Ukraine Live Updates: Russian Offensive in East Has Started, Ukraine Says

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine said Monday that Russian forces had launched a ground assault along a nearly 300-mile front in the east after hitting the country with one of the most intense missile barrages in weeks, including the first lethal strike on Lviv, the western city that has been a refuge for tens of thousands of fleeing civilians.

The missile strikes, which killed at least seven people in Lviv alone, punctured any illusions that the picturesque city of cobbled streets and graceful squares near Poland’s border was still a sanctuary from the horrors Russia has inflicted elsewhere in Ukraine over the past two months.

Credit…Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Lviv attack followed 300 missile and artillery strikes that Russia claimed to have carried out, mainly in the east, in what appeared to be a campaign to terrorize the population and intimidate Ukraine’s military before the new ground offensive had begun in the part of the country known as the Donbas.

The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, said on national television that the Russian ground assault, which had been anticipated for weeks, stretched along nearly the entire front line, from the northern Kharkiv region south to the besieged port of Mariupol.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said, “A very significant part of the Russian army is now concentrated for that offensive,” adding, “No matter how many servicemen get thrown there, we will fight, we will defend ourselves.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

The overnight missile barrage targeted fuel depots, warehouses, and other infrastructure, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. Russian forces also appeared to be finally seizing the entire port of Mariupol, where outnumbered Ukrainian fighters defied demands to lay down their weapons at a vast steel plant that has become a kind of industrial Alamo.

Mariupol, a once-vibrant city in southeast Ukraine, is the last obstacle to Russia’s drive to secure a “land bridge” to Crimea, the southern Ukrainian peninsula seized by Russian forces eight years ago.

The intensified attacks came amid signs that international sanctions were beginning to choke Russia’s economy — and in the process, opening fissures between the country’s leaders. President Vladimir V. Putin insisted that “the strategy of an economic blitzkrieg has failed.” But Moscow’s mayor warned that 200,000 people risked losing their jobs in the capital alone, while the head of the central bank warned that the effect of Russia’s isolation was just starting to be felt.

While Ukraine’s east remained the focus of Russia’s recalibrated military ambitions, the strike on Lviv was a lethal reminder that no Ukrainian city, even one scarcely 50 miles from the Polish border, lies outside the range of Moscow’s rockets.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Gray smoke billowed from what remained of the red roof of a long concrete garage on the city’s western outskirts, a sign outside advertising “carwash” and “tire replacement.” A hole in the roof indicated that the building had taken a direct hit from a missile. Air raid sirens wailed continuously as firefighters struggled to extinguish the flames and ambulances ferried away the wounded.

While the garage burned, a train rumbled by toward Lviv’s nearby railway station, carrying passengers fleeing the fighting in the eastern city of Dnipro. It stopped briefly and the train’s conductors and other workers tried to reassure anxious passengers as they started hearing about the airstrikes by phone.

“It was panic,” said Anna Khrystiuk, a volunteer who was handing out information to displaced people, several of whom ran to a shelter in the station when the missiles hit. “Many people were from Kharkiv and other places and they were so afraid of rockets already. They thought that it was safe to stay here.”

In Kharkiv, a northeastern city shelled relentlessly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a fresh artillery strike killed at least one person in a residential area. The victim was standing a few yards from an apartment building that was struck. It came after a concerted missile barrage on Sunday killed at least five people in the city’s center.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

“It was the first time this neighborhood was hit,” said Lubov Ustymenko, 72, who wore a winter coat and stood a few yards from a discarded umbrella and a puddle filled with a mix of blood and the morning’s light rain. “Our life is decided in one second — you go outside, and then you’re gone.”

Russia’s ground onslaught — a push to seize more of the Donbas — got underway after weeks of setbacks, including Russia’s retreat from areas surrounding the capital, Kyiv, and the sinking of a major Russian warship in the Black Sea.

Having failed in the early weeks of the war to destroy the Ukrainian military’s network of fuel and ammunition depots — perhaps under the erroneous assumption that Ukrainian forces would surrender wholesale — Russia has intensified its attacks against those facilities, as well as against transportation infrastructure.

But Russia’s puzzling failure to do so earlier has left its forces with costly unfinished business, and given Ukrainian troops an unexpected advantage. Pavel Luzin, a Russian military analyst, said that while Russia has hit railway facilities, so far it has avoided aiming missiles at bridges over big rivers.

“If Russia plans to expand its presence on Ukraine’s territory — and the end goal since 2014 has been the destruction of Ukrainian statehood as such — it would need the railway too,” Mr. Luzin said.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Besides targeting Kharkiv, Russian forces have unleashed further destruction on eastern cities like Mykolaiv, which lies in Russia’s pathway to the Black Sea port of Odesa. Those attacks have tied up Ukrainian forces and prevented them from joining the fight farther east, while sowing terror among civilians after Russia failed to conquer these cities early in the war.

