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Ukraine war: Russian troops open fire on protesters in Kherson

Russian soldiers have opened fire on civilian protesters in the captured Ukrainian city of Kherson and wounded at least one person, local media has reported, as Vladimir Putin’s troops stepped up their war of attrition against civilians by shelling the city of Odessa.

Footage taken in Kherson and shared by media with links to the Ukrainian military, showed one man bleeding heavily from the leg after being shot during a demonstration. Russian forces used firearms as well as stun grenades to try and disperse the protesters, the Interfax news agency reported.

It came as Vladimir Putin’s warships opened fire on civilian areas in the Black Sea port city of Odesa today, marking the first time residents have been targeted. Officials said several houses were destroyed and a fire sparked, but there was no immediate word on casualties. 

Missiles also rained down on the ‘Retroville’ shopping centre in northern Kyiv on Monday – killing eight people amid fears dozens more were buried in the rubble with emergency workers searching for them. CCTV footage from the city of Kharkiv also emerged showing a strike on a supermarket queue last week. 

And in the heavily besieged city of Mariupol, more than 300 miles to the east of Odesa, officials rejected a Russian demand that fighters protecting the city surrender in return for letting an estimated 300,000 trapped civilians evacuate. Pyotr Andryushenko – an adviser to the city’s mayor – said Russian promises could not be trusted and that troops defending the city were determined to fight ‘down to the last man’.

Kherson has been the scene of near-daily protests since it became the first major city to fall to Russian forces early during the war. On Sunday, demonstrators managed to turn back a military convoy after blocking a road. Putin’s men have been accused of firing ‘warning shots’ before, but until now had not opened fire directly on activists. 

Ukraine says thousands of civilians have been killed by Russian forces since Vladimir Putin gave the order to attack on February 24, with his men stepping up indiscriminate shelling of cities after an initial offensive stalled. Officials in Mariupol say up to 20,000 people may have died in that city alone, but there is no accurate country-wide figure.

The UN says it has confirmed 902 civilians killed and 1,459 injured, but caveats the figure by saying it is almost certainly lower than the actual total.

Those in Odesa fear that the punishment inflicted on Mariupol may now be headed their way, as capturing the Black Sea city – Ukraine’s main port – is known to be a key Russian objective. General Sir Richard Barrons, a former commander of UK Joint Forces Command, told the BBC that Odesa will be the next target if or when Mariupol falls.

At least one person has been injured after protesters came under fire by Russian troops in the occupied city of Kherson, according to local reports, with images from the scene showing a man bleeding heavily from his leg (above)

Russian troops opened fire on protesters with guns and stun grenades, according to local media, after crowds gathered to demonstrate against the occupation of their city

Russian troops opened fire on protesters with guns and stun grenades, according to local media, after crowds gathered to demonstrate against the occupation of their city

Protesters come under fire in Kherson

Protesters come under fire in Kherson

Video captured the moment several blasts hit the crowd (left and right), apparently from stun grenades, sending people running for cover and leaving at least one man wounded

Protesters run from the sounds of gunfire and the bang of stun grenades as local media reports Russian forces opened fire on a demonstration happening in the city of Kherson

Protesters run from the sounds of gunfire and the bang of stun grenades as local media reports Russian forces opened fire on a demonstration happening in the city of Kherson

Protesters come under fire in Kherson

Protesters come under fire in Kherson

Civilians who had been demonstrating against the Russian occupation of Kherson flee after coming under fire

Odesa hit by Russian naval artillery

Odesa hit by Russian naval artillery

Russian battleships shelled the city of Odesa on Monday, local officials said, marking the first time that residential areas of the Black Sea port have come under attack

Russian troops have failed to advance in multiple areas in Ukraine, but are piling the pressure on Mariupol and demanding that troops stationed there surrender. Kyiv continues to be under bombardment, while Odesa has seen civilian areas shelled for the first time. In Kherson, Russian troops opened fire on protesters

Russian troops have failed to advance in multiple areas in Ukraine, but are piling the pressure on Mariupol and demanding that troops stationed there surrender. Kyiv continues to be under bombardment, while Odesa has seen civilian areas shelled for the first time. In Kherson, Russian troops opened fire on protesters

Putin ‘deports Ukrainians to camps’ 

Vladimir Putin has been accused of deporting Ukrainians to ‘filtration’ centres before forcibly taking them to remote Siberian towns after confiscating their phones and documents.  

