Papa John’s International announced Wednesday it has suspended all corporate operations in Russia, adding to a long roster of Western brands distancing themselves from Moscow following the invasion of Ukraine.
Up until now, Papa John’s had been among a shrinking group of major Western companies with a presence in Russia to keep its business intact there despite the outcry over the war in Ukraine.
Papa John’s said it has stopped all operational, marketing and business support to, and engagement with, the Russian market. However, the Papa John’s brand will still exist in Russia.
The company said all of its restaurants in Papa John’s are owned by independent franchisees and a master franchisee that controls operations and provides supplies and ingredients.
Papa John’s said it is not currently receiving any royalties from these franchised stores in Russia and does not own or operate any restaurants in Russia.
“Papa John’s stands with much of the globe in condemning aggression and violence,” the company said in a statement. “We hope for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, which today is hurting millions of innocent people, who are losing their homes, communities and people they love.”
Local authorities in a town close to Kyiv that has been under attack for more than a week say that efforts to evacuate people to safety Wednesday have failed.
Ukraine and Russia had agreed what was called a “green corridor” to help thousands of people still trapped on the northern outskirts of the capital.
Two of the districts in that corridor are Bucha and Hostomel.
The city council of Bucha said that 50 buses had been blocked by the Russian military in nearby Stoyanka.
“They do not allow the convoy to pass,” according to the city council.
“The evacuation has been thwarted! It is impossible to evacuate residents from Bucha and Hostomel today,” the council said.
CNN teams observed hundreds of residents from other districts around Kyiv where there has been heavy fighting arrive at a collection point to the west of the city aboard scores of buses.
Germany will not be sending fighter jets to Ukraine to help in its defense against the Russian invasion, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday.
Speaking alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Berlin, Scholz said that a military solution to the war in Ukraine “makes no sense” and urged for a diplomatic solution.
Germany has provided humanitarian aid, equipment and some weapons “but otherwise we have to think very carefully about what we are doing now and that certainly does not include fighter jets,” he said.
In the US, the Pentagon has dismissed a proposal from Poland to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to the United States for delivery to Ukraine.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement that the Pentagon did not believe Poland’s proposal was “tenable,” just hours after Polish officials released a statement saying the government was ready to deploy all of its MiG-29 fighter jets to US Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany so they could then be provided to Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
The city council of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol has posted video of a devastated maternity hospital in the city and accused Russian forces of dropping several bombs on it from the air.
“The destruction is enormous. The building of the medical facility where the children were treated recently is completely destroyed. Information on casualties is being clarified,” the council said.
“A maternity hospital in the city center, a children’s ward and department of internal medicine … all these were destroyed during the Russian air strike on Mariupol. Just now,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the air strike on a hospital in Mariupol.
“Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?” Zelensky said on his Telegram account.
The president again directed his anger at NATO for refusing to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying
“Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity,” Zelensky said.
Details on casualties from the airstrike are yet to be confirmed.
It is “not possible” for the European Union to cut off its supply of Russian oil and gas completely, warned Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
“We have to discuss our vulnerabilities in terms of our dependency on Russian oil and Russian gas. I will not plead to cut off our supply of oil and gas today from Russia,” Rutte said in a joint news conference with his French counterpart in Paris on Wednesday.
The bloc needs the Russian supply, Rutte stressed, calling it “the uncomfortable truth.”
On Tuesday, the EU announced its plans to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year and eliminate its overall need for Russian oil and gas “well before 2030.”
Rutte added that the bloc’s sanctions against Russia are “pointed” at the Russian leadership, not the people.
A group of senior retired US military officers and former chiefs of defense of three Eastern European countries are advocating for supplying the Ukrainian military with air defense capabilities to defend against attacks by the Russian air force, according to an open letter obtained by CNN.
Supplying the Ukrainians with such weaponry would be effective in allowing them to shoot down aircraft or missiles in their airspace, and it is something that Ukrainians have specially asked the US and western countries to provide.
“The purpose of this letter is to urge, in the strongest possible sense, immediate action to provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces with a viable mid- and high-altitude air defense capability. They need immediate reconstitution of their capability to defend themselves against air attacks from the Russian Air Force,” the retired military officials write. “We cannot stand idly by and wish them well as Russia prosecutes an unrestricted campaign of destruction on the Ukrainian government, its infrastructure, and its people.”
This move should would stop short of creating a no-fly zone, which the US and NATO have so far resisted supporting due to concerns that this could embroil the alliance in a war with a nuclear-armed power.
Earlier this week 27 foreign policy experts published an open letter calling on the Biden administration and the international community to establish a limited no-fly zone in Ukraine surrounding the humanitarian corridors.
