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Presidents of 3 Baltic nations, Poland visit Zelensky in Ukraine to oppose Russian war

Presidents of 3 Baltic nations, Poland visit Zelensky in Ukraine to oppose Russian war
Estonia President Alar Karis (C) and Lithuania President Gitanas Nauseda (2nd from R) speak with a security official in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. The two and Polish President Andrzej Duda and Latvia President Egils Levits traveled to Kyiv Wednesday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support against the Russian war. Photo courtesy Office of President Egils Levits/Twitter

April 13 (UPI) -- The presidents of three Baltic European countries and Poland made visits to Ukraine on Wednesday in a show of support against the Russian war, as Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of using chemical weapons.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, Estonia President Alar Karis, Latvia President Egils Levits and Lithuania President Gitanas Nauseda traveled to Kyiv by train to meet with Zelensky.

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Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are all former Soviet-aligned republics that declared independence from Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. They are all now part of NATO.

"Heading to Kyiv with a strong message of political support and military assistance," Nauseda said in a tweet earlier Wednesday. "Lithuania will continue backing Ukraine's fight for its sovereignty and freedom."

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"Together with the presidents of Lithuania, Estonia and Poland we begin our visit in Ukraine today to show full solidarity with the heroic people and their president," Levits tweeted.

"On our way to Kyiv, to a city that has suffered terribly due to Russian war since my last visit," Karis said in a tweet. "Together with Presidents Andrzej Duda, Gitanas Nauseda and Egils Levits we visit Ukraine to show strong support to people."

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The presidents' visit on Wednesday is the latest for world leaders traveling to war-torn Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Zelensky in Kyiv last week.

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine has spawned concern in Poland and the Baltic countries that Moscow could target them next if it's successful in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia's defense ministry said Wednesday that more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered in the southern city of Mariupol -- which, if true, would put Moscow closer to capturing the key port and notching one of their most significant victories of the war.

The Kremlin said the troops from Ukraine's 36th brigade laid down their arms near the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works, where they'd been battling Russian troops and pro-Moscow Donetsk separatists.

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Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment on the Russian claim, which included a report of more than 150 wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

Zelensky accused Russia on Wednesday of using chemical weapons in Mariupol and said that Ukrainian forces captured one of Moscow's biggest supporters in Ukraine -- Viktor Medvedchuk, a Russian-backed Ukrainian politician and business oligarch.

Zelensky said Medvedchuk was detained after escaping house arrest -- and later offered to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange.

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Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that they're investigating reports of Russian forces using phosphorus bombs in Mariupol or other parts of Ukraine. Independent intelligence officials have yet to verify the claim.

Phosphorus bombs are designed to severely burn victims and are classified as chemical weapons. International law bars their use against civilians.

Officials said that commercial satellite images have shown that Russian military convoys are moving toward cities in the eastern Ukraine areas of Kharkiv and Luhansk as part of an expected new military offensive. Officials said the imagery showed more than 200 vehicles.

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Priest Andrii Gavalin presides over the funeral of Eugene Bogdanov, 35, in Bucha, Ukraine, on May 10. Bogdanov went missing two months ago. His wife, Natalia Bogdanova, was searching for him throughout the Kyiv and Bucha regions when his body was found at a morgue in Belaya Tserkov on May 9. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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