In Mariupol, devastated by weeks of siege warfare, a band of Ukrainian fighters remained ensconced in the Azovstal steel plant after having rejected Russian demands to surrender. Russia intensified its bombing of the factory, and it was unclear and how long the Ukrainians could endure in the plant’s labyrinthine underground tunnels. Officials on both sides said Russia could control the city soon.

Even with much of Mariupol now a wasteland, the city’s capture would represent a key strategic prize for Russia and would free up forces for its Donbas offensive.

Credit…Pavel Klimov/Reuters

Still, British defense intelligence officials said the grinding battle for the city has become a source of anxiety for Russian commanders.

“Concerted Ukrainian resistance has severely tested Russian forces and diverted men and matériel, slowing Russia’s advance elsewhere,” said Mick Smeath, a British defense attaché. He likened Russia’s treatment of Mariupol to its brutal tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016.

After two months of fighting, pro-war commentators in Russia are pushing the army for tangible military victories that would cover up some of the embarrassments Moscow has suffered, including the sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of the Kremlin’s Black Sea fleet, and the retreat from around Kyiv. So far, Russia has been able to claim only the capture of Kherson, a regional capital, as a significant battlefield achievement.

Credit…Maxar Technologies

On Russia’s state-run television, commentators have enthusiastically promoted the Donbas offensive as a decisive battle that could be a turning point in the war. Many point toward May 9, the commemoration of Russia’s 1945 victory over Nazi Germany, as the date when Mr. Putin could claim a semblance of victory in Ukraine.

“The big battle for the Donbas has already started,” said Yuri Podolyaka, a pro-Russia analyst who publishes military reports on his popular channel on Telegram. “The activity of the Russian artillery and air forces has intensified again.”

On Monday, the head of the regional administration in Luhansk, which is part of the Donbas, said that Russian forces had gained control of the town of Kreminna, adding to territory in the region held by Moscow.

Still, those scattered Russian advances carry less psychological punch than lethal strikes on Lviv, a city that has become a critical gateway to safety for the millions of Ukrainians who have fled westward, trying to escape the worst of the fighting. In late February, it was quickly repurposed from a charming tourist destination into a base of operations for a vast relief effort, serving as a channel for humanitarian supplies, aid workers, foreign fighters making their way to frontline cities, and many foreign journalists.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people have passed through the city’s train and bus stations. For many others, it is a new — if fleeting — home. Lviv, which had about 720,000 residents before the war began, has since welcomed at least 350,000 people displaced from other parts of the country.

Until Monday, the only direct targets that had been hit in Lviv were a fuel storage site and tank facility in the city’s northeast, hit by several missile strikes about three weeks earlier. Before that, a pair of attacks targeted an airport facility and a military base near Lviv, killing at least 35 people.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In Monday’s strike, three missiles hit empty military warehouses while a fourth hit the garage, according to the head of Lviv’s military administration, Maksym Koztyskyy. He did not say whether all the casualties were from the strike on the garage. Besides the seven killed, he said 11 people were injured — a toll that could rise as rescue workers cleared rubble from the site. The missiles, Mr. Koztyskyy said, had been launched by warplanes from the direction of the Caspian Sea.

Orest Maznin, a police officer, said he had been driving to work past the garage when the missiles struck, and he narrowly escaped shrapnel. The windshield of his car had a large hole from the impact of a piece of metal.

“It happened too quickly for me to be afraid,” Mr. Maznin said.

Jane Arraf reported from Lviv, Ukraine, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Mark Landler from London. Reporting was contributed by Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Michael Schwirtz from Kyiv, and Anton Troianovski and Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

COVID expected to hit China economic activity in March data, article with image

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

Workers watch as a crane lifts a structure at a construction site in Shanghai, China January 14, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

  • China Q1 GDP growth seen at 4.4%, vs Q4’s 4.0%
  • March data likely deteriorated sharply on COVID lockdowns, April expected to be worse
  • Q1 GDP, March activity data due Monday at 0200 GMT
  • C.bank expected to ease policy to cushion slowdown

BEIJING, April 17 (Reuters) – China is expected to report a sharp deterioration in economic activity in March as COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns hit consumers and factories, although first-quarter growth may have perked up due to a strong start early in the year.

Data on Monday is expected to show gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.4 in January-March from a year earlier, a Reuters poll showed, outpacing the fourth-quarter’s 4.0% pace due to a surprisingly solid start in the first two months.

But on a quarterly basis, GDP growth is forecast to fall to 0.6% in the first quarter from 1.6% in October-December, the poll showed, pointing to cooling momentum.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Separate data on March activity, especially retail sales, is likely to show an even sharper slowdown, analysts say, hit hard by China’s strict efforts to contain its biggest COVID outbreak since the coronavirus was first discovered in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Analysts say April readings will likely be worse, with lockdowns in commercial centre Shanghai and elsewhere dragging on. Some economists say the risks of a recession are rising.

