many new quandaries for the women, clients and medical personnel. Viktoria and her family face one such dilemma: Her payment will help them survive, but it is far from clear where they should go after her recovery from a C-section. The family has remained in the apartment rented by the clinic in Kyiv; her hometown, Kharkiv, is still hit by regular shelling.

For many surrogate mothers, the question was about where to deliver. Threats included not just fighting, but how the authorities established by the Russian occupation government would handle a surrogate birth.

A surrogate named Nadia lived in a village in Russia-occupied territory that was not at risk of artillery shelling. But she decided to evacuate to Ukrainian-controlled territory to deliver the baby, lest the biological parents be deprived of custody, and she lose the fee.

She spent two days with her husband and 11-year-old daughter sleeping in a car on a roadside that is sometimes shelled, waiting to cross the front line.

Ms. Burkovska, the small-agency owner, went into the war with two stranded surrogate babies in her care. In contrast to most surrogacy agencies, she cares for newborns in her own home before biological parents pick them up. For a time, she had to shelter in a basement with the newborns, her partner and her own children.

As more babies arrived in the first months of war, she wound up with seven newborns whose biological parents could not immediately retrieve them, as travel to wartime Ukraine became difficult and as some remaining coronavirus restrictions, like China’s, caused delays.

Ms. Burkovska’s own children helped care for the infants until their parents could get them. By August, most of the parents had arrived to pick up their children.

A Chinese client with BioTexCom, Zhang Zong, was one of those who struggled to reach Kyiv through travel delays. He said the wait had been excruciating. “I was very worried because of the war,” he said.

Meeting his 6-month-old son, he said, was both thrilling and a little strange. “I was extremely excited when they let me hug him,” Mr. Zhang said. “He has been here for a long time and everyone hugs him, everyone likes him, and I am not so special.”

But he added that was only for now. “When he grows up,” Mr. Zhang said, “I can tell him this story.”

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Gunmen kill 11 at Russian military base in latest blow to war in Ukraine

  • Ukraine official: religious dispute led to base shootings
  • Fighting rages in eastern Ukraine, southern Kherson region
  • Ukrainian forces damage administration building in Donetsk

KYIV, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Russia has opened a criminal investigation after gunmen shot dead 11 people at a military training ground near the Ukrainian border, authorities said on Sunday, as fighting raged in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russia’s RIA news agency, citing the defence ministry, said two gunmen opened fire with small arms during a firearms training exercise on Saturday, targeting personnel who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine. RIA said the gunmen, who it referred to as “terrorists,” were shot dead.

The incident in the southwestern Belgorod region was the latest blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. It came a week after a blast damaged a bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

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Russia’s defence ministry said the attackers were from a former Soviet republic, without elaborating. A senior Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, said the two men were from the mainly Muslim Central Asian republic of Tajikistan and had opened fire on the others after an argument over religion.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the comments by Arestovych, a prominent commentator on the war, or independently verify casualty numbers and other details.

“As a result of the incident at a shooting range in Belgorod region, 11 people died from gunshot wounds and another 15 were injured,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said, announcing the criminal investigation. It gave no other details.

Some Russian independent media outlets reported that the number of casualties was higher than the official figures.

The governor of Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said no local residents were among those killed or wounded.

Two witnesses later told Reuters they had seen Russian air defence systems repelling air strikes in Belgorod.

Putin said on Friday Russia should be finished calling up reservists in two weeks, promising an end to a divisive mobilisation in which hundreds of thousands of men have been summoned to fight in Ukraine and many have fled the country.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a strong Putin ally, said last week that his troops would deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing what he said were threats from Ukraine and the West.

The Belarusian defence ministry in Minsk on Sunday said just under 9,000 Russian troops would be stationed in Belarus as part of a “regional grouping” of forces to protect its borders.

RUSSIAN SHELLING

Russian forces shelled Ukrainian positions on several fronts on Sunday, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said, with the targets including towns in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions. Russian forces were trying to advance on Bakhmut in Donetsk region and in and around Avdiivka.

Intense fighting is taking place around Bakhmut as well as the town of Soledar, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday in his nightly video address.

“The key hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut,” Zelenskiy said. “Very heavy fighting is going on there.”

Bakhmut has been the next target of Russia’s armed forces in their slow move through the Donetsk region since taking the key industrial towns of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in June and July. Soledar is located just north of Bakhmut.

Fighting has been particularly intense this weekend in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and the strategically important Kherson province in the south, three of the four provinces Putin proclaimed as part of Russia last month.

Shelling by Ukrainian forces damaged the administration building in the city Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk region, the head of its Russian-backed administration said on Sunday.

“It was a direct hit, the building is seriously damaged. It is a miracle nobody was killed,” said Alexei Kulemzin, surveying the wreckage, adding that all city services were still working.

There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the attack on Donetsk city, which was annexed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 along with swathes of the eastern Donbas region.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday its forces had repelled efforts by Ukrainian troops to advance in the Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, inflicting what it described as significant losses.

Russia also said it was continuing air strikes on military and energy targets in Ukraine, using long-range precision-guided weapons.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.

In the city of Mykolaiv, residents queued on Sunday – as they do every day – to fill water bottles at a distribution point after supplies were severed by fighting early in the war.

“This is not war, this is a war crime. War is when soldiers fight with each other, but when civilians are being fought, it’s a war crime,” said Vadym Antonyuk, a 51-year-old sales manager, as he stood in line.

A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said Russian forces were suffering severe shortages of equipment including ammunition as a result of the damage inflicted last weekend on the Crimea Bridge.

“Almost 75% (of Russian military supplies in southern Ukraine) came across that bridge,” Natalia Humeniuk told Ukrainian television, adding that strong winds had also now stopped ferries in the area.

