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Ukraine’s Zelenskiy looks to EU offer as Russia pounds cities

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7/7

© 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

2/7

By Pavel Polityuk and Vitalii Hnidyi

KYIV/KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) -Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday hailed the European Union’s expected offer of candidate status for his battle-weary nation as Russian forces pounded Ukraine’s second-biggest city Kharkiv and the eastern Donbas region.

European leaders will formally set Ukraine on the long road to EU membership at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. Though mainly symbolic, the move will help lift national morale at a very difficult time in a four-month conflict that has killed thousands, displaced millions and flattened towns and cities.

The war has also had a massive impact on the global economy and European security arrangements, driving up gas, oil and food prices, pushing the EU to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy and prompting Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.

The EU will temporarily shift back to coal to cope with dwindling Russian gas flows without derailing longer term climate goals, an EU official said on Wednesday, as a tight gas market and soaring prices set off a race for alternative fuels.

Zelenskiy said he had spoken to 11 European Union leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine’s candidacy and will make more calls on Thursday. He said earlier he believed all 27 EU countries will support Ukraine’s candidate status.

“We deserve it,” Zelenskiy told crowds in Amsterdam via video link.

Diplomats say it will take Ukraine a decade or more to meet the criteria for joining the EU. But EU leaders say the bloc must make a gesture that recognises Ukraine’s sacrifice.

With its forces running low on ammunition as a fierce war of attrition grinds on in the Donbas, Ukraine has more urgent priorities in the near term.

‘NO LETUP’ IN SHELLING CIVILIANS

The Russian strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday on Kharkiv, near the Russian border, were the worst for weeks in an area where normal life had been returning since Ukraine pushed Moscow’s forces back last month.

Kyiv characterized the strikes, which reportedly killed at least 20 people, as a bid to force Ukraine to pull resources from the main battlefields in the Donbas to protect civilians.

Oleh Synehubov, governor of Kharkiv region, said Russians continued shelling residential districts of Kharkiv and towns within Kharkiv region.

“There is no letup in the shelling of civilians by the Russian occupiers,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “This is evidence that we cannot expect the same scenario as in Chernihiv or Kyiv, with Russian forces withdrawing under pressure.”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video address that Russian forces were hitting Kharkiv “with the aim of terrorizing the population” and forcing Ukraine to divert troops.

Zelenskiy has warned the fighting may escalate before the EU summit. Russia has long opposed closer links between Ukraine, a former Soviet state, and Western clubs like the EU and the NATO military alliance.

“There were massive air and artillery strikes in Donbas,” he said in a video address released early Thursday, adding Russia wants “to destroy the entire Donbas step by step.”

In an evening military update, Ukraine’s General Staff catalogued continued heavy Russian shelling of Kharkiv and other towns and villages in its vicinity and air strikes on the devastated city of Sievierodonetsk, among others.

Luhansk’s regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said in an online post Wednesday evening that Russian forces continue to build up reserves in Sievierodonetsk in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian troops.

He rejected Russian claims that its military already controls the city. “Battles are continuing,” he told Ukrainian Television. “Russian forces do not have full control.”

Moscow says Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk, scene of the heaviest recent fighting, are trapped. It ordered them last week to surrender or die after the last bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river was destroyed.

However, Oleksandr Ratushniak, a freelance photographer who reached Sievierodonetsk with Ukrainian forces in recent days, filmed reinforcements crossing in an inflatable raft.

Inside Russia, a fire tore through an oil refinery just 8 km (5 miles) from the frontier with Donbas territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists, after what the refinery described as a cross-border attack on Wednesday by two drones.

There was no immediate Ukrainian comment on the strike, which suspended production at the Novoshakhtinsk refinery.

Ukraine generally does not comment on reports of attacks on Russian infrastructure near the border, which it has called “karma” for Russian attacks on Ukraine.

REMEMBRANCE

Wednesday was the “Day of Remembrance and Sorrow” in Russia and Ukraine, commemorating the day Hitler’s Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin laid flowers at a memorial flame for the dead.

World War Two, which killed 27 million Soviet citizens, plays a prominent role in Russian commentary on the Ukraine invasion, which Putin calls a “special operation” to root out “Nazis.” Kyiv and the West call that a baseless justification for a war to wipe out Ukraine’s identity as a separate nation.

In Paris, Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday that Ukrainian photographer Maksim Levin was “executed in cold blood” alongside his friend Oleksiy Chernyshov by Russian forces north of Kyiv on March 13, citing overwhelming evidence. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately comment.

World

U.S. Capitol riot panel promises new evidence at surprise Tuesday hearing

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on

2/2

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A video of former U.S President Donald Trump speaking is shown on a screen during the fifth public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S.

2/2

By Richard Cowan and Moira Warburton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. congressional committee plans to reveal new evidence about the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters at a public hearing on Tuesday it hastily announced a mere 24 hours earlier.

