December 16, 2022

Russian forces bombarded Kherson on Thursday, killing two people and depriving the Ukrainian city of electricity as the European Union announced its latest slew of sanctions against Moscow and an 18-billion-euro aid package for Kyiv.Moscow-allied officials in the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk, meanwhile, said they have come under some of the heaviest shelling in years from Ukrainian forces, leaving one person dead.Despite Russia's retreat from the southern port city in November, Kherson remains within reach of Moscow's weaponry and under constant threat.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces had attacked Kherson 16 times on Thursday alone.The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that a Ukrainian Red Cross worker had been killed by the strikes and urged that humanitarian "personnel and property" be spared.While winter temperatures plunge below freezing, the heavy shelling has left Kherson "completely without power", according to regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych.Much of Ukraine is struggling without heat or power after Moscow started targeting electricity and water systems nearly two months ago.The UN human rights chief warned the campaign has inflicted "extreme hardship" on Ukrainians this winter, and also decried likely war crimes as he described his office's documentation of civilians killed by Russian forces."Winter is coming, how can people survive?," Svetlana, a resident of the capital, told AFP. "Lord, what do they want from us? They do not let Ukrainians live."Summary killingsUN rights chief Volker Turk said his office has documented the executions and direct killings of 441 civilians across three regions of Ukraine from the start of Russia's invasion on February 24 until April 6.The "actual figures are likely to be considerably higher", he said, adding "there are strong indications that the executions... may constitute the war crime of willful killing."Beyond that initial period, Turk said his team had continued to document gross rights violations affecting both civilians and combatants, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence.So far, he added, "accountability remains sorely lacking".He also warned of further displacements as Russian attacks on critical infrastructure leave people without power or clean water. "Additional strikes could lead to a further serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation and spark more displacement," he said.An estimated 18 million Ukrainians are already in need of humanitarian aid. Kyiv expected to be targeted againUkrainian commander-in-chief General Valeriy Zaluzhny told British weekly The Economist they expected a fresh Russian assault on Kyiv in the early months of 2023.Kyiv was the primary target when the Russians first invaded on February 24. But their northern campaign, launched from Belarus, was rebuffed by a gritty Ukrainian counter-offensive that preserved the seat of government."The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops. I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv," Zaluzhny said.Russia has appeared to pump up its presence anew in Belarus in recent weeks, according to US-based conflict monitor the Institute for the Study of War.But it said exercises and deployments do not likely indicate plans by Belarusian forces to attack northern Ukraine themselves.Instead, the actions "are likely part of ongoing Russian information operations" to keep Kyiv nervous and force it to maintain significant force levels in the north, far from the active front lines, according to ISW.- Blasts in Donetsk -Having retreated from parts of southern Ukraine, Moscow's forces have since engaged in fierce battles in the east, particularly in the Donetsk region.The region has been partly controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.On Thursday, local Russia-aligned authorities reported "the most massive shelling since 2014" in the regional capital, Donetsk city.At least one person was killed and nine more injured in the strikes, they said.In Donetsk, "the epicenter of the fighting remains the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions," Ukraine deputy defense minister Ganna Malyar told a briefing. "The enemy is hard to beat," Petro, a Ukrainian military unit chief in the area, told AFP."Staying on the frontline is very difficult. They sustain heavy losses, but so do we."International supportThe EU unleashed its ninth wave of sanctions on Russia Thursday, blacklisting "almost 200" individuals and entities, targeting three banks, curbing mining investments and banning more TV channels.But diplomats have warned that the bloc is increasingly running out of ways to hurt the Russian economy as the war drags towards its 10th month. The EU also cleared the way to giving Ukraine another 18 billion euros ($19 billion) in aid following an impassioned plea from Zelensky.In Washington, the Pentagon announced it will expand training for Ukrainian forces in Germany to about 500 persons per month focused on larger-scale manoeuvres and specific weapons systems.The new effort will "include joint maneuver and combined arms operations training while building upon the specialized equipment training that we're already providing," Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said.Ryder would not confirm expectations that the United States will provide advanced Patriot air defense batteries to Ukraine, which would bring added protection against Russian cruise missiles as well as tactical ballistic missiles Moscow is believed to be seeking from Iran.© Agence France-Presse

November 21, 2022

Kherson starts its long healing process - though Russian forces are only a few miles away.

November 14, 2022

The regional capital was liberated on Friday after being taken by Russia in March.

November 4, 2022

Ukrainian forces are preparing to fight for Kherson City, the only regional capital Russia has captured since invading in February, but it's not clear if Russian troops are planning to defend the occupied city or retreat to the east side of the Dnipro River.  Residents of Kherson told The New York Times by phone Thursday that Russian soldiers, patrols, and checkpoints are suddenly extremely scarce in the city center, the Russian flag is no longer flying over government offices, and Kremlin-appointed administrators have all moved to a new regional capital 50 miles away, after thoroughly looting the city. Ukrainian intelligence says Russia has sent 40,000 troops across the Dnipro to make sure Kherson doesn't fall, but a Western official said Thursday that most Russian commanders have withdrawn from the city and across the Dnipro, leaving "pretty demoralized" and sometimes "woefully equipped and unprepared" troops behind to face Ukrainian forces, the Times reports. Kherson City occupation deputy Kirill Stremousov said on Russian state television Thursday that Russian forces "will most likely leave" for the eastern bank of the Dnipro.  Stremousov is "an unreliable source," the Institute for the Study of War said Thursday, adding that it "has observed that Russian forces are continuing to prepare fallback positions on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro River while continuing to set up defensive positions northwest of Kherson City and transporting additional mobilized forces there, despite Stremousov's statement." The signs of Russia's withdrawal "might be a provocation in order to create the impression that they have left the settlements and it is safe to enter them," Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine's southern command, said Thursday. "Considering the fact that they have been preparing for street fighting for a long time and the way they are positioning their units, we are aware that this might be a planned tactical action." Ukrainian forces are making slow progress toward Kherson, at great cost, ABC News reports.  Stepping back, Russia "has shown no indication that it is willing to give up the city, or the broader Kherson region, which carries enormous strategic and political importance for the Kremlin," The Washington Post reports. Whenever it starts, the fight for Kherson City "may become the biggest battle of President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine, and perhaps the single best test of whether Moscow ends up winning any significant territory from its invasion or is forced to retreat empty-handed."

October 13, 2022

Civilians in the Russian-occupied region are urged to "save themselves" from Ukrainian rocket attacks.



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