Ukraine skeptical of Russian plans to allow civilians to flee; Russia threatens to halt gas supplies to Europe: Live updates – USA TODAY

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Safe corridors intended to allow civilians to escape war-torn Ukraine could open Tuesday, a significant move likely to be met with skepticism after similar efforts failed over the last several days. 

The proposal made Monday by Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia during the U.N. Security Council meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine included that fleeing Ukrainians would not have to flee to Russia or its ally Belarus, a key issue Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called “just cynicism” and a propaganda effort in the country’s favor.

“This proposal doesn’t have any demands about the citizens being sent necessarily to Russia, into Russian territory,” Nebenzia said. “There’s also evacuation offered towards Ukrainian cities to the west of Kyiv, and ultimately it will be the choice of the people themselves where they want to be evacuated to.” 

But doubts abounded, fueled by the failure of previous attempts to lead civilians to safety amid the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II. Zelenskyy’s office would not comment on the latest Russian proposal, saying only that Moscow’s plans can be believed only if a safe evacuation begins.

Latest developments:

►Shares fell in Asia on Tuesday as markets were jolted by another surge in oil prices. The surge in the price of oil past $130 per barrel on Monday was triggered by the possibility the U.S. might bar crude imports from Russia.

►Senior U.S. officials traveled to South America over the weekend to meet with President Nicolas Maduro’s government, a surprise high-level meeting between the countries. According to Reuters, officials discussed easing oil sanctions on Venezuela amid the fallout from a possible oil embargo on Russia.

►Russian banks are looking into issuing cards that operate on a Chinese payment system after American Express, Visa and Mastercard cut off services in Russia citing the invasion.

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VISUALS: Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Gas prices are now the most expensive in US history

After days of dramatically rising gas prices in wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the national average for a gallon of gas is now the highest in United States history, breaking the record that stood for nearly 14 years.

As of Tuesday morning, the cost of regular gas in the U.S. is $4.17, according to AAA, up from $4.06 on Monday. Last week, the average cost was $3.60.

One of the main components of the rising costs is the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Tom Kloza, a chief global analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, told USA TODAY that Russia is the second-largest oil producer in the world, behind the United States. 

Russia warns to cut gas supplies to Europe amid tensions with the West

Russia warned the price of oil could leapfrog to $300 a barrel and threatened the possible closure of gas supplies to Europe amid rising tensions against Western countries considering a ban on Russia oil.

“It is absolutely clear that a rejection of Russian oil would lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in a statement on state television, according to Reuters. “The surge in prices would be unpredictable. It would be $300 per barrel if not more.”

Noting Germany’s decision last month to freeze the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Novak said Russia could ax the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline – considered one of Europe’s main sources of natural gas.

“We have every right to take a matching decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline,” said Novak, The Guardian reported.

— Charles Ventura

Lviv struggling with influx of Ukrainians hoping to flee to Poland

1.7 million Ukrainians have fled their country, and many of them are crossing over to Poland through the far western city of Lviv.

But the city is buckling under the pressure of the tens of thousands of people who have fled their hometowns in hopes of seeking refuge in another country.

“We really need support,” Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said. The city needs big tents with kitchens in order to prepare food, he said.

The historical city, once a popular tourist destination, had a population of 700,000 before the war. Now, over 200,000 displaced Ukrainians are filling up Lviv’s sports halls, schools, church buildings, and hospitals.

The United Nations has called the situation the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

— Celina Tebor

Congress comes to deal on bill banning Russian oil

Top officials in the Congress reached an agreement Monday on legislation that would ban Russian oil imports to the U.S. and end Russia’s permanent normal trade relation status in response to the intensifying war in Ukraine, according to a Senate aide granted anonymity to discuss private deliberations. 

Voting could come swiftly but no schedule has been set.

The White House has been reluctant to ban Russian oil imports as gas prices at the pump spike for Americans but has not ruled out the option.

Ending the normal trade relation status could result in steep tariffs on other Russian imports.

President Joe Biden has been reluctant to ban Russian oil, fearing it could further fuel inflation heading into the midterm elections this November. 

The national average price for unleaded gasoline hit $4.10 a gallon Monday, compared with $3.61 a week ago and $3.44 a month ago, according to AAA. 

— Christal Hayes

36 hours with a team building a field hospital in Ukraine

USA TODAY spent 36 hours with a team of overseas nurses, engineers and logistics personnel invited by Ukraine’s authorities to build a field hospital for emergency and specialized trauma care in Lviv. It is being established to serve an expected wave of people – military and civilian –impacted by Russia’s assault on Ukraine as Moscow counters resistance to its invasion with more firepower. 

The location of the planned hospital is on the fringes of Lviv in western Ukraine – identified as a potential capital if Kyiv falls to the Kremlin. “I’ve set up hospitals in war zones, and we’ve deliberately marked ones that have been bombed and we’ve left them unmarked and gotten bombed,” said Ken Isaacs, the American who is leading the effort to construct the hospital. “When an airplane wants to bomb you, they bomb you.” 

Read more here.

– Kim Hjelmgaard and Jessica Koscielniak