Russian rockets pummel Kharkiv as gas flows to Europe resume

Russian rockets pummel Kharkiv as gas flows to Europe resume

Ukraine says newly supplied artillery systems from the West are wreaking havoc on Russian forces
Ukraine says newly supplied artillery systems from the West are wreaking havoc on Russian forces. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
Source: AFP

Russian artillery strikes pounded Ukraine's second largest city Kharkiv on Thursday after Moscow announced it was expanding its war aims, even as Russian gas flows to Europe resumed through the Nord Stream pipeline.

The attacks on the eastern city -- scarred by weeks of Russian shelling -- came after 10 days of scheduled work ended on the Nord Stream gas pipeline that had spurred fears of a permanent cut-off.

Kharkiv's regional governor said two people were killed and 19 injured, four of whom were in a serious condition.

Three people were killed by strikes a day earlier in Kharkiv, where some semblance of normal life had returned in recent weeks after Ukrainian forces pushed back Russian troops from the city limits.

"We are asking Kharkiv residents to be extremely careful. The enemy is firing chaotically and brutally at the city. Stay in shelters!" the governor, Oleg Synegubov, wrote on social media.

Presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said there was also some damage on a mosque in Kharkiv, accusing Russia of "contempt" after Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Iran this week.

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In Kramatorsk in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which has seen some of fiercest fighting, a school that Ukrainian officials said was being used as a food aid storage point was also struck.

Russia resumes gas supply to Europe through Nord Stream 1
Russia resumes gas supply to Europe through Nord Stream 1. Photo: Patricio ARANA / AFP
Source: AFP

The school's deputy director Olena Shmadchenko, 56, looked at the destroyed building in despair.

"I have been working at this school for 16 years. It was my home!" she told AFP.

25 percent devaluation

Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24 and the war has left thousands dead, forced millions to flee their homes and wrought havoc with the economy.

The central bank on Thursday said it was devaluing the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, by 25 percent.

"The new hryvnia rate will become an anchor for the economy and will add its resilience in conditions of uncertainty," the bank said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the resumption of gas supplies from Russia to Europe through Germany came a day after Europe unveiled emergency measures to circumvent Russian energy "blackmail".

In its latest package of penalties Wednesday, the European Union targeted gold exports and froze assets at Russia's largest bank Sberbank.

A relative kneels by the body of a teenager who died in a Russian missile strike at a bus stop in Kharkiv
A relative kneels by the body of a teenager who died in a Russian missile strike at a bus stop in Kharkiv. Photo: SERGEY BOBOK / AFP
Source: AFP

The German government had been worried Moscow would not reopen the taps on the Nord Stream pipeline after Russia in recent months severely curbed flows in retaliation against sanctions.

"It's working," a Nord Stream spokesman said Thursday, without specifying the amount of gas being delivered.

'Different' war aims for Russia

Western powers have stepped up arms supplies to Ukraine but President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked for more and speedier deliveries.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Wednesday Washington would send four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars), which have notably boosted Kyiv's capabilities.

"Ukraine needs the firepower and the ammunition to withstand this barrage and to strike back," Austin told reporters, adding that the new shipment would bring the total of US Himars sent to Kyiv to 16.

Russia has warned about arms supplies and said it will no longer be focused only on wresting control of the east Ukraine regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, which have been partially controlled by pro-Moscow rebels for years.

The conflict has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes with neighbouring Poland among the most popular destinations
The conflict has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes with neighbouring Poland among the most popular destinations. Photo: Alik KEPLICZ / AFP
Source: AFP

In recent weeks, Russian forces have hit civilian targets in cities and towns far away from the frontline, leaving scores of civilians dead.

Four months in refugee centre

In an emotional speech before the US Congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska described the suffering of millions of Ukrainian parents and children, and asked Washington for air-defence systems to fend off Russian missiles.

Zelenska displayed images of children who were killed or maimed by Russia, including a four-year-old killed by a strike in the city of Vinnytsia.

Photos of her blood-spattered pink stroller and footage of her final moments went viral on social media.

"Help us to stop this terror against Ukrainians," Zelenska said.

Refugees who fled Ukraine in the early weeks of the war have found themselves in limbo.

At a refugee centre at the Global Expo exhibition centre in Warsaw, some 1,500 people have been camped out in what they thought would only be a temporary shelter before finding more permanent housing or being able to return to Ukraine.

"All I hope for now is to return home... or else to be relocated somewhere in Poland," said Olena Polonitska, who has been living at the centre for four months with her 11-year-old son Kyrill.

Source: AFP

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