January 26, 2016
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Officials fear the death toll will continue to climb after two Russian missiles hit the Armstor shopping center in the central Ukrainian city of Kramenchuk. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, more than 1,000 people were inside the mall Monday at the time of the attack.
For the moment, the death toll is at 18 with 36 people missing and at least 59 injured, reported a regional official on Tuesday. The search and rescue operations continue under the rubble.
According to Ukrainian officials, the mall was hit by a Russian KH-22 missile. The KH-22 can carry an explosive warhead weighing up to 1 ton (2,240 pounds).
"The dismantling of damaged building structures is ongoing with the help of heavy engineering equipment and small machines," reported Dmytro Lunin, head of the Poltava region military administration."More than a thousand people worked all night — rescuers, police, medics and volunteers," he said.
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During a video address posted on Monday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the attack on the mall in the city of Kremenchuk “one of the most daring terrorist acts in European history.”
He added, “only wholly reckless terrorists, who have no place on earth, can strike missiles at such an object.” The Ukrainian president said doctors had been dispatched from Kyiv to help treat the wounded and sent his condolences to the families of those who had died.
On Telegram, alongside a video, Zelensky said the site had “no danger to the Russian army. No strategic value. Only the attempt of people to live a normal life.”
\u201c#G7 Leaders Statement: We solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in #Kremenchuk. We will not rest until Russia ends its cruel and senseless war on Ukraine. #G7GER\u201d— G7 GER (@G7 GER) 1656362293
Already gathered together in Germany, G7 leaders condemned the attack in a joint statement on Monday evening: “We, the Leaders of the G7, solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk.”
In a tweet, U.S. President Joe Biden wrote,“Russia’s attack on civilians at a shopping mall is cruel. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. As demonstrated at the G7 Summit, the U.S. along with our allies and partners will continue to hold Russia accountable for such atrocities and support Ukraine’s defense.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “this appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink," according to UK’s PA Media. "Once again our thoughts are with the families of innocent victims in Ukraine. Putin must realize that his behavior will do nothing but strengthen the resolve of the Ukraine and every other G7 country to stand by the Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the British Prime Minister added.
French President Emmanuel Macron also condemned the missile strike. In a tweet, where he posted a video of the attack in Kremenchuk, Macron said the Russian people must “see the truth,” as for most Russians, television is firmly controlled by the Kremlin and spreads war propaganda.
Mall destroyed by Russian missiles
Russia’s ministry of defense has claimed that the fire in the shopping mall in Kremenchuk was caused by “the detonation of stored ammunition for western weapons,” without citing any evidence. In its daily operation briefing, the ministry said: “As a result of a high-precision strike, the detonation of stored ammunition for western weapons caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping center located next to the plant.”
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain sympathy ahead of the Madrid NATO summit. "One should wait for what our Ministry of Defense will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already," Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.
G7 summit at Elmau Castle 2022
Vladimir Putin and Ukraine were top of world leaders’ agenda on the final day of the G7 summit in Germany, as the stage shifted to Madrid for the upcoming NATO gathering.
In the latest attempt to mitigate the effects of Russia’s invasion,G7 leaders announced $5 billion to shore up global food security. Half of the promised funds will come from the United States. The move comes as the White House warned that Russia’s war will push 40 million people into poverty in 2022.
World leaders will have no break as they head straight to Madrid for a NATO summit. The meeting takes place against the backdrop of a strong warning from Dmitry Medvedev. The former Russian President warned that any encroachment by NATO into Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, would be the start of World War III. "For us, Crimea is a part of Russia. And that means forever. Any attempt to encroach on Crimea is a declaration of war against our country,"Medvedev said.
Meanwhile, the E.U. announced it will supply Ukraine with $12 million worth of equipment to protect against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) attacks.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in front of tanks
Belarus has been conducting military exercises on the border with Ukraine since early June, writes Ukrainian newspaper Novoye Vremya. The Belarusian authorities announced on June 22 that they had been conducting "mobilization exercises" near the border with Ukraine, which should last until July 1.
Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, said that Belarus was placing wooden models of tanks in areas close to Ukraine and was continuing to check the combat readiness of its armed forces. Belarusian activist Anton Motolko reported that the military was also digging trenches near the borders with Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania.
However, it remains to be seen whether Belarusians have an appetite for war. A poll by Chatham House among the urban population shows that only 3% of Belarusians are ready to support the participation of their country’s army in the war against Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been ambivalent about joining the war as it risks stoking internal resistance.
However, Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, is still making monthly visits to Moscow, warning about the threats that Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania pose to Russia and Belarus. Putin has been piling pressure on Lukashenko to enter the war, but Ukrainian officials have seemed less worried about a possible Belarusian invasion.
Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.
Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.
Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.