The government is due to release the Q1 and March figures on Monday at 0200 GMT, with investor speculation mounting over whether there will be more moves to stimulate the economy.

Late on Friday, China’s central bank said it would cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves for the first time this year, releasing about 530 billion yuan ($83.25 billion) in long-term liquidity. read more

The move was largely expected after the State Council, or cabinet, said on Wednesday that monetary policy tools – including cuts in banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRRs) – should be used in a timely way.

Policymakers need to ensure nothing goes wrong before a twice-a-decade meeting of the ruling Communist Party in autumn, when President Xi Jinping is almost certain to secure a precedent-breaking third term as leader, policy insiders said.

But Beijing’s strict zero tolerance policy on COVID-19 is taking an increasing toll on the world’s second-largest economy, and is starting to disrupt supply chains globally ranging from cars to iPhones. read more

“In the run-up to the Party Congress, we think the central bank will prioritise growth, especially as the COVID battle drags on and housing markets fail to rebound,” analysts at Barclays said in a note.

Retail sales, a gauge of consumption which has been lagging since COVID-19 first hit, likely shrank 1.6% in March from a year earlier. That would be the worst showing since June 2020, reversing a 6.7% rise in the first two months, the poll showed.

Industrial output likely grew 4.5% in March from a year earlier, slowing from 7.5% in the first two months, while fixed-asset investment may have expanded 8.5% in the January-March, slowing from 12.2% in the first two months.

The Reuters poll forecast China’s growth to slow to 5.0% in 2022, suggesting the government faces an uphill battle in hitting this year’s target of around 5.5%. read more

Barclays estimates that the second-quarter GDP growth could dip to 3%, dragging 2022 growth to 4.2%, if Shanghai’s extended lockdown were to last for one month and partial lockdowns in the rest of the country remained in place for two months.

Reflecting weakening domestic demand and COVID-related logistical snarls, China’s imports contracted in March, while exports — the last major growth driver — are showing signs of fatigue. read more

The government has unveiled more fiscal stimulus this year, including stepping up local bond issuance to fund infrastructure projects, and cutting taxes for businesses.

But analysts are not sure if rate cuts would do much to arrest the economic slump in the near term, as factories and businesses struggle and consumers remain cautious about spending. More aggressive easing could also trigger capital outflows, putting more pressure on Chinese financial markets.

“I don’t think this RRR cut (on Friday) matters that much for the economy at this stage,” said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management, noting it was less than markets had expected.

“The main challenge the economy faces is the Omicron outbreaks and the lockdown policies that restrict mobility. More liquidity may help on the margin, but it doesn’t address the root of the problem. Manufacturers face the daunting risk of supply chain disruptions.

“Unless we see effective policies to address the mobility problem, the economy will slow. I expect GDP growth in Q2 to turn negative.”

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Kim Coghill

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Putin’s Ukraine Gamble Pivots to a Very Different Battlefield

KYIV, Ukraine — There are fields instead of city streets, farmsteads instead of apartment buildings. Open highways stretch to the horizon.

The battles in the north that Ukraine won over the past seven weeks raged in towns and densely populated suburbs around the capital, Kyiv, but the war is about to take a hard turn to the southeast and into a vast expanse of wide-open flatland, fundamentally changing the nature of the combat, the weapons at play and the strategies that might bring victory.

Military analysts, Ukrainian commanders, soldiers and even Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, acknowledge that a wider war that began with a failed attempt to capture the capital will now be waged in the eastern Donbas region.

With few natural barriers, the armies can try to flank and surround each other, firing fierce barrages of artillery from a distance to soften enemy positions.

Russia invaded in February, Ukraine had been fighting Russia-backed separatists there since 2014, when Moscow fomented an uprising and sent in forces to support it. That war had settled into a stalemate, with each side controlling territory and neither gaining much ground.

Now, what may be the decisive phase of Mr. Putin’s latest war is returning to that same region, blighted by eight years of conflict and littered with land mines and trenches, as he tries to conquer the portion of Donbas still held by Ukraine. Neither side has made a major move in recent days, and analysts say it will most likely require a long and bloody conflict for either one to prevail.

Slovakia this week provided Ukraine with a potent, long-range antiaircraft missile system, the S-300. And on Wednesday, President Biden announced an $800 million military aid package to Ukraine that for the first time included more-powerful weaponry, including 18 155-millimeter howitzers, 40,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 200 armored personnel carriers.

warn the United States of “unpredictable consequences” of shipping such arms, American officials said on Friday.

Perhaps the biggest difference from the northern phase of the war, fought among towns, woods and hills, will be the terrain. Military analysts are forecasting an all-out, bloody battle on the steppe.