The House of Representatives committee, investigating the first attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in U.S. history, declined to answer questions about who might testify or what evidence would be presented.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, is expected to testify, several media outlets reported. Representatives of the panel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports.

The meeting, announced on Monday, is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET (1700 GMT) on Tuesday.

Testimony at five prior hearings has shown how Trump, a Republican, riled thousands of supporters with false claims that he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden because of massive voter fraud.

British filmmaker Alex Holder, who spent time filming Trump and his family in the weeks after the election, has in recent days testified before the committee behind closed doors and shared video of his interviews with Trump and his family, according to media reports.

The committee has said it intends to interview Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, following reports she may have been involved in efforts to stop Biden’s victory certification at the Capitol on Jan. 6. She has said she intended to speak to the panel.

U.S. law enforcement last week raided the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, who was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump’s false fraud claims.

This month’s hearings featured videotaped testimony from figures including Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his former attorney general, Bill Barr. They and other witnesses testified that they did not believe Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud and tried to dissuade him of them.

Dozens of courts, state election officials and reviews by Trump’s own administration rejected his claims of fraud, some of which included outlandish stories about an Italian security firm or the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tampering with U.S. ballots.

Trump, who is publicly flirting with another White House run in 2024, has denied wrongdoing and accused the committee of engaging in a political witch hunt. He has leveled harsh criticism particularly at Representative Liz Cheney, one of just two Republicans on the nine-member committee.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll early this month found that about two-thirds of U.S. Republicans believe Trump’s false election fraud claims.

The committee, sometime next month, is expected to hold one or two hearings on possible coordination of the Jan. 6 attack by right-wing extremist groups.

During the assault on the Capitol, thousands of Trump supporters smashed windows, fought with police and sent lawmakers, including Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, fleeing for their lives.

Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured, and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.

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Rescuers dig for survivors after Russian missiles demolish Ukrainian shopping mall

Published

on

6/6

© Reuters. Rescuers work at a site of a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kremenchuk, in Poltava region, Ukraine June 27, 2022. Picture taken June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Anna Voitenko

2/6

By Simon Lewis

KREMENCHUK, Ukraine (Reuters) -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.

More than 1,000 people were inside when two Russian missiles slammed into the mall in Kremenchuk, about 300 km (200 miles) southeast of the capital Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

At least 18 people were killed and 25 hospitalised, while about 36 were missing, Poltava region governor Dmytro Lunin said.

Zelenskiy, in an overnight video address, called the attack deliberate, saying it was “a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping centre”.

Russia said the incident was caused by a strike on a legitimate military target. Its defence ministry, quoted by the RIA state news agency, said it had fired missiles at a storage depot for Western weapons in Kremenchuk, and the detonation of stored ammunition there had caused the fire at the nearby mall.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told Reuters a missile had also struck a nearby factory, but it was closed and not a military target.

“It’s a question about crimes against humanity,” she said. “I think it’s like systematical shelling of civilian infrastructure – with what aim? To scare people, to kill people to make terror in our cities and villages.”

Relatives of the missing lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers set up a base after Monday’s strike.

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,” said her husband, Mykola, 45, blood seeping through a bandage around his head.

At the scene of the blaze on Tuesday morning, exhausted-looking firefighters sat on a kerb. Oleksandr, wetting his face from a water bottle on a bench, said his team had worked all night picking through the rubble.

“We pulled out five bodies. We didn’t find anybody alive,” he said.

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.

BATTLE FOR LYSYCHANSK

Russia denies intentionally targetting civilians in its “special military operation” which has destroyed cities, killed thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.

The U.N. Security Council, where Moscow wields a veto, will meet on Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the attack. U.N. 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.

Russian artillery pounded Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk’s twin city across the Siverskyi Donets River. Ukraine said the Russians attempted to storm it.

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 Kyiv early in the war.

Eight residents including a child were killed and 21 wounded by shelling when they gathered to get drinking water in Lysychansk on Monday, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

Ukrainian forces controlled the city but its loss was possible as Russia poured resources into the fight, he added.

“They really want this and a lot of reserves are being thrown just for this…We do not need to lose an army for the sake of one city,” he told Reuters in an interview.

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 stadium.

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

Russia also shelled the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine on Monday, hitting apartment buildings and a primary school, the regional governor said.

The shelling killed five people and wounded 22. There were children among the wounded, the governor said.

During their summit in Germany, G7 leaders vowed to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and tighten the squeeze on Russia’s finances with new sanctions that include a proposal to cap the price of Russian oil.

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Russia expands U.S. sanctions list to include Biden’s wife and daughter

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden disembark from Marine One as they return from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 5, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday expanded its U.S. ‘stop-list’, including in it the wife and daughter of President Joe Biden as well as other prominent figures.

The step was taken “as a response to the ever-expanding U.S. sanctions against Russian political and public figures,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

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