Kyiv Strike: Moscow Claims It Destroyed Tanks Supplied By Eastern European Countries

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov

 

Russia said Sunday that it had destroyed tanks supplied to Ukraine by eastern European countries during strikes on Kyiv.

“High-precision, long-range missiles fired by the Russian Aerospace Forces on the outskirts of Kyiv destroyed T-72 tanks supplied by eastern European countries and other armoured vehicles that were in hangars,” Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.


READ ALSO: Putin To Hit New Targets If Long-Range Missiles Are Supplied To Ukraine


Earlier on Sunday, Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, had said that the Ukrainian capital had been hit by “several explosions in Darnytsky and Dniprovsky districts of city”, the first such strikes on the capital since April 28.

According to the Ukrainian air force, several cruise missiles were fired in the direction of Kyiv by Russian TU-95 planes based in the Caspian Sea, one of which was destroyed.

Relative calm had returned in recent weeks to Kyiv after Moscow abandoned its assault on the capital to concentrate on eastern Ukraine.

AFP

Putin To Hit New Targets If Long-Range Missiles Are Supplied To Ukraine

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Sunday that Moscow will strike new targets if the West supplies long-range missiles to Ukraine and said new arms deliveries to Kyiv were aimed at “prolonging the conflict”.

If Kyiv is supplied with long-range missiles, “we will draw the appropriate conclusions and use our arms…. to strike targets we haven’t hit before,” Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

In extracts of an interview to be broadcast late Sunday on Rossiya-1 television, Putin did not specify exactly which targets could be hit nor the exact range of the missiles to which Moscow would react.


READ ALSO: Kyiv Strike: Moscow Claims It Destroyed Tanks Supplied By Eastern European Countries


But his comments came just days after the United States announced it would supply Ukraine with Himars multiple launch rocket systems.

Himars is a mobile unit that can simultaneously launch multiple precision-guided missiles up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) away.

Military experts say that the range of the Himars systems is slightly longer than that of similar Russian systems, meaning Kyiv’s forces could strike enemy artillery while keeping out of Moscow’s reach.

US President Joe Biden has nevertheless ruled out supplying Ukraine with systems that could reach as far as Russia, despite Kyiv’s repeated demands for such weapons.

Putin said that there was “nothing new” in the weapons supplied by Washington to Kyiv, and that Ukrainian forces had at their disposal weapons “similar to Soviet- or Russian-made systems”.

The range of the missiles did not “depend on the system itself, but on the missiles used,” the Russian leader continued.

“From what we know and understand today, they are systems using missiles with range of 45-70 kilometres”.

Putin said that the sole aim of the West supplying arms to Ukraine was “to prolong the conflict for as long as possible”.

AFP

Explosions Rock Kyiv As Battle For Severodonetsk Rages

This photograph taken on June 5, 2022 shows smoke after several explosions hit the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early morning. – “Several explosions in Darnytsky and Dniprovsky districts of city. Services are extinguishing,” Kyiv Mayor said on Telegram. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

 

Explosions rocked the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Sunday as a regional governor said Ukrainian forces were pushing back against Russian troops in the strategic eastern city of Severodonetsk.

The battle for Ukraine’s eastern city of Severodonetsk was being waged street by street, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, while explosions rocked the capital early Sunday.

“Several explosions in Darnytsky and Dniprovsky districts of the city. Services are extinguishing,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram shortly after air raid warnings sounded in Kyiv and several other cities.

“There are currently no dead from missile strikes on infrastructure. One wounded was hospitalised.”

Ukrainian officials said railway infrastructure was targeted in the first strikes on Kyiv since April 28 when a Russian missile killed a producer for the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Separately, at least 11 civilians were reported killed in the Lugansk region where Severodonetsk is located, the nearby Donetsk region and in the southern city of Mykolaiv.

“The situation in Severodonetsk, where street fighting continues, remains extremely difficult,” Zelensky said in his daily address Saturday evening.

Cities in the eastern Donbas area at the heart of the Russian offensive were under “constant air strikes, artillery and missile fire” but Ukrainian forces were holding their ground, he said.

Severodonetsk is the largest city still in Ukrainian hands in the Lugansk region of the Donbas, where Russian forces have been gradually advancing in recent weeks after retreating or being repelled from other areas, including around the capital Kyiv.

A city divided

Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said Sunday that Russian forces had lost ground in the city.

“The Russians were in control of about 70 percent of the city, but have been forced back over the past two days,” he said on Telegram.

“The city is divided in two. They are afraid to move freely around the city.”

Russia’s army on Saturday claimed some Ukrainian military units were withdrawing from Severodonetsk but Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said Ukrainian forces were fighting to retake the city.

“We are currently doing everything necessary to re-establish total control” of the city, he said in an interview broadcast on Telegram.

