Russia unleashes missile barrage on Ukraine as ground battle rages in the east

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Three Russian rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, early on March 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Vadim Belikov)
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A rescue worker puts out the fire of a house which was destroyed by Russian shelling in Kostiantynivka, Ukraine, on March 8, 2023. (AP)
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Ukrainian combat medics evacuate a wounded Ukrainian serviceman from the front line near Bakhmut on March 8, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Sergey Shestak/AFP)
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Updated 09 March 2023
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Russia unleashes missile barrage on Ukraine as ground battle rages in the east

  • Smoke billows over Bakhmut, buildings burn
  • EU agrees to push ahead on joint arms buying to help Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine: Volleys of Russian missiles struck a series of Ukrainian regions early on Thursday, including the Black Sea port of Odesa and the second city of Kharkiv, knocking out power to several areas, regional officials said.
The governor of Odesa region, Maksym Marchenko, said on Telegram that a mass missile attack had hit an energy facility in the port city, cutting power. Residential areas had also been hit, but no casualties were reported.
Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Synehubov said the city and region had been hit by 15 strikes, with targets including infrastructure. Other strikes were reported in the central city of Dnipro and regions throughout the country.
Late on Wednesday, Ukraine’s military said it had managed to push back intense Russian attacks on the city of Bakhmut despite a Russian claim of control over its eastern half.
As one of the bloodiest battles of the year-long war ground on in the small city’s ruins, Ukrainian defenders — who last week appeared to be preparing for a tactical retreat — remained defiant.
“The enemy continued its attacks and has shown no sign of a letup in storming the city of Bakhmut,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said on Facebook. “Our defenders repelled attacks on Bakhmut and on surrounding communities.”
Ukrainian military and political leaders now speak of hanging on to positions and inflicting as many casualties as possible on the Russians to grind down their fighting capability.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in late Wednesday video address that the battle for Bakhmut and the surrounding Donbas region was “our first priority.”

In a separate interview with CNN, he said: “We think that in the Donbas direction Russia has started its offensive. This is the offensive. This is what it looks like: a slow aggression, because they don’t have enough strength and forces.”
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, said his fighters had captured the eastern part of Bakhmut. If true, Russian forces would control nearly half the city in a costly pursuit of their first big victory in several months.
“Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of Wagner,” Prigozhin said on the Telegram messaging app.
The river bisects Bakhmut, on the edge of Ukraine’s Donetsk province that is already largely under Russian occupation. The city center is on the west side of the river.
Prigozhin has issued premature success claims before. Reuters was not able to verify the situation on the ground.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that in addition to the Zabakhmutka district on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, the Russians had captured Ilyinivka district on the north side.
“The situation is critical,” he said in a video commentary, adding that Russian forces had also made gains near Avdiivka to the south of Bakhmut as well as to the north around Svatovo.

Arms buying push
Russia was throwing more troops into the battle, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said before a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Stockholm.
“They have suffered big losses, but at the same time we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days,” Stoltenberg said.
This would not necessarily be a turning point in the war but showed “we should not underestimate Russia,” he said.
EU defense ministers agreed to speed up the supply of artillery rounds and buy more shells to help Ukraine’s military, which is burning through shells faster than its allies can manufacture them.
Under the plan, EU states would get financial incentives worth 1 billion euros to send more of their artillery rounds to Kyiv, while another 1 billion euros would fund joint procurement of new shells.

Devastated cities
Russia has said it has annexed nearly 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory and says taking Bakhmut would be a step toward seizing the whole of the industrial Donbas region on its border.
Western analysts say Bakhmut has little strategic value, although its capture would be a boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military after a series of setbacks in what they call their “special military operation.”
Kyiv says the losses suffered by Russia there could determine the course of the war, with Ukraine expected to launch a counteroffensive when the weather improves and it receives more Western military aid, including tanks.
The months of warfare in the east have been among the deadliest and most destructive since Russia invaded in February last year, adding Bakhmut’s name to a list of devastated cities that includes Mariupol, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.
A Ukrainian military drone showed the scale of destruction in Bakhmut, filming apartment blocks on fire and smoke billowing from residential areas.
Iryna Vereshchuk, a deputy Ukrainian premier, said fewer than 4,000 civilians — including 38 children — out of a pre-war population of some 70,000 remain in Bakhmut.
US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate committee that Washington did not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major gains.
Russia casts its invasion of Ukraine as a response to threats to its security from its neighbor’s ties to the West. 