“There’s nowhere to hide,” said Maksim Finogin, a veteran of Ukraine’s conflict in Donbas.

considering applying for membership in the alliance. Dmitri A. Medvedev, Russia’s former president and prime minister, said Moscow would be forced to “seriously strengthen” its defenses in the Baltics if the two countries were to join.

“The surrounding forces draw in closer, tighten the flanks and then methodically destroy” those trapped inside with artillery, he said, recalling a strategy that nearly cost him his life.

designated a single theater commander, Gen. Aleksandr V. Dvornikov, a former commander of the Russian army in Syria known for brutal tactics there.

And the fight in the east will begin closer to supply lines stretching back to the Russian border; that could be key for a mechanized Russian army advancing in a major conventional assault across the countryside.

“They are now prepared to fight the war that they really want,” the retired Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, a former NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, said of the Russians. “They want to meet force on force in open fields and go at it.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Kyiv, Ukraine; Eric Schmitt from Washington; Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine; and Michael Schwirtz from Lviv, Ukraine.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Live Updates: Russian Warship Ukraine Claimed to Have Hit Has Sunk, Moscow Says

BRUSSELS — Russia’s faltering war against Ukraine suffered a pair of setbacks Thursday when the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet sank after a catastrophic explosion and fire, as the European Union moved closer to an embargo on Russian oil imports.

Ukraine claimed to have struck the vessel, the guided missile cruiser Moskva, with two of its own Neptune missiles, while Russia said the blast was caused by ammunition aboard the ship. If confirmed, the missile attack would be a serious blow to Russia, both militarily and symbolically — proof that its ships can no longer operate with impunity, and another damaging blow to morale.

It would also give a lift to Ukrainian hopes, while demonstrating the defenders’ homegrown technological capacity and exposing an embarrassing weakness in the Russian navy’s antimissile defenses.

Moscow also faces the possible loss of European markets in fossil fuels, which are providing billions of dollars a month to support its war effort. The European Union has long resisted calls to reduce its energy dependency on Russia, but officials revealed on Thursday that an oil embargo is in the works and is likely to be adopted in the coming weeks.

That comes on top of a previously announced ban on imports of Russian coal. Taken together, the steps are bound to raise fuel and electricity prices in Europe, potentially disrupting the economy and provoking a political backlash.

Ukraine continues to brace for a Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region — where Moscow has said it will focus its war efforts after its failure to capture the capital, Kyiv — while Russian forces squeeze the shrinking pocket of resistance in the ruined southern port of Mariupol. The devastation rained there has offered a dire warning of what may befall other cities in the event of a prolonged Russian siege, prompting a mass exodus of civilians from the Donbas.

Credit…Pavel Klimov/Reuters

Its international isolation deepening, the Kremlin reacted ominously to the growing indications that Finland and Sweden would join the NATO alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday, the government warned that any such expansion of NATO would prompt an increased Russian military presence, including nuclear weapons, in the region.

The C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, warned on Thursday of the possibility that Mr. Putin, facing a debacle in Ukraine, might use a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon, though he stressed that he had seen no “practical evidence” that such a step was pending. It was the first time he discussed publicly a concern that has been much debated in the White House.

“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Mr. Burns said, in answering questions after a speech in Atlanta.

Prominent voices in Russian state media have made increasingly incendiary statements recently, calling for more brutality in battles that have already sparked calls for war-crimes investigations of the Russian forces.

Much remained unclear about Russia’s setback in the western Black Sea, where a blast on Thursday morning — Wednesday night in the United States — and subsequent fire forced many of the Moskva’s roughly 500 crew members to abandon ship. There was no word on casualties. Ukraine said it had struck the vessel with two Neptune missiles and sunk it.

Russia’s Defense Ministry initially said its sailors had managed to put out the fire and the Moskva, commissioned in 1983, remained afloat. But hours later, it said, the ship sank while being towed to port in a storm.

Western defense officials said they could not be sure what caused the explosion aboard the 12,000-ton ship. Three American officials briefed on the incident said all indications were that it had been hit by missiles. The officials cautioned that early battlefield reports can sometimes change, but expressed deep skepticism over the Russian account of an accidental fire.

Ukraine has been stressing the need for coastal defense weapons, and the U.S. announced this week that it would send more of them. Pentagon officials said that other Russian ships had moved farther from the Ukrainian shoreline, lending credence to the claim of missile strikes.

“It’s going to have an impact on their naval capabilities, certainly in the near term,” but the long-term picture is unclear, said the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, a former Navy rear admiral.

Until now, Russian ships have been able to fire missiles at will against coastal cities. They have blockaded Ukraine’s south coast and threatened an amphibious landing in the southwestern region. The presence of an effective Ukrainian anti-ship weapon — Ukraine says the Neptune has a range of about 190 miles — could change those calculations, though Ukraine’s commercial shipping is unlikely to resume anytime soon.