For its part, Moscow claims to have destroyed two Ukrainian command centres and six ammunition depots in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

“Ukrainian forces are successfully slowing down Russian operations to encircle Ukrainian positions in Luhansk (region) as well as Russian frontal assaults in Severodonetsk through prudent and effective local counterattacks in Severodonetsk”, the US-based Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment late Saturday.

‘Put Russia in its place’

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions forced to flee and towns turned into rubble since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an all-out assault on his pro-Western neighbour on February 24.

Western powers have imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Russia and supplied arms to Ukraine, but divisions have emerged on how to react.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday Putin had committed a “fundamental error” but that Russia should not be “humiliated” so that a diplomatic solution could be found.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted Saturday by saying such calls “only humiliate France” and any country taking a similar position.

“It is Russia that humiliates itself. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place,” he said.

Despite diplomatic efforts, the conflict has raged in the south and east of the country.

Ukraine reported two victims from a Russian missile strike on Odessa in the southwest, without specifying if they were dead or wounded.

Russia’s defence ministry said it had struck a “deployment point for foreign mercenaries” in the village of Dachne in the Odessa region.

It also claimed a missile strike in the northeastern Sumy region on an artillery training centre with “foreign instructors”.

Fears over food

Apart from the human toll, the conflict has caused widespread damage to Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

On Saturday, Ukrainian officials reported a large Orthodox wooden church, a popular pilgrim site, was on fire and blamed Russia.

Moscow continues to prove “its inability to be part of the civilised world,” Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said in a statement.

Russia’s defence ministry blamed “Ukrainian nationalists” for the blaze.

Russian troops now occupy a fifth of Ukraine’s territory, according to Kyiv, and Moscow has imposed a blockade on its Black Sea ports, sparking fears of a global food crisis. Ukraine and Russia are among the top wheat exporters in the world.

The United Nations said it was leading intense negotiations with Russia to allow Ukraine’s grain harvest to leave the country.

Putin said Friday there was “no problem” to export grain from Ukraine, via Kyiv- or Moscow-controlled ports or even through Central Europe.

The UN has warned that African countries, which normally import over half of their wheat consumption from Ukraine and Russia, face an “unprecedented” crisis.

Food prices in Africa have already exceeded those in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and the 2008 food riots.

The head of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, said Saturday he intended to visit Ukraine after meeting Putin the day before to discuss the wheat shortage.

‘Game of survival’

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov repeated the government’s appeal for the swift delivery of heavy artillery Saturday.

If Kyiv receives requested equipment, he said, “I cannot forecast definitely what month we will kick them out, but I hope — and it’s absolutely a realistic plan — to do it this year.”

Away from the battlefield, Ukraine will be fighting for victory over Wales in Sunday’s play-off final as they aim to reach their first football World Cup since 1958.

“We all understand that the game with Wales will no longer be about physical condition or tactics, it will be a game of survival,” said Ukraine player Oleksandr Zinchenko.

“Everyone will fight to the end and give their all, because we will play for our country.”

AFP

‘Battle Of Flags’ Flares In Israel-Palestinian Conflict

An Israeli military vehicle drives while displaying Israeli flags past a lamp post displaying a Palestinian flag in the town of Huwara near Nablus in the occupied West Bank on May 30, 2022. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

 

Dozens of Israeli soldiers stood guard in the occupied West Bank town of Huwara, where the Palestinian flag was blowing in the warm breeze from an electricity pole.

Suddenly, a Jewish settler jumped from a car, hoisted himself up the pole and tore down the flag, to the fury of Palestinian onlookers.

The soldiers watched on, without intervening.

“Many martyrs fell for the sake of this flag, many people were killed,” said Zafer al-Sayegh, a local store-owner. “It’s not possible for us to take it down.”

In recent weeks, the Israel-Palestinian conflict has flared with an intense wave of violence again, and so has the latest round of the “battle of the flags”.

As passions have become inflamed, Israelis have marched with the blue-and-white Star of David standard while for Palestinians the black, white and green flag with the red triangle has served as a symbol of defiance.

Unrest erupted at the funeral last month of American-Palestinian Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed during an army raid in the West Bank, when Israeli police attacked mourners waving the flag.

This week, members of the Israeli parliament even announced plans to ban the flying of the Palestinian flag.

– ‘Our dignity’ –

In Huwara, many storefronts have Hebrew writing, a reminder of more peaceful days when Jews would come to trade with Palestinians.

That goodwill has vanished, as Israelis living in nearby settlements, considered illegal by most of the international community, have repeatedly entered the town’s outskirts to pull down Palestinian flags, angering residents and prompting clashes between Palestinians and the army.

The Palestinians say the army has stood by and watched, refusing to stop what they call settler provocations.

Today, the Israeli army has a heavy presence in Huwara.

The main roads into town are blocked with mounds of dirt and rubble, and squads of nervous soldiers patrol the back streets on foot, making Huwara look like a town under siege.

