Shelling killed civilians, damaged residential buildings and destroyed power lines in nine regions of Ukraine on Thursday, the country’s presidential office said.
At least four people have been killed and 10 others injured in 24 hours as blasts rock cities, officials said, including frequently targeted Mykolaiv and Nikopol, which are close to Israel’s biggest nuclear power plant. Europe in Zaporizhzhia.
Shelling killed five civilians and injured six others in the eastern city of Donetsk, Russian-backed local authorities said. Separatist officials blamed Ukrainian forces for the bombardment, which Ukrainian officials denied. Mandatory evacuations in Donetsk province began on Wednesday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram, as the first evacuation train arrived in Kropyvnytskyi.
Around 50 residential buildings were damaged by Russian rockets in Nikopol, located across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was occupied by Russian troops at the start of the war. The projectiles also hit power lines, leaving residents without power, Ukrainian officials said.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told The Associated Press this week that the power plant was “completely out of control” and urged Russia and Ukraine to allow experts to assess the situation.
“All nuclear security principles have been violated,” Grossi said. “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely serious and dangerous.”
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►A ship that Ukraine says is carrying 10,000 tons of grain stolen by Russia has left a Lebanese port after an investigation, Lebanon’s transport minister said on Thursday. The departure of the Laodicea, which risks angering Ukraine, comes as a ship carrying grain from Ukraine sails to Lebanon, the first ship to leave Ukrainian Black Sea ports since the start of the war. war.
►US intelligence officials say Russia is working to plant false evidence to blame Ukrainian forces for the attack on Olenivka prison which left 53 people dead and dozens injured, the Associated Press reported.
►The US Senate on Wednesday almost unanimously approved Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership, voting 95 to 1 for the candidacy of two Nordic nations which, until Russia’s war against the Ukraine, had long avoided military alliances.
Brittney Griner, WNBA Star and Olympic Gold Medalist was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony Thursday in his cannabis possession case.
Griner, 31, who pleaded guilty a few weeks ago, has apologized to his family and his wife. “I made an honest mistake, and I hope your ruling doesn’t end my life here,” Griner said, addressing the judge.
Griner was arrested in Russia on February 17 after vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, but her arrest was not made public until nearly three weeks after she was arrested. it happened.
President Joe Biden released a statement in which he condemned Griner’s detention, saying, “This is unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with his wife, loved ones, friends and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and explore all possible avenues to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
Ukrainian forces violated international law by establishing bases and operating weapon systems in populated residential areas, turning civilian areas into military targets, Amnesty International said in a report Thursday.
Researchers from the human rights organization have found evidence that Ukrainian forces have based themselves in buildings such as schools and hospitals in 19 towns and villages, exposing populated areas to Russian strikes which killed civilians and destroyed infrastructure.
However, in cities like Kharkiv, Amnesty International found that Russia illegally targeted civilian areas and committed war crimes. Ukraine’s use of civilian areas as military bases “in no way justifies” Russia’s use of indiscriminate weapons like internationally banned cluster munitions, the organization said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak criticized the report, saying the only threat to the Ukrainians is the Russian army.
Russian and pro-Kremlin media have widely quoted the report, which to some extent aligns with the official Moscow narrative.
“We talk about it all the time, calling the actions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces a tactic of using the civilian population as a ‘human shield,'” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram.
Now that the trial is over, negotiations to free Griner are expected to continue between the United States and Russia despite the high tension between the countries.
The US State Department said last week it had made a “substantial offer” to secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Russia made a counter-offer in “bad faith”. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called for “low-key” talks, accusing the United States of “megaphone diplomacy” that will not move the talks forward.
In an evenly divided and polarized US Senate, where so many laws will die, near-unanimous support for any measure is cause for astonishment and even celebration.
And indeed, the often antagonistic parties were jubilant on Wednesday night after a 95-1 vote in support of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland, two Nordic countries that had remained militarily non-aligned for decades. decades until the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed their position. .
“This historic vote sends an important signal of the United States’ sustained, bipartisan commitment to NATO and ensuring that our Alliance is ready to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” the President said. Joe Biden in a statement.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, has often referred to the well-funded and modernized Swedish and Finnish militaries and their experience working with American forces and weapons systems, calling their inclusion in NATO ” slam dunk for (US) national security”.
McConnell, a longtime NATO supporter, had gone so far as to assure Finnish President Sauli Niinisto that the Senate would quickly ratify Finland’s membership by encouraging him to apply, even though the Republican from Kentucky is no longer leading the majority in the upper house.
McConnell pressed his caucus for strong support – only Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri voted no – stressing that the leadership role of the United States in the world “is not only important militarily, but also commercially, which is good for this country. It’s not a charity that we’re involved with here. It is for the benefit of America.
Contributor: Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY; The Associated Press