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Russia pounds eastern Ukraine, Putin to mark WWII anniversary

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on

6/6

© Reuters. Ukrainian service members patrol an area in the city of Sievierodonetsk, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine June 20, 2022. Picture taken June 20, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak

2/6

(Reuters) -Ukrainian and Russian forces were entrenched in eastern Ukrainian battlegrounds on Wednesday, a day of commemoration in both countries to mark the anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Fighting in the months-long war has favoured Russia in recent weeks because of its huge edge in artillery firepower, a fact Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy acknowledged in a late Tuesday address.

“Thanks to tactical manoeuvres the Ukrainian army is strengthening its defences in the Luhansk region,” he said. “That is really the toughest spot. The occupiers are also pressing strongly in the direction of Donetsk.”

Luhansk and Donetsk provinces combined are known as the Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

“And just as actively as we are fighting for a positive decision by the European Union on Ukraine’s candidate status, we are also fighting every day for modern weaponry for our country. We don’t let up for a single day,” Zelenskiy said, urging his country’s supporters to speed up arms deliveries.

In a symbolic decision, Ukraine is set to become an official candidate for European Union membership on Thursday, EU diplomats said.

Russia’s failure to make a major breakthrough since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24 means time is on the side of Ukrainians, according to some military analysts.

“It’s a heavyweight boxing match. In 2 months of fighting, there has not yet been a knockout blow. It will come, as RU forces become more depleted,” retired U.S. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, a former commander of U.S. ground forces in Europe, wrote on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR).

‘PREPARED PROVOCATIONS’

June 22 is a significant date in Russia – the “Day of Remembrance and Sorrow” – marking when Hitler’s Nazi Germany forces invaded the Soviet Union in World War Two. It is also commemorated in Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union. The war there lasted 1,418 days from June 22, 1941, and historians estimate about 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians were killed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched what he calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine to root out Nazis, is due to lay flowers to honour the dead.

The Ukrainian government and its Western backers say Putin has used a false pretext to wage an unprovoked war of aggression on its neighbour.

To mark the anniversary, the Russian defence ministry on Wednesday released documents dating back to the beginning of World War Two purporting to show Germany intended to claim the Soviet army was bombing churches and cemeteries to justify its invasion.

“Just as nowadays, in 1941, the Nazis prepared provocations in advance to discredit our state,” Russia’s defence ministry said.

Russian forces and separatists in east Ukraine made advances on Tuesday, pushing towards Lysychansk city, the Ukrainian forces’ main bastion in the Donbas.

In some of the bloodiest fighting in Europe since World War Two, Russia has made slow progress in the Donbas since April in a conflict that has cost thousands of soldiers’ lives on both sides.

The separatist Donetsk People’s Republic had acknowledged more than 2,000 military personnel killed and almost 9,000 wounded since the beginning of the year, according to British military intelligence. That was equivalent to about 55% of its original force, it said.

Some of the fighting has spanned the Siverskyi Donets river that curls through the Donbas, with Russian forces mainly on the east bank and Ukrainian forces mainly on the west.

But Ukrainian troops – and an estimated 500 civilians – are reportedly still holding out at a chemical plant in the east bank city of Sievierodonetsk.

The governor of Luhansk province, Serhiy Gaidai, said Russians were advancing towards Lysychansk, attacking the buildings of police, state security and prosecutors, taking settlements and attacking the city with aircraft.

Oleskiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskiy, said Russian forces could cut off Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk from Ukrainian-held territory.

“The threat of a tactical Russian victory is there, but they haven’t done it yet,” he said in an online video.

Attacks have picked up in the Kharkiv region in the northeast, with at least 15 civilians killed by Russian shelling, its governor said on Tuesday.

“Russian forces are now hitting the city of Kharkiv in the same way that they previously were hitting Mariupol – with the aim of terrorising the population,” Arestovych said. “The idea is to create one big problem to distract us.”

Reuters could not immediately confirm the battlefield accounts.

In retaliation for Western sanctions, Russia has begun pumping lower volumes of gas to Europe via Ukraine.

European Union states have outlined measures to cope with a supply crisis after the invasion put energy at the heart of an economic battle between Russia and the West.