“They have made an issue of the Palestinian flag,” Wajeh Odeh, a former mayor of the town, told AFP.

“To us, it’s a symbol. It means everything, it means our dignity, it means our right to defend ourselves against the Israelis.”

– ‘Invent provocations’ –

The flag is also an issue in annexed east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967.

At the funeral of Abu Akleh last month, Israeli police were filmed beating pallbearers as officers waded into crowds of mourners to tear down Palestinian flags.

In a rare scene that afternoon, east Jerusalem’s Old City was awash with thousands of Palestinians defiantly waving the flag.

Two weeks later, tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists held their annual “flag march” through the same Old City, leaving it awash in blue and white to mark Israel’s 1967 capture of the eastern sector of the city.

It is not illegal to wave the Palestinian flag in Jerusalem, Laura Wharton, a liberal member of the city’s municipality, told AFP, though the police regularly make arrests on the grounds that the flags are being used as a provocation.

She described the police’s crackdown on flags as an attempt by the Israeli far right to “invent provocations where there aren’t any”.

– ‘Colours of enemy’ –

This week, Israel’s parliament passed a preliminary vote on a bill proposed by right-wing Likud party lawmaker Eli Cohen to treat the Palestinian flag as the colours of an enemy state.

A description of the bill on parliament’s website said the Palestinian flag is being waved by “those who do not recognise the State of Israel” or who spell “an existential danger” to it.

It argues that the flag’s public display is therefore an act outside legitimate protest and “a red line not to be crossed”.

Cohen argued on Twitter that it was “time to end… incitement of hatred by strengthening our sovereignty”.

Wharton said the issue of flags is “spiralling” out of control.

“The more it is made a point of dispute with the ultra-right,” she said, “the more the Palestinians, especially the youth, are using it to bait them.”

AFP

War In Ukraine: 14 Latest Developments

In this video grab from a handout footage taken and released by the the National Police of Ukraine on March 9, 2022, people are helped out of a damaged building of a children’s hospital following a Russian air strike in the southeastern city of Mariupol.
Handout / National Police of Ukraine / AFP

 

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:

Lviv airport area hit

Russian forces strike an area around Lviv’s airport in western Ukraine, according to the city’s mayor.

An aircraft repair plant was destroyed but no one was hurt, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi says on the messaging app Telegram.

Ukraine’s air force, citing preliminary information, says six “cruise missiles had been launched, probably X-555, from the Black Sea”.

But the mayor clarifies that the strikes did not appear to have hit the airport itself, though armed checkpoints stopped motorists from approaching.

Lviv is just 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the border with Poland.

READ ALSO: Ukraine Asks Turkey To Be Among Guarantors Of Any Russia Deal

 Search for theatre survivors

Ukraine’s ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova says some civilians sheltering in a Mariupol theatre may have survived a bomb attack that officials have blamed on Russia.

“Work is underway to unlock the basement,” she says, amid fears that up to 1,000 people may have been taking refuge underground at the time of the blast.

War crimes claims

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he believes Russia is guilty of war crimes over attacks on Ukrainian civilians.

The European Union also issues a statement accusing Moscow of “serious violations and war crimes”, after Ukraine said Russian forces bombed a theatre in Mariupol where hundreds were sheltering.

Biden to warn Xi on Russia

Washington says US President Joe Biden will warn his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in talks Friday of the “costs” if Beijing helps Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

The two leaders are scheduled to talk on Friday morning US time, their first summit meeting since a videocall in November.

Russia scraps UN resolution

Russia cancels plans for a UN security vote on a “humanitarian” resolution over Ukraine after allies fail to line up in support.

Moscow failed to secure co-sponsorship of the draft text from China and India, suggesting that neither Beijing nor New Delhi were going to support it, an ambassador tells AFP.

The vote had already been postponed twice as Moscow tried to gather support.

Zelensky warns Berlin of new ‘Wall’

A day after pleading with the US Congress to send more help to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky warns German lawmakers that Russia is building a new “Wall” in Europe, evoking the Berlin Wall during the Cold War.

Zelensky has been on a virtual tour of Western parliaments, receiving support for his war-time leadership.

Deaths in Kharkiv

Russian forces shelled a school and cultural centre, killing at least 21 people and wounding 25 in the town of Merefa outside Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, local prosecutors say.

 30,000 flee Mariupol

The Mariupol authorities say around 30,000 people have fled the besieged port city, adding that “80 percent of residential housing was destroyed”.

US vote on Russia trade

The US House of Representatives votes to suspend Russia’s “most favoured nation” trade status, tightening the Western chokehold on Moscow’s economy.

The Senate is expected quickly to rubber-stamp the legislation — which also applies to Russian ally Belarus — allowing President Biden to raise tariffs on imports from both nations.

