February 3, 2023

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Russia strikes Ukraine with missile strikes after Zelensky’s calls for peace

Suspension

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia answered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for peace in a speech to G20 leaders on Tuesday by firing missile barrages at cities across Ukraine, striking residential areas far from the front lines in one of its biggest strikes yet. Country.

the capital Kyiv; Kharkiv in the east. Lviv in the west was among at least six major cities to report strikes after sirens sounded across the country in the early afternoon, just hours after Zelensky, who spoke via video link, presented a 10-point peace plan to G20 leaders. At a summit in Bali, Indonesia.

At least one missile reportedly hit the town of Przywdo, Poland, just on the border with Ukraine, killing two people, according to a Polish official — a provocative strike, even if unintentional, on the territory of a NATO ally. The official said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called an emergency meeting of the country’s National Defense and Security Council on Tuesday night in response to the incident.

Mayors across Ukraine have taken to Twitter and Telegram to urge residents to take cover as successive waves of missile strikes are unleashed. People huddled in basements for hours as the strikes continued. After all, most of them appeared in complete darkness because the strikes had cut off the power supply to most of the country.

Ukrainian officials said critical energy infrastructure again appears to be the primary target, as was the case in a series of strikes last month. Zelensky told the nation in a video address that Tuesday’s barrage was much more severe. At least 85 rockets were fired, he said, making this the largest single attack since the invasion began on February 24.

Zelensky’s adviser Kirill Tymoshenko later tweeted that more than 90 missiles were launched, 70 of which were shot down by air defenses. Tymoshenko said 15 energy infrastructure targets were damaged, leading to power outages in most parts of the country.

Following the strikes, widespread power outages were reported in the neighboring country of Moldova. Ukraine and Moldova’s power grids have been connected, and officials said a major transmission line was automatically shut down as a safety measure.

An epidemic of missiles was to be expected. Ukraine was preparing to strike back after Russia pulled out of the southern city of Kherson, in the latest major battle setback in President Vladimir Putin’s failed war. By the surrender of Kherson, Russia lost control of the only provincial capital that its forces had managed to capture since the beginning of the invasion.

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Ukraine’s air force also warned over the weekend that Russia may be planning strikes to coincide with the G20 summit, which Putin refused to attend.

Ukrainian officials said the attack was evidence that Moscow is not interested in peace talks, despite public assurances in recent weeks that it was ready to negotiate a settlement.

Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andrei Yermak, wrote on Twitter: “Russia is responding to Zelensky’s strong speech at the G20 with a new missile strike.” Does anyone seriously believe that the Kremlin really wants peace? She wants obedience.

It was not immediately clear the exact extent of the damage. In Kyiv, at least one person was killed and two apartment buildings were set on fire, Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Twitter. It was not clear whether the damage was caused by a missile strike or parts of a missile that was intercepted by the air defenses.

A power plant was near one of the buildings that burned in Kyiv, and the mayor of Kharkiv, in the northeast, said parts of that city were without power after it hit the power infrastructure there. Lviv, near the Polish border, also reported damage to power supplies and blackouts.

Tymoshenko said many of Tuesday’s strikes were in the center and north of the country, areas that have been relatively unaffected by the war for most of the year.

Tymoshenko urged Ukrainians to conserve energy and warned against blackouts. “The situation in the capital is very difficult,” he said. “Use electricity sparingly and keep working! Terrorists will still be defeated.”

Witnesses recount arrests, torture and disappearances in occupied Kherson

Most of the missiles were launched from warplanes that flew over the Russian province of Rostov and the Caspian Sea, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. It added that 90 missiles were launched, and 73 missiles were shot down, along with 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones.

