Rescuers dig for survivors after Russian missiles pound Ukrainian shopping mall

Update Rescuers dig for survivors after Russian missiles pound Ukrainian shopping mall
People watch as smoke bellows after a Russian missile strike hit a crowded shopping mall, in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, Monday, June 27, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 29 June 2022

Rescuers dig for survivors after Russian missiles pound Ukrainian shopping mall

Rescuers dig for survivors after Russian missiles pound Ukrainian shopping mall
  • More than 1,000 people were inside when two missiles slammed into the mall

KREMENCHUK, Ukraine: Firefighters and soldiers searched on Tuesday for survivors in the rubble of a shopping mall in central Ukraine after a Russian missile strike killed at least 18 people in an attack condemned by the United Nations and the West.

Family members of the missing lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers set up a base after Monday’s strike on the busy mall in Kremenchuk, in the region of Poltava, southeast of Kyiv.

More than 1,000 people were inside when two Russian missiles slammed into the mall, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. At least 18 people were killed and 25 hospitalized, while about 36 were missing, said Dmytro Lunin, governor of Poltava.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies, at a summit in Germany, said the attack was “abominable.”

“Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account,” they said in a joint statement.

Zelensky said in a Monday evening video address that it was “not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping center.”

A survivor receiving treatment at Kremenchuk’s public hospital, Ludmyla Mykhailets, 43, said she was shopping with her husband when the blast threw her into the air.

“I flew head first and splinters hit my body. The whole place was collapsing,” she said.

“It was hell,” added her husband, Mykola, 45, blood seeping through a bandage around his head.

Russia has not commented on the strike but its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain sympathy ahead of a June 28-30 summit of the NATO military alliance.

“One should wait for what our Ministry of Defense will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already,” Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.

The UN Security Council will meet on Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the attack. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the missile strike was deplorable.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine endured another difficult day following the loss of the now-ruined city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and street fighting.

Russian artillery pounded Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk’s twin city across the Siverskyi Donets River.

Lysychansk is the last big city held by Ukraine in eastern Luhansk province, a main target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take the capital, Kyiv, early in the war.

Rodion Miroshnik, the ambassador to Moscow of the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic, said Russian troops and their Luhansk Republic allies were advancing westward into Lysychansk and street battles had erupted around the city’s stadium.

Fighting was going on in several villages around the city, and Russian and allied troops had entered the Lysychansk oil refinery where Ukrainian troops were concentrated, Miroshnik said on his Telegram channel.


Zelensky calls for tougher international response after shelling of nuclear plant

Zelensky calls for tougher international response after shelling of nuclear plant
Updated 07 August 2022

Zelensky calls for tougher international response after shelling of nuclear plant

Zelensky calls for tougher international response after shelling of nuclear plant

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Sunday for a stronger international response to what he described as Russian “nuclear terror” after shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe.
During a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel, Zelensky called for sanctions to be imposed on the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel, the Ukrainian leader wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine’s state nuclear power company said earlier that a worker had been wounded when Russian forces shelled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Saturday evening.


Blinken kicks off Africa tour to counter Russian influence

Blinken kicks off Africa tour to counter Russian influence
Updated 07 August 2022

Blinken kicks off Africa tour to counter Russian influence

Blinken kicks off Africa tour to counter Russian influence
  • Blinken will hold talks with South African counterpart Naledi Pandor and also make an announcement on the US government’s new Africa strategy

JOHANNESBURG: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in South Africa on Sunday to kick off a three-nation visit aimed at countering Russian influence on the continent.
The visit came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov undertook an extensive tour of Africa late last month.
South Africa, a leader in the developing world, has remained neutral in the Ukraine war, refusing to join Western calls to condemn Moscow, which had opposed apartheid before the end of white minority rule in 1994.
Blinken will hold talks on Monday with South African counterpart Naledi Pandor and also make an announcement on the US government’s new Africa strategy, Pretoria said in a statement.
They will “discuss ongoing and recent developments relating to the global geopolitical situation,” it said.
The State Department last month called African countries “geostrategic players and critical partners on the most pressing issues of our day, from promoting an open and stable international system, to tackling the effects of climate change, food insecurity and global pandemics to shaping our technological and economic futures.”
Blinken who is on his second trip to Africa since his appointment early last year, is due to proceed to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda later this week.
His visit to DR Congo is aimed at boosting support for sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country which battling to turn the page on decades of conflict.
He winds up the tour in Rwanda, which has seen a flare-up in tensions with DR Congo after it accused its neighbor to the east of backing M23 rebels, a charge Kigali denies.