“Now even the sea is on our side,” Humeniuk said.

Putin blamed Ukrainian security services for the bridge blast and last Monday, in retaliation, ordered the biggest aerial offensive against Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, since the start of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by David Ljunggren, Matt Spetalnick, Gareth Jones and James Oliphant; editing by Michael Perry, Tomasz Janowski, Will Dunham and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Ukraine troops hold key town, Russia fires more missiles, Zelenskiy says

Oct 15 (Reuters) – Ukrainian troops are still holding the strategic eastern town of Bakhmut despite repeated Russian attacks while the situation in the Donbas region remains very difficult, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday.

Zelenskiy, speaking in an evening address, also said Russian missiles and drones had continued to hit Ukrainian cities, causing destruction and casualties.

Although Ukrainian troops have recaptured thousands of square kilometres (miles) of land in recent offensives in the east and south, officials say progress is likely to slow once Kyiv’s forces meet more determined resistance.

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Fighting is particularly intense in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk provinces bordering Russia. Together they make up the larger industrial Donbas, which Moscow has yet to fully capture.

Russian forces have repeatedly tried to seize Bakhmut, which sits on a main road leading to the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Both are situated in the Donetsk region.

“Active fighting continues in various areas of the front. A very difficult situation persists in the Donetsk region and Luhansk region,” Zelenskiy said.

“The most difficult (situation) is in the direction of Bakhmut, as in previous days. We are holding our positions.”

Separately, the Ukrainian armed forces’ general staff said in a Facebook post that troops had on Saturday repelled a total of 11 separate Russian attacks near Kramatorsk, Bakhmut and the town of Avdiivka, just to the north of Donetsk.

Zelenskiy said Russian forces, which rained cruise missiles on several Ukrainian cities on Monday, had hit targets in seven regions over the last two days.

“Some of the missiles and drones were shot down but unfortunately, not all of them. Unfortunately, there is destruction and casualties,” he said. Kyiv said on Friday that it expected the United States and Germany to deliver sophisticated anti-aircraft systems this month.

Zelenskiy also said almost 65,000 Russians had been killed so far since the Feb. 24 invasion, a figure far higher than Moscow’s official Sept. 21 estimate of 5,937 dead. In August the Pentagon said Russia has suffered between 70,000 and 80,000 casualties, either killed or wounded.

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Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

David Ljunggren

Thomson Reuters

Covers Canadian political, economic and general news as well as breaking news across North America, previously based in London and Moscow and a winner of Reuters’ Treasury scoop of the year.

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Putin Says 16,000 New Recruits Have Deployed

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — They exploded with dull thuds on the outskirts of towns and detonated in the center of cities with deafening booms. Strikes in Kyiv, the capital, left cars burning and splatters of blood on the sidewalks.

Through the week, the Russian military fired its most intense barrage of missiles at Ukraine since the start of the war in February, killing at least three dozen civilians, knocking out electricity across swaths of the country and overwhelming air defenses. One thing the missiles didn’t do was change the course of the ground war.

Fought mostly in trenches, with the most fierce combat now in an area of rolling hills and pine forests in the east and on the open plains in the south, these battles are where control of territory is decided — and where Russia’s military continued to lose ground this week, despite the missile strikes.

“They use their expensive rockets for nothing, just to frighten people,” Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament with Ukraine’s European Solidarity party, said of the paltry military effect of the Russian cruise missiles, rockets and self-destructing drones used in the strikes. “They think they can scare Ukrainians. But the goal they achieved is only making us angrier.”

The war in the south and east continued apace through the strikes, with Russia mostly falling back but also attacking on one section of front in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

On Monday and Tuesday, the most intense days of Russia’s missile strikes, the Ukrainian Army continued its offensive in the Kherson region in the south, reclaiming five villages over the two days, according to the military command. Ukrainian forces also took back a village in the east.

“The Kremlin continues to struggle to message itself out of the reality of mobilization and military failures,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, wrote in an analysis published Thursday. “The Kremlin continued its general pattern of temporarily appeasing the nationalist communities by conducting retaliatory missile strikes.”

The war is now separated into two largely unconnected arenas: the battles in the sky, in which Russia is seeking to demoralize Ukrainian society and cripple the economy by using cruise missiles and drones to destroy heating, electricity and water infrastructure as winter sets in; and the battles on the ground, in which Ukraine continues to advance against Russian forces in two areas of the front line.

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Russia has been using even the newest addition to its arsenal, Shahed-136 kamikaze drones purchased from Iran, principally for strategic strikes far from the front line, rather than in efforts to slow the Ukrainian attacks.

“Shahed-136s will not generate asymmetric effects for Russian forces because they are not being used to strike areas of critical military significance in a way that directly influences the frontline,” the Institute for the Study of War wrote.

The drones that get past air defenses instead buzz into cities, blowing up electrical power stations and municipal boilers used to heat neighborhoods in the centralized heating systems used in Ukraine.

Over the past 24 hours, the Russian army and air force attacked around the country with missiles, rockets and self-destructing drones, from the region around Kyiv, the capital, to Mykolaiv in the south, near the Black Sea, the Ukrainian General Staff said in its regular morning report.

“The enemy is not halting strikes on critical infrastructure and civilian objects,” it said, listing 88 strikes, including with short-range rocket systems near the front line.

The strikes have refocused Ukrainians’ attention on the war in cities where a sense of normalcy had been returning, including Kyiv, the capital.

Even successful advances for the Ukrainian army have been bloody and costly as the Russian military has been skirmishing and firing artillery to cover its retreat and continuing attacks in Donbas. Fighting raged along the entire front and in cross-border skirmishing with Russia in northern Ukraine overnight Thursday to Friday, the military command said in a morning statement.

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