More than 250 Ukrainian troops surrender as Kyiv orders Mariupol to yield

Russian servicemen watch Ukrainian servicemen board a bus as they are being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. (AP)
Russian servicemen watch Ukrainian servicemen board a bus as they are being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. (AP)
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Updated 17 May 2022

More than 250 Ukrainian troops surrender as Kyiv orders Mariupol to yield

More than 250 Ukrainian troops surrender as Kyiv orders Mariupol to yield
  • Buses left the steelworks overnight and five of them arrived in the Russian-held town of Novoazovsk
  • Mariupol’s complete capture is Russia’s biggest victory of the war

KYIV/NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine: More than 250 Ukrainian fighters surrendered to Russian forces at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol and Kyiv said it had ordered its entire garrison to evacuate, heralding the end of Europe’s bloodiest battle in decades.
Reuters saw buses leave the steelworks overnight and five of them arrive in the Russian-held town of Novoazovsk, where Moscow said they would be treated for wounds.
In one, marked with the Latin letter ‘Z’ that has become the symbol of Russia’s assault, wounded men were lying on stretchers three bunks high. One man was wheeled out, his head tightly wrapped in thick bandages.
While both sides spoke of a deal under which all Ukrainian troops would abandon the huge steelworks, many details were not yet public, including how many fighters remained inside and whether any form of prisoner swap had been agreed in advance.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had personally guaranteed the prisoners would be treated according to international standards.
“The ‘Mariupol’ garrison has fulfilled its combat mission,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in a statement.
“The supreme military command ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel...Defenders of Mariupol are the heroes of our time.”
Russian defense ministry video showed fighters leaving the plant in daylight, some carried on stretchers, others with hands up to be searched by Russian troops.
Russia said at least 256 Ukrainian fighters had “laid down their arms and surrendered,” including 51 severely wounded. Ukraine said 264 soldiers, including 53 wounded, had left the plant and efforts were under way to bring out the rest.
The surrender appears to mark the end of the battle of Mariupol, where Ukraine believes tens of thousands of people were killed under months of Russian bombardment and siege.
The city now lies in ruins. Its complete capture is Russia’s biggest victory of the war, giving Moscow total control of the coast of the Sea of Azov and an unbroken stretch of eastern and southern Ukraine about the size of Greece.
But it comes as Russia’s campaign has faltered elsewhere, with its troops around the city of Kharkiv in the northeast lately retreating at the fastest pace since they were driven out of the north and the area around the capital Kyiv at the end of March.
Authorities on both sides gave few clues about the ultimate fate of Mariupol’s last defenders. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Kyiv aimed to arrange a prisoner swap for the wounded Ukrainians once their condition stabilizes, but neither side disclosed terms for any specific deal.
“We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. “There are severely wounded ones among them. They’re receiving care. Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive.”
The United Nations, which had helped civilians evacuate from Azovstal this month, was not operationally involved in the evacuation, UN spokesperson Saviano Abreu said.

Heavy shelling reported 
Mariupol is the biggest city Russia has captured since its Feb. 24 invasion, giving Moscow a clear-cut victory for the first time in months, during which its campaign in Ukraine has mostly faced military disaster against an underestimated foe.
In a statement on Monday, the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit that had held out in the steelworks, said it had achieved its objective over 82 days of resistance by making it possible to defend the rest of the country.
“In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is implementing the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people,” it said.
The regiment, now part of Ukraine’s territorial defense forces, originated as a far-right militia, and Moscow has portrayed defeating its fighters as central to its stated objective of “de-Nazifying” Ukraine.
The United Nations and Red Cross say thousands of civilians died under Russia’s siege of the once prosperous port of 400,000 people, with the true toll uncounted but certain to be Europe’s worst at least since the 1990s wars in Chechnya and the Balkans.
For months, Mariupol’s residents were driven into cellars under perpetual bombardment, with no access to food, fresh water or heat, and bodies littering the streets. Two strikes — on a maternity ward and a theater where hundreds of people were sheltering — became worldwide emblems of Russia’s tactic of devastating population centers.
Thousands of civilians are believed to have been buried in mass graves or makeshift pits in gardens. Ukraine says Moscow sent mobile cremation trucks to erase evidence of civilian deaths, and forcibly deported thousands of residents to Russia.
Moscow denies targeting civilians or deporting them, and says it has taken in refugees. It says it is now restoring normal life to the city, part of the Donbas region it claims on behalf of separatists it has backed since 2014.

