Putin speaks at a massive rally in Moscow

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared at a large flag rally in Moscow and praised his country’s troops on Friday as they continued their deadly attacks on Ukrainian cities with shelling and missiles.

A Twitter yarn Financial Times Moscow bureau chief Max Seddon noted a glaring peculiarity during the broadcast of the event.

In the video, Putin is heard speaking before the audio and video appear to be cut out by the song and cheers from the audience.

Meanwhile, Moscow police said more than 200,000 people were in and around Luzhniki Stadium for the rally and concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the seized Crimean peninsula. ‘Ukraine.

The event featured well-known singer Oleg Gazmanov singing “Made in the USSR”, with the opening lines “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, that’s my whole country”.

As Putin prepared to take the stage, speakers praised him for his fight against “Nazism” in Ukraine, a claim flatly rejected by world leaders.

Meanwhile, Russian forces continued to shell the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and launched a barrage of missiles on the outskirts of the western city of Lviv.

The early morning attack on the outskirts of Lviv was the closest strike yet to the center of the city, which has become a crossroads for people fleeing from other parts of Ukraine and for others entering for to help or to fight.

In town after town around Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought shelter were attacked. Rescuers searched for survivors in the ruins of a theater that served as a shelter when it was destroyed by a Russian airstrike on Wednesday in the besieged southern city of Mariupol.

A view of the destroyed theater hall, which served as shelter for civilians, after the Russian bombardment in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 18, 2022. (Photo by UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, said at least 130 people survived the theater bombing.

“But according to our data, there are still more than 1,300 people in those basements, in that bomb shelter,” Denisova told Ukrainian television. “We are praying they are all alive, but so far there is no information about them.”

In Lviv, black smoke billowed for hours after the explosions, which hit a military aircraft repair facility near the city’s international airport, 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the center. One person was injured, regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said.

Several explosions followed in rapid succession around 6 a.m., shaking nearby buildings, witnesses said. The missiles were launched from the Black Sea, but the Ukrainian Air Force’s Western Command said it shot down two of the six missiles in the volley. A bus repair facility was also damaged, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said.

Lviv is not far from the Polish border and well behind the front lines, but the region has not been spared Russian attacks. At worst, nearly three dozen people were killed last weekend in a strike on a training center near the city.

Lviv’s population has increased by some 200,000 people, as people from elsewhere in Ukraine have sought refuge there.

Early morning barrages also hit a residential building in kyiv’s Podil district, killing at least one person, according to emergency services, which said 98 people had been evacuated from the building. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 19 people were injured in the shelling.

Two other people were killed when strikes hit residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

In Kharkiv, a fire raged in a local market after shelling on Thursday. A firefighter was killed and another injured in a fresh bombardment as rescuers battled the blaze, emergency services said.

The World Health Organization said it verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, killing 12 and injuring 34.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday US officials were assessing potential war crimes and if Russia’s intentional targeting of civilians were confirmed there would be “massive consequences”.

The UN’s political chief, Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, also called for an investigation into civilian casualties, reminding the UN Security Council that international humanitarian law prohibits direct attacks on civilians.

She said many of the daily attacks that hit Ukrainian cities “would be indiscriminate” and involve the use of “wide area explosive weapons”. DiCarlo said the devastation in Mariupol and Kharkiv “raises serious fears for the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing increasingly intense attacks.”

About 35,000 civilians left Mariupol in the previous two days, Kirilenko said on Friday.

Hundreds of civilians reportedly took refuge in a large columned theater in the city center when it was hit by a Russian airstrike.

Video and photos provided by the Ukrainian military showed the at least three-story building had been reduced to a roofless shell, with some exterior walls collapsed.

Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed huge white letters on the sidewalk outside the theater on Monday spelling out “CHILDREN” in Russian – “DETI” – to alert warplanes to vulnerable people lurking outside. interior.

The Russian military denied bombing the theater or anywhere else in Mariupol on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday morning that Ukraine’s defenses turned out to be much stronger than expected, and Russia “didn’t know what we had for the defense or how we were preparing for the hit.” .

In this image taken from video provided by Ukraine's Presidential Press Office and posted to Facebook early March 18, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine.  (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this image taken from video provided by Ukraine’s Presidential Press Office and posted to Facebook early March 18, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukraine and Russia reported progress in the negotiations this week. Earlier this week, an official in Zelenskyy’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, told the AP that Ukraine was ready to discuss a neutral military status for the country in exchange, in part, of binding security guarantees.

Russia demanded that NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine into the alliance or station forces there.

The fighting has led nearly 3.3 million people to flee Ukraine, according to UN estimates. The death toll remains unknown, although Ukraine said thousands of civilians had died.

Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and other AP reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

Zahara Hill of HuffPost contributed to this report.


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