President Joe Biden vows to support Ukraine amid ‘barbaric’ shelling
President Joe Biden vowed continued support of Ukraine against Russia as he met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
Claire Hardwick, Associated Press
Another blistering round of Russian airstrikes ripped across Ukraine on Thursday, further damaging already battered energy infrastructure as Kyiv saw its first snow of the season.
Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine and authorities said at least four people were killed in drone and missile strikes as air defense teams scrambled to shoot down Russia’s aerial weaponry.
“Stay in shelters and safe places,” Kyiv regional military leader Oleksiy Kuleba warned on Telegram. “Do not photograph the place, arrival and the work of air defense.”
Thursday’s attack fell short of the nationwide barrage of more than 100 missiles and drones that knocked out power to 10 million people Tuesday – described by Ukraine’s energy minister as the biggest blitz of the nearly 9-month-old war.
Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, called the attacks “naive tactics of cowardly losers” that have not weakened the Ukrainians’ resolve.
The latest assault added strain to a power system already dealing with rolling outages as winter conditions roll into the nation of more than 40 million people. Thursday’s light snow dusted the capital, where the temperature has been lingering at or below freezing.
“Russia is fighting against electricity and heat for people, blowing up power plants and other energy facilities,” said Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “This is everyday life in Ukraine now because of Russian terror.”
US, NATO INVESTIGATE DEADLY BLAST IN POLAND: Biden says missile unlikely to have been fired from Russia
►The EU has provided about $1 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, with more on the way, crisis management Minister Janez Lenarčič said: “Right now, our main priority is to address the needs as winter approaches.”
►Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, imprisoned since February 2021 on charges the West considers politically motivated, has been permanently moved to a cramped “cell-type room,” he said on Twitter. “They’re doing it to shut me up. So what’s my first duty? That’s right, to not be afraid and not shut up,” he tweeted.
►After the restoration of peace, Ukraine will be able to replace dirty fossil fuels from Russia with clean energy and supply “green electricity” to EU countries, Zelenskyy said.
►A McDonald’s restaurant in the western Ukraine city of Khmelnytski reopened, but warned that it would close when air raid sirens blare so employees can flee to shelters, European Pravda reported.
WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been jailed in Russia on drug charges since February, has been transferred to a penal colony about 275 miles southeast of Moscow to serve her nine-year sentence, her lawyers said Thursday.
“Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment,” her lawyers said in a statement, adding that they visited her at the facility in the Mordovia region this week.
The U.S. government, which considers Griner “wrongfully detained,” has been negotiating with Russian officials for months and said it has made a “substantial proposal” to free her and fellow American Paul Whelan.
Griner was detained in February, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Griner said at her trial that she packed them inadvertently and had no criminal intent. A Russian court rejected an appeal of her sentence last month.
President Joe Biden on Thursday disputed Ukraine’s claim that its military did not fire the missile that slammed into a rural Polish border town, killing two people.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy initially said his military and air force commanders assured him Ukraine was not responsible for Tuesday’s blast. He called for Ukraine’s participation in the investigation, which was granted. “I have no doubt that it was not our missile or not our missile strike,” Zelenskyy said Wednesday.
Asked Thursday about Zelenskyy’s comments, Biden said, “That’s not the evidence.”
In a video appearance Thursday at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Zelenskyy sounded less certain about who launched the missile.
“We don’t know for sure. The world does not know,” he said. “It is impossible to talk about something specific today — that it was the air defense of Ukraine.”
Hours after the strike, Biden had said it was “unlikely (from the lines) of trajectory that it was fired from Russia.” On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed with Polish officials who said it was “highly probable“ that a missile launched by Ukraine’s air defense system accidentally “fell in Polish territory.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday visited the site where the missile landed and expressed understanding for Ukraine’s plight. “It is a hugely difficult situation for them and there are great emotions, there is also great stress,” Duda said.
Ukraine’s battered energy and water infrastructure is the result of Russian missile strikes targeting military infrastructure and Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate an end to the war, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed it is using high-accuracy weaponry to hit Ukraine’s “military command and control system and related energy facilities.” The aims of the strikes have been achieved, the ministry said.
“The infrastructure facilities in question were directly or indirectly related to the military potential of Ukraine and the Ukrainian regime,” Peskov said. “The unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to resolve the problem and to enter into negotiations … is worth talking about too.”
A Dutch court has convicted two Russians and an Ukrainian of the murders of 298 people who died in the 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine. One Russian was acquitted for lack of evidence.
Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said that evidence presented by prosecutors, at a trial that saw 69 days in court spread over more than two years, proved that the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down by a Buk missile fired by pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Russia claims that Ukrainian fighters were responsible for the missile strike.
A multi-nation agreement allowing shipment of grain from Ukraine ports was extended for 120 days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed Thursday. The shipments are considered crucial for feeding millions and for tamping down inflated global food prices. More than 11 million tons of grains and foodstuffs from 500 ships have been delivered over the past four months, he said.
“Following the decision made by the UN, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, the agreement on the Black Sea corridor will be extended,” Erdogan tweeted. “The significance and benefits of this agreement for the food supply and security of the world have become evident.”
The Russians’ retreat from the southern city of Kherson last week unveiled further evidence of their abuses, which appear more extensive than previously documented.
While the United Nations looks into allegations of almost 90 instances of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions in Kherson, Ukrainian officials have opened more than 430 war crimes cases from the region and are investigating four alleged torture sites, according to Denys Monastyrskyi, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs. He said 63 bodies with signs of torture have been found around Kherson.
Maksym Nehrov, jailed by the invading forces for being a former soldier, said they would give him an electric shock to the neck and head every time they felt he disobeyed them.
“The most terrifying thing was to hear other people being tortured all day,” said Nehrov, 45.
Contributing: The Associated Press