‘They Are Gone, Vanished’: Missing Persons Haunt Ukrainian Village

In a Russian-occupied village, five men went off to feed cattle. Their relatives and neighbors are wondering what happened to them.


HUSARIVKA, Ukraine — The cows wouldn’t stop screaming.

Russian soldiers had occupied this remote village in eastern Ukraine for about two weeks and were using a farm as a base. But the animals at the farm hadn’t been fed. Their incessant bleating was wearing on both occupiers and townspeople.

A group of five residents from Husarivka, an unassuming agricultural village of around 1,000 people, went to tend the cattle.

They were never heard from again.

“My two nephews disappeared. They went to feed the cows on the farm,” said Svitlana Tarusyna, 70. “They are gone, vanished.”

What transpired in Husarivka has all the horrifying elements of the more widely publicized episodes involving Russian brutality: indiscriminate killings, abuse and torture taking place over the better part of a month.

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 five men fed the cows and tended to their duties. But as they left, something on the farm exploded, residents recalled. Whether it was an artillery strike or an attempt at sabotage is unclear, but it seemed to contribute to their disappearance; Mr. Doroshenko stated that the Russians captured the men after the explosion. It is possible they were behind some type of attack on the Russian headquarters.

“They only got to the crossroad and were seized,” Mr. Doroshenko said.

Two other people near the farm also went missing that day, Mr. Doroshenko added. Roughly a week later, on March 24, a Russian sniper shot and killed Andriy Mashchenko as he rode home on his bicycle. He had been sheltering in a neighbor’s basement during an artillery barrage. He died on Peace Street.

Under heavy bombardment, the Russians retreated from Husarivka about two days later, and Ukrainian forces swept through afterward. The town’s casualty tally during the occupation: seven people missing, two killed by gunfire and at least two by shelling.

Evidence scattered around the town showed how artillery had ruled the day. Spent rockets lay in fields. Roofs were caved in. The rusted hulks of Russian vehicles were seemingly everywhere. In one armored personnel carrier, the corpse of what was presumed to be a Russian soldier remained, barely recognizable as someone’s son.

But as Ukrainian soldiers sifted through the battlefield wreckage after their victory, they found something on Petrusenko Street. It was in a backyard basement sealed shut by a rusted metal door.

“In this cellar the bodies were found,” said Olexiy, a chief investigator in the region who declined to provide his last name for security reasons. He gestured down into a soot-covered hole. “They were covered by car tires and burned,” he said.

“There is no way to tell the cause of their death,” he added, “We found three hands, two legs, three skulls.”

The bodies have yet to be identified, he said. Residents of Husarivka believe the three had been part of the group of five who disappeared. Images provided to The New York Times clearly showed that a rubber work boot was melted to the foot of one leg.

But hauntingly, no one knows for sure what happened to the five men. Many of the cows they went to feed ended up being killed by the shelling.

View Source

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

Zurn Schedules First Quarter 2022 Earnings Release and Investor Conference Call

MILWAUKEE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Zurn Water Solutions Corporation (NYSE: ZWS) will hold a conference call and webcast presentation on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at 7:30 a.m. Central Time to discuss its first quarter 2022 financial results, provide a general business update and respond to investor questions. Zurn Chairman and CEO Todd Adams and Senior Vice President and CFO Mark Peterson will co-host the call and webcast.

The Zurn earnings release for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022 will be released after market close on Tuesday, April 26, 2022 via a filing with the SEC on Form 8-K and will be posted on the Company’s investor relations website – investors.zurnwatersolutions.com.

The conference call can be accessed via telephone as follows:

Domestic toll-free #: 888-510-2359

International toll #: 646-960-0215

Access Code: 7660247

A live webcast of the call will also be available on the Company’s investor relations website. Please go to the website (investors.zurnwatersolutions.com) at least fifteen minutes prior to the start of the call to register, download and install any necessary audio software.

If you are unable to participate during the live teleconference, a replay of the conference call will be available from 9:30 a.m. Central Time April 27, 2022 until 10:59 p.m. Central Time, May 4, 2022. To access the replay, please dial 800-770-2030 (domestic) or 647-362-9199 (international). The Conference ID for the replay is: 7660247. The replay will also be available as a webcast on the Company’s investor relations website.

