Russia says Ukraine shells its own civilians; some evacuations in Mariupol

Russia says Ukraine shells its own civilians; some evacuations in Mariupol
A Ukrainian soldier stands outside a school hit by rockets in Zelenyi Hai between Kherson and Mykolaiv on April 1, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 01 May 2022

Russia says Ukraine shells its own civilians; some evacuations in Mariupol

Russia says Ukraine shells its own civilians; some evacuations in Mariupol
  • Russia’s defense ministry accused Ukraine’s forces of shelling a school, kindergarten and cemetery

DOBROPILLIA/KYIV, Ukraine: Ukraine’s shelling killed and injured its own civilians in the southern region of Kherson, Russia said on Sunday, after pounding southern and eastern areas with missile strikes, while some civilians got away from a steel plant in besieged Mariupol.
Moscow has turned its focus to Ukraine’s south and east after failing to capture the capital Kyiv in a nine-week assault that has flattened cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million to flee abroad.
Its forces have captured the town of Kherson, giving them a foothold just 100 km (60 miles) north of Russian-annexed Crimea, and have mostly occupied Mariupol, the strategic eastern port city on the Azov Sea.
Russia’s defense ministry accused Ukraine’s forces of shelling a school, kindergarten and cemetery in the villages of Kyselivka and Shyroka Balka in the Kherson region, the Russian RIA news agency said on Sunday.
The ministry gave no further details. There was no immediate response from Ukraine to the report, which Reuters could not independently verify.
But Ukraine’s military said in a bulletin on Sunday that Russian forces were fighting to break beyond Kherson’s administrative borders and prepare the way for attacks on the cities of Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih.
Russia’s control of Kherson will help sustain its advances to the north and west and improve its control of Crimea, British military intelligence said in a Twitter update.
Russia declared victory in Mariupol on April 21, even as hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians took shelter in the Azovstal steel works.
The United Nations has urged an evacuation deal. On Saturday a Ukrainian fighter inside said some 20 women and children had made it out.
“We are getting civilians out of the rubble with ropes — it’s the elderly, women and children,” said the fighter, Sviatoslav Palamar, referring to wreckage within the plant, which sprawls 4 square kilometers.
Palamar said Russia and Ukraine were respecting a local cease-fire, and he hoped the evacuated civilians would be taken to the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia to the northwest.
There was no comment from Russia or the United Nations on the evacuations. Hundreds of Ukrainians remain inside the steel works, Ukrainian officials say.
A Russian missile launched from Crimea destroyed the runway at the main airport in the city of Odesa to the west, said regional governor Maksym Marchenko, but no one was hurt.
The airport could no longer be used, Ukraine’s military said. President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to rebuild it, saying in a late-night video speech, “Odesa will never forget Russia’s behavior toward it.”
There was no comment on the strike from Moscow, whose forces have sporadically targeted Ukraine’s third-largest city, where eight people were killed in a recent Russian strike, Ukrainian officials said.
Moscow’s assault in the south aims in part to link the area with Crimea as it pushes for complete control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists already controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces before Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion.
In his speech, Zelensky said Russia was “gathering additional forces for new attacks against our military in the east of the country” and “trying to increase pressure in the Donbas.”
Moscow calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
Despite weeks of peace talks, both sides looked to be as far apart as ever on Saturday.
Ukraine accuses Russian troops of carrying out atrocities in areas near Kyiv in early April, a claim denied by Moscow. Negotiators last met face-to-face on March 29, and have since spoken by video link.


Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant remains under Russian control – Moscow-installed authorities

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant remains under Russian control – Moscow-installed authorities
Updated 12 sec ago

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant remains under Russian control – Moscow-installed authorities

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant remains under Russian control – Moscow-installed authorities
  • Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling the site of the Zaporizhzhia reactor complex
  • UN nuclear watchdog wants to create a protection zone around the nuclear power station
KYIV: The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine remains under Russian control, authorities installed by Moscow in the nearby city of Enerhodar said on Monday, after a Ukrainian official suggested Russian forces were preparing to leave.
“The media are actively spreading fake news that Russia is allegedly planning to withdraw from Enerhodar and leave the (plant). This information is not true,” the Russia-installed administration wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
The head of Ukraine’s state-run nuclear energy company said on Sunday there were signs that Russian forces might be preparing to vacate the vast Zaporizhzhia plant which they seized in March, soon after invading Ukraine.
Ukraine, which suffered the world’s worst nuclear accident in Chornobyl in 1986, and Russia have accused each other of shelling the site of the Zaporizhzhia reactor complex.
Both sides have warned of the danger of a nuclear catastrophe. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency), wants to create a protection zone around the nuclear power station, which is Europe’s largest.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said late on Sunday that he had no doubt that Russian forces would leave the plant, where Ukrainian staff are still operating. Many of these workers live in Enerhodar.
“The defense line is starting to retreat to the borders of the Russian Federation,” Podolyak told Ukrainian television, adding that Ukraine would “take it (the plant) back.”
Ukraine’s military said on Monday its forces late last week destroyed six units of Russian military equipment and that about 30 Russian servicemen were wounded in fighting near Enerhodar.
Reuters was not able to immediately verify the reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin moved in September to annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and the Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine where his forces say they have partial control. Kyiv and its Western allies condemned the move as illegal.