The retired military leaders say that NATO’s decision to reject a no-fly zone was “devastating to the Ukrainian government and people’s morale.” They go on to assert that supplying the mid- and high-altitude air defense capability would prevent the Russians from dominating Ukrainian “airspace while delivering devastation of Ukraine’s cities.”
They note that, “Some nations have air defense systems similar to those which were previously destroyed in the opening days of the Russian campaign. Those nations could transfer existing stocks of Soviet-era and Russian-produced weapon systems to include radars. Other nations can purchase them on the international market and expedite their delivery to Ukraine.”
This proposal may have a better chance of success than implementing a no-fly zone because supplying the Ukrainian military with advanced air defense capabilities,
The Ukrainians already have some S300 missile systems — which are a type of air defense — which means they are trained in operating these. The Croatians and few either other NATO nations have S300s in their inventory.
Turkey could use this an opportunity to offload the S400s they bought from Russia, which was a purchase that created deep tensions within the NATO alliance.
The letter’s signatories: They include General Phillip M. Breedlove, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
The former chiefs of defense of three Eastern European countries also signed on to the letter Lieutenant General Raimonds of Latvia; Lieutenant General Vytautas Jonas Žukas of Lithuania, and General Riho Terras of Estonia.
A number of key former leaders of US Special Operations Forces also signed the letter including Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, former Deputy Commander, Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral Sean Pybus, former Deputy Commander, Special Operations Command; Lieutenant General Francis M. Beaudette, former Commanding General, Army Special Operations Command, and Major General Michael S. Repass, former Commander, Special Operations Command Europe.
CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General, Mark P. Hertling, was also a signatory to the letter.
More background: Their letter comes just a day after the Chair of Ukraine’s Parliament requested surface-to-air defense systems, no-fly zones over critical areas and fighter jets for Ukraine in a letter to US lawmakers on Tuesday, according to the letter reviewed by CNN.
The chair, Ruslan Stefanchuk, said that there is a need for “military assistance suitable for countering Russian attacks and military advances,” citing the Iron Dome as one example of the military equipment that Ukraine needs.
When asked about providing this type of additional military assistance to Ukraine State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, told lawmakers that some of it could be possible but cited challenges with certain highly advanced equipment.
“I would only say with regard to Iron Dome, you can’t just, you know, snap your fingers and you have an Iron Dome. It takes training, it takes the ability to emplace it and all of those kinds of things. But there are other things on your list, on their list, which we think that we can do,” Nuland said. She added that she could get into more detail in a classified setting.
Read the full letter below:
France is preparing accommodations for the first 10,000 refugees from Ukraine, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said.
The French national defense council has activated an inter-ministerial unit to prepare for and coordinate the arrival of Ukrainian refugees in France, he added.
On Tuesday, the French Citizenship Minister Marlene Schiappa said that 5,000 Ukrainians have already arrived in France. A website has been established for French people to volunteer to host Ukrainian families fleeing the war.
“Today, nothing indicates a quick end to this tragic war. The bombings and Russian military manoeuvres could very easily get stronger in the days and weeks to come,” Attal said. “Our concern is quite obviously at its highest levels.”
China’s Red Cross will provide 5 million yuan (or around $791,000 USD) in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a briefing, adding that the first batch of the aid left Beijing on Wednesday,
The aid, which includes food and daily necessities, comes at the request of Ukraine and will be delivered to the Ukrainian Red Cross “as soon as possible,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Wednesday.
Remember: China has repeatedly called for parties to exercise “maximum restraint” to prevent a massive humanitarian crisis. Beijing has also consistently refused to call the war in Ukraine a Russian invasion.
The city council of Bucha, just north of Kyiv, has accused Russian forces of blocking the evacuation of people through an agreed evacuation corridor.
“The occupants are disrupting the evacuation. Currently, 50 buses are blocked by Russian military in the parking lot: do not give passage to the column,” the city council said in a brief Facebook post. “Negotiations are ongoing to unlock traffic.”
“We remind you that the “green corridor” was an agreement at the highest level,” it added.
While there has been no progress in getting an evacuation convoy moving from the beleaguered Kyiv suburb of Bucha, the evacuations agreed for two other nearby towns appear to have got underway.
Oleksandr Markushyn, mayor of Irpin, said on Facebook: “The evacuation from the city continues. There are buses in the center of Irpin. We are evacuating as many people as possible.”
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, an adviser in the president’s office, says that all the children stranded in an orphanage in nearby Vorzel have been rescued and evacuated, as has the local maternity hospital.