China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills east of Taiwan Strait median line: state media

China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills east of Taiwan Strait median line: state media
Updated 07 August 2022

China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills east of Taiwan Strait median line: state media

China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills east of Taiwan Strait median line: state media
  • China has deployed fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles around Taiwan
  • Taiwan resumed flights through its airspace after Chinese military drills

BEIJING: The Chinese military will from now on conduct “regular” drills on the eastern side of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, Chinese state television reported on Sunday, citing a commentator.
The median line in the narrow strait between the island of Taiwan and mainland China is an unofficial line of control that military aircraft and battleships from either side normally do not cross.
The median line has never been legally recognized, and is an “imaginary” line drawn up by the US military for their combat requirements in the previous century, according to the state television commentator.

Earlier, China’s largest-ever military exercises surrounding Taiwan drew to a close on Sunday following a controversial visit last week to the self-ruled island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Beijing has raged at the trip by Pelosi — the second in the line of succession to the US presidency — ripping up a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington, most notably on climate change and defense.
It has also deployed fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles around Taiwan in what analysts have described as practice for a blockade and ultimate invasion of the island.
Those exercises were set to end Sunday, though Beijing has announced fresh drills in the Yellow Sea — located between China and the Korean peninsula — to take place until August 15.
Taiwan’s transport ministry said six of the seven “temporary danger zones” China warned airlines to avoid ceased to be in effect as of noon on Sunday, signalling a drawdown of the drills.
It said the seventh zone, in waters east of Taiwan, would remain in effect until 10:00 am (0300 GMT) local time on Monday.
“Relevant flights and sailings can gradually resume,” the ministry said in a statement.
Taipei said some routes were still being affected in the seventh area, and authorities would continue to monitor ship movements there.
Earlier on Sunday, Beijing conducted “practical joint exercises in the sea and airspace surrounding Taiwan Island as planned,” the Chinese military’s Eastern Command said.
The drills were focused “on testing the joint firepower on the ground and long-range air strike capabilities,” it added.
Taipei’s defense ministry also confirmed that China had dispatched “planes, vessels and drones” around the Taiwan Strait, “simulating attacks on Taiwan’s main island and on ships in our waters.”
Beijing also sent drones over Taiwan’s outlying islands, it added.
In response, the democratic island said it mobilized a “joint intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance system to closely monitor the enemy situation” as well as sending planes and vessels.
China’s defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment about the expected conclusion of the drills on Sunday.
To show how close China’s forces have been getting to Taiwan’s shores, Beijing’s military released a video of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit.
And the Eastern Command of the Chinese army shared a photo it said was taken of a warship patrolling seas near Taiwan with the island’s shoreline visible in the background.
The drills have also seen Beijing fire ballistic missiles over Taiwan’s capital, according to Chinese state media.
Taipei has remained defiant throughout China’s sabre-rattling, insisting it will not be cowed by its “evil neighbor.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry urged Beijing on Saturday to “immediately stop raising tensions and taking provocative actions to intimidate the Taiwanese people.”
But experts have warned the drills reveal an increasingly emboldened Chinese military capable of carrying out a gruelling blockade of the self-ruled island as well as obstructing US forces from coming to its aid.
“In some areas, the PLA might even surpass US capabilities,” Grant Newsham, a researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and former US Navy officer, told AFP, referring to China’s military by its official name.
“If the battle is confined to the area right around Taiwan, today’s Chinese navy is a dangerous opponent — and if the Americans and Japanese do not intervene for some reason, things would be difficult for Taiwan.”
The scale and intensity of China’s drills — as well as Beijing’s withdrawal from key talks on climate and defense — have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting with his Philippine counterpart on Saturday, said Washington was “determined to act responsibly” to avoid a major global crisis.
China should not hold talks on issues of global concern such as climate change “hostage,” Blinken said, as it “doesn’t punish the United States, it punishes the world.”
The United Nations has also urged the two superpowers to continue to work together.
“For the secretary-general, there is no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.


