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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Russia has used widely banned cluster munitions, Amnesty International says

An unexploded tail section of a rocket — which appears to contain cluster bombs — launched from a BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher, in Lysychansk on April 11, 2022.

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Kharkiv by indiscriminate Russian shelling using widely banned cluster munitions and inherently inaccurate rockets, Amnesty International said Monday. 

Amnesty said that it had found evidence of Russian forces repeatedly using 9N210/9N235 cluster munitions as well as “scatterable mines,” both of which are subject to international treaty bans because of their indiscriminate effects. 

The new report from the international human rights organization documents how Russian forces have caused widespread death and destruction by bombarding residential neighborhoods of Kharkiv since their invasion began in late February. 

It cites one attack on the afternoon of April 15 in which Russian forces fired cluster munitions in and around Myru Street, in the Industrialni neighborhood. “At least nine civilians were killed and more than 35 injured, including several children. Doctors at Kharkiv’s City Clinical Hospital 25 showed Amnesty International metal fragments they had removed from patients’ bodies, including the distinctive pieces of steel rods contained in 9N210/9N235 cluster munitions,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty notes that while Russia is not a party to either the Convention on Cluster Munitions or the Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines, international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks, and the use of weapons that are indiscriminate by nature. 

“Launching indiscriminate attacks resulting in death or injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects, constitutes war crimes,” Amnesty said. Russia has denied targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure, despite widespread evidence that it has done so.

Holly Ellyatt

River crossings pose a huge problem for Russia, UK says

This photograph taken on April 29, 2022 shows a destroyed railway bridge, over the Siverskyi Donets river, in Raygorodok, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

Russia needs to conduct difficult river crossings to achieve success in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine — and that’s unlikely to be easy, the U.K.’s ministry of defense said in its latest intelligence update on Monday.

Noting that the battle around Severodonetsk “continued to rage” over the weekend, the U.K. said on Twitter that “over the coming months, river crossing operations are likely to be among the most important determining factors in the course of the war.”

The key, 90 kilometer-long central section of Russia’s frontline in the Donbas lies to the west of the Siverskyi Donets river. To achieve success in the current operational phase of its Donbas offensive, “Russia is either going to have to complete ambitious flanking actions, or conduct assault river crossings,” the U.K. said.

Ukrainian forces have a strategy of demolishing bridges before they withdraw, while Russia has struggled to put in place the complex coordination necessary to conduct successful, large scale river crossings under fire, the U.K. noted.

Holly Ellyatt

Russians assault Severodonetsk in a battle ‘for every meter,’ Zelenskyy says

A damaged building is pictured in Lysychansk as black smoke and dirt rise from the nearby city of Severodonetsk during battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas on June 9, 2022.

Aris Messinis | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that fighting is severe in Severodonetsk, a city in the Luhansk province that has become the epicenter of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“The occupiers key tactical goal has not changed. They are pressing in Severodonetsk, severe fighting is going on there — literally every meter,” he said, adding that Russian forces are also pressing towards other cities including Lysychansk, Bakhmut and Sloviansk.

In his regular address to the nation, Zelenskyy added that the Russian army was trying to deploy reserve forces into the Donbas, the eastern Ukrainian region that Russia aims to seize and fully occupy. Russia characterizes its invasion as seeking to “liberate” the Donbas and two self-proclaimed pro-Russian “republics” there.

Zelenskyy said Russia would likely “try to throw into the battle poorly trained conscripts and those who were recruited by covert mobilization,” saying such troops were just “cannon fodder” for Russian generals.

Russian troops have been trying to encircle and seize Severodonetsk for some time. Losing the city would be a key blow for Ukraine as it is the last city in the Luhansk province still held by its forces.

The governor of Luhansk said Sunday that Russian forces had blown up bridges linking Severodonetsk with Lysychansk across the river, with the remaining bridge at critical risk of collapsing, cutting off a possible evacuation route for civilians.

Holly Ellyatt

Russian forces trying to push Ukrainian troops back from Kharkiv

A Ukrainian artilleryman loads a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher near Izyum, south of Kharkiv, on June 11, 2022 amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian forces are continuing their efforts to push Ukrainian troops back from contested frontlines northeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

In the latest military update from Ukraine’s armed forces, spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Shtupun said that Russian units continue to focus their efforts “on conducting positional defense” and preventing Ukrainian troops from advancing towards the border with Russia.

Ukraine’s forces said last month that they had pushed Russian soldiers back from the city of Kharkiv as far as the border, but Russia regrouped and renewed its assaults on the city and surrounding region several weeks ago.

Analysts at the Washington-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, issued an update on Sunday in which they also noted that Russian forces were likely continuing “to push Ukrainian forces back from contested frontlines in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast [province], and shelled Ukrainian positions in and around Kharkiv City.”

The direction of Russia’s attack on the Kharkiv area “indicates that Russian forces are continually trying to push Ukrainian forces southwest of the current line of contact to prevent further advances toward the Russian border,” it added.

Holly Ellyatt

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