‘Several thousand’ people have so-far been taken, Mariupol city council claimed, before being processed through ‘filtration camps’ and sent to ‘remote cities’ in Russia where they will be obliged to stay for years and work for free.  

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before he chaired a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels that ‘what’s happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime. Destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody in an indiscriminate manner. This is something awful’. 

Russian news agencies have reported that buses carrying hundreds of refugees from the besieged southeastern port city Mariupol had arrived in Russia in recent days. Moscow officials also said a trainload of over 280 Ukrainians were being ‘rescued’ from Mariupol, showing footage of them thanking Russian forces. 

Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko likened the alleged forced deportations to transportation of prisoners by the Nazi regime during World War II. Boichenko said: ‘What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people. It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people can be forcibly taken to another country.’ 

Mariupol is in the throes of a humanitarian emergency after being encircled by Russian troops, cut off from energy, food and water supplies and facing a relentless bombardment. 

Discussing Russian tactics in Mariupol, he said: ‘They couldn’t walk in, they couldn’t drive in with their tanks, so they’ve pounded it to rubble. And that’s what we should expect to see anywhere else that really matters to them.

He continued: ‘I think they’ll maintain pressure on Kyiv because it’s the political centre of gravity, but they know that it’s too big an objective, it’s too well defended to force the way into anything like the whole of the city.

‘What we’ll probably see is some bombardment of it, maybe attempt to force down some narrow routes – but so far the Ukrainians have very effectively pushed that away.

‘And I think the next big strategic prize could be Odessa because that would isolate Ukraine’s economy from the Black Sea.’ 

Russia’s war in Ukraine, now in its 26th day, shows no signs of abating. The invasion has wreaked devastation and destruction, exacting a heavy toll on civilians. The U.N. says more than 3.38 million people have fled Ukraine. 

The key port city has seen some of the heaviest fighting since the Russian invasion. Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are fighting block-by-block for control of the city where at least 2,300 people have died, some buried in mass graves.

Ukrainian officials rejected a Russian offer that its troops be granted safe passage out of the encircled city, which would hand Mariupol to Russia, allowing Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine to unite.

‘There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,’ Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda.

It was not clear how many casualties there were in the Russian bombing of the art school, Zelenskyy said in a video address early Monday. ‘They are under the rubble, and we don’t know how many of them have survived,’ he said.

The strike was the second time in less than a week that officials reported an attack on a public building where Mariupol residents had taken shelter. Last Wednesday, a bomb hit a theater where more than 1,000 people were believed to be sheltering. It was unclear how many people were killed in that attack. 

Russian shelling Sunday near the city center of the capital, Kyiv, killed eight people, according to emergency officials. The attack devastated a shopping center and damaged a nearby high-rise building. Russian troops are now trying to surround the Ukrainian capital, which had nearly 3 million people before the war.

Russian airstrikes destroyed the 'Retroville' shopping mall in the north of Kyiv on Monday, killing at least eight people and leaving others buried in the rubble

Russian airstrikes destroyed the ‘Retroville’ shopping mall in the north of Kyiv on Monday, killing at least eight people and leaving others buried in the rubble

A shopping mall in Kyiv is seen destroyed in the early hours of Monday after it was hit by a Russian airstrike overnight, as Putin's forces keep up their bombardment of the capital

A shopping mall in Kyiv is seen destroyed in the early hours of Monday after it was hit by a Russian airstrike overnight, as Putin’s forces keep up their bombardment of the capital