Russia warned Lithuania on Tuesday it would face measures of a “serious negative impact” for blocking some shipments by rail to Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad.

Fellow Baltic nation Estonia expressed solidarity with Lithuania and summoned the Russian ambassador to protest against an “extremely serious” violation of its airspace by a Russian helicopter.

World

West pledges support for Ukraine as missiles strike shopping centre

Published

on

6/6

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A smoke rises over remains of a building destroyed by a military strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine June 17, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak

2/6

By Simon Lewis

KREMENCHUK, Ukraine (Reuters) -Western nations on Monday pledged unwavering support for Ukraine in the war with Russia and Ukrainian officials said 28 civilians were killed in Russian attacks, including a missile strike on a crowded shopping centre.

Leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies, meeting in Germany, said they would keep sanctions on Russia for as long as necessary and intensify international pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s government and its ally Belarus.

“Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with the violent acquisition of huge chunks of another country, sovereign, independent territory,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC.

The United States said it was finalising another weapons package for Ukraine that would include long-range air-defence systems – arms that Zelenskiy specifically requested when he addressed the leaders by video link on Monday.

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

Russian artillery was pounding Lysychansk, its twin across the Siverskyi Donets River. A Russian missile strike killed eight and wounded 21 others in the city on Monday, the area’s regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. There was no immediate Russian comment.

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

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said the Russian forces were trying to cut off Lysychansk from the south. Reuters could not confirm Russian reports that Moscow’s troops had already entered the city.

Southeast of Kyiv in the city of Kremenchuk, firefighters and soldiers were searching through debris for survivors after two missiles struck a shopping centre, killing at least 13 and wounding 40, Ukrainian officials said.

“This is not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping centre,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an evening video address. He earlier said more than 1,000 people had been inside.

Russia has not commented on the Ukrainian accusations. Its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain Western sympathy ahead of a planned summit of the NATO military alliance.

“One should wait for what our Ministry of Defence will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already,” Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR).

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the attack was “deplorable”. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it the “latest in a string of atrocities”.

Ukrainian officials said Russian shelling had killed five in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and at least two in the eastern Donetsk province.

‘WE SENT HIM MESSAGES’

As night began to fall in Kremenchuk, rescuers brought lights and generators to continue the search. Family members, some close to tears and with hands over their mouths, lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers had set up a base.

Kiril Zhebolovsky, 24, was looking for his friend, Ruslan, 22, who worked at the Comfy electronics store and had not been heard from since the blast.

“We sent him messages, called, but nothing,” he said. He left his name and phone number with the rescue workers in case his friend is found.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to rid the country of far-right nationalists and ensure Russian security. It denies targeting civilians in a conflict that has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing and laid waste to cities.

Russian forces also control territory in the south, including the port city of Mariupol, which fell after a long and devastating siege.

A senior U.S. defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russia had carried out about 60 strikes against Ukraine over the weekend.

The official said a weekend strike in Kyiv that hit apartments was close to a factory that made munitions for Ukrainian forces.

In his address to the G7 leaders, Zelenskiy asked again for more arms, U.S. and European officials said. He requested help to export grain from Ukraine and for more sanctions on Russia.

The G7 nations promised to squeeze Russia’s finances further – including a deal to cap the price of Russian oil that a U.S. official said was “close” – and promised up to $29.5 billion more for Ukraine.

“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” a G7 statement said.

The White House said Russia had defaulted on its external debt for the first time in more than a century as sweeping sanctions have effectively cut the country off from the global financial system.

Russia rejected the claims, telling investors to go to Western financial agents for the cash which was sent but bondholders did not receive.

The war has created difficulties for countries way beyond Europe’s borders, with disruptions to food and energy exports hitting the global economy.

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World

U.S. abortion ruling ignites legal battles over state bans

Published

on

2/2

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Abortion rights campaigners participate in nationwide demonstrations following the leaked Supreme Court opinion suggesting the possibility of overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision, at Duncan Plaza in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.

2/2

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – Battles over abortion shifted to state courts on Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to the procedure nationwide, as a judge blocked a statewide ban in Louisiana and clinics in Idaho, Kentucky and Texas sued seeking similar relief.

