Russia pummels Ukraine with airstrikes as battle for key city rages
Russian strikes targeting energy infrastructure were reported across Ukraine on Thursday, as fighting for control of the eastern city of Bakhmut raged on.
For months Russia has been pummeling key facilities in Ukraine with missiles and drones, disrupting water, heating and electricity supplies for millions of people, AFP reported.
There were strikes reported on the capital Kyiv, the city of Kharkiv in the northeast and the southwestern region of Odessa, leading to widespread power cuts.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said there had been “explosions” in the south of the city and about 15 percent of households were without power.
Ukrainian energy operator DTEK’s Kyiv division said that “due to an enemy attack, emergency power outages are in force”.
In the Kharkiv region, located on the border with Russia, governor Oleg Synegubov said there had been 15 strikes.
“The occupiers once again targeted critical infrastructure facilities,” he said on social media.
Synegubov added that information on victims and the scale of the damage was being “clarified”.
In the region’s main city of Kharkiv, mayor Igor Terekhov said “energy infrastructure” had been targeted and there were “problems” with electricity in some parts of the city.
In Odessa region, governor Maksym Marchenko said “missiles hit the energy infrastructure of the region as well as damaged residential buildings” following a “massive missile strike”.
“Fortunately, there were no casualties,” he said, adding that “power supply restrictions” were in place.
The wave of strikes comes after Russia reported making gains in the battle for the industrial city of Bakhmut, which has dragged on for months.
Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which has spearheaded the attack on Bakhmut, claimed on Wednesday to have captured the eastern part of the city.
“What we see is that Russia is throwing more troops, more forces and what Russia lacks in quality they try to make up in quantity,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Stockholm on the sidelines of an EU defense ministers meeting on Wednesday.
“We cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days,” the head of the US-led military alliance said, adding that “this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war”.
Ukrainian officials have warned that the fall of Bakhmut could lead to further Russian advances in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also on Wednesday hosted UN chief Antonio Guterres in Kyiv, who was on his third visit to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.
Guterres stressed the need to extend a deal that has allowed Ukraine to export its grain but is due to expire.
North Korea’s Kim calls for nuclear attack readiness against U.S., South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for the country to stand ready to conduct nuclear attacks at any time to deter war, accusing the U.S. and South Korea of expanding joint military drills involving American nuclear assets, state media KCNA said on Monday.
Kim’s remarks came as the isolated country conducted what KCNA called exercises aimed at bolstering its “war deterrence and nuclear counterattack capability” on Saturday and Sunday to send strong warnings against the allies, Reuters reported.
In the exercises, a ballistic missile equipped with a mock nuclear warhead flew 800 km (497 miles) before hitting a target at the altitude of 800 m (0.5 mile) under the scenario of a tactical nuclear attack, KCNA said.
Kim, who oversaw the test, said the exercises improved the military’s actual war capability and highlighted the need to ensure its readiness posture for any “immediate and overwhelming nuclear counterattack” through such drills.
“The present situation, in which the enemies are getting ever more pronounced in their moves for aggression against the DPRK, urgently requires the DPRK to bolster up its nuclear war deterrence exponentially,” KCNA quoted him as saying.
Kim was using the acronym of his country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, read the report.
“The nuclear force of the DPRK will strongly deter, control and manage the enemy’s reckless moves and provocations with its high war readiness, and carry out its important mission without hesitation in case of any unwanted situation,” he added.
KCNA photos showed Kim attended the test, again with his young daughter, as flames roar from the soaring missile before it hit the target.
South Korea and Japan reported a launch of a North Korean short-range ballistic missile off the east coast on Sunday, the latest in a series of missile tests in recent weeks.
North Korea has reacted furiously to South Korea-U.S. combined military drills, calling them a rehearsal for invasion against it, Reuters reported.
The allies have been carrying out a multitude of their annual exercises since earlier this month, including air and sea drills on Sunday involving U.S. B-1B strategic bombers.
The U.S. and South Korea navies and marine corps are set to kick off their first large-scale Ssangyong amphibious landing exercises in five years on Monday for a two-week run until April 3.
Last month, the two countries staged tabletop exercises simulating North Korea’s nuclear attack amid South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s push for more confidence in U.S. extended deterrence – its military capability, especially nuclear forces, to deter attacks on its allies, read the report.
In another dispatch, KCNA said more than 1.4 million North Koreans have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the military to fight against Seoul and Washington, up from some 800,000 reported by a state newspaper just two days before.
North Korea claims almost 800,000 have signed up to fight against US
North Korea claims that about 800,000 of its citizens volunteered to join or reenlist in the nation’s military to fight against the United States, North Korea’s state newspaper reported on Saturday.
About 800,000 students and workers, on Friday alone, across the country expressed a desire to enlist or reenlist in the military to counter the United States, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported.
“The soaring enthusiasm of young people to join the army is a demonstration of the unshakeable will of the younger generation to mercilessly wipe out the war maniacs making last-ditch efforts to eliminate our precious socialist country, and achieve the great cause of national reunification without fail and a clear manifestation of their ardent patriotism,” the North’s Rodong Sinmun said.
The North’s claim came after North Korea on Thursday launched its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in response to ongoing U.S-South Korea military drills.
North Korea fired the ICBM into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Thursday, hours before South Korea’s president flew to Tokyo for a summit that discussed ways to counter the nuclear-armed North, Reuters reported.
The North’s ballistic missiles are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions and the launch drew condemnation from governments in Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
South Korean and American forces began 11 days of joint drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23”, on Monday, held on a scale not seen since 2017 to counter the North’s growing threats, read the report.
Kim accused the United States and South Korea of increasing tensions with the military drills.
Magnitude 6.8 earthquake shakes Ecuador, at least 14 deaths reported
At least 14 people were killed in a strong earthquake that shook a coastal region of Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, causing structural damage to multiple homes, schools and medical centers, Reuters reported.
The quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8, struck at a depth of 66.4 km (41.3 miles) about 10 km (6.2 miles) from the city of Balao in the province of Guayas.
The earthquake did not appear likely to generate a tsunami, authorities said.
“We remain in the territory verifying the damage caused by the earthquake this morning. I want to confirm that I am with you and express my solidarity and commitment to the victims,” Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said in a tweet.
The presidency’s communication agency said the quake left 14 people dead, and more than 380 people were injured, largely in the El Oro province, read the report.
The agency said at least 44 homes were destroyed, while 90 more were damaged. Around 50 educational buildings and more than 30 health centers were also affected, while multiple roadways were blocked by landslides caused by the earthquake. The Santa Rosa airport suffered minor damage, but remained in operation.
Ecuador’s Secretariat of Risk Management said in an earlier statement that one death in Azuay province occurred when a wall collapsed on to a vehicle. In other provinces, structural damage included a collapsed wharf and a fallen wall in a supermarket.
State-run oil company Petroecuador had evacuated and suspended activities in multiple facilities out of precaution, but had not reported damage, the agency said.
“We all ran out into the streets… we were very scared,” Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna near the epicenter, told Reuters, adding that some homes had collapsed.
The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks in the following hour, according to the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.
Peruvian authorities said the quake was felt in the country’s northern region, but there were no immediate reports of harm to people or structures, Reuters reported.
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