Saturday, September 30

Five hurt as rocket strikes hit Lviv in western Ukraine

Two rocket strikes have hit Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, wounding five people, regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyy has said, after local authorities told residents to seek shelter in the wake of powerful blasts on the city’s outskirts.

“There have been two rocket strikes within the (city) limits of Lviv,” said regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyy in an online post.

Earlier he had reported three powerful explosions in the eastern edge of Lviv.

Reuters witnesses saw heavy black smoke rising from the northeast side of the city.

Meanwhile, Russian forces have taken control of a town where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, the governor of Kyiv region has said, while fighting has been reported in the streets of the besieged southern port of Mariupol.

Russian forces are reported to have seized a town near Chernobyl

After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any major Ukrainian city, and Moscow signalled yesterday it was scaling back its military ambitions to focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists in the east.

Intense fighting has been reported in a number of places, suggesting there would be no swift let-up in the conflict, which has killed thousands of people, sent nearly 3.8 million abroad and driven more than half of Ukraine’s children from their homes, according to the United Nations.

US President Joe Biden, visiting NATO ally Poland, called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “butcher”. Mr Biden met Ukrainian ministers this morning.

Mr Biden said he was not sure Russia was changing its strategy in Ukraine to focus on efforts to “liberate” the breakaway eastern Donbass region, despite getting bogged down in some areas.

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Russian troops seized Slavutych, which is close to the border with Belarus and is where workers at the nearby Chernobyl plant live, said Oleksandr Pavlyuk, the governor of Kyiv region.

He said Russian forces had fired into the air and thrown stun grenades to disperse residents who unfurled a large Ukrainian flag and shouted “Glory to Ukraine” in protest.

Slavutych sits just outside the so-called exclusion zone around Chernobyl, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Ukrainian staff have continued to work at Chernobyl after the plant was seized by Russian forces soon after the start of the invasion.

In the encircled southern city of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation remained critical, with street fighting in the centre. Mariupol has been devastated by weeks of Russian fire.

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In an address to Qatar’s Doha Forum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky compared the devastation in Mariupol to the destruction inflicted on the Syrian city of Aleppo by combined Syrian and Russian forces in Syria’s civil war.

“They are destroying our ports,” he said, warning of dire consequence if his country – one of the world’s major grains producers – could not export its foodstuffs. “The absence of exports from Ukraine will deal a blow to countries worldwide.”

Speaking via video link, he also called on energy producing countries to increase their output so that Russia cannot use its oil and gas wealth to “blackmail” other nations.

Mr Zelensky pushed late yesterday for further talks with Russia after its defence ministry said a first phase of its operation in Ukraine was mostly complete and that it would now focus on the Donbass region bordering Russia, which has pro-Moscow separatist enclaves.

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Russian-backed forces there have been fighting pro-government forces since 2014.

Reframing Russia’s goals may make it easier for Putin to claim a face-saving victory, analysts have said.

Moscow has until now said its goals for what it calls its “special military operation” include demilitarising and “denazifying” its neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies have called that a baseless pretext for an unprovoked invasion.

A man hurries away from a building hit by Russian bombardment in the Moskovskyi district, Kharkiv

The United Nations has confirmed 1,081 civilian deaths and 1,707 injuries in Ukraine since the invasion but says the real toll is likely higher. Ukraine says 136 children have been killed.

Russia’s defence ministry said 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded, the Interfax news agency reported. Ukraine says 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Reuters could not independently verify the claims.

Footage from Mariupol, home to 400,000 people before the war, showed destroyed buildings, burnt out vehicles and shell-shocked survivors venturing out for provisions. Residents have buried victims in makeshift graves as the ground thaws.

“It’s scary, I don’t know how we’re going to survive,” an elderly woman resident said, declining to identify herself by name. “We’re lying there, hoping they won’t bomb us. Look at how many dead bodies we’ve buried around the building.”

More than 100,000 people still need to be evacuated from Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

To the north, battle lines near the capital Kyiv have been frozen for weeks with two main Russian armoured columns stuck northwest and east of the city.

The Russian defence ministry said its troops had seized a dug-in command centre in a Kyiv suburb and captured more than 60 Ukrainian servicemen.

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A British intelligence report said Russian forces were relying on indiscriminate air and artillery bombardments rather than risk large-scale ground operations.

“It is likely Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties,” the latest British assessment said.

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