Sunday, March 26, 2023

10 Ukrainian civilians killed in latest Russian shelling

Russian shelling killed at least 10 Ukrainian civilians and wounded 20 others in a day, the office of Ukraine’s president reported Friday as the country worked to recover from an earlier wave of Russian missile strikes and drone attacks.
The new casualties included the deaths of at least two civilians in the southern city of Kherson, which Ukrainian troops recaptured in November, and two more in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province. The missiles and self-propelled drones Russian forces fired Thursday hit deeper into Ukrainian territory, killing at least 11 people. The bombardment followed announcements by the United States and Germany of plans to ship powerful tanks to help Ukraine defend itself. Other Western countries said they also would share modern tanks from their stockpiles.
Moscow has bristled at the move, and accused Western nations of entering a new level of confrontation with Russia. Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko of the eastern Donetsk region said the Russian military used phosphorus munitions in shelling the village of Zvanivka. The village is located about 20 kilometers north of Bakhmut, a city that has become the focus of a grueling battle in recent months. The shelling also damaged apartment buildings and two schools in the nearby town of Vuhledar, Kyrylenko said. The governor of the neighboring Luhansk region, Serhii Haidai, said Ukrainian shelling hit two Russian bases in the occupied towns of Kreminna and Rubizhne, killing and wounding “dozens” of Russian soldiers. His claim couldn’t be independently verified.
Further south, Russian troops resumed shelling the town of Nikopol, across the Dnieper from the Russia-held Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, damaging apartment buildings, gas pipelines, power lines and a bakery, officials said.
Separately Friday, Russian authorities took new steps in their months-long and widely criticized effort to graft four Ukrainian provinces onto Russia’s already vast territory. They said the illegally annexed provinces would switch from the time zone that covers Kyiv to the one in Moscow.
The Ukrainian southern and eastern regions that Russia declared as part of its territory four months ago — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — will take place “in the near future,” Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade said. The move comes as part of what the ministry called the “gradual synchronization” of Russian legislation after the “admission of the four subjects.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highly orchestrated announcement of the illegal annexations came despite widespread international condemnation and the fact that Russia didn’t fully control the areas it annexed. Russia claims to control nearly all of Luhansk and about half of Donetsk.
Less than 1-1/2 months after the annexations, Russia lost control of the city of Kherson and broad swaths of the surrounding territory under the brunt of a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Kherson was the only regional capital Russia seized since starting its invasion on Feb. 24, and its loss dealt a heavy blow to the Kremlin.
EU official: Russia shifts war focus to ‘NATO and the West’
A senior EU official said Friday that Russia has taken its war against Ukraine to a “a different stage” by making indiscriminate attacks on civilians and non-military targets, while criticising Moscow for triggering recent moves by Germany and the United States to send advanced tanks to Ukraine.
Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the European Union’s European External Action Service, defended German and US provisions of the military equipment to Ukraine, and criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for waging a war on NATO and the West.
Sannino, speaking at a news conference in Tokyo as part of an Asia-Pacific tour, said Putin had “moved from a concept of special operation to a concept now of a war against NATO and the West.”
He said German and US tank provisions are meant to help Ukrainians defend themselves in the war, rather than making them attackers.
“I think that this latest development in terms of armed supply is just an evolution of the situation and of the way Russia started moving the war into a different stage,” Sannino said. He added that Russia is making “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians and cities and no longer military targets.
The EU is not moving the war into a different stage but is “just giving the possibility of saving lives and allowing the Ukrainians to defend (themselves) from these barbaric attacks,” Sannino said.
Germany and the US announced Wednesday they will send advanced battle tanks to Ukraine, offering what one expert called an “armoured punching force” to help Kyiv break combat stalemates as the Russian invasion enters its 12th month.
The announcement marked the first stage of a coordinated effort by the West to provide dozens of the heavy weapons, which Ukrainian military commanders said would enable counter-offensives, reduce casualties and help restore dwindling ammunition supplies.
US President Joe Biden said his country will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks, reversing months of persistent arguments by Washington that they were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.
The US decision followed Germany’s agreement to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own stocks.
Sannino was in Japan this week to discuss further strengthening cooperation between the EU and Japan and other Asia-Pacific nations as they face growing challenges that also affect the region.


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