About Zurn Water Solutions

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Zurn Water Solutions is a growth-oriented, pure-play water business that designs, procures, manufactures and markets what we believe is the broadest sustainable product portfolio of solutions to improve health, human safety and the environment. The Zurn Water Solutions product portfolio includes professional grade water control and safety, water distribution and drainage, finish plumbing, hygienic and environmental, and site works products for public and private spaces. Additional information about the Company can be found at www.ZurnWaterSolutions.com.

View Source

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

How Intel Makes Semiconductors in a Global Shortage

Some feature more than 50 billion tiny transistors that are 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They are made on gigantic, ultraclean factory room floors that can be seven stories tall and run the length of four football fields.

Microchips are in many ways the lifeblood of the modern economy. They power computers, smartphones, cars, appliances and scores of other electronics. But the world’s demand for them has surged since the pandemic, which also caused supply-chain disruptions, resulting in a global shortage.

That, in turn, is fueling inflation and raising alarms that the United States is becoming too dependent on chips made abroad. The United States accounts for only about 12 percent of global semiconductor manufacturing capacity; more than 90 percent of the most advanced chips come from Taiwan.

Intel, a Silicon Valley titan that is seeking to restore its longtime lead in chip manufacturing technology, is making a $20 billion bet that it can help ease the chip shortfall. It is building two factories at its chip-making complex in Chandler, Ariz., that will take three years to complete, and recently announced plans for a potentially bigger expansion, with new sites in New Albany, Ohio, and Magdeburg, Germany.

Why does making millions of these tiny components mean building — and spending — so big? A look inside Intel production plants in Chandler and Hillsboro, Ore., provides some answers.

Chips, or integrated circuits, began to replace bulky individual transistors in the late 1950s. Many of those tiny components are produced on a piece of silicon and connected to work together. The resulting chips store data, amplify radio signals and perform other operations; Intel is famous for a variety called microprocessors, which perform most of the calculating functions of a computer.

Intel has managed to shrink transistors on its microprocessors to mind-bending sizes. But the rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company can make even tinier components, a key reason Apple chose it to make the chips for its latest iPhones.

Such wins by a company based in Taiwan, an island that China claims as its own, add to signs of a growing technology gap that could put advances in computing, consumer devices and military hardware at risk from both China’s ambitions and natural threats in Taiwan such as earthquakes and drought. And it has put a spotlight on Intel’s efforts to recapture the technology lead.

Chip makers are packing more and more transistors onto each piece of silicon, which is why technology does more each year. It’s also the reason that new chip factories cost billions and fewer companies can afford to build them.

In addition to paying for buildings and machinery, companies must spend heavily to develop the complex processing steps used to fabricate chips from plate-size silicon wafers — which is why the factories are called “fabs.”

Enormous machines project designs for chips across each wafer, and then deposit and etch away layers of materials to create their transistors and connect them. Up to 25 wafers at a time move among those systems in special pods on automated overhead tracks.

Processing a wafer takes thousands of steps and up to two months. TSMC has set the pace for output in recent years, operating “gigafabs,” sites with four or more production lines. Dan Hutcheson, vice chair of the market research firm TechInsights, estimates that each site can process more than 100,000 wafers a month. He puts the capacity of Intel’s two planned $10 billion facilities in Arizona at roughly 40,000 wafers a month each.

After processing, the wafer is sliced into individual chips. These are tested and wrapped in plastic packages to connect them to circuit boards or parts of a system.

That step has become a new battleground, because it’s more difficult to make transistors even smaller. Companies are now stacking multiple chips or laying them side by side in a package, connecting them to act as a single piece of silicon.

Where packaging a handful of chips together is now routine, Intel has developed one advanced product that uses new technology to bundle a remarkable 47 individual chips, including some made by TSMC and other companies as well those produced in Intel fabs.