Peace talks 

At ongoing peace talks, officials in Kyiv say Russia has agreed to nine humanitarian corridors for fleeing refugees, including one out of Mariupol.

But broader progress has been elusive, and Blinken warned that Russia has not produced “any meaningful efforts” to end the war.

 Over 3 million refugees

Over 100,000 Ukrainians fled the country in just 24 hours, the UN says, pushing the total number of refugees to more than 3.1 million since the conflict began on February 24.

War hits global growth

The fallout from the war in Ukraine could cut global growth by over one percentage point over the coming year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says.

No default

Russia’s finance ministry says it has made interest payments on two foreign bonds, quashing fears of a debt default as the country reels from unprecedented Western sanctions.

Ukraine calls on Turkey

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has asked Turkey to be a guarantor of any future deal with Russia, along with the UN Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany, Ankara’s top diplomat says.

AFP

Russian Missiles Destroy Aircraft Repair Plant In Ukraine’s Lviv – Mayor

Smoke rises after an explosion in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 18, 2022. Russian forces on March 18 destroyed an aircraft repair plant in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv but no one was hurt, the mayor said. YURIY DYACHYSHYN / AFP

 

Russian forces on Friday destroyed an aircraft repair plant in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv but no one was hurt, the mayor said.

A thick pall of grey smoke streamed across the clear blue sky over Lviv’s airport on Friday morning, an AFP reporter saw, and ambulances raced to the scene.

“Several missiles hit an aircraft repair plant,” Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on the messaging app Telegram, adding the plant had been destroyed.

“There are no casualties,” he said, adding that operations at the plant had been halted.

He earlier wrote that Russian forces had struck an area close to Lviv’s airport.

READ ALSO: Ukraine Asks Turkey To Be Among Guarantors Of Any Russia Deal

Armed checkpoints turned motorists back from roads leading to the airport, and a local man told AFP he had heard a blast earlier Friday.

Ukraine’s air force, referring to the strike and citing preliminary information, said that six “cruise missiles had been launched, probably X-555, from the Black Sea.”

Two missiles had been destroyed, the statement added.

Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine and a popular tourist destination known for its picturesque views.

Last weekend Russian cruise missiles devastated a military base west of Lviv, killing 35 people and wounding more than 130.

Located 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the border with EU member Poland, the city had largely been spared since Russian forces invaded on February 24.

AFP

Ukrainian Theatre Sheltering ‘More Than 1,000’ Civilians Bombed

This Maxar satellite image released on March 16, 2022, shows the Mariupol Drama Theater in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 14, 2022.  Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies / AFP

 

Ukraine claimed Thursday that Russia had destroyed a theatre harbouring more than a thousand people in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, with the toll as yet unknown.

Officials posted images that appeared to show the once gleaming whitewashed three-storey theatre hollowed out and ablaze, with bricks and scaffolding piled high.

“The invaders destroyed the Drama Theatre. A place where more than a thousand people found refuge. We will never forgive this,” the Mariupol City Council said in a Telegram post.

Days before the apparent attack satellite images — shared by private company Maxar — clearly showed the words “DETI” — or children in Russian — etched out in the ground on either side of the building.

Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko called the attack a “horrifying tragedy.”

“People were hiding there. And some said they were lucky to survive, but unfortunately, not all were lucky,” he said in a video message.

“The only word to describe what has happened today is genocide, genocide of our nation, our Ukrainian people. But I am confident that the day will come when our beautiful city of Mariupol will rise out of the ruins again.”

READ ALSO: Russia Faces Debt Payment Amid Default Fears

The city is a key strategic target for Moscow, potentially linking Russian forces in Crimea to the west and the Donbas to the east and cutting off Ukrainian access to the Sea of Azov.

For days Russian forces have bombarded the city — which once had about half a million residents — cutting power, food, and water supplies.

Ukrainian officials branded the bombing a war crime.

“It is impossible to find words to describe the level of cynicism and cruelty, with which Russian invaders are destroying peaceful residents of a Ukrainian city by the sea,” an official statement read.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, decried Russia’s “cruelty” and ridiculed those in the West rejecting the idea of a no-fly zone for “fear of WW3” with Russia, as they sit “in a Berlin cafe.”

Russia’s defence ministry denied that its forces bombed the city and stated the building was destroyed in an explosion set off by Ukraine’s nationalist Azov battalion.

It claimed “peaceful civilians could be held hostage” at the site.

Moscow has already blamed the military unit for last week’s bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, which sparked an international outcry.

Human rights groups said the picture in Mariupol was still unclear.

“Until we know more, we cannot rule out the possibility of a Ukrainian military target in the area of the theater, but we do know that the theater had been housing at least 500 civilians,” said Belkis Wille, of Human Rights Watch.

“This raises serious concerns about what the intended target was.”

More than 2,000 people have been killed in the besieged city, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Residents fleeing the city have spoken of bodies left to rot on the streets, and of navigating minefields and Russian airstrikes in their escape.

