September 27, 2022

At least 140,000 residential buildings in Ukraine were destroyed or damaged. More than 3.5 million people were left homeless. More than 12 million displaced. New tallies were added Tuesday to the merciless tally of casualties from the Russian invasion.

Every day, the bloodshed, dislocation and destruction increase. Two civilians were killed and five others were seriously injured trying to flee Russian-controlled territory in the southern Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday. The administrator of the neighboring Kryvyi Rih region said Russian forces shot at their red minibus at “point blank range”.

In the east, the focus of recent Russian attacks, an emergency evacuation train carrying “women, children, the elderly, many people with reduced mobility” arrived Tuesday morning in a safer area in the west, Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister, said in an announcement.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked some 200,000 civilians in the east to evacuate already deserted areas near the front lines, where Russian artillery has flattened entire towns. Those who stay are disproportionately the elderly, the disabled, Russian sympathizers or the simply stubborn. Most already lack basic infrastructure such as electricity, heating and clean water.

If they wait until cold weather sets in this fall, Ms. Vereshchuk said — by which time Russia may have resumed major offensive operations — there will be little the government in Kyiv can do for them.

A month after seizing full control of Luhansk region, Ukraine’s easternmost region, President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russian forces are regrouping for an expected push to seize what they don’t already hold in neighboring Donetsk region. But the battle never fully gives up, and every day the Russians continue to pound targets across the country.

The Ukrainian military said on Tuesday it had repelled multiple attempts by Russians to advance on the town of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region. In the south, Ukrainian forces have pushed back the Russians and are expected to make a major push to retake the strategic city of Kherson.

President Biden on Monday announced $550 million in more weapons for Ukraine, bringing to more than $8 billion the US investment in the war effort since Russia’s February 24 invasion. The arrival of advanced long-range artillery from the United States and its allies has helped the Ukrainians stabilize their defensive positions in the east and begin mounting a counteroffensive in the south.

The latest U.S. arms shipment will include ammunition for the HIMARS rocket launchers that have been used to destroy Russian command posts and ammunition depots, as well as for U.S. 155mm howitzers already in use by Ukrainian troops, said John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

“The power of the democratic world is being felt on the battlefield in Ukraine this week,” Mr Zelensky said in his overnight address to the nation.

But Ukraine’s determination to defend itself comes at a terrifying cost that numbers can only begin to describe. The country does not release public counts of military casualties, and civilian casualties in areas engulfed by Russia are speculative at best, but tens of thousands of Ukrainians are estimated to have been killed, with many more injured.

The Kremlin insists it is only hitting military targets, a claim belied by images of destroyed apartment buildings, homes, schools, farms, hospitals and shops. Ukraine’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that at least 140,000 residential buildings had been destroyed or damaged, leaving more than 3.5 million people homeless.

The UN refugee agency said the number of people who have fled Ukraine since February 24 has exceeded 10 million, although many have returned later. The United Nations now counts about 6.2 million Ukrainians as refugees who have moved elsewhere in Europe during the war, and 6.3 million as “internally displaced”, people who have left the fighting but remain inside Ukraine – by far the biggest migration crisis in Europe since the aftermath of World War II .

This means that at least 30 percent of the country’s estimated pre-war population of 41 million have been forced from their homes.

The US State Department on Tuesday announced a major new round of sanctions, including economic and travel restrictions, targeting Russian companies, institutions and individuals with ties to the Kremlin or its war effort. The list includes several billionaire business tycoons, as well as Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast and member of the Russian Duma who is widely described as Mr Putin’s romantic partner.

In the United States, lawmakers have pressed the Biden administration to label Russia a state sponsor of terror, a designation that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has so far resisted. On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that it could respond to such a move by cutting direct ties with Washington, along with taking unspecified other measures.

“A logical outcome of this irresponsible step could be the severance of diplomatic relations, after which Washington runs the risk of crossing the point of no return with all the ensuing consequences,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the ministry.

Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, a group with far-right roots, is a terrorist organization, which could pave the way for captured soldiers to face criminal terrorism charges instead of being treated as prisoners of war. Many of the troops who made a last stand in Mariupol, engaged Russian forces and lived for almost three months in warehouses under the sprawling Azovstal steel plant complex before surrendering, were from this regiment.

Under an agreement reached with Turkey and the United Nations, Russia has agreed to allow such vessels, subject to inspection, to pass through its naval blockade to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Turkish officials said the first ship, the Razoni, would be inspected on Wednesday morning near the entrance to the Bosphorus before continuing to its destination, the port of Tripoli in Lebanon.

More than 20 million tonnes of food have been stuck in Ukrainian ports for more than five months, and the backlog is growing as more is harvested – even as shortages and rising prices lead to growing global hunger. Aid groups welcomed the prospect of the grain being released, but said much more needed to be done to prevent famine in areas affected by drought and global warming.

The report was made by Michael Crowley and Matina Stevis-Grindnev.

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