Intel chips typically sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars each. Intel in March released its fastest microprocessor for desktop computers, for example, at a starting price of $739. A piece of dust invisible to the human eye can ruin one. So fabs have to be cleaner than a hospital operating room and need complex systems to filter air and regulate temperature and humidity.

Fabs must also be impervious to just about any vibration, which can cause costly equipment to malfunction. So fab clean rooms are built on enormous concrete slabs on special shock absorbers.

Also critical is the ability to move vast amounts of liquids and gases. The top level of Intel’s factories, which are about 70 feet tall, have giant fans to help circulate air to the clean room directly below. Below the clean room are thousands of pumps, transformers, power cabinets, utility pipes and chillers that connect to production machines.

Fabs are water-intensive operations. That’s because water is needed to clean wafers at many stages of the production process.

Intel’s two sites in Chandler collectively draw about 11 million gallons of water a day from the local utility. Intel’s future expansion will require considerably more, a seeming challenge for a drought-plagued state like Arizona, which has cut water allocations to farmers. But farming actually consumes much more water than a chip plant.

Intel says its Chandler sites, which rely on supplies from three rivers and a system of wells, reclaim about 82 percent of the freshwater they use through filtration systems, settling ponds and other equipment. That water is sent back to the city, which operates treatment facilities that Intel funded, and which redistributes it for irrigation and other nonpotable uses.

Intel hopes to help boost the water supply in Arizona and other states by 2030, by working with environmental groups and others on projects that save and restore water for local communities.

To build its future factories, Intel will need roughly 5,000 skilled construction workers for three years.

They have a lot to do. Excavating the foundations is expected to remove 890,000 cubic yards of dirt, carted away at a rate of one dump truck per minute, said Dan Doron, Intel’s construction chief.

The company expects to pour more than 445,000 cubic yards of concrete and use 100,000 tons of reinforcement steel for the foundations — more than in constructing the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Some cranes for the construction are so large that more than 100 trucks are needed to bring the pieces to assemble them, Mr. Doron said. The cranes will lift, among other things, 55-ton chillers for the new fabs.

Patrick Gelsinger, who became Intel’s chief executive a year ago, is lobbying Congress to provide grants for fab construction and tax credits for equipment investment. To manage Intel’s spending risk, he plans to emphasize construction of fab “shells” that can be outfitted with equipment to respond to market changes.

To address the chip shortage, Mr. Gelsinger will have to make good on his plan to produce chips designed by other companies. But a single company can do only so much; products like phones and cars require components from many suppliers, as well as older chips. And no country can stand alone in semiconductors, either. Though boosting domestic manufacturing can reduce supply risks somewhat, the chip industry will continue to rely on a complex global web of companies for raw materials, production equipment, design software, talent and specialized manufacturing.


Produced by Alana Celii

View Source

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

Ukraine Live Updates: As Zelensky Deplores U.N. Inaction, West Turns Up Economic Pressure on Russia

With evidence mounting of atrocities in the Kyiv suburbs, and Russian forces preparing for a new offensive farther east, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine delivered a scathing speech to the United Nations on Tuesday, accusing Russia of a litany of horrors and questioning whether a world body that takes no action to stop a war serves any purpose.

Speaking via video link to the U.N. Security Council, he compared Russian forces to the Islamic State, called for a Nuremberg-like war crimes tribunal and vented his bitter frustration, knowing that the council — where Russia is one of five permanent members with veto power — would do nothing but talk.

“Where is the security that the Security Council needs to guarantee?” Mr. Zelensky said, raising the question of whether Russia deserved to keep its seat on the council. “Are you ready to close the U.N.? Do you think that the time of international law is gone? If your answer is no, then you need to act immediately.”

The chamber fell silent as a short video provided by Mr. Zelensky’s government played, showing some of the hundreds of corpses found strewn around the city of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, after Russian forces retreated last week — bloated, charred bodies of civilians, including children. Some victims, their hands bound, had been shot in the head.

Mr. Zelensky said that in Bucha, “they killed entire families, adults and children, and they tried to burn the bodies.” Civilians “were crushed by tanks while sitting in their cars in the middle of the road,” he added, asserting that “women were raped and killed in front of their children; their tongues were pulled out.”