Russian forces on Wednesday targeted a railway station in the southern Ukraine city of Zaporizhzhia, where thousands of refugees from Mariupol were trying to move further away from the fighting.

AFP

Federer’s Ukrainian Conqueror Swaps Racquet For Kalashnikov

Former Ukrainian tennis man Sergiy Stakhovsky walks prior to an interview with AFP journalists at Independence Square in Kyiv, on March 15, 2022.  Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

 

In 2013 he achieved one of the great shocks in tennis history, knocking defending champion Roger Federer out of Wimbledon.

Today, the Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky is a volunteer fighter on a military patrol in Kyiv, which he vows to defend “to the end” against Russian forces.

Now 36, he looks much the same as the journeyman player ranked 116 in the world who lay stretched out in his tennis whites on the hallowed London turf after toppling Federer in the second round nine years ago.

But his outfit now could not be more different as he patrols Maidan Square, symbol of Ukraine’s “fight for democracy”, armed with a Kalashnikov, a pistol in his belt, and his 1.93 metre (6 ft 4 in) frame dressed in khaki camouflage.

“I cannot say that I feel comfortable around a rifle. I am not sure how I am going to react to shooting at somebody,” he tells AFP. “I wish I would never have to be preoccupied with these things.”

READ ALSO: Russia Faces Debt Payment Amid Default Fears

It’s been just over two weeks since he returned to Ukraine and signed up for the territorial brigade, the volunteers tasked with helping the army against the Russian invasion launched on February 24.

“I knew I had to go there”, he says.

‘Despair’

On the eve of the invasion, Stakhovsky was on holiday in Dubai with his wife and three children aged four, six, and eight, having hung up his racquet as a professional player in January after the Australian Open.

The next day, after seeing the television images of Russian bombs falling on his homeland, he says he was plunged into a mixture of “despair” and “misery”.
Much of his family still lived in Ukraine. He spent the next three days at the hotel in a blur as he tried to get information about the situation on the ground, to find shelter for people

“I was full of adrenaline, I slept three or four hours (overall), I didn’t eat”.
He then told his wife he had decided to go back.

“My wife was really upset, I mean, she knew, she understood but she was really upset,” he said. But “now she understands that I couldn’t really do it other way”.

The heartbreaking decision torments him every time he thinks of his family.
“Leaving the kids is not something I’m proud of,” he says.

“My kids don’t know that I’m here, well, they know that I’m not at home, but they don’t know what war is and I’m trying to not get them involved. I told them I’d be right back, it’s been 15 days now… And God knows how many more it’s going to be”.

Like all Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60, Stakhovsky is eligible for call-up by the army and cannot leave the country when the country is at war.
He says that he finds the strength to go because of his countrymen, whom he has seen sign up “in their thousands”.

“If we don’t stand up, we don’t have a country to live in,” he said.
Federer ‘hopes for peace’

The former tennis pro now carries out two patrols a day lasting two hours each to guard the centre of Kyiv from possible infiltrations, particularly around the palace of President Volodymyr Zelensky, the hero of the resistance against Moscow.

“Listen, I am here on foot patrolling,” he said, adding of Zelensky that he was “remarkably brave and knows what he’s doing, and we all believe he knows what he’s doing.”

People from “India to South America” have sent thousands of messages of support and asking how they can help Ukraine, says Stakhovsky.

Among those are “hundreds” of professional tennis players who have not forgotten their former colleague, who rose to a world ranking of 31 in 2010 and was an unofficial spokesman for junior players.

Tennis legends have also offered their support — including the man he stunned at Wimbledon, Roger Federer himself.

“He said that he wishes that there will be peace soon,” said the Ukranian, adding that Federer and his wife were trying to help Ukranian children through their foundation.

One message that particularly touched him came from Serbian world number two Novak Djokovic.

“He lived through this when he was young so he knows exactly what our kids are going through. So from him, that message is, I would say, heavier in terms of meaning.”

As the Russians close in on Kyiv there are fears it could face the same fate as destroyed cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol.

“That’s disturbing”, he said, because “they don’t care whether they’re going to kill a child or military personnel, they just don’t care”.

AFP

Theatre Bombed In Ukraine, Biden Slams ‘War Criminal’ Putin

This Maxar satellite image released on March 16, 2022, shows the Mariupol Drama Theater in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 14, 2022. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies / AFP

 

Ukraine accused Russia Thursday of bombing a theatre that was sheltering more than 1,000 civilians in the city of Mariupol after US President Joe Biden branded Vladimir Putin a “war criminal”.

The latest assaults on civilians across Ukraine came as President Volodymyr Zelensky made a searing appeal for help to the US, which responded by pledging $1 billion in new weapons to fight Russia’s invading army.

Officials across Ukraine are struggling to count the civilian dead — with authorities saying 103 children have been killed since the invasion began — who have been targeted in homes, hospitals, ambulances, and food queues.