Current and former American naval commanders said a successful missile attack would represent a shocking lack of Russian combat readiness.

“This is not supposed to happen to a modern warship,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, a former commander of the United States Sixth Fleet, whose area of operations includes Europe. “If this was a Neptune missile strike, it’s indicative of complacency and lack of an effective integrated air and missile defense capability.”

Ukraine has endured most of the suffering in the war that began on Feb. 24, with untold thousands of casualties, widespread destruction and millions of people displaced, but the blowback on Russia has also been severe. Moscow’s vaunted military has often seemed hapless, absorbing unexpectedly heavy losses of men and equipment, while unprecedented sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies have shaken the Russian economy.

President Vladimir V. Putin acknowledged some of that cost on Thursday in a videoconference with top government officials and oil and gas executives, referring to “the disruption of export logistics” in that industry and “setbacks in payments for Russian energy exports.”

Credit…Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik

Fossil fuels are Russia’s biggest export product, a huge part of the Russian economy that employs millions of people and supplies the government with much of the revenue needed to support its war-making machinery.

Now E.U. officials and European diplomats say the bloc is moving toward barring oil imports from Russia, a ban that would be phased in over months to allow countries to arrange alternative supplies. They said European leaders will not make a final decision until after April 24, when France will hold its presidential runoff; a rise in fuel prices could hurt the prospects of President Emmanuel Macron and boost his right-wing opponent, Marine Le Pen, who has praised Mr. Putin.

The government of Germany, the most influential country in the European Union, has been particularly reluctant to cut off Russian fuel, which would come at a steep cost and could lead to shortages. But pressure from allies and mounting evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine have, step by step, overcome that resistance. Germany refused to allow the virtually completed, $10 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to go into service, supported the coal ban and now appears to be on board with an oil embargo.

Credit…Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

The shifting stance of the neutral Scandinavian states is another unintended consequence for Mr. Putin. In waging a war that he said was intended to keep Ukraine out of NATO — a distant prospect at best — he may have succeeded in driving two countries that had been steadfastly nonaligned for generations into the arms of the alliance.

Dmitri A. Medvedev, a senior Russian security official, said on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined NATO, there would be “no more talk of a nuclear-free Baltics” region. Moscow would be compelled to “seriously strengthen” its air and ground forces in the area, said Mr. Medvedev, a former president and prime minister, and could deploy nuclear-armed warships “at arm’s length” from Finnish and Swedish shores.

Vladimir Solovyov, a television host who is considered a leading voice of Kremlin propaganda, said on Wednesday that Russia should destroy all Ukrainian infrastructure, including basic utilities.

Russia “must bring these terrorists to their senses in the cruelest way,” he said on his show on the state-owned Russia-1 channel. “We need to talk differently with terrorists,” he added. “There shouldn’t be any illusions that they can win.”

Russia has forced independent news outlets to shut down or leave the country, and has criminalized disputing the Kremlin’s account of the war. Yet Margarita Simonyan, the head of the state-owned RT news organization, said earlier this week that the government should restrict information even more.

No major power can exist “without having information under its control,” she said, adding, “we are all waiting for this.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported from Brussels, and Richard Pérez-Peña from New York. Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko and Anton Troianovski from Istanbul, Michael Schwirtz from London, and Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes from Washington.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Live Updates: Missile Strike on Train Station Kills 50 People Seeking to Escape Fighting

One moment, they were packed onto the platforms at the Kramatorsk train station, hundreds of women, children and old people, heeding the pleas of Ukrainian officials imploring them to flee ahead of a feared Russian onslaught.

The next moment, death rained from the air.

At least 50 people were killed and many more wounded in a missile assault on Friday morning that left bodies and luggage scattered on the ground and turned the Kramatorsk station into the site of another atrocity in the six-week-old war.

“There are just children!” one woman cried in a video from the aftermath.

The missile struck as officials in Kramatorsk and other cities in eastern Ukraine had been warning civilians to leave before Russian forces mount what is expected to be a major push into the region, where their troops have been regrouping after withdrawing from areas around Kyiv, the capital.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that Russia had hit the station with what he identified as a Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile as “thousands of peaceful Ukrainians were waiting to be evacuated.”

Credit…Fadel Senna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Lacking the strength and courage to stand up to us on the battlefield, they are cynically destroying the civilian population,” Mr. Zelensky said. “This is an evil that has no limits. And if it is not punished, it will never stop.”

Russian officials, denying responsibility, said a Ukrainian battalion had fired the missile in what they called a “provocation.” The Russian Defense Ministry said that Tochka-U missiles are only used by the Ukrainian armed forces and that Russian troops had not made any strikes against Kramatorsk on Friday.

