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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Russian shelling of Kharkiv civilians sparks war crime accusations

Ukraine has accused Russia of war crimes following shelling attacks on civilians in two northeastern cities.

Ukraine has accused Russia of war crimes following shelling attacks on civilians in two northeastern cities. On Saturday, a Russian airstrike on a residential area in Kharkiv wounded six people, including a 13-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, and an eight-year-old child. Ukrainian prosecutors have launched an investigation into this attack, which they classify as a potential war crime. About 70 kilometers northeast in Vovchansk, near the Russian border, Russian shelling killed a 60-year-old woman and injured three other civilians. Additionally, a 59-year-old man was injured in the village of Ukrainske. Moscow, which denies targeting civilians, has faced ongoing accusations of civilian casualties since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Cross-Border Tensions and Escalations

Across the border in Russia’s Belgorod region, Moscow reported shooting down a Ukrainian Tochka-U missile on Saturday. This follows a similar missile strike last week that caused an apartment building to collapse in Belgorod, resulting in at least 15 deaths. Furthermore, Belgorod’s regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, stated that a Ukrainian drone attack injured two people in the village of Petrovka. These incidents highlight the growing cross-border hostilities, with both sides accusing each other of targeting civilians.

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Zelensky Reports Military Successes

Despite the escalating conflict, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported notable successes by Ukrainian forces. In his nightly address, Zelensky highlighted that Ukrainian troops have gained stronger footing in the Kharkiv region, inflicting significant losses on Russian infantry and equipment. He emphasized that Russia, despite anticipating a quick advance, is facing substantial resistance. Zelensky also mentioned that Ukrainian forces repelled an assault in the eastern Donetsk region around Chasiv Yar, a strategically important city in Russia’s campaign. “Our soldiers destroyed more than 20 units of the occupier’s armored vehicles,” Zelensky stated.

Russian Advances and Battlefield Dynamics

Contrary to Zelensky’s reports, Russia’s defense ministry announced the capture of Starytsia, a village in the Kharkiv region, marking a continuation of their advance. The conflicting reports reflect the fluid and contested nature of the battlefield. Additionally, regional governor Vadym Filashkin credited Ukrainian special units under the HUR military intelligence agency for recent battlefield successes, including significant resistance in Chasiv Yar.

Civilian Evacuations and Humanitarian Impact

The ongoing conflict has severely impacted civilian populations, leading to significant displacements. Regional governor Oleh Syniehubov reported that nearly 10,000 people have fled their homes in the Kharkiv region since the Russian ground attack began on May 10. Heavy fighting in Vovchansk has left only about 100 residents in the city, with approximately 8,000 civilians evacuated.

Call for International Support

In light of the intensified conflict, Zelensky has called for increased international support, particularly in terms of air defenses and fighter jets. Speaking to AFP, he stressed the need for more advanced aircraft to achieve air parity with Russia. Zelensky noted that Ukraine currently has only about 25% of the air defenses needed to protect the country, emphasizing the critical need for additional resources from allies.

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To address the pressing need for military personnel, Zelensky signed two laws on Friday permitting prisoners to join the army and imposing steep fines for draft dodgers. The new legislation, effective Saturday, lowers the draft age from 27 to 25 and mandates that Ukrainian men update their personal data at military conscription centers. This move aims to streamline army recruitment and bolster Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.