- Biden warns Xi of ‘consequences’ if China aids Russia’s invasion.
- Russian military fires missiles at airport near western city of Lviv, shelling reported in Kyiv area.
- Ukrainian official says 130 people have been rescued from rubble of bombed theatre in strategic port city of Mariupol, but many more believed to remain in basement.
- Putin holds rally in Moscow, praises Russian troops as Ukraine fights back invasion.
- Famous for towing captured Russian tanks, Ukrainian farmers step up for war effort.
- What questions do you have about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to [email protected]
Russian forces pressed their assault on Ukrainian cities on Friday, with new missile strikes and shelling on the capital Kyiv and the outskirts of the western city of Lviv, as world leaders pushed for an investigation into the Kremlin’s repeated attacks on civilian targets, including schools, hospitals and residential areas.
Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on the Telegram messaging service that several missiles hit a facility used to repair military aircraft and damaged a bus repair facility. One person was reportedly killed in the Lviv attack. Satellite photos showed the strike destroyed a repair hangar and appeared to damage two other buildings.
The missiles that hit Lviv were launched from the Black Sea, but two of the six that were launched were shot down, the Ukrainian air force’s western command said on Facebook.
Not far from the Polish border and well behind the front lines, Lviv and the surrounding area have not been spared Russia’s attacks, the worst of which killed nearly three dozen people last weekend at a training facility near the city. Meanwhile, the city’s population has swelled by some 200,000 as people from elsewhere in Ukraine have sought shelter there.
Early morning barrages also hit a residential building in the Podil neighbourhood of Kyiv on Friday, killing at least one person, according to emergency services, who said 98 people were evacuated from the building. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 19 were wounded in the shelling.
“This is a war crime by Putin,” said Lyudmila Nikolaenko, visiting her son, who lived in one of the apartments hit. “They say they aren’t hitting regular people, they say we are firing at ourselves.”
Two others were killed when strikes hit residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Ukrainian officials also said a firefighter was killed when Russian forces shelled an area where firefighters were trying to put out a blaze in the village of Nataevka, in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Maj. Gen. Oleksandr Pavlyuk, who is leading the defence of the region around Ukraine’s capital, said his forces are well-positioned to defend the city and vowed to never give up. “We will fight until the end. To the last breath and to the last bullet.”
Meanwhile on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised tens of thousands of people waving Russian flags at a soccer stadium in Moscow that the “special operation” would succeed.
“We know what we need to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans,” Putin said.
Britain says Russia has a dangerous new strategy
British Chief of Defence Intelligence Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull warned that after failing to take major Ukrainian cities, Russian forces are shifting to a “strategy of attrition” that will entail “reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower,” resulting in higher civilian casualties and a worsening humanitarian crisis.
In city after city around Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety from the bombardment have been attacked.
Rescue workers continued to search for survivors in the ruins of a theatre that served as a shelter when it was blown apart Wednesday by a Russian airstrike in the besieged southern city of Mariupol. And in Merefa, near the northeast city of Kharkiv, at least 21 people were killed when Russian artillery destroyed a school and a community centre Thursday, a local official said.
Ukraine’s state emergency service said a multi-storey teaching building was shelled on Friday morning in Kharkiv, killing one person, wounding 11 and trapping one person in the rubble.
The United Nations migration agency estimated Friday that nearly 6.5 million people have now been displaced inside Ukraine. That’s on top of 3.2 million refugees who have already fled the country. The estimates come from the International Organization for Migration.
The UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday that at least 816 civilians had been killed and 1,333 wounded in Ukraine through to Thursday. Most of the casualties were from explosive weapons such as shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, as well as missile and air strikes, OHCHR said.
The real toll is thought to be considerably higher, since OHCHR, which has a large monitoring team in the country, has not yet been able to verify casualty reports from badly hit cities such as Mariupol.