The four are among the 13 states with “trigger laws” designed to ban or severely restrict abortions once the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a right to the procedure, as it was on Friday.

In Louisiana, abortion services that had been halted since Friday began resuming after Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Robin Giarrusso on Monday issued a temporary restraining order https://tmsnrt.rs/3OEBEbG blocking the state from carrying out its ban.

The order came shortly after Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport – one of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics – sued, arguing Louisiana’s trigger laws “lack constitutionally required safeguards to prevent arbitrary enforcement.”

The judge set a July 8 hearing to decide whether to further block enforcement of the ban, which Hope Medical said violated its due process rights under the state’s constitution.

In Kentucky, two abortion clinics including a Planned Parenthood affiliate filed a state court challenge to an outright abortion ban enacted in 2019 and a separate six-week ban, saying they violated patients’ rights to privacy and self-determination under the state’s constitution.

In Idaho, a Planned Parenthood affiliate asked the state’s highest court to block enforcement of a “trigger” law banning abortion that the Republican-controlled state legislature passed in 2020 that would take effect Aug. 19.

And in Republican-led Texas, where a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect last year, a judge in Harris County will hear arguments on Tuesday on whether to block officials from enforcing pre-Roe v. Wade abortion prohibitions.

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton had said in a Friday advisory that while the state’s 2021 trigger ban would not take effect for 30 days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, prosecutors could immediately pursue cases based on pre-1973 laws.

Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in a statement said his office was “fully prepared to defend these laws in our state courts, just as we have in our federal courts.”

His Republican counterparts in Kentucky and Idaho, Daniel Cameron and Lawrence Wasden, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Paxton.

The cases are among several challenging Republican-backed abortion laws under state constitutions after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

A Utah branch of Planned Parenthood on Saturday sued over that state’s trigger ban, and abortion rights advocates plan to challenge an Ohio ban on abortions after six weeks that took effect on Friday.

In Florida, a group of abortion providers went before a state court judge to argue a challenge to that state’s new Republican-backed ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which they say violates Florida’s constitution.

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World

U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling ignites new legal battles over state bans

Published

on

2/2

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Abortion rights campaigners participate in nationwide demonstrations following the leaked Supreme Court opinion suggesting the possibility of overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision, at Duncan Plaza in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.

2/2

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -Battles over abortion shifted to state courts on Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to the procedure nationwide, as a judge blocked a statewide ban in Louisiana and clinics sued to obtain similar relief in Kentucky and Idaho.

The three are among the 13 states with “trigger laws” designed to ban or severely restrict abortions once the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a right to the procedure, as it was on Friday.

In Louisiana, abortion services that had been halted since Friday began resuming after Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Robin Giarrusso on Monday issued a temporary restraining order https://tmsnrt.rs/3OEBEbG blocking the state from carrying out its ban.

The order came shortly after Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport – one of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics – sued, arguing Louisiana’s trigger laws “lack constitutionally required safeguards to prevent arbitrary enforcement.”

The judge set a July 8 hearing to decide whether to further block enforcement of the ban, which Hope Medical said violated its due process rights under the state’s constitution.

In Kentucky, two abortion clinics including a Planned Parenthood affiliate filed a state court challenge https://tmsnrt.rs/3bxnue9 to an outright abortion ban enacted in 2019 and a separate six-week ban passed that same year.

The lawsuit argued the bans violate patients’ rights to privacy and self-determination under the state’s constitution.

In Idaho, a Planned Parenthood affiliate asked the state’s highest court to block enforcement of a “trigger” law banning abortion that the Republican-controlled state legislature passed in 2020 that would take effect Aug. 19.

Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in a statement said his office was “fully prepared to defend these laws in our state courts, just as we have in our federal courts.”

His Republican counterparts in Kentucky and Idaho, Daniel Cameron and Lawrence Wasden, did not respond to requests for comment.

The cases are among several challenging Republican-backed abortion laws under state constitutions after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

A Utah branch of Planned Parenthood on Saturday sued over that state’s trigger ban, and abortion rights advocates plan to challenge an Ohio ban on abortions after six weeks that took effect on Friday.

In Florida, a group of abortion providers went before a state court judge to argue a challenge to that state’s new Republican-backed ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which they say violates Florida’s constitution.

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