Russia presses Donbas attacks as Polish leader praises Kyiv

Russia presses Donbas attacks as Polish leader praises Kyiv
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A bridge connecting the Ukrainian cities of Lysychans’k and Severodonetsk in the Donbas region is destroyed amid fighting. (AFP)
Russia presses Donbas attacks as Polish leader praises Kyiv
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Smoke rises from an oil refinery after a Russian attack outside the city of Lysychans’k in the eastern Ukranian region of Donbas on May 22, 2022. (AFP)
Russia presses Donbas attacks as Polish leader praises Kyiv
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Ukrainian soldiers assist their comrades not far from the frontline in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on May 21, 2022. (AFP)
Russia presses Donbas attacks as Polish leader praises Kyiv
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Ukrainian soldiers load bodies of killed Russian soldiers into a refrigerated rail car in Kharkiv on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 May 2022

Russia presses Donbas attacks as Polish leader praises Kyiv

Russia presses Donbas attacks as Polish leader praises Kyiv
  • Zelensky says from 50 to 100 Ukrainian fighters were being killed, apparently each day, in the east
  • Urges the 27-member EU to expedite his country’s request to join the bloc

KYIV, Ukraine: Russia pressed its offensive in eastern Ukraine on Sunday as Poland’s president traveled to Kyiv to support the country’s European Union aspirations, becoming the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament since the start of the war.
Lawmakers gave a standing ovation to President Andrzej Duda, who thanked them for the honor of speaking where “the heart of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine beats.” Duda said that to end the conflict, Ukraine did not need to submit to conditions given by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Unfortunately, in Europe there have also been disturbing voices in recent times demanding that Ukraine yield to Putin’s demands,” he said. “I want to say clearly: Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future. Only Ukraine has the right to decide for itself.”
Duda’s visit, his second to Kyiv since April, came as Russian and Ukrainian forces battled along a 551-kilometer (342-mile) wedge of the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
After declaring full control of a sprawling seaside steel plant that was the last defensive holdout in the port city of Mariupol, Russia launched artillery and missile attacks to expand the territory that Moscow-backed separatists have held since 2014 in the region known as the Donbas.




Ukrainian soldiers load bodies of killed Russian soldiers into a refrigerated rail car in Kharkiv on Sunday. (Reuters)

To bolster its defenses, Ukraine’s parliament voted Sunday to extend martial law and the mobilization of armed forces for a third time, until Aug. 23.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has stressed that the 27-member EU should expedite his country’s request to join the bloc. Ukraine’s potential candidacy is set to be discussed at a Brussels summit in late June.
France’s European Affairs minister Clement Beaune on Sunday told Radio J it would be a “long time” before Ukraine gains EU membership, perhaps up to two decades.
“We have to be honest,” he said. “If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you’re lying.”
But Poland is ramping up efforts to win over EU members who are more hesitant about accepting Ukraine into the bloc. Zelensky said Duda’s visit represented a “historic union” between Ukraine, which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and Poland, which ended communist rule two years earlier.
“This is really a historic opportunity not to lose such strong relations, built through blood, through Russian aggression,” Zelensky said. “All this not to lose our state, not to lose our people.”
Poland has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees and become a gateway for Western humanitarian aid and weapons into Ukraine. It is also a transit point for some foreign fighters who have volunteered to fight the Russian forces.
Duda credited the US and President Joe Biden for unifying the West in supporting Ukraine and imposing sanctions against Moscow.
“Kyiv is the place from which one clearly sees that we need more America in Europe, both in the military and in this economic dimension,” said Duda, a right-wing populist leader who clearly preferred former President Donald Trump over Biden in the 2020 election.
On the battlefield, Russia appeared to have made slow, grinding moves forward in the Donbas in recent days. It intensified efforts to capture Sievierodonetsk, the main city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, which together with Donetsk province makes up the Donbas. The Ukrainian military said Sunday that Russian forces had mounted an unsuccessful attack on Oleksandrivka, a village outside of Sievierodonetsk.
Sievierodonetsk came under heavy shelling, and Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai said the Russians were “simply intentionally trying to destroy the city... engaging in a scorched-earth approach.”
Haidai said Moscow was concentrating forces and weaponry there to try to win control of Luhansk, bringing in forces from Kharkiv to the northwest, Mariupol to the south, and from inside Russia.
The sole working hospital in the city has only three doctors and supplies for 10 days, he said.
Ukrainian officials have said little since the war began about the extent of their country’s casualties, but Zelensky said at a news conference Sunday that 50 to 100 Ukrainian fighters were being killed, apparently each day, in the east.
In a general staff morning report, Russia said it was also preparing to resume its offensive on Slovyansk, a city in Donetsk province that saw fierce fighting last month after Moscow’s troops backed away from Kyiv.
In Enerhodar, a Russian-held city 281 kilometers (174 miles) northwest of Mariupol, an explosion Sunday injured the Moscow-appointed mayor at his residence, Ukrainian and Russian news agencies reported. Ukraine’s Unian news agency said a bomb planted by “local partisans” wounded 48-year-old Andrei Shevchuk, whose lives near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest.
With Russia claiming to have taken prisoner nearly 2,500 Ukrainian fighters from the Mariupol steel plant, concerns grew about their fate and that of the remaining residents of the city, now in ruins with more than 20,000 feared dead.




Ukrainian soldiers assist their comrades not far from the frontline in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on May 21, 2022. (AFP)

Relatives of the fighters have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine “will fight for the return” of every one of them.
Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, vowed that the Ukrainian fighters from the plant would face tribunals.
The complete seizure of the Azovstal steel plant, a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity, gave Putin a badly wanted victory in the war he began nearly three months ago, on Feb. 24. Ukraine’s military had told the fighters their mission was complete and they could come out. It described their extraction as an evacuation, not a mass surrender.
Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko warned that the city faces a health and sanitation “catastrophe” from mass burials in shallow pits and the breakdown of sewage systems. An estimated 100,000 of the 450,000 people who lived in Mariupol before the war remain.
Ukrainian authorities have alleged Russian atrocities there, including the bombings of a maternity hospital and a theater where hundreds of civilians had taken cover.
Meanwhile, a Ukrainian court was expected to reach a verdict Monday for a Russian soldier who was the first to go on trial for an alleged war crime. The 21-year-old sergeant, who has admitted to shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region on Feb. 28, could get life in prison if convicted.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said her office was prosecuting war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.
In other developments, Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, gave a rare interview to national broadcaster ICTV alongside her husband and said she has hardly seen him since the war began.
“Our family, like all Ukrainian families, is now separated,” she said, adding that she speaks to him mostly by phone.
“Unfortunately, we cannot sit together, have dinner with the whole family, talk about everything,” she said.
Zelensky called the interview itself “a date on air,” and the couple, who have two children, joked in front of the journalists.
“We are joking, but we are really waiting, like everyone else, to be reunited, like all families in Ukraine who are separated now, waiting for their relatives and friends who want to be together again,” he said.

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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.