A senior Pentagon official said the United States believed Russian forces had fired the missile. “They originally claimed a successful strike and then only retracted it when there were reports of civilian casualties,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a confidential intelligence assessment.

The train station was hit as a top European Union delegation was visiting Mr. Zelensky’s government, and the images of yet another mass killing provoked new Western outrage.

Whether one or more missiles struck the station was not immediately clear, and there was no way to independently verify the origin of the attack. Several parked cars were also hit, catching fire and turning into charred hulks. The waiting area was strewn with bodies and belongings.

After the strike, the Ukrainian police inspected the remains of a large rocket next to the train station with the words “for our children” written on it in Russian. It was unclear who had written the message and where the rocket had come from.

The mayor of Kramatorsk, Oleksandr Honcharenko, said 4,000 people had been at the station when it was attacked, the vast majority of them women, children and elderly people. At least two children were among the dead, he said.

The head of the military administration in the region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said 50 people had been killed, including 12 who died in the hospital. Another 98 were wounded, including 16 children, he said.

After the attack, Kramatorsk officials said they were trying to find cars and buses to evacuate civilians to western areas presumed to be less vulnerable to Russian attacks.

Credit…Andriy Andriyenko/Associated Press

Ukraine’s railway service said that evacuations would proceed from nearby Sloviansk, where shelters and hospitals have been stocked with food and medicine in anticipation of an imminent Russian offensive.

Western countries, which have been shipping arms to Ukraine and tightening sanctions on Russia to punish President Vladimir V. Putin for the invasion, saw the Kramatorsk slaughter as new justification to intensify their efforts.

“The attack on a Ukrainian train station is yet another horrific atrocity committed by Russia, striking civilians who were trying to evacuate and reach safety,” President Biden said on Twitter. He vowed to send more weapons to Ukraine and to work with allies to investigate the attack “as we document Russia’s actions and hold them accountable.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France called the strike “abominable.”

“Ukrainian civilians are fleeing to escape the worst,” he wrote on Twitter. “Their weapons? Strollers, stuffed animals, luggage.”

The station was hit as the Slovak president, Eduard Heger, and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, were traveling to Kyiv in a show of support for Mr. Zelensky and his country’s bid for European Union membership.

Mr. Heger announced that Slovakia had given Ukraine an S-300 air defense system to help defend against Russian missiles and airstrikes.

Credit…Andriy Andriyenko/Associated Press

To make the transfer possible, the Pentagon said it would reposition one Patriot missile system, operated by U.S. service members, to Slovakia. It was the latest buildup in arms and troops along NATO’s eastern flank, as the alliance seeks to deter any Russian incursion.

“Now is no time for complacency,” Mr. Biden said in a statement announcing the Patriot repositioning. “As the Russian military repositions for the next phase of this war, I have directed my administration to continue to spare no effort to identify and provide to the Ukrainian military the advanced weapons capabilities it needs to defend its country.”

The attack on the railway station came after Russian forces had spent weeks shelling schools, hospitals and apartment buildings in an apparent attempt to pound Ukraine into submission by indiscriminately targeting civilian infrastructure, ignoring Geneva Convention protections that can make such actions war crimes.

Last month, an estimated 300 people were killed in an attack on a theater where hundreds had been sheltering in the battered port of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said. In recent days, growing evidence has pointed to atrocities in the devastated suburbs of Kyiv, where Ukrainian troops found bodies bound and shot in the head after Russian forces had retreated.

Ms. von der Leyen visited one of those suburbs, Bucha, on Friday before meeting with Mr. Zelensky.

“It was important to start my visit in Bucha,” she wrote on Twitter. “Because in Bucha our humanity was shattered.”

Russia has said its troops have been falsely accused and that the evidence against them is fake.

The repercussions of the fighting are spreading far beyond Europe. The United Nations reported on Friday that world food prices rose sharply last month to their highest levels ever, as the invasion sent shock waves through global grain and vegetable oil markets. Russia and Ukraine are important suppliers of the world’s wheat and other grains.

Credit…Andriy Andriyenko/Associated Press

The report of rising prices came as the British government said Russia was heading for its “deepest recession since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” estimating that the economy could shrink by as much as 15 percent this year.

On Friday, the European Union formally approved its fifth round of sanctions against Moscow, which included a ban on Russian coal and restrictions on Russian banks, oligarchs and Kremlin officials. The coal ban, which will cost Russia about $8.7 billion in annual revenue, takes effect immediately for new contracts. At Germany’s insistence, however, existing contracts were given four months to wind down, softening the blow to Russia and Germany alike.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, meeting with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in London on Friday, applauded what Mr. Johnson called the “seismic decision” by Germany to turn away from Russian fuel. Britain has pushed for a total ban on Russian energy, a move that Germany, which heats half its homes with Russian gas, has resisted.