Condemnation poured in from Ukraine’s allies. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States remained committed to supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly condemned the attacks as “cruel” and “sickening” and said they showed weakness.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on November 15 asked the G20 to support a plan to end the war after Russia’s defeat in the southern city of Kherson. (Video: Reuters)

Zelensky’s ten conditions for a peace settlement included complete withdrawal of Russian forces from all occupied territories, restoration of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, reparations payment by Russia, release of all imprisoned and deported Ukrainian citizens, and accountability for war crimes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was left to defend Russia’s war at the G20 summit after Putin refused to attend, insisted on Tuesday that Russia was ready to negotiate with Ukraine to end the war, and accused Kyiv of avoiding peace talks. .

However, Russia still insists that Ukraine must accept the loss of illegally annexed territories.

In recent days, Russian propagandists have reiterated that Russia’s conditions for ending the war remain “denazification and demilitarization” of Ukraine, even as officials like Lavrov claim there are no preconditions for talks.

“If someone refuses, this is Ukraine, and the longer it refuses, the more difficult it will be to agree,” Lavrov told reporters, according to state media. He said Ukraine’s proposals were “unrealistic and insufficient”.

Ukraine’s main demand is that Russia withdraw its forces and restore Ukrainian control over its borders. In his speech, Zelensky said: “Russia must withdraw all its forces and armed formations from the territory of Ukraine.”

“Ukraine must regain control over all sections of our state border with Russia,” Zelensky said. This will lead to a real and complete cessation of hostilities. Every day of delay means new deaths for Ukrainians, new threats to the world, and an insane increase in losses due to continued Russian aggression.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed Kyiv, saying that “de facto and de jure Ukraine cannot and does not want to negotiate,” and therefore the war would continue.

Zelensky visits liberated Kherson, sees “the beginning of the end of the war”

Lavrov called Zelensky’s rhetoric “Russophobic and belligerent” and called on Western countries to “discipline” him – comments that emphasized Russia’s view of Ukraine as a non-state state lacking agency.

“We want to see concrete evidence that the West is seriously interested in disciplining Zelensky and explaining to him that this cannot continue, that this is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people,” Lavrov told reporters.

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The Kremlin said Putin decided not to attend the G-20 summit because of his schedule and “the need to be in the Russian Federation”, although Putin has traveled outside Russia since invading Ukraine, including the Uzbek city of Samarkand and the Iranian capital Tehran.

Instead of going to Bali, Putin met with a patriotic group, the Pobeda Organizing Committee, and accused Western countries of distorting history to weaken Russia and “create preconditions for new acts of aggression.”

Despite the Russian invasion, the Kremlin has repeatedly claimed that it is a victim of external aggression and insisted it had no choice but to attack.

On Tuesday, Putin also signed a decree naming two Ukrainian cities — Mariupol and Melitopol, under occupation in Russian territory that Russia illegally claims to have annexed — as Russia’s “Cities of Military Glory,” reaffirming Russia’s territorial grab once again.

Peskov also insisted that the city of Kherson remain the capital of the Kherson region and part of Russia.

While Tuesday’s missile attacks were part of the Kremlin’s ongoing strategy to undermine Ukraine’s infrastructure as winter approaches, they also appear aimed at proving that Russia can still do damage despite being repeatedly forced to back down on its military objectives.

Men of fighting age in Russia still hid out of fear of being sent to war

As Russia becomes increasingly isolated, Putin has crushed dissent, promoting militaristic nationalists and cracking down on activists, journalists and human rights defenders.

On Tuesday, he attacked traitors in Russia, accusing them of using “false national interests” to hide their betrayals.

Putin said that the country should “expose all attempts of this kind and show the truth – good or bad information, but objective, make sure of it once again, find it out and leave this truth for future generations.”

Peskov has ruled out paying compensation to Ukraine, describing it as an attempt to steal Russia’s foreign exchange and gold reserves, following a non-binding United Nations General Assembly vote on Monday that called for Russia to compensate Ukraine for war damage. “This decision is not legally binding; this is how we will deal with it,” Peskov said. “We are categorically against it.”

Dixon reports from Riga, Latvia. Paul Soon in Washington and Serhiy Morgunov in Kyiv contributed to this report.