Shelling damages cancer hospital as Zelenskyy says mayor of Melitopol kidnapped by Russian forces

Ukrainian officials accused Russia damaging a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv with shelling from heavy artillery.

he hospital’s head doctor, Maksim Beznosenko, said several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack but that no one was killed. The assault damaged the building and blew out windows.

Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Mykolaiv, located 470 kilometers (292 miles) south of Kyiv, in an attempt to encircle the city.

Ukrainian and Western officials earlier accused Russia of shelling a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Three people died in that attack.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia on Friday of kidnapping the mayor of the city of Melitopol, equating it to the actions of “ISIS terrorists.”

“They have transitioned into a new stage of terror, in which they try to physically liquidate representatives of Ukraine’s lawful local authorities,” Zelenskyy said in a video address Friday evening.

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Kirill Timoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, posted a video on the social media site Telegram which he said showed a group of armed men carrying the mayor, Ivan Fedorov, across a square.

Russian forces captured the southern port city of Melitopol, with a population of 150,000, on February 26.

The prosecutor’s office of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a Moscow-backed rebel region in eastern Ukraine, said on its website that there was a criminal case against Fedorov. The prosecutor’s office accused Fedorov of “terrorist activities” and of financing the nationalist militia Right Sector to “commit terrorist crimes against Donbass civilians.”

The office said it was looking for Fedorov and called for anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact them.

Authorities have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Mariupol, saying that 1,582 people had been killed in the 12 days since the siege began.

“There is a humanitarian catastrophe in the city and the dead aren’t even being buried,” Mariupol’s mayor’s office said in a statement Friday, calling for Russian forces to lift the siege.


A warehouse storing frozen products is seen on fire after shelling, in the village of Kvitneve in the Kyiv region (Photo: Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes and preventing civilians from escaping the city of 430,000 people.

Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday that technicians have started repairing damaged power lines at the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant in an effort to restore power supplies, the UN nuclear agency said.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities said that Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, was knocked off the power grid, with emergency generators supplying backup power.

The Ukrainian nuclear regulator said Friday that workers repaired one section of the lines, but there still appears to be damage in other places, the IAEA said. Repair efforts would continue despite “the difficult situation” outside the plant, which was taken by Russian forces early in the invasion, it said.

The Ukrainian regulator said additional fuel was delivered for generators, but it remains important to fix the power lines as soon as possible. The IAEA reiterated that the disconnection “will not have a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site.”


Nuclear reactor No 4 in Chernobyl, Ukraine

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog said that it still isn’t receiving data from monitoring systems installed to monitor nuclear material and activities at Chernobyl, but transmission from the Zaporizhzhia plant — Ukraine’s biggest, which Russian forces seized last week — has been restored after being lost earlier this week.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö spoke in a phone call Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine.

Niinistö’s office said in a statement that he informed Putin that he, earlier in the day, had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and that Zelenskyy was prepared to talk directly with Putin.

The statement said Niinistö called for an immediate ceasefire and the safe evacuation of civilians, but also spoke to Putin about the security of nuclear energy facilities in Ukraine.

Niinisto is one of the few Western leaders who has kept a regular dialogue with Putin ever since the Finnish leader took office in 2012.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has opened an online portal to gather evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, as he renewed his call to combatants to abide by the laws of war.


This multispectral satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows buildings and fuel storage tanks on fire at Antonov Airport, during the Russian invasion, in Hostomel, Ukraine, Friday, March 11, 2022. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies via AP)

Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a written statement Friday that he is “closely following the deeply troubling developments in hostilities.” There have been reports in recent days of Russian strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian towns and cities, including the deadly strike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol earlier this week.

Khan notes in a written statement that “if attacks are intentionally directed against the civilian population: that is a crime. If attacks are intentionally directed against civilian objects: that is a crime. I strongly urge parties to the conflict to avoid the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.” He says there is no legal justification or excuse “for attacks which are indiscriminate, or which are disproportionate in their effects on the civilian population.”