In the port city of Mariupol — where more than 2,000 people have died so far — a Russian bomb hit the Drama Theatre, which city council officials said had been housing over 1,000 people.

“The only word to describe what has happened today is genocide, genocide of our nation, our Ukrainian people,” the city’s mayor Vadim Boychenko said in a video message on Telegram.

“We have difficulty understanding all of this, we refuse to believe, we want to close our eyes and forget the nightmare that happened today,” he said.

READ ALSO: Russia Faces Debt Payment Amid Default Fears

Satellite images of the theatre on March 14 shared by private satellite company Maxar showed the words “children” clearly etched out in the ground in Russian on either side of the building.

Officials posted a photo of the building, whose middle part was completely destroyed, with thick white smoke rising from the rubble after they said a bomb was dropped from an airplane.

“It is impossible to find words to describe the level of cynicism and cruelty, with which Russian invaders are destroying peaceful residents of a Ukrainian city by the sea,” an official statement read.

Russia’s defence ministry denied it had targeted the theatre, instead claiming that the building had been mined and blown up by members of Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said that while it couldn’t rule out the “possibility of a Ukrainian military target in the area of the theatre… we do know that the theatre had been housing at least 500 civilians.”

“This raises serious concerns about what the intended target was in a city where civilians have already been under siege for days and telecommunications, power, water, and heating have been almost completely cut off,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at the rights watchdog.

So far the destruction that has marked other cities has been halted outside the capital Kyiv, which has been emptied of around half of its 3.5 million people.

But dull booms echoed across the capital’s deserted streets Wednesday, with only an occasional vehicle passing through sandbagged checkpoints, and very few permits granted to break its latest curfew.

‘War criminal’

A photo combination of US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladmir Putin
A photo combination of US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin

 

In an address to the US Congress, Zelensky invoked Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 attacks, and Martin Luther King Jr as he showed lawmakers a video of the wrenching effect of three weeks of Russian attacks.

Zelensky, dressed in military green, demanded Washington and its NATO allies impose a no-fly zone, so that “Russia would not be able to terrorize our free cities.”

Switching to English, Zelensky addressed Biden directly, saying: “I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”

Biden and NATO have resisted Zelensky’s pleas for direct involvement against nuclear-armed Russia, warning it could lead to World War Three — though the Ukrainian leader told NBC that “may have already started.”

But on Wednesday Biden announced the United States’ latest package of new weapons aid to Ukraine added up to $1 billion and that the US would help the ex-Soviet state acquire longer-range anti-aircraft weapons.

The US president also stepped up his condemnation of the Russian leader, describing him as a “war criminal.”

The Kremlin called the comment “unacceptable and unforgivable on the part of the head of a state whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world.”

Britain’s diplomatic mission to the UN also tweeted that Russia is committing “war crimes and targeting civilians” in Ukraine after the British government requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting over the deteriorating humanitarian situation there.

“Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to us all,” it posted Wednesday, saying the request was made with the US, France, Albania, Norway, and Ireland.

Putin at a televised government meeting insisted the invasion was “developing successfully,” adding “we will not allow Ukraine to serve as a springboard for aggressive actions against Russia.”

As his government accelerated a crackdown that saw at least a dozen media websites blocked Wednesday, Putin claimed that the West sought to divide Russian society, railing against a “fifth column” that was “mentally” in the West.
“Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from traitors and just spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouth,” he said.

He also condemned western sanctions against his regime that have pushed Russia close to a default on its foreign debts as “economic blitzkrieg”.

‘Teetering on the brink’

As the civilian toll in Ukraine climbed, the World Health Organization said that healthcare facilities and personnel were being attacked at an unprecedented rate.

“We’ve never seen globally… this rate of attacks on healthcare,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters, warning that “this crisis is reaching a point where the health system in Ukraine is teetering on the brink”.

The UN health agency has verified 43 attacks on health facilities, ambulances, and health personnel in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, killing 12 people and injuring 34.

And the conflict has already sent more than three million Ukrainians fleeing across the border, many of them women and children, 103 of whom have been killed since the invasion began, authorities have said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a “compromise” outcome would centre on Ukraine becoming a neutral state comparable to Sweden and Austria.

But Zelensky’s office gave the idea short shrift — and many Ukrainians themselves remained defiant.

Retired tennis player Alexandr Dolgopolov went home to Kyiv to take up arms and defend his native city.

“Used to be rackets and strings, now this,” the 33-year-old wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of a rifle, helmet, and flak jacket.

The mayor of Ukraine’s southern city of Melitopol was released days after Kyiv said he was abducted by Russian forces.

“Thank you for not abandoning me,” Ivan Fedorov told Zelensky, according to a video of their phone call posted on Telegram.

“I will need one or two days to recover and then I will be at your disposal to contribute to our victory.”