China refrained from criticizing Russia in Tuesday’s session, saying that the Security Council should wait until investigations establish the facts in Ukraine. A rising global power, China has drawn closer to Russia in recent years, united by a shared antipathy to the United States. The divisions on the war appeared essentially unchanged since Feb. 26, when 11 of 15 Security Council members voted for a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion, Russia vetoed the measure, and three others abstained — China, India and the United Arab Emirates.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, reiterated his government’s claims — rebutted by ample evidence — that atrocities in Bucha had been faked, or had not occurred when Russians held the city. He made a number of other unsupported claims, including stating falsely that in Ukraine — where the freely elected president is a Jew who lost family members in the Holocaust — Nazis are “running the show.”

After President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia launched the war on Ukraine on Feb. 24, his military became bogged down on several fronts in the face of logistical failures and unexpectedly fierce Ukrainian resistance. Russian forces spent weeks shelling and occupying cities and towns in northern Ukraine, where they took heavy losses as they failed to capture Kyiv, the capital. Last week they pulled back from that part of the country, preparing for what Russian officials and foreign analysts said would be a shift in focus toward eastern Ukraine.

“The next pivotal battle of the war” is likely to be for the eastern city of Sloviansk, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Institute for the Study of War, based in Washington.

Revulsion over the apparent executions discovered in Bucha deepened Russia’s economic isolation, despite its denials of responsibility.

The United States has started blocking Russia from making debt payments using dollars held in American banks, a move designed to deplete its international currency reserves and potentially push Russia toward its first foreign currency debt default in a century.

And the European Union took a significant step toward overcoming resistance to curbing fuel imports from Russia, on which its member nations rely heavily. The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, proposed cutting off imports of Russian coal — oil and natural gas remain hotly debated — and barring Russian vessels from E.U. ports as part of a new round of sanctions.

The measures, which require unanimous approval, are expected to go to a vote of E.U. ambassadors on Wednesday. Diplomats said the sanctions package would target, among others, two daughters of Mr. Putin. The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and the chief E.U. diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, announced plans to visit Kyiv this week and meet with Mr. Zelensky.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said that it, along with the Kyiv police, had discovered what it called a Bucha “torture chamber,” where Russian forces had left behind the bodies of five men, their hands tied, who had been tortured and killed.

Mr. Zelensky reinforced a point that U.N. officials have made repeatedly: The true extent of Ukraine’s destruction and casualties is unknown but far greater than what has been documented, because outside observers have been unable to reach some of the most devastated areas. “Now the world can see what Russia did in Bucha, but the world has yet to see what it has done in other parts of our country,” Mr. Zelensky said.

New York Times journalists on Tuesday were able for the first time to reach the town of Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, battered by Russian rockets and airstrikes, where the mayor estimated 200 dead lay beneath the rubble. In the besieged port of Mariupol, local officials have put the death toll in the thousands.

Fierce fighting continues along Ukraine’s southern coast, where Mariupol, largely reduced to ruins by Russian bombardment, is “the center of hell,” said Martin Griffiths, the U.N. chief of humanitarian relief.

More than 250 miles west of Mariupol, explosions shuddered through the port of Mykolaiv, a day after the mayor said Russian strikes had killed 10 people and wounded 46. He said that Russians had hit residential buildings, schools, a hospital and an orphanage in his city since the war began, and had used cluster munitions. Soldiers defending the city said that increasingly, Russian forces were hitting civilian targets.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

After four consecutive days of trying and failing to send an aid convoy into Mariupol, where people are desperately short of food, water, power, heat and medicines, the International Committee of the Red Cross decided against another attempt on Tuesday.

Ukrainian officials say the Russians have prevented crucial supplies from reaching the city. Mr. Nebenzya, the Russian U.N. ambassador, said the Ukrainians had blocked the convoy, and he claimed that Russian forces had evacuated 123,500 people from Mariupol.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that in fact, tens of thousands of Ukrainians, including from Mariupol, had been taken to “filtration camps” in Russia, where family members were separated and people were stripped of passports and cellphones. “I do not need to spell out what these so-called filtration camps are reminiscent of,” she said. “It’s chilling, and we cannot look away.”