US and Russia discuss release of Griner and Whelan — RIA

US and Russia discuss release of Griner and Whelan — RIA
Updated 28 November 2022

US and Russia discuss release of Griner and Whelan — RIA

US and Russia discuss release of Griner and Whelan — RIA
  • Russia and the US have been discussing a deal that could see the basketball star in exchange for convicted weapons trafficker Viktor Bout

MOSCOW: The United States and Russia are discussing the release of basketball star Brittney Griner and ex-marine Paul Whelan through special channels, the RIA Novosti news agency reported on Monday, citing a top US diplomat.
Elizabeth Rood, charge d’affaires of the US embassy in Russia, was quoted as saying that the United States had submitted a serious proposal for consideration but it had not received a “serious response” back from Russia.
Russia and the United States have been discussing a deal that could see Griner, who is facing nine years in jail in Russia on drug charges, return to the United States in exchange for convicted Russian weapons trafficker Viktor Bout.
No deal has materialized amid heightened tensions between the two countries.


About 36 Indian police hurt in clashes with Adani port protesters

About 36 Indian police hurt in clashes with Adani port protesters
Updated 28 November 2022

About 36 Indian police hurt in clashes with Adani port protesters

About 36 Indian police hurt in clashes with Adani port protesters

KOCHI: As many as 36 police were injured in clashes with protesters in India’s southern state of Kerala who were demanding the release of a person arrested during a demonstration against a $900-million port project of the Adani Group, officials said.
The growing agitation is a major headache for Adani’s ports and logistics business worth $23 billion. The location of the port on India’s southern tip is seen as key to winning business from ports in Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
Construction at the Vizhinjam seaport has been halted for more than three months after protesters, mostly drawn from the fishing community, blocked its entrance, blaming the development for coastal erosion and depriving them of their livelihoods.
Over the weekend, protesters blocked Adani’s construction vehicles from entering the port, despite a court order for work to resume, prompting the arrest of many of them.
That spurred hundreds more to gather at a police station on Sunday night demanding the release of one of those arrested, leading to clashes with police and damage to some of their vehicles, television news images and a police document showed.
“They came with lethal weapons and barged into the station and held the police hostage, threatening that if people in custody were not released they would set the station on fire,” the police said in the case document on the incident.
Many of the protesters were Christians led by Roman Catholic priests.
Police attacked the protesters, among whom were some priests, said a clerical official, Eugine H. Pereira, the vicar general of the archdiocese.
“Stones were pelted from even the station,” said Pereira said, who called for a judicial inquiry into the incident.
The Adani Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
It has earlier said the project complies with all laws, citing studies in recent years that have rejected accusations linking it to shoreline erosion.
The state government blames the erosion on natural disasters.


Four dead in hotel siege in Somali capital: security agency

Four dead in hotel siege in Somali capital: security agency
Updated 16 min 49 sec ago

Four dead in hotel siege in Somali capital: security agency

Four dead in hotel siege in Somali capital: security agency
  • Government forces seeking to ‘eliminate’ a number of armed militants inside the Villa Rose hotel
  • The militant group Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack

MOGADISHU: At least four people were killed in an ongoing attack by Al-Shabab militants who laid siege to a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu overnight, a security agency official said on Monday.

Gunfire and explosions could still be heard more than 12 hours after the militants stormed the hotel near the presidential palace in a hail of bullets.

Mohamed Dahir, an official from the national security agency, said the gunmen were holed up in a room at the Villa Rose surrounded by government forces.

“So far we have confirmed the death of four people,” he said, adding that others had been rescued from the besieged venue.

“Very soon the situation will return to normal.”

Government officials were among others injured, he added.

The Villa Rose is frequented by MPs and located in a secure central part of the capital just a few blocks from the office of Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Al-Shabab, a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaeda that has been trying to overthrow Somalia’s central government for 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police said the gunmen rushed into the hotel in Bondhere district at around 8:00 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Sunday and an operation was under way to “eliminate” them.

More than 12 hours later, witnesses near the scene described still hearing loud explosions and gunfire.

“I saw several military vehicles with special forces heading toward the hotel, and a few minutes later, there was heavy gunfire and explosions,” said local witness Mahad Yare.

In a statement late Sunday, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), a 20,000-strong military force drawn from across the continent, praised the “swift” security response to the attack.

On its website the Villa Rose describes the hotel as the “most secure lodging arrangement in Mogadishu” with metal detectors and a high perimeter wall.

Al-Shabab has intensified attacks against civilian and military targets as Somalia’s recently-elected government has pursued a policy of “all-out war” against the Islamists.

The security forces, backed by local militias, ATMIS and US air strikes, have driven Al-Shabab from central parts of the country in recent months, but the offensive has drawn retribution.

On October 29, two cars packed with explosives blew up minutes apart in Mogadishu followed by gunfire, killing at least 121 people and injuring 333 others.

It was the deadliest attack in the fragile Horn of Africa nation in five years.

At least 21 people were killed in a siege on a Mogadishu hotel in August that lasted 30 hours before security forces were able to overpower the militants inside.

The UN said earlier this month that at least 613 civilians had been killed and 948 injured in violence this year in Somalia, mostly caused by improvised explosive devices attributed to Al-Shabab.

The figures were the highest since 2017 and a more-than 30-percent rise from last year.


Police detain two people at Shanghai protest site

Police detain two people at Shanghai protest site
Updated 28 November 2022

Police detain two people at Shanghai protest site

Police detain two people at Shanghai protest site
  • Demonstrators gathered over the weekend to protest China’s COVID-19 lockdowns

SHANGHAI: Police on Monday detained two people at a site in Shanghai where demonstrators gathered over the weekend to protest China’s COVID-19 lockdowns and call for greater political freedoms, an AFP journalist witnessed.
When asked why one of the people was taken away, a policeman said that “because he didn’t obey our arrangements” and then referred the reporter to local police.