Wednesday, September 27, 2023

2 killed as Russian missiles penetrate NATO member Poland, US says

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By Associated PressRussia on Tuesday pounded Ukraine’s energy facilities with its largest barrage of missiles yet, hitting targets across the country and causing widespread blackouts, and a US official said missiles reached NATO member Poland, where two people died.

A defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shook his fist and declared: “We will survive anything.”

Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller did not immediately confirm information from a senior US intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation. But Mueller said top leaders held an emergency meeting because of a “crisis situation.”

Polish media reported that two people were killed on Tuesday afternoon after a projectile hit an area where grain was drying in Przewodów, a Polish village near the border with Ukraine.

Neighboring Moldova was also hit. It reported massive blackouts after the strikes knocked out a major power line that powers the small country, an official said.

Zelenskyy said Russia fired at least 85 missiles, “most of them at our energy infrastructure,” and cut power in many cities.

“We are working and will fix everything. We will survive everything,” the president promised. His energy minister said the attack was “the most massive” bombing of power stations in the nearly 9-month-old Russian invasion, hitting both power generation and transmission systems.

The minister, Herman Haluschenko, described the rocket attacks as “another attempt at terrorist revenge” following military and diplomatic setbacks for the Kremlin. He accused Russia of “wanting to do as much damage as possible to our energy system on the eve of winter”.

The airstrike, which resulted in at least one death in a residential building in the capital Kyiv, followed days of euphoria in Ukraine fueled by one of its greatest military successes: last week’s recapture of the southern city of Kherson.

The power grid has already been battered by previous attacks that destroyed an estimated 40 percent of the country’s energy infrastructure.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented on the withdrawal from Kherson since his troops withdrew in the face of a Ukrainian offensive. But the staggering magnitude of Tuesday’s strikes spoke volumes and indicated anger in the Kremlin.

By attacking targets in the late afternoon, not long before dusk, the Russian military forced rescuers to work in the dark and gave the repair crews little time to assess the damage in daylight.

More than a dozen regions — including Lviv in the west, Kharkiv in the northeast and others in between — reported attacks or attempts by their air defenses to shoot down missiles. At least a dozen regions reported blackouts, affecting cities with a combined population of millions. According to the authorities, almost half of the Kiev region lost power. Ukrainian Railways has announced nationwide train delays.

Zelenskyy warned that more strikes were possible and urged people to stay safe and seek shelter.

“Most hits were registered in the center and in the north of the country. In the capital, the situation is very difficult,” said a senior official, Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

He said a total of 15 energy targets were damaged and claimed 70 missiles were shot down. A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said Russia used X-101 and X-555 cruise missiles.

As city after city reported attacks, Tymoshenko urged Ukrainians to “hold on”.

As battlefield losses mount, Russia has increasingly resorted to attacking Ukraine’s power grid, seemingly hoping to turn the approaching winter into a weapon by leaving people out in the cold and dark.

In Kiev, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said authorities found a body in one of three residential buildings hit in the capital, where emergency power cuts were also announced by energy supplier DTEK.

Video published by a presidential aide showed a five-story, apparently residential building in Kiev on fire, with flames licking through apartments. Klitschko said air defense units also shot down some missiles.

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra went to a bomb shelter in Kiev after meeting his Ukrainian colleague and described the bombing from his safe place as “a huge motivation to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder” with Ukraine.

“There can only be one answer, and that is: Continue. Keep supporting Ukraine, keep supplying weapons, keep working on accountability, keep working on humanitarian aid,” he said.

Ukraine had enjoyed a period of relative calm since earlier waves of drone and missile attacks a few weeks ago.

The strikes came as authorities were already working furiously to get Kherson back on his feet and began investigating alleged Russian abuses there and in the surrounding area.

The southern city is without power and water, and the head of the UN Human Rights Office’s observation mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, spoke of a “serious humanitarian situation” there on Tuesday.

From Kiev, Bogner said her teams want to travel to Kherson to try and verify allegations of nearly 80 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention.

Ukraine’s national police chief Igor Klymenko said authorities are beginning to investigate reports from Kherson residents that Russian forces have set up at least three alleged torture grounds in now-liberated parts of the wider Kherson region and that “our people may have been detained and tortured there.”

The recapture of Kherson has dealt another heavy blow to the Kremlin. Zelenskyy compared the recapture to the Allied landings in France on D-Day in World War II, saying that both events marked a turning point on the road to final victory.

But large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine remain under Russian control and fighting continues.

Zelenskyy warned of potentially more grim news ahead.

“Everywhere, when we liberate our country, we see one thing: Russia leaves behind torture chambers and mass burials. … How many mass graves are there in the area still under Russian control?” asked Zelensky.

Read | Disable in multiple Ukrainian cities after Russia launches new airstrikes

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