AFP

European Radio To Play ‘Give Peace A Chance’ For Ukraine

A carboard reading “stop war” is pictured in front of a part of the banking district’s skyline during a protest organized by “Fridays for Future” against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on March 3, 2022.
Yann Schreiber / AFP

 

Around 150 public radio channels across Europe will play “Give Peace a Chance” at 07:45 GMT on Friday in solidarity against the war in Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union announced.

The track, penned by John Lennon, will be heard in more than 25 countries including Ukraine, while European commercial radio stations will also join in the moment, the EBU said.

“This powerful call for peace through an iconic song will resonate with millions of listeners,” said EBU director general Noel Curran.

The idea came from German public broadcaster RBB.

“The horrors of the war against Ukraine are more apparent every day. Our solidarity, our humanity and our support are needed,” said RBB chief Patricia Schlesinger.

“It is a good signal seeing Europe’s radio stations join forces to remind us of that with this song.

“It is a source of strength and urges us not to look the other way.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine on February 24.

The United Nations has opened a probe into alleged war crimes, as the Russian military bombards cities with shells and missiles, forcing civilians to cower in basements, more than a week into the full-scale invasion.

Speaking on behalf of Ukrainian Radio, Yurii Tabachenko said: “It is extremely important that today Europe is united around Ukraine.”

“Give Peace a Chance”, released in 1969 by the Plastic Ono Band, was recorded in Montreal during Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono’s “bed-in” for peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

Founded in 1950, the Geneva-based EBU is the world’s biggest public service media alliance. It has 113 member organisations in 56 countries, plus 31 associates elsewhere around the globe.

Russian Troops Land In Ukraine’s Second Biggest City Kharkiv

Collage shows the extent of devastation wrought as Russian Troops enter Ukraine’s Second City Kharkiv

 

Russian forces landed in Ukraine’s second-biggest city on Wednesday and triggered immediate clashes in the streets of Kharkiv, the military said, following Moscow’s relentless air assault across the ex-Soviet state.

The airborne operation came as US President Joe Biden branded Vladimir Putin a “dictator”, warning the sanction campaign to cripple Russia’s economy would escalate and its oligarchs were being targeted.

In Biden’s first State of the Union address, he hailed the resolve of the Western alliance and voiced solidarity with Ukraine as lawmakers in the US Congress gave a standing ovation to the Ukrainian people.

READ ALSO: US Says Russian Advance On Ukraine Capital, Kyiv, Stalled

“A Russian dictator, invading a foreign country, has costs around the world,” Biden told lawmakers in his annual State of the Union address, promising “robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at Russia’s economy.”

But as he spoke a Russian escalation was reported to be underway in Kharkiv, an apparent bid by Moscow to capture its first major Ukrainian city of the invasion.
Since Russian troops rolled into Ukraine last week to achieve Putin’s mission of overthrowing the pro-Western government of President Volodymyr Zelensky, hundreds of civilians have been reported killed.

Russian forces have carried out a massive bombing campaign and encircled urban centres, but Ukraine insists no major city has yet been overtaken.
“Russian airborne troops landed in Kharkiv… and attacked a local hospital,” the Ukrainian army said in a statement on messaging app Telegram. “There is an ongoing fight between the invaders and the Ukrainians.”

Russia hit a residential building in the city on Tuesday killing eight people, drawing comparisons to the massacres of civilians in Sarajevo in the 1990s and condemnation for what Zelensky called a “war crime”.

A fire broke out on Wednesday in the barracks of a flight school in Kharkiv following an airstrike, according to Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Minister.

“Practically there are no areas left in Kharkiv where an artillery shell has not yet hit,” he was quoted as saying in a statement on Telegram.

Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city near the Russian border, has a population of around 1.4 million.

‘Putin was wrong’

Biden, who had earlier spoken with Zelensky on the phone, announced new measures against Russia and its wealthy elite with a new task force to go after the “crimes” of Russian oligarchs.

“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he said, prompting the rare sight of members of both parties standing to applaud.

“And tonight I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights — further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy.”

The US leader said Putin’s aggression was “premeditated and totally unprovoked” — but hailed the resolve of the Western alliance in responding with brutal sanctions.

“(Putin) thought he could divide us here at home,” Biden said. “But Putin was wrong. We are ready.”

He repeated his commitment that no American troops would be sent to Ukraine to confront the invading forces. A lack of will to send foreign troops into battle has given Russia space to press on with its assault on Ukrainian cities.

A strike on the main TV tower in Kyiv killed five people Tuesday and knocked out some state broadcasting, Ukrainian officials said but left the structure intact.
Fresh explosions were heard late Tuesday in Kyiv and Bila Tserkva, 50 miles (80 kilometres) to the south, according to local media.