Four more cargo ships sail from Ukraine

Four more cargo ships sail from Ukraine
Updated 07 August 2022

Four more cargo ships sail from Ukraine

Four more cargo ships sail from Ukraine
  • The four bulk carriers loaded with more than 160,000 tons of corn and other foodstuffs
  • First ship delayed after it was set to dock in Lebanon on Sunday

KYIV: Four ships carrying Ukrainian foodstuffs sailed from Ukrainian Black Sea ports on Sunday as part of a deal to unblock the country’s sea exports, Ukrainian and Turkish officials said.
The four bulk carriers were loaded with more than 160,000 tons of corn and other foodstuffs.
The resumption of grain exports is being overseen by a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel are working.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered the deal last month after UN warnings of possible outbreaks of famine in parts of the world due to a halt in grain shipments from Ukraine that had squeezed supplies and sent prices soaring.
Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports.
The JCC said late on Saturday it had authorized the departure of a total of five new vessels through the Black Sea corridor: four vessels outbound from Chornomorsk and Odesa carrying 161,084 metric tons of foodstuffs, and one inbound.
The ships that have left Ukrainian ports included Glory, with a cargo of 66,000 tons of corn bound for Istanbul, and Riva Wind, loaded with 44,000 tons of corn, heading for Turkey’s Iskenderun, the Turkish defense ministry said.
It said the other two vessels to have left Ukraine were Star Helena, with a cargo of 45,000 tons of meal heading to China, and Mustafa Necati, carrying 6,000 tons of sunflower oil and heading for Italy.
The first four ships left Ukraine last week under the agreement.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon said the first grain ship that left Ukraine last week will not arrive in Lebanon on Sunday as planned.
The Razoni left Odesa on the Black Sea early last Monday carrying 26,527 tons of corn and was set to dock on Sunday in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, according to Ukrainian officials and Lebanese port authorities.
But the Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon said the ship was “having a delay” and “not arriving today,” with no details on a new arrival date or the cause of the postponement.
Shipping data on MarineTraffic.com showed the Razoni off the Turkish coast on Sunday morning.
Lebanon’s transport, agriculture and economy ministers told Reuters last week they did not know who was purchasing the grain aboard the Razoni.


US warns Pacific isles of ‘struggle’ against coercive regimes

US warns Pacific isles of ‘struggle’ against coercive regimes
Updated 07 August 2022

US warns Pacific isles of ‘struggle’ against coercive regimes

US warns Pacific isles of ‘struggle’ against coercive regimes
  • Wendy Sherman hit out at a new crop of world leaders reviving “bankrupt” ideas about the use of force
  • Warning comes amid China’s provocative war drills around Taiwan and Russia bombarding Ukraine

HONIARA, Solomon Islands: A top US diplomat warned Pacific Islands of a new struggle against violent power-hungry regimes Sunday, as she visited the Solomon Islands to mark the 80th anniversary of World War II’s Battle of Guadalcanal.
With China’s military carrying out war drills around Taiwan and Russia bombarding Ukraine, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman hit out at a new crop of world leaders reviving “bankrupt” ideas about the use of force.
Visiting a battlefield memorial in the Solomon Islands, Sherman said “some around the world” had forgotten the cost of war, or were ignoring the lessons of the past.
She hit out at “leaders who believe that coercion, pressure, and violence are tools to be used with impunity,” without citing any leader by name.
Sherman is leading a US delegation to the Solomon Islands to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The brutal seven-month land, sea and air fight between Allied and Japanese forces killed tens of thousands of troops — most Japanese — and was a turning point in the war.
Painting the situation today as carrying faint echoes of the fight against Nazism and Imperial Japan in the 1930-40s, the State Department number two urged the region to push back.
“We remember how bankrupt, how empty, such views were then, and remain today,” she said.
“Today we are once again engaged in a different kind of struggle — a struggle that will go on for some time to come.”
Sherman’s trip comes as the United States scrambles to rebuild diplomatic relations in a region where China is growing stronger and democratic alliances have faltered.
Nowhere is America’s waning regional influence more evident than in the Solomon Islands itself.
The government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare recently signed a secretive security pact with Beijing, has moved to curb press freedoms, and suggested delaying elections.
Sherman, again without naming names, told her hosts “it is up to us to decide if we want to continue having societies where people are free to speak their minds.”
It is time, she said, to decide “if we want to have governments that are transparent and accountable to their people.”
As well as warnings, Sherman said Washington wants to increase cooperation with the “absolutely critical” Pacific islands, including by opening embassies in Tonga, Kiribati, and the Solomon Islands.
As part of the charm offensive, US President Joe Biden is also expected to invite Pacific Island leaders to the White House for a September summit.