Ukraine advances 
Elsewhere, Ukrainian forces have been advancing in recent days at their fastest pace for more than a month, driving Russian forces out of the area around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.
Ukraine says its forces had reached the Russian border, 40 km north of Kharkiv. They have also pushed at least as far as the Siverskiy Donets river 40 km to the east, where they could threaten supply lines to Russia’s main advance in the Donbas.
Russia is still pressing that advance, despite taking heavy losses, including in a failed river crossing last week. Zelensky’s office said on Tuesday the entire frontline around Donetsk was under constant massive shelling.
In response the invasion, historically non-aligned Finland and Sweden have announced plans to join NATO, bringing about the very expansion of the Western alliance Putin had invoked as one of the main justifications for his “special military operation.”
After weeks in which Russia threatened unspecified retaliation, Putin appeared to climb down, saying on Monday that Russia had “no problems” with either Finland or Sweden, and their NATO membership would not be an issue unless the alliance deployed additional troops or weapons there.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday there would be “probably not much difference” if Finland and Sweden join NATO, since they had already been cooperating in the alliance’s military exercises.


Bus falls into deep gorge in northern India, killing 16

Bus falls into deep gorge in northern India, killing 16
Updated 6 sec ago

Bus falls into deep gorge in northern India, killing 16

Bus falls into deep gorge in northern India, killing 16
  • Deadly road accidents are common in India due to reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles
NEW DELHI: A passenger bus slid off a mountain road and fell into a deep gorge in northern India on Monday, killing 16 people, including schoolchildren, a government official said.
Rescue workers pulled out the badly injured from the wreckage of the vehicle and sent them to a hospital, Ashutosh Garg, a senior administrator for the district of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh state, told news agency Press Trust of India.
Another official, Prashant Sirkek Singh, said about 20 passengers were traveling in the bus.
Photos shared on social media showed responders trying to rescue survivors from the mangled hulk of the yellow bus. The exact cause of the crash was not immediately known.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sorrow over the accident.
Deadly road accidents are common in India due to reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles. More than 110,000 people are killed every year in road accidents across India, according to police.

Japan protests Chinese navy sailing near disputed islands

Japan protests Chinese navy sailing near disputed islands
Updated 49 min 8 sec ago

Japan protests Chinese navy sailing near disputed islands

Japan protests Chinese navy sailing near disputed islands
  • The islets, known as the Senkaku by Tokyo and the Diaoyu by Beijing, are at the center of a long-running dispute between Japan and China

TOKYO: Japan lodged a protest with China on Monday over a Chinese naval vessel sailing near disputed islands, a Japanese official said, as reports emerged of Russia also sending its own navy ship to the area.
The islets in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku by Tokyo and the Diaoyu by Beijing, are at the center of a long-running dispute between Japan and China.
Japanese officials regularly protest the presence of Chinese coast guard vessels in waters near the islands, but it is the first time since 2018 that a navy ship has been spotted there, according to public broadcaster NHK.
At around 7:44 a.m. on Monday, a Chinese navy frigate “was observed entering Japan’s contiguous waters” southwest of one of the Tokyo-controlled islands, a statement from the Japanese defense ministry said.
Contiguous waters are a 12-nautical-mile band that extends beyond territorial waters.
“We expressed grave concerns and lodged our protest to the Chinese side through a diplomatic route, and urged them to prevent a repeat” of similar incidents, deputy chief cabinet secretary Seiji Kihara told reporters.
The islets “are Japanese territory from the viewpoints of both history and international law,” he added.
Separately, a Russian naval ship was also spotted in the contiguous waters of the disputed islands on Monday morning, NHK, Jiji Press and other Japanese media reported, citing anonymous defense ministry sources.
The ministry could not immediately confirm the reports to AFP.
In May, Chinese and Russian fighter jets carried out joint flights near the East Asian country as leaders of the so-called Quad bloc — Japan, United States, Australia and India — met in Tokyo.
While the planes did not breach territorial airspace, Japan said the move was “provocative” given that the timing coincided with the leaders’ summit.
Beijing said the flights were part of Chinese and Russian “annual military cooperation plan.”


Protests in US after release of video of police killing Black man

Protests in US after release of video of police killing Black man
Updated 21 min 57 sec ago

Protests in US after release of video of police killing Black man

Protests in US after release of video of police killing Black man
  • Police claimed the victim had earlier fired at them when they were chasing him over a traffic violation
  • Akron mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” while asking for patience from the community

AKRON, United States: Several hundred protesters marched Sunday in Akron, Ohio after the release of body camera footage that showed police fatally shooting a Black man with several dozen rounds of bullets.

As anger rose over the latest police killing of a Black man in the United States, and authorities appealed for calm, a crowd marched to City Hall carrying banners with slogans such as “Justice for Jayland.”

The slogan refers to Jayland Walker, 25, who was killed Monday after officers tried to stop his car over a traffic violation, police said.

Sunday marked the fourth straight day of protests in the city of 190,000 people. Demonstrations during the day were peaceful but for a tense moment in which some protesters got close to a line of police and shouted at them.

Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, denounced the shooting as “murder... point blank” as the civil rights group led a daytime rally.

