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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Russia bombs five railway stations in central and western Ukraine | Ukraine

Five railway stations in central and western Ukraine were hit by Russian airstrikes in the space of one hour on Monday, as the war grinds on relentlessly in the south and east of the country.

Oleksander Kamyshin, the head of Ukrainian Railways, said five train stations came under fire causing an unspecified number of casualties, as most of Ukraine was placed under an unusually long air raid warning for two hours on Monday morning.

Kamyshin said one of the attacks took place at about 8.30am in Krasne, near Lviv in western Ukraine, at what the governor of the region described as a “traction substation” that handled power supply to other lines. He said emergency workers were at the scene.

Officials look at shards of twisted metal from a Russian rocket in undergrowth near a train line near Lviv
Officials look at shards of twisted metal from a Russian rocket in undergrowth near a train line near Lviv. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Maksym Kozytskyi, the head of the regional government in Lviv, said that during the attack Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems destroyed another missile fired at the region.

It is not the first time that Russia has launched an attack on train stations in Ukraine. On 8 April, in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, two ballistic missiles exploded over the railway station building, dropping deadly cluster munitions that killed 59 people and injured hundreds more.

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Russian missile strikes on an oil refinery and power plant in Kremenchuk killed one person and wounded seven, according to officials. Moscow said it had destroyed oil production facilities there. Serhiy Borzov, the governor of the Vinnytsia region in central Ukraine, said Moscow fired rockets at two towns causing an unspecified number of deaths and injuries.

Russian shelling and assaults continued on Monday along most of the front in the east, including missile and bomb attacks on a huge steelworks in Mariupol where 1,000 civilians are holed up along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.

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Serhiy Volyna, the commander of Ukraine’s 36th marine brigade forces in Mariupol, said in an interview with an opposition lawmaker posted on YouTube on Sunday that Russia was targeting the complex with air and artillery bombardments.

“We are taking casualties, the situation is critical … we have very many wounded men, [some] are dying, it’s a difficult [situation] with guns, ammunition, food, medicines … the situation is rapidly worsening,” Volyna said, speaking from his location at the plant.

Shards of twisted metal from a Russian rocket are in undergrowth near a train line near Lviv
Shards of twisted metal from a Russian rocket are in undergrowth near a train line near Lviv. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Meanwhile, in Kyiv, growing evidence of sexual violence is emerging from areas previously occupied by Russia’s forces.

The Russian defence ministry said in a statement on Monday it was opening a humanitarian corridor at 2pm (11am GMT) Monday for all civilians to leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

“The armed forces of the Russian Federation and the formations of the Donetsk people’s republic from 2pm Moscow time on 25 April 2022 unilaterally cease any hostilities, units are withdrawn to a safe distance and ensure the withdrawal of the specified category of citizens in any directions they choose,” the defence ministry said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page.

Ukrainian officials have said that up to 1,000 civilians are sheltering at the giant steel plant, and earlier blamed Russia for not holding fire during previous attempts to establish humanitarian routes out of the city.

The Russian defence ministry on Monday also repeated its claims that “nationalists” were holding civilians hostages as “human shields” at the Azovstal plant.

It said: “If civilians are still at the metallurgical plant, then we demand that the Kyiv authorities immediately give the appropriate order to the commanders of nationalist formations for their release.”

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, have returned to Poland after a visit to Kyiv, the highest-level US visit to the capital since Russia invaded in February.

During talks, Blinken and Austin told Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that the US would provide more than $300m (£235m) in military financing and had approved a $165m sale of ammunition, bringing total US security assistance since the invasion to about $3.7bn. More than $400m will also be split among 15 other nations in central and eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Russia told the US to stop sending arms to Ukraine, with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington warning that large western deliveries of weapons were inflaming the conflict and would lead to more losses.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, said such arms deliveries were aimed at weakening Russia but that they were escalating the conflict in Ukraine while undermining efforts to reach some sort of peace agreement.

“What the Americans are doing is pouring oil on the flames,” Antonov told the Rossiya 24 TV channel. “I see only an attempt to raise the stakes, to aggravate the situation, to see more losses.”

Antonov, who has served as ambassador to Washington since 2017, said an official diplomatic note had been sent to Washington expressing Russia’s concerns. No reply had been given, Antonov said.

“We stressed the unacceptability of this situation when the United States of America pours weapons into Ukraine, and we demanded an end to this practice,” Antonov said. The interview was replayed on Russian state television throughout Monday.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press contributed to this report

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