Sunday 2, April 2023

US asks Putin to acknowledge war reality

Time International Desk: The United States on Friday derisively called on Russian president Vladimir Putin to acknowledge reality and pull troops from Ukraine after he finally called the conflict a ‘war.’

Since Putin ordered the invasion in February, Russia has officially spoken of a ‘special military operation’ and imposed a law that criminalizes what authorities call misleading terminology.

But at a news conference on Thursday, Putin himself used the word ‘war’ as he said that he hoped to end it as soon as possible.

‘Since February 24, the United States and rest of the world knew that Putin’s ‘special military operation’ was an unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine. Finally, after 300 days, Putin called the war what it is,’ a State Department spokesperson said.

‘As a next step in acknowledging reality, we urge him to end this war by withdrawing his forces from Ukraine.’

The State Department said that, whatever Putin’s terminology, ‘Russia’s aggression against its sovereign neighbor has resulted in death, destruction and displacement.’

‘The people of Ukraine no doubt find little consolation in Putin stating the obvious, nor do the tens of thousands of Russian families whose relatives have been killed fighting Putin’s war.’

A Russian court earlier this month sentenced an opposition politician, Ilya Yashin, to eight and a half years in prison under the new law over his ‘false information’ about the war.

Yashin had spoken of a ‘massacre’ in Bucha, the town near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv where the bullet-ridden bodies of Ukrainians in civilian clothes with hands tied behind their backs were discovered after Russian forces retreated.

An opposition lawmaker critical of the invasion, Nikita Yuferev, on Friday said he was seeking legal action against Putin for spreading ‘fake news’ over his ‘war’ reference.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday blasted Russian ‘terror’ after shelling on Christmas Eve left at least eight dead and 17 injured in Kherson city, which Kyiv’s forces recaptured in November.

Despite Russia’s retreat from the southern port city, Kherson remains within reach of Moscow’s weaponry and under constant threat.

‘Kherson. In the morning, on Saturday, on the eve of Christmas, in the central part of the city,’ Zelensky said on Telegram, publishing images of the attack and calling it ‘killing for the sake of intimidation and pleasure.’

‘It is the real life of Ukraine, the world must see and understand what absolute evil we are fighting against,’ Zelensky said.

On the day marking 10 months since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, a string of shelling rained down around a busy market, where a fire erupted.

AFP journalists at the scene saw several bodies lying on the ground in the street, including a man killed in his car.

Another man, whose car had been blown up, had severe head injuries.

‘At least eight civilians were killed and 17 were injured,’ the Kherson region’s prosecutor’s office said on social media.

‘Several people were hospitalised with serious injuries,’ it added.

Cars also caught fire in a residential area of the city after shelling, the emergency services said.

The fires were put out after 40 minutes but the number of dead and injured was still being ‘established’, they said on Telegram.

Russian president Vladimir Putin in September announced the annexation of four regions in the east and south of Ukraine, including Kherson, after Moscow proxies held referendums there denounced as a sham by Kyiv and the West.

His troops never fully controlled any of the territories and last month were forced to retreat from the Kherson region after a months-long Ukrainian counteroffensive.

But Kherson has been regularly bombarded ever since, with a heavy toll on civilians and the power supply to the city.

On Friday alone the Kherson region was targeted by 74 Russian strikes, leaving five dead and 17 injured, according to regional authorities

On December 15, Russian shelling killed two people including a Red Cross worker in Kherson and completely cut electricity as temperatures plunged below freezing.

Much of Ukraine is struggling without heat or power after Moscow started targeting electricity and water systems nearly two months ago.

The UN’s human rights chief has warned the campaign has inflicted ‘extreme hardship’ on Ukrainians this winter, and also decried likely war crimes by Russian forces.

Zelensky visited the White House this week to meet with US President Joe Biden and argue for a $44.9 billion emergency military and economic aid package for Ukraine.

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