“This Black man was killed... for a possible traffic violation. This doesn’t happen to white people in America,” he said in a statement, also slamming the police department’s response.

Protests continued into the evening, with a hundred-strong crowd still in the streets in front of the justice center, a reporter said.

Despite calls from some protesters for calm, tensions mounted as the night wore on.

Some protesters set dumpsters alight and broke windows of the snowplows and other heavy equipment authorities had moved near the police department as a barrier in anticipation of unrest.

Police in riot gear deployed and fired tear gas at the crowd to push it back from the justice center.

After initially providing few details of the shooting, Akron authorities released two videos Sunday: a compilation of body-camera footage, body-cam still frames and voiceover, and another of the complete body-cam footage of the entire chase and shooting.

The voiceover explained that Walker did not stop and drove off. Police engaged in a car chase and said a shot had been fired from Walker’s vehicle.

After being chased for several minutes, Walker got out of his car while it was still moving and fled on foot. Officers tried to subdue him with their tasers, but he kept running.

Several officers finally chased Walker to a parking lot. The body-cam footage is too blurry to see clearly what happens, but an initial police statement released after the shooting says Walker behaved in a way that caused officers to believe he posed a “deadly threat.”

All of the officers at the scene opened fire on Walker, shooting multiple times in rapid succession.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident was the latest death of an African-American citizen at the hands of police, events that have sparked mass protests over racism and police brutality.

“Many will wish to air their grievances in public, and I fully support our residents’ right to peacefully assemble,” Akron mayor Dan Horrigan told a press conference, saying he was “heartbroken” over the events.

“But I hope the community can agree that violence and destruction are not the answer.”

He also said an independent investigation was being conducted.

Bobby DiCello, a lawyer for the Walker family, told The New York Times: “I’ve been a trial lawyer for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything remotely close to what that video is going to show.”

Police chief Steve Mylett said he didn’t know the exact number of bullets fired at Walker, but the medical examiner’s report “indicates over 60 wounds to Mr. Walker’s body.”

He added that the eight officers involved in Walker’s death have been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

Authorities canceled a festival planned for the July 4th Independence Day holiday weekend.

Basketball star LeBron James, an Akron native, said in a tweet Sunday he was praying for his city.


Tens of thousands Sydney residents told to evacuate as rains flood suburbs

Tens of thousands Sydney residents told to evacuate as rains flood suburbs
Updated 04 July 2022

Tens of thousands Sydney residents told to evacuate as rains flood suburbs

Tens of thousands Sydney residents told to evacuate as rains flood suburbs
  • An intense low-pressure system off Australia’s east coast is forecast to bring heavy rain through Monday across New South Wales

SYDNEY: Fresh evacuation orders were issued for tens of thousands of Sydney residents on Monday after relentless rains flooded several suburbs, with officials warning of more wild weather to come.
An intense low-pressure system off Australia’s east coast is forecast to bring heavy rain through Monday across New South Wales after several places in the state were hit with about a month’s worth over the weekend.
Since Sunday, about 30,000 residents in New South Wales state have been told to either evacuate or warned they might receive evacuation orders.
Frustration swelled in several suburbs in the west of Australia’s largest city after floods submerged homes, farms and bridges there, some for the third time this year.
“It’s just devastating. We are in disbelief,” Camden Mayor Theresa Fedeli said.
“Most of them have just come out of the last flood, getting their homes back in place, their businesses back in place and unfortunately we are saying it is happening again.”
An operation was underway to rescue 21 crew members from a cargo ship, which lost power south of Sydney and risked being swept ashore, local media reported.
“It has been a very difficult time for many months to have this flood event off the back of others. It makes it more challenging,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said during a televised media briefing.
Paul O’Neill, a resident from flood-hit Wisemans Ferry, said he was taking food supplies by boat to his stranded family after rising waters cut off access.
“The road collapsed and hasn’t been fixed since the last floods, hasn’t been touched. So now they close our road access and then the ferry, the only way to get home now is by boat,” O’Neill said.
Footage on social media showed petrol stations, homes, cars and street signs partially under water while garbage bins floated down flooded roads. Military vehicles were seen going into flooded streets to evacuate stranded families.
Some inland towns, including Picton, about 90km southwest of Sydney, have lined the main streets with sandbags.
About 100 millimeters of rain could fall in the next 24 hours over a swath of more than 300km along the New South Wales coast from Newcastle to the south of Sydney, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
“We are expecting the rain to pick up again from this afternoon,” bureau meteorologist Jonathan How said.
More than 200mm of rain have fallen over many areas, with some hit by as much as 350mm since Saturday.
The weather could trigger flash floods and landslides, with river catchments already near full capacity after the La Nina phenomenon, typically associated with increased rainfall, lashed Australia’s east coast over the last two years.
Climate change is widely believed to be a contributing factor to the frequent severe weather events, the Climate Council said, adding Australia is “under-prepared.”
Federal emergency management minister Murray Watt said climate change must be taken “seriously” due to the frequent occurrence of floods.
“The reality is we are living in a changing climate,” Watt told ABC television.
Bad weather has delayed by 24 hours Monday’s scheduled launch of a NASA rocket from the Arnhem Space Center in north Australia, operator Equatorial Launch Australia said.