Mr. Johnson acknowledged the obstacles to transforming Germany’s energy system “overnight,” but said “we know that Russia’s war in Ukraine will not end overnight.” Mr. Scholz said Mr. Putin had tried to divide European powers, but “he will continue to experience our unity.”

On Friday, Russia retaliated for some of the punishments from the West, declaring 45 Polish Embassy and Consulate staff “persona non grata,” and ordering them to leave Russia. Poland had expelled the same number of Russian diplomats.

Russia’s Justice Ministry also said it had revoked the registration of several prominent human rights groups in the country, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which have accused Russian troops of committing war crimes in Ukraine. The ministry accused the groups of violating an unspecified Russian law. The decision means the organizations are no longer allowed to operate in Russia.

Human Rights Watch said that forcing its office to close would not change its determination to call out Russia’s turn to authoritarianism. The group said it had been monitoring abuses in Russia since the Soviet era.

“We found ways of documenting human rights abuses then, and we will do so in the future,” it said.

Credit…Anatolii Stepanov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Megan Specia reported from Krakow, Poland, and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Jane Arraf from Lviv, Ukraine, Aurelien Breeden from Paris, Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul, Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels, Michael D. Shear and Eric Schmitt from Washington, and Mark Landler and Chris Stanford from London.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

U.S. shale gas, LNG firms meet with European countries over supply crisis, article with image

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

3D printed Natural Gas Pipes are placed on displayed U.S. and Russian flags in this illustration taken, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

April 6 (Reuters) – At least a dozen U.S. shale gas executives on Wednesday held discussions with European energy officials on increasing U.S. fuel supplies to Europe as part of efforts to replace Russian imports.

At the meetings in Houston, foreign affairs, economic ministers and commercial buyers discussed how to lower their imports of Russian oil, coal and liquefied natural gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, trade group officials said. The European Union plans to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds this year. read more

Delegations from Latvia and Estonia, diplomats from Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, and the United Kingdom toured the Golden Pass LNG export project in Sabine Pass, Texas, and later met in Houston with shale gas producers, Fred Hutchison, chief executive of trade group LNG Allies, said.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Group discussions included top executives from Chesapeake Energy (CHK.O), Coterra Energy (CTRA.N), EOG Resources (EOG.N) and EQT Corp (EQT.N), he said. Individual meetings are planned between U.S. executives and Latvian, Estonian and Slovak commercial representatives.

“The situation in Europe is so precarious. All these countries that are dependent on Russian gas are committed to giving it up, in some cases completely,” said Hutchison.

Building LNG capacity takes years and ample new supplies will not be available until mid-decade. “The capacity challenges in 2022 are great but the opportunities in a few years are really terrific,” he said.

The meeting, coordinated by the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC) along with LNG Allies, focused on ways to move Europe off Russian gas, including the need for more infrastructure in the United States and Europe, AXPC CEO Anne Bradbury said.

The need for new LNG plants was highlighted at a congressional hearing earlier on Wednesday by Pioneer Natural Resources Chief Executive Scott Sheffield. He urged Congress to embrace the construction of new U.S. plants.

“We need to build LNG facilities in the northeast,” Sheffield said.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver; Edited by Gary McWilliams, Richard Pullin and Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Live Updates: Reports of Atrocities in Ukraine Spur Outrage

BUCHA, Ukraine — Growing evidence of atrocities against civilians has brought home the horrific toll of the war in Ukraine, prompting world leaders on Sunday to threaten even harsher sanctions, including a lockout of Russia’s vital gas industry, a step some had been loath to take.

In Bucha, a newly liberated suburb northwest of the capital, residents were still finding bodies in yards and roadways days after Russian troops withdrew. A man in a bright blue fleece lay hunched over the steering wheel of a crushed car at an intersection in the center of town. Another man lay on his back beside the road, a large bullet hole in the back of his head and his green bicycle toppled beside him.

But it was the discovery of corpses with their wrists bound, images of which quickly proliferated online, that sparked the most international outrage.

“The Russian authorities will have to answer for these crimes,” said France’s president, Emmanuel Macron. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, called the actions of the Russian army in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv “acts of genocide.” And António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, expressing “shock” over the images of dead civilians, said: “It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.”

Even as Moscow’s troops pulled away from Kyiv, Russia continued to batter Ukraine’s southern coastline with airstrikes on infrastructure Sunday. It has described the withdrawal as a tactical move to regroup its forces for a major push in the Donbas region in the east and south.

Missiles struck the Black Sea port cities of Odesa and Mykolaiv, according to Ukrainian officials, and Ukraine’s air defense southern command said it had intercepted two Russian sea-based cruise missiles. Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed the strikes, saying it had destroyed an oil refinery and three oil depots around Odesa that “were used to resupply Ukrainian military units” near Mykolaiv.

Credit…Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But on Sunday, the world’s attention was focused more on where Russian forces had been than where they were now, with Bucha at the forefront.