Khan also said that two more of the global court’s member states, Japan and North Macedonia, have formally requested him to investigate in Ukraine, bringing the number of so-called state party referrals to 41.

The information will bolster evidence gathered by an investigative team Khan sent to the region last week to begin gathering evidence.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine is an ICC member state, but Kyiv has recognized the court’s jurisdiction, allowing Khan to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is underlining the importance of keeping in contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but is stressing that “we will not make decisions for the Ukrainians.”


Local residents cook food outside a residential building which was damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled town of Volnovakha in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, who has spoken frequently with the Russian leader, together spoke to Putin on Thursday. After a European Union summit on Friday, Scholz said “it is absolutely necessary that we do not let the thread of talks break.”

The Elysee said Friday that Macron and Scholz would speak again with Putin on Saturday.

Scholz stressed that he and Macron are consulting closely among themselves and with the Ukrainian leadership — and that a cease-fire is the top priority. Scholz said it’s good that there are talks, but they shouldn’t just drag on while “weapons every day destroy people’s lives, buildings, infrastructure and dreams.”

The chancellor said that there is “one very clear principle: we will not make decisions for the Ukrainians. They must know themselves what from their point of view is the right thing for their country in this threatening situation.”

Prague City Hall has started readying temporary accommodation for a surge in refugees from Ukraine after the Czech capital ran out of housing options for them.

The government estimates that up to 200,000 refugees — 55pc of them children — have arrived in the Czech Republic, a European Union and NATO member that doesn’t border Ukraine. About 25pc of the refugees entering the country have gone to Prague.

Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib has asked the heads of 22 city districts to prepare at least 100 beds each in school gyms and also provide food for the refugees there.

Hrib compared the current situation in Prague to Germany facing the waves of refugees during a European migrant crisis in 2015-16.

“The difference is that Germany had months to react, we have just days,” Hrib said. “The demand for accommodation in Prague is enormous and by far surpasses what we can offer.”


Local residents and service members of pro-Russian troops in uniforms without insignia walk past a residential building which was damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled town of Volnovakha in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

US soldiers are continuing to deploy to Europe, joining thousands already sent overseas to support NATO allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

About 130 soldiers from the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade gathered Friday at Hunter Airfield in Savannah, Georgia and departed on a chartered flight.

The soldiers are in addition to the estimated 3,800 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division who deployed recently from nearby Fort Stewart.

A division commander said that soldiers are being told to prepare for about six months overseas. The Pentagon has ordered roughly 12,000 total service members from various US bases to Europe.

The soldiers’ mission is to train alongside military units of NATO allies in a display of force aimed at deterring further aggression by Russia. The Pentagon has stressed US forces are not being deployed to fight in Ukraine.

YouTube announced Friday that it has begun blocking access globally to channels associated with Russian state-funded media. It had previously blocked them — specifically RT and Sputnik — across Europe.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, announced the move in a Twitter post and said that while the change is effective immediately, “we expect our systems to take time to ramp up.”

YouTube also said it was now removing content about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that violates its policy that “minimizes or trivializes well-documented violent events.” The Kremlin refers to the invasion as a “special military operation” and not a war.

YouTube previously paused YouTube ads in Russia. Now, it is extending that to all the ways it makes money on the platform in Russia.

Ukraine’s digital transformation minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, predicted in his Telegram channel that the Kremlin would soon move to block YouTube in Russia. “It’s a question of time.”

Russia’s communications and media regulator says it’s restricting national access to Instagram because the platform is spreading “calls to commit violent acts against Russian citizens, including military personnel.”

The regulator, called Roskomnadzor, took the step Friday as Russia presses ahead with its invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier on Friday, Meta, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement tweeted by its spokesman Andy Stone that it had “made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules on violent speech, such as ‘death to the Russian invaders’.”

The statement stressed that the company “still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.” Shelling damages cancer hospital as Zelenskyy says mayor of Melitopol kidnapped by Russian forces

Fry Electronics Team

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