World leaders pay tribute to Biden as he ends re-election bid

Updated 12 sec ago
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World leaders pay tribute to Biden as he ends re-election bid

PARIS: World leaders lined up to pay tribute to US President Joe Biden Sunday after he announced he was dropping out of the US presidential race, even as Republicans called on him to step down from the job before the end of his term.

Biden announced his decision in a letter released on Sunday, a stunning move that upends the 2024 race for the White House. He endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party’s new nominee.

One senior Republican argued that if he was not fit to run for re-election then he was not fit to serve out his term. But world leaders lined up to pay tribute to the Biden’s achievements as US president.

“You’ve taken many difficult decisions thanks to which Poland, America and the world are safer, and democracy stronger,” said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

“I know you were driven by the same motivations when announcing your final decision. Probably the most difficult one in your life,” added Tusk, who served as the European Council president between 2014 and 2019.

UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer said he respected Biden’s decision, adding: “I look forward to us working together during the remainder of his presidency.

“I know that, as he has done throughout his remarkable career, he will have made his decision based on what he believes is best for the American people,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also paid tribute to Biden’s legacy.

“My friend @POTUS Joe Biden has achieved a lot: for his country, for Europe, for the world,” he wrote on X. “His decision not to run again deserves respect.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog thanked him for his decades of support.

“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to @POTUS Joe Biden for his friendship and steadfast support for the Israeli people over his decades long career,” Herzog, whose role is largely ceremonial, wrote on social media.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also thanked Biden for his years of service.

“I’ve known President Biden for years,” he wrote on X.

“He’s a great man, and everything he does is guided by his love for his country. As President, he is a partner to Canadians — and a true friend. To President Biden and the First Lady: thank you.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote on X: “Thank you for your leadership and ongoing service President Biden.”

“The Australia-US Alliance has never been stronger with our shared commitment to democratic values, international security, economic prosperity and climate action for this and future generations.”

Former president Barack Obama, with whom Biden served two terms as vice president, praised his record in office as president.

“Internationally, he restored America’s standing in the world, revitalized NATO, and mobilized the world to stand up against Russian aggression in Ukraine,” he said.

While he had every right to run for reelection, Biden’s decision to drop out of the race was testament to his “love of country,” Obama added.

The Kremlin said it was monitoring developments.

“The election is still four months away. And it’s a long time, during which a lot can change. We need to pay attention, follow what will happen and go about our business,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Life.ru news outlet.

Even as world leaders paid tribute to his performance on the world stage, leading Republicans were insisting he was unfit to remain president.

“If Joe Biden is not fit to run for president, he is not fit to serve as president,” said a statement from House Speaker Mike Johnson, the top Republican in Congress.

“He must resign the office immediately. November 5 cannot arrive soon enough,” he added.

Former president Donald Trump, who is running for the presidency again, wrote on his Truth Social network: “Crooked Joe Biden was not fit to run for President, and is certainly not fit to serve.”


’Give me his body’: Relatives grieve victims of Bangladesh unrest

Updated 47 min 27 sec ago
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’Give me his body’: Relatives grieve victims of Bangladesh unrest

  • Faith’s customs dictate that anyone who dies must be given a prompt burial

DHAKA: Grief-stricken widow Fatema Begum wept when hospital staff said her husband had been killed in the unrest that has roiled Bangladesh for nearly a week. She wept again when they refused to hand over his body.
Islam is the majority religion in the south Asian country, where 155 people have died since Tuesday in clashes between student protesters and police over contentious civil service hiring rules.
The faith’s customs dictate that anyone who dies must be given a prompt burial.
But staff at one of the biggest hospitals in the capital Dhaka has a longstanding requirement to only release bodies to relatives with police permission, and that is no longer easily forthcoming.
“Where is my husband?” Begum, 40, shouted at staffers outside the hospital’s morgue, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Give me his body.”
Begum’s husband Kamal Mia, 45, eked out a tough living as a pedal-rickshaw driver, transporting people around the sprawling megacity of 20 million people for the equivalent of a dollar per fare.
The family says he was not taking part in any of the clashes that have wrought widespread destruction around the city, but was killed by stray police fire.
Begum and her two daughters were told to go to a nearby police station for clearance. When her eldest daughter Anika went there, it was barricaded shut.
Officers had closed the station after arson attacks on dozens of police posts by protesters.
Anika was then sent to another police station farther away — a 10-kilometer (six-mile) round trip from the hospital — despite a nationwide government-imposed curfew.
Police there refused to give the necessary permission for the release of the body.
“My father was not a protester,” Anika said. “Why did my father have to die?“