Then there is Mariupol, under siege and symbol of Putin’s cruelty. In the largest city on the Azov Sea, with a population of half a million people, Ukrainians make up slightly less than half of the city's population, and Mariupol's second-largest national ethnicity is Russians. As of 2001, when the last census was conducted, 89.5% of the city's population identified Russian as their mother tongue.
Between 2018 and 2019, I spent several months in Mariupol. It is a rugged but beautiful city dotted with Soviet-era architecture, featuring wide avenues and hillside parks, and an extensive industrial zone stretching along the shoreline. There was a vibrant youth culture and art scene, with students developing projects to turn their city into a regional cultural center with an international photography festival.
There were also many offices of international NGOs and human rights organizations, a consequence of the fact that Mariupol was the last major city before entering the occupied zone of Donbas. Many natives of the contested regions of Luhansk and Donetsk had moved there, taking jobs in restaurants and hospitals. I had fond memories of the welcoming from locals who were quicker to smile than in some other parts of Ukraine. All of this is gone.
Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
According to the latest data from the local authorities, 80% of the port city has been destroyed by Russian bombs, artillery fire and missile attacks, with particularly egregious targeting of civilians, including a maternity hospital, a theater where more than 1,000 people had taken shelter and a school where some 400 others were hiding.
The official civilian death toll of Mariupol is estimated at more than 3,000. There are no language or ethnic-based statistics of the victims, but it’s likely the majority were Russian speakers.
So let’s be clear, Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
Putin’s Public Enemy No. 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a mother-tongue Russian speaker who’d made a successful acting and comedy career in Russian-language broadcasting, having extensively toured Russian cities for years.
Rescuers carry a person injured during a shelling by Russian troops of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine.
Yes, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and a 2019 law aimed to ensure that it is used in public discourse, but no one has ever sought to abolish the Russian language in everyday life. In none of the cities that are now being bombed by the Russian army to supposedly liberate them has the Russian language been suppressed or have the Russian-speaking population been discriminated against.
Sociologist Mikhail Mishchenko explains that studies have found that the vast majority of Ukrainians don’t consider language a political issue. For reasons of history, culture and the similarities of the two languages, Ukraine is effectively a bilingual nation.
"The overwhelming majority of the population speaks both languages, Russian and Ukrainian,” Mishchenko explains. “Those who say they understand Russian poorly and have difficulty communicating in it are just over 4% percent. Approximately the same number of people say the same about Ukrainian.”
In general, there is no problem of communication and understanding. Often there will be conversations where one person speaks Ukrainian, and the other responds in Russian. Geographically, the Russian language is more dominant in the eastern and central parts of Ukraine, and Ukrainian in the west.
Like most central Ukrainians I am perfectly bilingual: for me, Ukrainian and Russian are both native languages that I have used since childhood in Kyiv. My generation grew up on Russian rock, post-Soviet cinema, and translations of foreign literature into Russian. I communicate in Russian with my sister, and with my mother and daughter in Ukrainian. I write professionally in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English, and can also speak Polish, French, and a bit Japanese. My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
At the same time, I am not Russian — nor British or Polish. I am Ukrainian. Ours is a nation with a long history and culture of its own, which has always included a multi-ethnic population: Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Greeks. We all, they all, have found our place on Ukrainian soil. We speak different languages, pray in different churches, we have different traditions, clothes, and cuisine.
My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
Like in other countries, these differences have been the source of conflict in our past. But it is who we are and will always be, and real progress has been made over the past three decades to embrace our multitudes. Our Jewish, Russian-speaking president is the most visible proof of that — and is in fact part of what our soldiers are fighting for.
Many in Moscow were convinced that Russian troops would be welcomed in Ukraine as liberating heroes by Russian speakers. Instead, young soldiers are forced to shoot at people who scream in their native language.
Starving people ina street of Kharkiv in 1933, during the famine
Putin has tried to rally the troops by warning that in Ukraine a “genocide” of ethnic Russians is being carried out by a government that must be “de-nazified.”
These are, of course, words with specific definitions that carry the full weight of history. The Ukrainian people know what genocide is not from books. In my hometown of Kyiv, German soldiers massacred Jews en masse. My grandfather survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated by the U.S. army. My great-grandmother, who died at the age of 95, survived the 1932-33 famine when the Red Army carried out the genocide of the Ukrainian middle class, and her sister disappeared in the camps of Siberia, convicted for defying rationing to try to feed her children during the famine.
On Tuesday, came a notable report of one of the latest civilian deaths in the besieged Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv: a 96-year-old had been killed when shelling hit his apartment building. The victim’s name was Boris Romanchenko; he had survived Buchenwald and two other Nazi concentration camps during World War II. As President Zelensky noted: Hitler didn’t manage to kill him, but Putin did.
Genocide has returned to Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Kherson to Mariupol, as Vladimir Putin had warned. But it is his own genocide against the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.