News outlets also reported Russian missiles damaging residential buildings and a hospital in Zhytomyr, citing the major transport hub’s mayor Sergei Sukhomline.
The International Criminal Court has opened a war crimes investigation against Russia. Ukraine says more than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed in the conflict.

Belarus Attack Fears

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence also said overnight that it feared an attack from Belarus over its northern border.

“Belarusian troops have been put on high alert and are concentrated in areas closest to the border with Ukraine,” the ministry said Tuesday in a statement on Facebook.

Ukrainian intelligence noted “significant activity” of aircraft in the border area, it said.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday he had ordered more troops to the south of the country, the Belta news agency reported.
But forces of Belarus, a close ally of Russia, would not be taking part in the attack on Ukraine, he added.

In southern Ukraine, the city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea was left without electricity after Russian bombardment, while Kherson on the Black Sea reported Russian checkpoints encircling the city.

In a key victory for Moscow, Russia’s defence ministry said its troops had linked up with pro-Moscow rebel forces from eastern Ukraine along the Azov Sea coast.

Companies Exit Russia

Russia has defied international bans, boycotts and sanctions to press ahead with an offensive it says is aimed at defending Ukraine’s Russian speakers and toppling the leadership.

In response, more Western companies have withdrawn from projects in Russia, deepening the economic toll on Moscow that saw the ruble collapse this week.
Apple, ExxonMobil and Boeing announced Tuesday in rapid succession steps to withdraw or freeze business in Russia.

The moves followed earlier announcements by Disney, Ford and Mastercard among others.

The invasion has sent global markets into a spiral, with crude surging past $110 a barrel Wednesday and equities sinking.

On top of sanctions, Germany has promised arms for Ukraine, while the EU said, in a first, that it will buy and supply arms to the country.
Zelensky has reiterated an urgent appeal for Ukraine to be admitted to the European Union.

No Escape

More than 660,000 people have fled abroad, the UN refugee agency said, and as battles rage for control of major cities, many more are expected to follow.
Residents of capital Kyiv are crammed into makeshift bomb shelters awaiting their own fight, with a massive Russian military convoy stationed just north of the city.

Teacher Irina Butyak, 38, has spent two days in the basement of her apartment block sheltering with some 20 people.

“We have train tickets for western Ukraine for tomorrow,” she told AFP as air raid sirens blared directly overhead. “I don’t think we will make the train.”

AFP

Russia’s War In Ukraine: 13 Latest Developments

Collage shows the extent of devastation wrought as Russian Troops enter Ukraine’s Second City Kharkiv

 

Here are the latest developments in Russia’s war in Ukraine:

Kharkiv fighting 

Russian paratroopers land in Ukraine’s second city amid heavy fighting. Ukrainian officials say a hospital has been attacked and the barracks of a flight school is on fire after an air strike.

“There are practically no areas left in Kharkiv where an artillery shell has not yet hit,” says Interior Minister official Anton Gerashchenko.

Biden brands Putin ‘dictator’ 

US President Joe Biden brands Vladimir Putin as a “dictator” in his annual State of the Union address as he bans Russian aircraft from US airspace with Moscow facing economic and diplomatic isolation.

READ ALSO: US Says Russian Advance On Ukraine Capital, Kyiv, Stalled

 Cities pummelled 

Russia steps up its bombing campaign and missile strikes, hitting Kyiv’s main television tower, two residential buildings in a town west of the city, and the city of Bila Tserkva to the south of the capital.

Kherson: Russia inside city 

Russian forces push into the besieged Black Sea city of Kherson in the south. Its port and railway station are now in Russian hands, its mayor says.

Mariupol without power 

Russian attacks leave Mariupol, another Black Sea port further to the west without electricity.

Civilians flee 

More than 677,000 people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the UN’s refugee agency says, with the number rising rapidly.

UN court to hold war hearings 

The UN’s International Court of Justice says it will hold public hearings on March 7 and 8 over Ukraine’s allegations of “genocide” by Russia as the General Assembly votes on whether to order Russia to withdraw its troops.

 Independent media blocked 

Russia blocks an independent television channel and a liberal radio station, tightening a virtual media blackout on news of the war.

 Companies exit Russia 

A string of Western companies announce they are freezing or scaling back business with Russia, including Apple, three of the world’s largest shipping companies and energy firms Eni, ExxonMobil and Boeing.

 Race for cash 

Russians race to withdraw cash after the introduction of capital controls and as the ruble hovers around record lows against the dollar.

Nord Stream 2 goes under 

Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 goes insolvent after Germany halts the gas pipeline following Moscow’s invasion. The European subsidiary of Russia’s Sberbank also prepares to enter insolvency.

Oil price soars 

Oil prices soar past $110 a barrel, despite the International Energy Agency members agreeing to release 60 million barrels from stockpiles.

 World Bank aid 

The World Bank prepares a $3-billion aid package for Ukraine, including at least $350 million in immediate funds.