Rosemary A. DiCarlo, a U.N. under secretary general, said there was credible evidence that Russia had used cluster munitions — shells that burst open to spew many smaller bomblets over a wide area — at least 24 times in populated areas of Ukraine. Most countries have signed a treaty banning cluster munitions as indiscriminate weapons with a high risk of civilian casualties, but Russia, like the United States, has not.

More than 11 million Ukrainians — about one in four — have fled their homes because of the war, including more than 4 million who have left the country, according to the United Nations, creating Europe’s largest and fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Russian forces recently captured the eastern city of Izyum, and Western analysts say they are preparing for a drive to the south and southeast, to bolster efforts to seize more of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting for eight years. Many of Ukraine’s best-equipped and most experienced military units have been concentrated in that area, known as Donbas.

“Russian forces continue to make little to no progress in frontal assaults” on the portions of Donbas still held by Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War reported.

Whether the Russians aim simply to reinforce their units in Donbas, or are planning a more ambitious effort to encircle the Ukrainian forces, capturing Sloviansk is crucial, the institute said.

In the Luhansk region on Tuesday, an attack that Ukrainians blamed on Russian forces hit a storage tank containing nitric acid, releasing a toxic cloud and prompting the regional administrator to urge people to stay inside and close their windows.

The Russian units that withdrew from the region around Kyiv, having suffered heavy casualties, extensive equipment losses and poor morale, the institute said, “are highly unlikely to be effectively deployed elsewhere in Ukraine and are likely a spent force.”

An intelligence assessment released by the British defense ministry was less definitive, but said that any Russian forces redeploying from the north would first need considerable time to repair and replace equipment, and to make up for casualties.

Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall in Borodyanka, Ukraine; Andrew E. Kramer in Kyiv, Ukraine; Rick Gladstone, Michael Schwirtz and Farnaz Fassihi in New York; Dan Bilefsky in Montreal; Steven Erlanger and Matina Stevis-Gridneff in Brussels; Megan Specia and Cora Engelbrecht in Krakow, Poland; Anton Troianovski in Istanbul; and Lara Jakes in Washington.

View Source

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

(Bangkok): A Push for Parentheses Miffs Thais (Who Have Bigger Problems)

BANGKOK — Each morning in her market stall in the Bangkok Noi district of the Thai capital, Jintana Rapsomruay rolls balls of dough into a snack known for its resemblance to the eggs of an oversize lizard. The sweet treat, which looks like a doughnut hole, was supposedly invented by a consort of the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, which continues to reign 240 years later.

The 18th-century monarch liked to nosh on the eggs of water monitor lizards, so the story goes, but the concubine couldn’t get her hands on any, so she substituted dough stuffed with sweet bean paste. The king — among whose accomplishments was moving the Thai capital to its present location — was pleased.

The snack remains popular to this day, but Ms. Jintana can barely get by. Like millions of Thais struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, her income has plummeted by half.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military chief and leader of the 2014 coup — approved the Royal Society’s ruling with its own decree, making a parenthetical Bangkok the law of the land.

The shift from semicolon to parentheses has provoked public dissatisfaction. But it’s not the name itself to which anyone really objects; the capital is universally known to Thai speakers as Krung Thep, or, by the initials “Kor Tor Mor.”

Rather, the way an elite clique did the update is what bothered some in a populace that appears increasingly unwilling to accept diktats from royalist, tradition-bound institutions.

turned up dead. Dozens of young protest leaders have been imprisoned.

Prosecutions of royal defamation have increased sharply, with a former civil servant sentenced last year to more than four decades in prison. Some protest leaders have called for the monarchy to submit to the Constitution and are now facing, collectively, hundreds of years in prison for lèse-majesté, which criminalizes criticism of senior members of the royal family.

“People across Thailand, not just the young, recognize the argument of reforming the monarchy,” said Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who was elected president of the Student Union at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “It’s not marginal, it’s mainstream.”

Mr. Netiwit lost his position in February after the school administration determined that he was connected to an event involving activists who have called for monarchical reform.

