Russian rockets hit Kharkiv as gas flows to Europe resume

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Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) – Russian artillery struck Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Thursday after Moscow announced it was expanding its wartime targets, even as Russian gas flows to Europe resumed via the Nord Stream pipeline .

The attacks on the eastern city – marred by weeks of Russian bombardment – came after the end of 10 days of planned works on the Nord Stream gas pipeline which had raised fears of a permanent cut.

The Kharkiv regional governor said two people were killed and 19 injured, four of them in serious condition.

Three people were killed in strikes a day earlier in Kharkiv, where a semblance of normal life had returned in recent weeks after Ukrainian forces pushed Russian troops from the city limits.

“We ask the people of Kharkiv to be extremely careful. The enemy is firing chaotically and brutally on the city. Stay in the shelters!” the governor, Oleg Synegubov, wrote on social media.

Presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said there was also damage to a mosque in Kharkiv, accusing Russia of “contempt” after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran this week.

In Kramatorsk, in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting, a school which Ukrainian officials say served as a storage point for food aid, was also destroyed. hit.

The school’s deputy principal, Olena Shmadchenko, 56, looked at the destroyed building in despair.

Russia resumes gas supply to Europe via Nord Stream 1 Patricio ARANAAFP

“I have worked at this school for 16 years. It was my house! she told AFP.

25% devaluation

Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24 and the war has claimed thousands of lives, forced millions to flee their homes and wreaked havoc on the economy.

The central bank announced on Thursday that it was devaluing Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, by 25%.

“The new hryvnia rate will become an anchor for the economy and add its resilience in conditions of uncertainty,” the bank said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the resumption of gas supplies from Russia to Europe via Germany came a day after Europe unveiled emergency measures to circumvent Russian energy “blackmail”.

In its latest set of sanctions on Wednesday, the European Union targeted gold exports and froze the assets of Russia’s biggest bank Sberbank.

The German government feared Moscow would not reopen the Nord Stream gas pipeline taps after Russia severely curbed flows in recent months in retaliation for sanctions.

A relative kneels by the body of a teenager who died in a Russian missile strike at a bus stop in Kharkiv
A relative kneels by the body of a teenager who died in a Russian missile strike at a bus stop in Kharkiv SERGEY BOBOK AFP

“It works,” a Nord Stream spokesman said Thursday, without specifying the amount of gas delivered.

“Different” war aims for Russia

Western powers have stepped up arms deliveries to Ukraine, but President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for more and faster deliveries.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that Washington would send four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars), which have significantly boosted Kyiv’s capabilities.

“Ukraine needs the firepower and ammunition to withstand this barrage and fight back,” Austin told reporters, adding that the new shipment would bring the total number of US Himars sent to Kyiv to 16.

Russia has warned against arms deliveries and said it will no longer focus solely on controlling the eastern Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, which are partially controlled by pro-rebels. Moscow for years.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have struck civilian targets in towns and villages far from the front line, killing dozens of civilians.

The conflict has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes with neighboring Poland among the most popular destinations
The conflict has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes with neighboring Poland among the most popular destinations Alik KEPLICZAFP

Four months in a refugee center

In a moving speech to the US Congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska described the suffering of millions of Ukrainian parents and children and asked Washington for air defense systems to fend off Russian missiles.

Zelenska showed images of children killed or maimed by Russia, including a four-year-old killed by a strike in the town of Vinnytsia.

Photos of her blood-stained pink stroller and footage of her final moments have gone viral on social media.

“Help us put an end to this terror against Ukrainians,” Zelenska said.

Refugees who fled Ukraine in the first weeks of the war found themselves in uncertainty.

“All I hope for now is to go home… or be relocated somewhere in Poland,” said Olena Polonitska, who has been living at the center for four months with her 11-year-old son. Kyril.

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