Ukraine withdraws from battered Lysychansk city; Russia claims major victory

Ukraine withdraws from battered Lysychansk city; Russia claims major victory
Updated 04 July 2022

Ukraine withdraws from battered Lysychansk city; Russia claims major victory

Ukraine withdraws from battered Lysychansk city; Russia claims major victory
  • City was last Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk region
  • Zelensky vows to regain control with long-range weapons

KYIV: Ukraine’s forces have withdrawn from the bombed-out city of Lysychansk, prompting Russia to claim full control of the eastern Luhansk region, a key Kremlin war goal, but President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to regain the lost territory.
Ukraine on Sunday said the tactical withdrawal would save the lives of its soldiers who would regroup, to launch a counter offensive with the help of long-range Western weapons.
But Moscow said the capture of Lysychansk less than a week after taking neighboring Sievierdonetsk meant it had “liberated” Luhansk. It said it will give Luhansk to the self-proclaimed Russian-backed Luhansk People’s Republic whose independence it recognized on the eve of the war.
The battlefield focus now shifts to the neighboring Donetsk region, where Kyiv still controls swathes of territory.
“If the commanders of our army withdraw people from certain points at the front, where the enemy has the greatest advantage in firepower, and this also applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing,” Zelensky said in his nightly video on Sunday.
“That we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.”
Zelensky said Russia was concentrating its firepower on the Donbas front, but Ukraine would hit back with long-range weapons such as the US-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers.
“The fact that we protect the lives of our soldiers, our people, plays an equally important role. We will rebuild the walls, we will win back the land, and people must be protected above all else,” Zelensky said.

Since abandoning an assault on the capital Kyiv, Russia has concentrated its military operation on the industrial Donbas heartland that comprises the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Moscow-backed separatist proxies have been fighting Ukraine since 2014.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated,” the defense ministry said, after Russia earlier said its forces had captured villages around Lysychansk and encircled the city.
Ukraine’s military command said its forces had been forced to retreat from the city.
“The continuation of the defense of the city would lead to fatal consequences. In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw,” it said in a statement on social media.
Ukrainian officials, who say references to “liberating” Ukrainian territory are Russian propaganda, had reported intense artillery barrages on residential areas.
West of Lysychansk in Donetsk region, at least six people were killed when the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk was hit by powerful shelling from multiple rocket launchers on Sunday, local officials said.

Costly campaign
Thousands of civilians have been killed and cities levelled since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of deliberately targeting civilians. Moscow denies this.
Russia says what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine aims to protect Russian speakers from nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies say this is a baseless pretext for flagrant aggression that aims to seize territory.
While Russia would try to frame its advance in Luhansk as a significant moment in the war, it came at a high cost to Russia’s military, said Neil Melvin of the London-based think tank RUSI.
“Ukraine’s position was never that they could defend all of this. What they’ve been trying to do is to slow down the Russian assault and cause maximum damage, while they build up for a counteroffensive,” he said.

Kharkhiv strikes
Zelensky said Russia had “brutally” struck Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk with rocket attacks, leaving six dead and 20 wounded in Sloviansk alone.
Russia’s defense ministry also said on Sunday it had struck the military infrastructure of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the northeast, where a Reuters reporter said Ukrainian forces had been building fortifications after nightly shelling.
Outside a school in Kharkiv, some residents threw debris into a large crater created by an early morning rocket strike while others got help repairing damaged houses.
“The wife was lucky that she woke up early in the morning because the roof fell exactly where she had been sleeping,” one resident, Oleksii Mihulin, told Reuters.
About 70 km (44 miles) from Kharkiv on the Russian side of the border, Russia also reported explosions on Sunday in Belgorod, which it said killed at least three people and destroyed homes.
“The sound was so strong that I jumped up, I woke up, got very scared and started screaming,” a Belgorod resident told Reuters, adding the blasts occurred around 3 a.m. (0000 GMT).
Moscow has accused Kyiv of numerous attacks on Belgorod and other areas bordering Ukraine. Kyiv has never claimed responsibility for any of these incidents.

Military base hit
Ukraine said its air force had flown some 15 sorties “in virtually all directions of hostilities,” destroying equipment and two ammunition depots.
In the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Ukrainian forces hit a military logistics base with more than 30 strikes on Sunday, the city’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said. A Russian-installed official confirmed that strikes had hit the city.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Ukraine has repeatedly appealed for an acceleration in weapons supplies from the West, saying its forces are heavily outgunned.