Mia was among more than 60 people whose deaths in the unrest were recorded at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the country’s largest health care facility in the heart of the capital.
The relentless influx of patients since the start of the police crackdown on protesters has stretched the hospital to its limits.
Ambulances, private cars and rickshaws carrying the wounded were at one point arriving an average of once per minute, an AFP correspondent at the scene saw.
The entry gate of the emergency department, guarded by paramilitary Ansar forces, was blood-stained.
As soon as casualties arrive, staff rush with stretchers and trolleys. Some wounded people were given first aid for a rubber bullet, while others who were hit by injuries had to wait — sometimes for hours — for the doctors on duty.
Some are brought in already dead. Loved ones burst into tears as soon as a doctor or nurse makes it official.
A group of volunteers stood by the emergency department using loudhailers to call for blood donors after the hospital’s stocks were depleted.
Among the dozens of grieving relatives at the hospital, the steps the police took to quell the student demonstrations have prompted untempered fury against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.
“Hasina’s police have killed my son to keep her in power,” the father of a 30-year-old mobile phone shop owner shot dead in the capital, who asked not to be identified, told AFP.
“God will punish her for this unjust torture.”


Civilians killed and wounded as Russia and Ukraine trade attacks, Russia claims gains in the east

Updated 21 July 2024
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Civilians killed and wounded as Russia and Ukraine trade attacks, Russia claims gains in the east

  • Overnight into Sunday, Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted 35 of the 39 drones launched by Russia

KYIV: Russia and Ukraine exchanged drone, missile and shelling attacks on Sunday. At least two people were killed in Ukrainian strikes on the partly Russian-occupied Donetsk region, Russian state media said, while Ukrainian officials said Russian strikes wounded at least five people.
Along the front line in the east, Russia said it had taken control of two villages, one in the Kharkiv region and one in the Luhansk region.
Ukrainian shelling of Russia-held areas of the Donetsk region killed two people in the village of Horlivka, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said.
Three people were wounded by Russian drone strikes in southern Ukraine’s partly occupied Kherson region, local officials said Sunday morning. In the country’s northeast, officials in the Kharkiv region said two people were wounded when a village was hit by Russian shells.
Overnight into Sunday, Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted 35 of the 39 drones launched by Russia, according to air force commander Mykola Oleschuk. In addition, Russia launched three ballistic missiles and two guided air missiles, which did not reach their targets, he said.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said Sunday that its troops had taken control of two villages: Pishchane Nizhne in the Kharkiv region and Andriivka, sometimes referred to as Rozivka, in the Luhansk region. Kyiv did not immediately comment.
Officials in the northern Sumy region said Sunday that Russia launched a missile strike on “critical infrastructure facilities” in the city of Shostka. City mayor Mykola Noha specified that “two heating facilities” had been destroyed and called on residents to use electricity sparingly and stock up on water.
With few changes reported along the 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line, where a recent push by the Kremlin’s forces in eastern and northeastern Ukraine has made only incremental gains, both sides in the war have taken aim at infrastructure targets — seeking to curb each other’s ability to fight in a war that is now in its third year.
Russian air defense systems overnight destroyed eight drones over the country’s Belgorod region and over the Black Sea, the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
Russian air defense also shot down two long-range ballistic ATACMS missiles in the sky over the Kherson region heading for Russia-annexed Crimea, Russia-installed Kherson governor Vladimir Saldo said.
Nine people were wounded over the previous day in shelling in the town of Shebekino in Russia’s Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Sunday morning.


What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work

Updated 21 July 2024
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What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work

  • Democrats are set to hold their convention in Chicago on Aug. 19-22 - now an open contest

ATLANTA: With President Joe Biden ending his reelection bid and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats now must navigate a shift that is unprecedented this late in an election year.