Biden, Xi speak as war rages on
Two key figures in determining the course of a war half a world away, U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping, spoke on Friday as the White House looks to deter Beijing from providing military or economic assistance for Russia’s invasion.
Biden warned Xi there would be “consequences” if Beijing gave material support to Russia’s invasion, the White House said, while both sides stressed the need for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
In a video call that lasted just under two hours at a time of deepening acrimony between the world’s two biggest powers, Biden detailed the efforts of the United States and its allies to respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia.
China on Friday again sought to highlight its calls for negotiations and donations of humanitarian aid, while accusing the United States of provoking Russia and fuelling the conflict by shipping arms to Ukraine.
“China has called for every effort to avoid civilian casualties all the time,” Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing before the call. “Which do the civilians in Ukraine need more: food and sleeping bags or machine guns and artillery? It’s easy to answer.”
What’s the latest from the port city of Mariupol?
- Ukrainian officials said late Friday that the besieged southern port city of Mariupol lost its access to the Azov Sea, and Russian forces were still trying to storm the city. It was unclear whether they had seized it.
- Earlier, Russia’s defence ministry said it was “tightening the noose” around Mariupol and that fighting had reached the centre of the city. The mayor of Mariupol confirmed to the BBC that fighting had reached the city’s centre, where some 400,000 people have been trapped for over two weeks, sheltering from bombardment that has cut electricity, heating and water supply.
- Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said around 35,000 people had managed to leave the city in recent days, many on foot or in convoys of private cars, but near-constant shelling was preventing humanitarian aid from getting through.
- Nick Osychenko, the CEO of a Mariupol TV station, said that as he fled the city with six members of his family between the ages of 4 and 61, he saw dead bodies on nearly every block. “We were careful and didn’t want the children to see the bodies, so we tried to shield their eyes,” he said. “We were nervous the whole journey. It was frightening, just frightening.”
- Hundreds of civilians were said to have taken shelter in a grand, columned theatre Mariupol when it was hit on Wednesday by a Russian airstrike. Satellite imagery on Monday from Maxar Technologies showed huge white letters on the pavement outside the theatre spelling out “CHILDREN” in Russian — “DETI” — to alert warplanes to the vulnerable people hiding inside.
- Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova on Friday said 130 people had been rescued so far from the rubble of the theatre. In a televised address, Denisova said rescue work was ongoing at the site. She said information was limited, but there are believed to be “more than 1,300 people in these basements, in this bomb shelter.”
U.S. to examine potential war crimes
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that American officials were evaluating potential war crimes and that if the intentional targeting of civilians by Russia is confirmed, there will be “massive consequences.”
The United Nations political chief, undersecretary general Rosemary DiCarlo, also called for an investigation into civilian casualties, reminding the UN Security Council that international humanitarian law bans direct attacks on civilians.
She said many of the daily attacks battering Ukrainian cities “are reportedly indiscriminate” and involve the use of “explosive weapons with a wide impact area.” DiCarlo said the devastation in Mariupol and Kharkiv “raises grave fears about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing intensifying attacks.”
In remarks early Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was thankful to Biden for additional military aid, but he would not get into specifics about the new package, saying he did not want Russia to know what to expect.
Zelensky said when the invasion began on Feb. 24, Russia expected to find Ukraine much as it did in 2014, when Russia seized Crimea without a fight and backed separatists as they took control of the eastern Donbas region. Instead, he said, Ukraine had much stronger defences than expected, and Russia “didn’t know what we had for defence or how we prepared to meet the blow.”
Talks ongoing, but difficult
Kyiv and Moscow reported progress in talks this week toward a political formula that would guarantee Ukraine security protection outside of the NATO alliance. But Ukraine said the need for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops remained unchanged, and both sides accused each other on Friday of dragging out the talks.
Zelensky on Saturday called for more meaningful peace and security talks with Moscow, saying this was Russia’s only chance to limit the damage from its mistakes in the wake of its invasion.
“The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk,” he said in a video released in the early hours of Saturday in Ukraine.