Ukraine war: Russian forces take Kherson as Zelenskyy praises Ukrainians’ courage

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A member of the civil defense takes a shooting position as a vehicle approaches the checkpoint in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv

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The number of people sent fleeing Ukraine by Russia’s invasion topped one million, the swiftest refugee exodus this century, the United Nations said.

Russian forces have entered Kherson in the south and are attacking cities along the Azov Sea including Mariupol. Heavy bombardment of urban areas including the capital Kyiv continued early on Thursday. Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv was bombarded again overnight.

President Zelenskyy has praised Ukrainians for their courage in an upbeat assessment of the war. Claiming the fighting is taking a toll on the morale of Russian soldiers, he said: “These are confused children who have been used.”

Follow our live blog below for the latest updates:

06:28

Thursday’s key points: 

    Russian forces are reported to have taken control of their first major city, Kherson in the south. The mayor said late on Wednesday there were “no Ukrainian armed forces in the city”.Mariupol on the Azov Sea has also witnessed intense shelling, with hundreds feared dead. If the city falls to Moscow troops, that would create a land bridge between Crimea and the rebel territories in the Donbas.The Russian army has been bombing Kyiv but its long military convoy remains outside the capital. Authorities in Kharkiv said the city was bombarded all night. In new videos, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised Ukrainian resistance for “destroying the enemy’s plans”. He vowed to rebuild “every house, every street, every city” and make Russia pay for the damage.Russia’s foreign minister has said Moscow will continue with its military operation “to the end”.The second round of Ukrainian-Russian talks is scheduled to take place near the Belarusian border on Thursday.Latest UN figures say one million refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries since the invasion began. The UN’s refugee agency describes it as an “exodus”.The International Criminal Court has said it will “immediately proceed” with an investigation into potential war crimes and crimes against humanity, after receiving referrals from 39 countries.Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from the Winter Paralympic Games for their countries’ roles in the war in Ukraine — a reversal of the earlier decision made on Wednesday.

13:14Ukraine’s president has vowed that Russia will pay for the damage its military has inflicted on Ukraine, in a new video address on Thursday.”We will restore every house, every street, every city and we say to Russia: learn the word of reparations and contributions. You will reimburse us for everything you did against our state, against every Ukrainian, in full. And we will not forget everyone who died,” he said. In an earlier video, Zelenskyy praised the courage of Ukrainians for standing up to Russian aggression and “destroying the enemy’s plans”. He claimed that Russian morale was “deteriorating” and called for the resistance to be kept up.12:59

‘For the love of God, protect civilians’ in Ukraine — UN

The UN’s emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths on Thursday pleaded for humanitarians to be allowed to work unhindered in Ukraine, adding in an interview with AFP that “we have the resources”.He added that thanks to donors’ generosity, the UN had collected $1.5 billion (€1.35 billion) raised for urgent aid in two days, almost reaching its appeal total of $1.7 billion (€1.5 billion).Griffiths said he was worried that the violence was becoming “more intense” and that fighting was concentrated in urban areas.The fact that there were attacks on civilian infrastructure meant there were probably violations of international humanitarian law, he said.

12:46

Macron in another 90-minute phone call with Putin, says Elysée

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke again on Thursday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, before also calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Elysée has said.
The exchange with the Russian president, which lasted  an hour and a half according to the presidency, is the third between the two men since the start of the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine a week ago.12:21

Lavrov says Moscow cannot tolerate ‘military threat’ from Ukraine

Russia’s foreign minister has said he believes some foreign leaders are preparing for war against Russia, insisting Moscow will continue its military operation in Ukraine until “the end”.Thoughts of nuclear war were “constantly spinning in the heads of Western politicians,” Sergei Lavrov said in a defiant performance during an online news conference.He went on to say Moscow was ready for peace talks but could not tolerate what he said was a military threat from Ukraine.He voiced regret for civilian casualties but insisted Russian troops had strict orders to use high-precision weapons to destroy military infrastructure. In fact, there is increasing evidence on the ground that civilians have been targeted amid the overwhelming Russian destruction and international prosecutors have opened an investigation for war crimes.Once again he alleged Russia was seeking to root out “Nazism” which he said was flourishing in Ukraine, without offering any evidence. In fact, Ukraine’s president is an ethnic Jew and the country had increasingly been becoming a Western-style democracy until Putin’s brutal invasion of the past week.11:37

11:16

France seizes yacht linked to Rosneft boss

The French government says it has seized a yacht, owned by a company linked to Igor Setchine, boss of the Russian oil group Rosneft, in a shipyard at La Ciotat in the south of France.
“French customs seized the Amore Vero yacht in La Ciotat, as part of the implementation of European Union sanctions against Russia,” the French finance ministry said in a news release.This yacht is “owned by a company of which Igor Setchin, director of Rosneft, has been identified as the main shareholder,” the ministry adds.11:00

China rejects allegations of asking Russia to delay invasion until Olympic Games end

China on Thursday denounced a report that it asked Russia to delay invading Ukraine until after the Beijing Winter Olympics as “fake news” and a “very despicable” attempt to divert attention and shift blame over the conflict.

“We hope the culprit of the crisis would reflect on their role in the Ukraine crisis, take up their responsibilities, and take practical actions to ease the situation and solve the problem instead of blaming others,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters at a daily briefing.

Wang also repeated China’s accusations that Washington provoked the war by not ruling out NATO membership for Ukraine.

The report, cited in a New York Times article, was considered credible by Western officials.

China abstained in Wednesday’s UN General Assembly emergency session vote to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops.

09:30

Fitch, Moody’s join others in downgrading Russia’s sovereign rating

Fitch Ratings has downgraded Russia’s credit rating, citing a “severe shock” to fundamental conditions due to its invasion of Ukraine.

Fitch stated that the war has raised risks to financial stability and could undermine Russia’s ability to service its government debt.

That, in turn, will weaken the country’s finances and slow its economy, further raising geopolitical risks and uncertainty, it said.

Moody’s stated on Thursday that the scope and severity of the sanctions “have gone beyond Moody’s initial expectations and will have material credit implication”, joining S&P, which also lowered its rating to negative last week.

Additionally, FTSE Russell and MSCI index providers decided to remove Russian equities from all of their indexes on Wednesday, after experts deemed the country’s market “uninvestable”.

09:14

Moscow’s Radio Echo liquidated amidst government crackdown

One of Russia’s oldest independent radio stations, Radio Echo, has been liquidated on Thursday, its board of directors announced.

Echo, along with TV Rain and Novaya Gazeta, has been the subject of increasing censorship threats against the few remaining independent outlets in the country after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began a week ago.

On Monday, the state prosecutor’s office issued an order demanding that the regulatory board Roskomnadzor restricts access to Echo for “calls for extremist activity, violence”, as well as “deliberately false information” on the invasion, leading to the station being taken off the air by Tuesday.

An earlier statement Roskomnadzor said that using “invasion,” “attack,” or “act of war” to what the official Kremlin refers to as “special operation” — — something that the likes of Echo and Novaya Gazeta openly refused to do — would have the offender blocked from broadcasting or publishing their content.

Additional sources • Reuters

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