As Ukrainian forces swept into the suburb, civilians emerged from basement shelters to a landscape dotted with bodies and the husks of destroyed tanks.

The dead were so numerous that local officials resorted to digging a mass grave outside a church, where a coroner, Serhiy Kaplishny, said about 40 bodies had been deposited during the occupation. In an interview, Mr. Kaplishny said his team had collected more than 100 bodies during and after the fighting, including those of more than a dozen men whose hands had been tied and who had been shot in the head.

Journalists from The New York Times, The Associated Press and other international news outlets arriving in Bucha and nearby towns have also filmed and photographed bodies in civilian clothes scattered in the streets and at least nine lying together in a yard. In several cases, hands were bound behind the back.

The bodies of 410 people who appeared to have been civilians have been recovered from the Kyiv region, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said in a Facebook post on Sunday. The Times was not able to independently verify that figure.

“We are being destroyed and exterminated, and this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century,” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,”

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Sunday rejected all accusations that its troops had committed atrocities in Bucha, saying that “not a single” civilian had been injured while the town was under Russian control. It said pictures and video footage from the area had been “staged by the Ukrainian government.”

But as evidence of the apparent massacre of civilians mounted, leaders across the world said Moscow was to blame for the violence and should be held accountable.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain condemned “Russia’s despicable attacks against innocent civilians in Irpin and Bucha,” and even Yair Lapid, the foreign minister of Israel, which has been wary of antagonizing Moscow, said it was “impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the horrific images from the city of Bucha.”

“Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it,” Mr. Lapid said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, in an interview on CNN, said the killings should not go unpunished. “We’ve said before Russia’s aggression that we thought it was likely that they would commit atrocities,” Mr. Blinken said, adding: “We can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalize this.”

Outrage over the civilian deaths could move the needle for the European Union, which has so far rebuffed mounting calls from Ukraine, and by President Biden, to impose sanctions on Russian oil and gas, citing its dependency on Russian fuels.

In what would mark a significant shift in her country’s position, Germany’s defense minister, Christine Lambrecht, said that in light of the Bucha atrocities, the bloc should consider banning Russian gas imports. Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said on Twitter that more European Union sanctions against Russia “are on their way.”

On Sunday, a leading human rights group said it had documented “apparent war crimes” against Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces that had occupied Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv. Citing interviews with eyewitnesses, victims and local residents, the group, Human Rights Watch, documented a case of a woman who was repeatedly raped, as well as two summary killings and other episodes of violence against civilians.

The report painted a grueling picture of brutality in Bucha even before the accounts that emerged from there after Russian forces withdrew.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

One eyewitness cited in the report described an execution in early March, in which Russian soldiers forced five men to kneel on a roadside and pull their shirts over their heads before shooting one of them in the head.

“The cases that we documented are corroborated by these recent allegations,” said Yulia Gorbunova, the author of the Human Rights Watch report, referring to the recent reports circulating from Bucha. “What is emerging now, if confirmed, is quite horrendous and gives an indication of the scale of these atrocities,” she said.

War crimes cases can be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but successful prosecution is a steep climb, experts say.

“It would likely be difficult to prove in court,’’ said David Scheffer, an international law expert. “The circumstances are unknown. Who executed them. Who bound their hands. This would require a very difficult and detailed investigation.’’

“This is very different from a military strike on a city,’’ he said.

Accusations can also be brought before the International Court of Justice, but the United Nations Security Council would be responsible for enforcing any ruling against Russia; as one of five permanent members of the Security Council, Russia would have veto power over any decision.

The Russian government has consistently denied claims that its forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, even as reports emerged of mass casualties from the bombing of a maternity ward and theater in Mariupol. In occupied Bucha, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement residents “could freely move around the town” and were allowed to leave.

“This is another provocation,” the ministry said of the new reports of atrocities.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

But the accounts from Ukraine and the grisly images may spur additional military aid to Ukraine, aside from more punishment on Russia.

American lawmakers said the reports from Bucha justified further assistance to Ukraine, with some calling for the provision of more surface-to-air missiles to help Ukrainian forces. “We need to do more to help Ukraine, and we need to do more quickly,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio.

In the besieged port city of Mariupol, residents were still awaiting the arrival of an aid convoy that has been trying to reach them since Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday. Late Thursday, Russia announced a cease-fire to allow for evacuations out of Mariupol, but humanitarian efforts to reach the city have stalled repeatedly.

Carlotta Gall and Andrew E. Kramer reported from Bucha, and Natalie Kitroeff from Mexico City. Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul; Cora Engelbrecht from Krakow, Poland; Jane Arraffrom Lvivm Ukraine; Cassandra Vinograd from London; Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels; Monika Pronczuk from Przemysl, Poland; and Jesus Jiménez from New York.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<