Some Thais are more enthusiastic about the government espousing the longer name.

On a recent morning, Vichian Bunthawi, 88, a retired palace guard, sat cross-legged on a bench at the sleepy railway station in Bangkok Noi. The capital should be known around the world as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, he said, remembering how his primary schoolteacher would write the full name on the chalkboard.

“Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is the name of the capital,” he said. “It is where the king lives.”

The first king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, moved the capital in 1782, from the left bank of the Chao Phraya River, where the Bangkok Noi district is, to the east bank. On marshy ground, he and his successors built gilded, jeweled palaces. The full name of Krung Thep Maha Nakhon includes a paean to “an enormous royal palace resembling the heavenly abode in which the reincarnated god reigns.” In Thai tradition, the king is semi-divine.

In 1932, absolute monarchy was abolished, but the royal family still retains an enormous presence in Thai life. Giant posters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun and Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, the current king’s fourth wife, tower over public places.

The king, whose lavish lifestyle contrasts with the austerity forced upon many Thais by the pandemic, spends most of his time in Germany.

Whether as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or Bangkok, the character of the capital has changed drastically over the decades. City planners filled in the canals that used to be the city’s transportation arteries. Rice paddies gave way to malls and condominiums.

In a back alley behind a Buddhist temple in Bangkok Noi, Chana Ratsami still plays a Thai xylophone. His wife’s family of palace attendants lived in Bangkok Noi for generations.

Now, he said, the lane’s residents are mostly migrants from upcountry.

“They don’t know the history of this place,” he said, describing how the traffic-choked road at the end of the lane used to be a canal with boats floating past, filled with flowers and fruit. “I miss the old city, no matter what it’s called.”

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.

View Source

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

Ukraine Live Updates: 3,000 Civilians Escape Mariupol

The most ambitious effort yet to evacuate desperate civilians from Ukraine’s devastated port of Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces for weeks, was upended by disruptions Friday, with thousands of residents managing to flee but many more still stuck after the Red Cross judged the exodus too dangerous.

The suspended Red Cross evacuation in Mariupol, a city that has come to symbolize the horrors of the war in Ukraine, was among several developments painting a mixed picture on Friday as one of the biggest armed conflicts to convulse Europe in decades rumbled into its sixth week.

New signs emerged that Russian forces, stymied by their own botched planning and fierce Ukrainian resistance, were retreating from areas outside of Kyiv, the capital, and moving north. Ukrainians asserted that they had retaken control of more than two dozen suburban towns and hamlets.

Ukrainian helicopter gunships struck an oil terminal inside Russia, Russian officials said — which, if confirmed, would be the first known Ukrainian airstrike in Russian territory since the Feb. 24 invasion.

Such an attack would be both embarrassing and potentially provocative to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in his troubled military campaign to subjugate Ukraine. Ukrainian officials gave conflicting accounts on whether Ukraine was responsible.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

And in Chernobyl, the toxic defunct nuclear site in northwest Ukraine, which Russia seized in the war’s early days, Russian vehicles apparently stirred up radiation dust as they departed, the United Nations’ top nuclear official said. Whether Russian soldiers or others there suffered radiation poisoning remained unclear.

There had been some early optimism that an organized large-scale evacuation of Mariupol — a thriving port of 450,000 that has been obliterated by Russian shelling and bombs — could be undertaken Friday under the auspices of the Red Cross, after Russia’s Defense Ministry approved a temporary cease-fire.

Many thousands of civilians have been trapped in the city for weeks under constant Russian bombardment with limited access to food, water and electricity. Previous attempts at humanitarian pauses in fighting have repeatedly collapsed.

By some estimates, three-quarters of Mariupol’s population has fled and roughly 100,000 people remain.

A team from the Red Cross that had been en route to Mariupol on Friday to escort out buses and cars carrying civilians had to turn back because it was not guaranteed conditions to ensure safe passage, the organization said in a statement. It said the team, made up of three vehicles and nine personnel, would try again on Saturday.

“For the operation to succeed, it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees,” the Red Cross statement said.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The Red Cross had expected about 54 buses, along with an unknown number of private vehicles, to take part in an evacuation convoy carrying thousands of people.