People gather amid the destruction caused after shelling of a shopping center, in Kyiv, Ukraine

People gather amid the destruction caused after shelling of a shopping center, in Kyiv, Ukraine

Rescuers work at the site of the shopping mall damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv this morning

Rescuers work at the site of the shopping mall damaged by an airstrike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv this morning

Firefighters search through the wreckage of a shopping mall in the northern Podilskyi district of Kyiv after it was hit by Russian missiles in the early hours

Firefighters search through the wreckage of a shopping mall in the northern Podilskyi district of Kyiv after it was hit by Russian missiles in the early hours

Emergency workers search through the rubble of a destroyed shopping mall in northern Kyiv after it was bombed by Russia

Emergency workers search through the rubble of a destroyed shopping mall in northern Kyiv after it was bombed by Russia

Ukrainian servicemen search through rubble inside the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack in northwest of Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen search through rubble inside the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack in northwest of Kyiv

A shopping mall in northern Kyiv was struck in the early hours of Monday, killing at least eight people. But successful Ukrainian counter-attacks were underway to the west of the city, as Makariv was re-captured

A shopping mall in northern Kyiv was struck in the early hours of Monday, killing at least eight people. But successful Ukrainian counter-attacks were underway to the west of the city, as Makariv was re-captured

Switzerland is urged to extradite Putin’s mistress 

Opponents of Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are uniting with a petition demanding that Switzerland expels the strongman’s ‘lover’ Alina Kabaeva amid claims she is hiding with their secret children in a luxury villa.

Kabaeva, 38, is a former Olympic gymnast and gold medalist who is widely believed to be Putin’s mistress and mother to secret children whom he has never officially recognised.

The petition comes amid reports that Kabaeva, once named ‘Russia’s most flexible woman’, was sent to a private chalet in Switzerland earlier this month amid the invasion of Ukraine.

‘It’s time you reunite Eva Braun with her Führer,’ the strongly-worded petition said.

‘Despite the current war, Switzerland continues to host an accomplice of Putin’s regime.’

The West has so far not sanctioned Kabaeva, who as well as being Putin’s rumoured secret partner is also chairman of the board of directors at National Media Group – a major Kremlin-obedient TV and newspaper behemoth – with a salary of almost £8 million a year.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general said a Russian shell struck a chemical plant outside the city of Sumy a little after 3 a.m. Monday, causing a leak in a 50-ton tank of ammonia that took hours to contain.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed the leak was a ‘planned provocation’ by Ukrainian forces to falsely accuse Russia of a chemical attack.

Konashenkov also said an overnight cruise missile strike hit a Ukrainian military training center in the Rivne region. He said 80 foreign and Ukrainian troops were killed. A Ukrainian official confirmed a strike, without disclosing casualty figures. 

AP journalists on the scene of Russian shelling in Kyiv witnessed the flattened ruin of the shopping center, which was still smoldering Monday morning. The force of the explosion shattered every window in the high-rise next door and twisted its metal frames.

In the distance, the sound of artillery rang out as firefighters picked their way through the destruction in the densely populated Podil district.

AP video journalist Mstyslav Chernov has recounted his harrowing experience as the only international journalist, along with AP photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, in besieged Mariupol before fleeing this week.

‘We were the last journalists in Mariupol. Now there are none,’ he said in his account. 

Experts say bogged-down Russian forces are launching long-range missiles at cities and military bases as Ukrainian forces carry out hit-and-run attacks and seek to sever Russian supply lines.

Denied an easy and early victory, Russia’s military is reverting to the scorched earth tactics of its past offensives in Syria and Chechnya, and pounding population centers with airstrikes and artillery barrages that leave civilians like those in Mariupol unable to safely venture out for food or water, bury the dead or to flee.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Ukrainian resistance means Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘forces on the ground are essentially stalled.’

