Ukraine sees more widespread strikes and wins support from the West

By ADAM SCHRECK – Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces flooded Ukraine with missiles and ammunition-carrying drones on Tuesday after widespread strikes killed at least 19 people in an attack that the United Nations human rights office the UN called it “particularly shocking” and amounting to potential war crimes.

Air raid warnings sounded across the country for a second straight morning as Ukrainian officials advised residents to conserve energy and stock up on water. Strikes in the capital and 12 other regions on Monday caused widespread power cuts and disturbed the relative calm that had returned to Kyiv and many other towns far from the frontlines of the war.

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“It brings anger, not fear,” Kyiv resident Volodymyr Vasylenko, 67, said as teams worked to restore traffic lights and clear debris from city streets. . “We are already used to this. And we will continue to fight.

Leaders of the Group of Seven industrial powers condemned the bombing and said they “will stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes”. Their pledge went against Russian warnings that Western aid would prolong the war and the pain of the Ukrainian people.

Russia has launched widespread attacks in retaliation for a weekend explosion that damaged a bridge connecting the country to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that the Ukrainian special services had orchestrated Saturday’s attack on the Kerch bridge.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged G-7 leaders at a virtual meeting on Tuesday to hit Russia’s energy sector with tougher sanctions and said: “There can be no dialogue with this leader of Russia, which has no future.

“Now a person is blocking the peace – and this person is in Moscow,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian officials said the previous day’s diffuse strikes on power plants and civilian areas made no “practical military sense”. However, Putin’s supporters have for weeks urged the Kremlin to take more drastic action in Ukraine and actively criticized the Russian military for a series of embarrassing battlefield setbacks.

Pro-Kremlin pundits hailed Monday’s attack as an appropriate and long-awaited response to Kyiv’s recently successful counteroffensives, and many argued that Moscow should maintain intensity in order to win a war now in its eighth month.

Tuesday’s bombardment hit both energy infrastructure and civilian areas, as did Monday’s attacks. One person was killed when 12 missiles slammed into public facilities in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, starting a massive fire, the state emergency service said. A local official said the missiles hit a school, residential buildings and medical facilities.

Energy facilities in the western regions of Lviv and Vinnitsya were also affected. Although officials said Ukrainian forces shot down an oncoming Russian missile before it reached Kyiv, the capital region has seen continued power cuts following deadly strikes the day before.

Mykolaiv region governor Vitaliy Kim urged residents to stay in bomb shelters because “there are still enough missiles in the air”.

The state emergency service said 19 people died and 105 people were injured in Monday’s strikes. At least five of the victims were in Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. More than 300 towns and villages lost power, from the capital to Lviv on the border with Poland.

Apart from the usual sirens, a new type of audible alarm that sounds automatically from mobile phones shook Kyiv residents early on Tuesday. A text message warning of the possibility of missile strikes accompanied the caustic sounding alert.

A spokesperson for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday that strikes against “civilian objects”, including infrastructure such as power plants, could qualify as a war crime.

“Damage to major power stations and power lines ahead of next winter raises new concerns for the protection of civilians and in particular the impact on vulnerable populations,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters during a briefing by the UN in Geneva. “Attacks targeting civilians and objects indispensable to the survival of civilians are prohibited by international humanitarian law.

As Ukrainian forces grew bolder after a series of counteroffensive successes, a cornered Kremlin has intensified Cold War-era rhetoric over the past month and stoked fears it could expand the war and use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed the issue on Tuesday, saying Moscow would only resort to it if the Russian state faced imminent destruction. Speaking on state television, he accused the West of encouraging false speculation about the Kremlin’s intentions.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine contemplates “exclusively retaliatory measures aimed at preventing the destruction of the Russian Federation as a result of direct nuclear strikes or the use of other weapons that threaten the very existence of the Russian state “, Lavrov said.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the 30-nation military alliance would hold long-planned exercises next week to test the readiness of its nuclear capabilities.

The exercise, dubbed “Steadfast Noon”, takes place every year. These are fighter planes capable of carrying nuclear warheads but not real bombs. Conventional jets and surveillance and refueling aircraft regularly participate.

When asked if now was not the right time for such an exercise, Stoltenberg replied: “It would send a very bad signal now, if we suddenly canceled a long-planned routine exercise because of the war in Ukraine.”

Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear rhetoric on the war in Ukraine is “irresponsible”, and he said “Russia knows that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought”.

NATO as an organization has no nuclear weapons. They remain under the control of three member countries – the United States, the United Kingdom and France.

These countries form the G-7 with Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the European Union. In their statement after hearing from Zelenskyy, the G-7 leaders said they were “steadfast and unwavering in our commitment to provide the support Ukraine needs to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“We will hold President (Vladimir) Putin and those responsible to account” for this week’s strikes, saying “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations constitute a war crime”.

The engagement appeared to come in response to warnings from the Kremlin that Western military assistance, including training Ukrainian soldiers in NATO countries and providing real-time satellite data to target Russian forces, was making more and more allies of Ukraine from the parties to the conflict.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said continued US arms supplies to Ukraine would prolong the fighting and inflict more damage on the country without changing Russia’s goals.

As Russian forces shelled three neighborhoods around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant overnight, Ukraine’s nuclear operator said Russian forces abducted the plant’s deputy director of human resources, Valeriy Martyniuk.

The Russians previously detained the plant’s general manager, Ihor Murashow, and released him following pressure from the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi.

Grossi, who met Putin in St Petersburg on Tuesday, urged the Russian leader to agree to establish a ‘protection and security zone’ around the Russian-occupied factory to prevent shelling on and near the site cause a radioactive catastrophe.

“Now more than ever, in these extremely difficult times, a protection zone must be established around the ZNPP. We cannot afford to waste any more time,” Grossi said in a statement.

Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, Jamey Keaten in Geneva, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed reporting.

Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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