking one of Hays’ best plays is a tough task because “the list keeps piling up.” He settled on the highlight that impressed him most recently: After Mullins lunged at a ball as it caromed off the new left field wall at Camden Yards, Hays chased it down and threw out Jesse Winker at third base as the Seattle Mariners outfielder tried to stretch the hit into a triple.

It’s one of Hays’ six outfield assists, which entered Friday as the second most in the American League and highlighted the arm that most impresses Mullins about Hays’ defensive acumen. Since 2016, Hays is responsible for the Orioles’ five hardest-thrown outfield assists, with the top three coming this year.

“He came behind me, picked it up, threw him out at third while I was just kind of my knees watching because at that point, I’m like, ‘It’s all you, man,’” Mullins said.

Hays’ favorite among Mullins’ plays came June 1, 2021. Mullins’ preference among Hays’ highlights was June 2, 2022. It’s just another example of them in lockstep, working in tandem to secure outs for the Orioles’ pitching staff.

“We just have a lot of faith knowing that everything’s gonna get caught,” Hays said. “If there’s something I feel like is out of reach for me, he’s gonna catch it.”

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