Bodies of civilians killed during the Russian bombardment of Mariupol are laid out in a park as they await burial by soldiers defending the city, on Sunday

Bodies of civilians killed during the Russian bombardment of Mariupol are laid out in a park as they await burial by soldiers defending the city, on Sunday

City workers dig graves on public land so they can bury civilians and soldiers killed in the Russian bombardment on the city of Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine, on Sunday

City workers dig graves on public land so they can bury civilians and soldiers killed in the Russian bombardment on the city of Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine, on Sunday

Local residents take cover as they hear blasts during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol

Local residents take cover as they hear blasts during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol

Civilians trapped in Mariupol city under Russian attacks are evacuated by Russian-backed separatists, as officials say people are being forcibly deported into Russia

Civilians trapped in Mariupol city under Russian attacks are evacuated by Russian-backed separatists, as officials say people are being forcibly deported into Russia

Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian forces for two weeks, which are now trying to push into the city. If it falls, it would be the biggest city captured by Russian troops so far, and would open up a 'land corridor' from rebel-held areas of Donbass to Crimea for reinforcements to pass along

Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian forces for two weeks, which are now trying to push into the city. If it falls, it would be the biggest city captured by Russian troops so far, and would open up a ‘land corridor’ from rebel-held areas of Donbass to Crimea for reinforcements to pass along

A large Russian missile landed in someone's kitchen sink in Ukraine today (pictured), fortunately it did not cause too much damage

The missile (pictured) fortunately did not cause a huge amount of damage, but it did leave a hole in the roof

A large Russian missile landed in someone’s kitchen sink in Ukraine today (pictured), fortunately it did not cause too much damage

‘It’s had the effect of him moving his forces into a woodchipper,’ Austin told CBS on Sunday.

Western military analysts say that even if Mariupol is taken, the troops battling for control there may be too depleted to help secure Russian breakthroughs on other fronts.

Britain’s defense ministry said Monday that Ukrainian resistance had kept the bulk of Russian forces more than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the city center, but that Kyiv ‘remains Russia’s primary military objective.’ 

Russian and Ukrainian officials have held a series of talks, but no substantive solution to the conflict has emerged from that dialogue.

Speaking to Israeli legislators via video link on Sunday, Zelenskyy thanked Israel for its efforts to broker talks with Russia. He praised Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for trying to help ‘find a negotiation track with Russia . so that we sooner or later start talking with Russia, possibly in Jerusalem.’

President Joe Biden meanwhile travels to Europe this week, where he will attend a summit with NATO leaders that will look for ways to strengthen the bloc’s own deterrence and defense, immediately and in the long term, to deal with the now openly confrontational Putin.

On Monday ahead of his trip, Biden will discuss the war with European leaders. President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom are expected to take part, the White House said Sunday.

Biden has added a stop to Poland during his trip, travelling to visit a crucial ally of Ukraine which has taken in more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees.

Biden will travel to Warsaw on Friday, for a bilateral meeting with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, where he plans to discuss how the U.S. – along with its allies and partners – are responding to ‘the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created,’ said press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday night.

Biden and NATO have said repeatedly that while they will provide weapons and other defensive support to non-NATO member Ukraine, they are determined to avoid any escalation on behalf of Kyiv that risks a broader war with Russia.  

Video taken from the inside of a Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle in Mariupol shows the crew opening fire on Russian armour as they attempt to roll into the city and capture it

Video taken from the inside of a Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle in Mariupol shows the crew opening fire on Russian armour as they attempt to roll into the city and capture it

A Russian tank is shot by a Ukrainian fighting vehicle inside the city of Mariupol, in footage released by Ukraine

A Russian tank is shot by a Ukrainian fighting vehicle inside the city of Mariupol, in footage released by Ukraine

A Russian tank is targeted by the crew of an infantry fighting vehicle in the city of Mariupol, as Putin's men try to seize it

A Russian tank is targeted by the crew of an infantry fighting vehicle in the city of Mariupol, as Putin’s men try to seize it

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