Democrats are set to hold their convention in Chicago on Aug. 19-22. What was supposed to be a coronation for Biden now becomes an open contest in which nearly 4,700 delegates will be responsible for picking a new standard-bearer to challenge Republican Donald Trump in the fall.

The path ahead is neither easy nor obvious, even with Biden endorsing Harris. There are unanswered questions about logistics, money and political fallout.
Can Biden redirect his delegates?
Biden won every state primary and caucus earlier this year and only lost the territory of American Samoa. At least 3,896 delegates had been pledged to support him.
Current party rules do not permit Biden to pass them to another candidate. Politically, though, his endorsement is likely to be influential.
What could happen at the convention?
With Biden stepping aside, Democrats technically start with an open convention. But realistically, his endorsement pushes Democrats into murky territory.
The immediate burden is on Harris to solidify support across almost 4,000 delegates from the states, territories and District of Columbia, plus more than 700 so-called superdelegates that include party leaders, certain elected officials and former presidents and vice presidents.
Will anyone challenge Harris?
Even before Biden announced his decision, Democrats floated California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as potential contenders in addition to Harris. Yet some Democrats argued publicly, and many privately, that it would be a no-brainer to elevate the first woman, first Black woman and first person of south Asian descent to hold national office.
Given how important Black voters -– and Black women especially -– were to Biden’s nomination and his choice of Harris as running mate, it would be risky, to say the least, for Democrats to pass her over for a white nominee. Democrats already faced historical headwinds before Biden’s withdrawal. Newsom and Whitmer, both of whom are white, and any other Democrat would also have to weigh the short-term and long-term benefits of challenging Harris now versus preserving goodwill for a future presidential primary.
Yet, fair or not, Harris also has not been viewed as an especially beloved or empowered vice president. The best scenario for her and Democrats is to quickly shore up support and project a united front. Democrats could even go forward with their plans for an early virtual vote – a move they’d planned to make sure Biden was selected ahead of Ohio’s general election ballot deadline.
What happens to Biden’s campaign money?
Biden’s campaign recently reported $91 million cash on hand. Allied Democratic campaign committees brought the total at his disposal to more than $240 million. Campaign finance experts agree generally that Harris could control all those funds since the campaign was set up in her name as well as Biden’s. If Democrats do nominate someone other than Harris, party accounts could still benefit the nominee, but the Biden-Harris account would have more restrictions. For example, legal experts say it could become an independent expenditure political action committee but not simply transfer its balance to a different nominee.
How will a vice presidential nomination work?
The vice presidential nomination is always a separate convention vote. In routine years, the convention ratifies the choice of the nominee. If Harris closes ranks quickly, she could name her choice and have the delegates ratify it. In an extended fight, though, the vice presidency could become part of horse-trading — again, a return to conventions of an earlier era.
Can Republicans keep Harris off state ballots?
Any curveball during a US presidential campaign is certain to produce a flurry of state and federal lawsuits in this hyper-partisan era, and some conservatives have threatened just that.
State laws, though, typically do not prescribe how parties choose their nominees for president. And some GOP figures – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey – have worked already this year to ensure their party did not deny Democrats’ routine ballot access.


Biden, 81, pulls out of US presidential race, will serve out term

Updated 21 July 2024
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Biden, 81, pulls out of US presidential race, will serve out term

  • By dropping his reelection bid, Biden clears the way for Vice President Kamala Harris to run at the top of the ticket
  • It was unclear whether other senior Democrats would challenge Harris, seen as pick for many, for party’s nomination

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden ended his reelection campaign on Sunday after fellow Democrats lost faith in his mental acuity and ability to beat Donald Trump, leaving the presidential race in uncharted territory.
Biden, in a post on X, said he will remain in his role as president and commander-in-chief until his term ends in January 2025 and will address the nation this week.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your President. And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term,” Biden wrote.
By dropping his reelection bid, he clears the way for Vice President Kamala Harris to run at the top of the ticket, the first Black woman to do so in the country’s history.
Biden, 81, did not mention her when he announced his move.
It was unclear whether other senior Democrats would challenge Harris for the party’s nomination, who was widely seen as the pick for many party officials — or whether the party itself would choose to open the field for nominations.
Biden’s announcement follows a wave of public and private pressure from Democratic lawmakers and party officials to quit the race after his shockingly poor performance in a televised debate last month against Republican rival Donald Trump.