While the larger convoy failed on Friday, smaller groups of people have been able to leave the city in cars, according to local officials. On Friday afternoon, Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister, confirmed in a statement on her Telegram page that a corridor had opened from Mariupol to the city of Zaporizhzhia by private transport.

Around noon on Friday, Pyotr Andryuschenko, the Mariupol mayor’s adviser, said that some buses had left for nearby Berdyansk.

By day’s end, it remained unclear exactly how many people from Mariupol had been able to leave. But Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said on his Telegram account that roughly 3,000 people had managed to escape on Friday, and that more than 3,000 had been evacuated from other cities.

The Russians signaled a week ago that they might be pulling forces back from Kyiv and other areas in northern Ukraine and recalibrating their aims in the war, as it became increasingly clear that their military was performing poorly and Kremlin expectations of a quick victory were wrong.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Western officials and analysts were initially skeptical, suspecting the Russians were simply repositioning and resupplying for new attacks. While that may still be true, the Russian pullback from the Kyiv area after more than a week of Ukrainian counterattacks appeared to be real, these officials and analysts said, based on Ukrainian military accounts of retaken towns and other signs, including social media videos and satellite images, pointing to a Russian retreat.

“The counterattacks probably prompted the Russian decision to give up on Kyiv,” said Frederick W. Kagan, a military expert with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “The counterattacks demonstrated that the Russians were actually not going to be able to hold the positions they occupied anyway.”

The early-morning helicopter assault on Russian territory took place in Belgorod, part of a staging area for the Russian invasion about 20 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border. Ukraine’s military previously had managed to hit Russian territory only with ground-launched missiles, and Russia had boasted that the Ukrainian Air Force had been “practically destroyed” in Russian assaults.

Video posted to VKontakte, a Russian social media site, and verified by The New York Times showed two helicopters firing at the oil depot on the eastern edge of the city. Although it was not possible to determine the nationality of the aircraft, the footage confirmed that an airstrike caused a fire at the site. Other video of the aftermath showed the depot burning well into the daylight hours.

Credit…Russian Emergencies Ministry, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ukrainian officials were initially evasive about whether Ukraine’s forces had carried out the assault, but a top security aide, Oleksiy Danilov, issued what amounted to a denial by saying, “This does not correspond with reality.”

Whether or how Russia intended to respond remained unclear late Friday, but the attack did not appear to bode well for diplomacy to halt the war. Russia’s deputy permanent representative at the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, told reporters that such attacks “reflect the real intentions of the Ukrainian side and real intentions toward peace talks.”

Concerns about possible radiation exposure from the Russian seizure of Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear plant, where a 1986 meltdown caused the worst radiation accident in history, surfaced again on Friday in remarks by Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear monitor. The Russians took control of the Chernobyl area last month and withdrew this week.

While Mr. Grossi told a news conference at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna that radiation levels had not changed at the plant, he said heavy military vehicles had stirred up contaminated ground when Russian forces first invaded the area, “and apparently this might have been the case again on the way out.”

Mr. Grossi said that he was aware of reports that some Russian military personnel had been poisoned by radiation while they held the Chernobyl plant but that the subject had not been discussed during talks he held in Russia with nuclear officials.

“We heard about the possibility of some personnel being contaminated, but we do not have any confirmation,” he said.

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

Outside Ukraine, nations that have sought to penalize Russia by banning purchases of Russian oil took further steps Friday to help insulate themselves from the economic shock of higher oil prices caused by the reduced supply.

The International Energy Agency, a 31-member group of oil-consuming nations, said they had agreed to a new release of emergency oil reserves in what is turning into a historic, wide-reaching effort to calm global markets.

The move came a day after the Biden administration announced a 180-million-barrel release over six months from the strategic reserve held by the United States.

Megan Specia reported from Krakow, Poland, Anton Troianovski from Istanbul, Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London and Julian E. Barnes from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall from Kyiv, Ukraine; Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul; Josh Holder and Stanley Reed from London; Lazaro Gamio from Washington; and Denise Lu from New York.

View Source

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