Thu, 18 Aug 2022

Russian forces shelled Kharkiv, killing four people on Thursday after Moscow's bid to capture Ukraine's second city was repelled early in the war. Further south, fighting in the Donbas region reached of "maximum intensity", according to a senior Ukrainian defence official. Follow FRANCE 24's liveblog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

6:03pm: Mariupol port demined, open for civil vessels, says Russia

Civil vessels may use the Azov Sea port of Mariupol in Ukraine as the danger from mines has been eliminated, the Russian defence ministry has announced.

It said a maritime humanitarian corridor was opened on Wednesday in the Azov Sea.

Russia took full control of Mariupol last week when more than 2,400 Ukrainian fighters surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant.

5:10pm: Clearing up Azovstal after Ukrainian surrender

After a Russian siege that lasted more than two months, the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol today is completely destroyed. Russian state TV has aired footage of pro-Russian separatist forces clearing out mines and combing through the sprawling complex after Ukrainian defenders surrendered on the orders of their superiors.

The Ukrainian soldiers are now prisoners of war in Russia. Officials hope they can be released in a prisoner exchange between the two countries.

4:54pm: Lukashenko orders new military command for southern Belarus

Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko has ordered the creation of a new military command for the south of country, bordering Ukraine, according to a video release.

Belarus planned to deploy special operations troops in three areas near its southern border with Ukraine as Lukashenko talked up the role of Russian-made missiles in boosting the country's defences.

4:10pm: Putin says West will fail in isolating Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the West will fail in its attempts to isolate Russia and face growing economic problems.

Speaking via video link to members of the Eurasian Economic Forum, Putin said Russia wasn't going to shut itself off from international cooperation. The forum includes several ex-Soviet nations.

Putin said that trying to isolate Russia is "impossible, utterly unrealistic in the modern world" and "those who try to do it primarily hurt themselves."

3:48pm: 'Terrifying scenes' in Kharkiv region after Russian pullback

Reporting from Ukraine's Kharkiv region, FRANCE 24's Cyril Payen describes "terrifying scenes" even after Russian forces pulled back from the northeastern area to focus on the Donbas assault further south.

The "whole area" is mined, says Payen, with the landscape littered with burned out Russian trucks. But the worst has been the testimonies of "barbarity" during the Russian occupation, he added.

2:41pm: Four civilians killed in Kharkiv: governor

At least four civilians were killed and several were wounded in Russian shelling of the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, according to the regional governor.

"The occupiers are shelling the regional centre again," said Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synehubov on the Telegram messaging app. "According to preliminary information, seven people were injured. Unfortunately, four were killed."

Synehubov urged residents to go to shelters during the bombardments.

2:21pm: War in Donbas at 'maximum intensity': Ukraine

Fighting in the eastern Donbas region has reached its fiercest level yet, said Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar.

"The fighting has reached its maximum intensity," Malyar told a press briefing, warning that an "extremely difficult" and "long" period of combat lay ahead.

12:19pm: Kremlin says Moscow expects Kyiv to meet its demands

The Kremlin said on Thursday that Moscow expected Kyiv to meet its demands, adding that Ukraine needed to have an awareness of the situation for peace talks to take place.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was reacting to comments by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who this week suggested at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Ukraine should let Russia keep Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

Moscow is demanding that Ukraine acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, and recognise breakaway Russian-backed parts of eastern Ukraine as independent states, among other demands. Ukraine categorically disagrees with Russia's claims.

11:45am: Scholz says Putin won't be allowed to dictate peace

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in a war that he "will not win" in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday. Putin has "already failed in all his strategic aims", the German leader told the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Russia's plan to capture all of Ukraine is "further away today than it was at the beginning" of its invasion on February 24 as Ukraine put up an impressive defence.

Putin "underestimated" the "resolve and strength" of allies in countering his aggression in Ukraine, said Scholz, noting that Moscow has also now pushed Finland and Sweden to join the NATO defence alliance.

10:39am: Fierce fighting rages on outskirts of east Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk

Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has reached the limits of the key eastern Ukraine city of Severodonetsk, the regional governor said Wednesday, describing the combat as "very difficult". FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg reports from Kyiv:

08:38am: 8,000 Ukrainian POWs held in Luhansk and Donetsk, report says

Ukrainian prisoners of war held in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics number about 8,000, Luhansk official Rodion Miroshnik was quoted by TASS news agency as saying on Thursday.

"There are a lot of prisoners. Of course, there are more of them on the territory of Donetsk People's Republic, but we also have enough, and now the total number is somewhere in the region of 8,000. That's a lot, and literally hundreds are being added every day," Miroshnik said.

08:07am: Ukraine says Russian forces shell 40 towns in Donbas region

Russian forces shelled more than 40 towns in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, Ukraine's military said, threatening to shut off the last main escape route for civilians trapped in the path of their invasion, now in its fourth month.

After failing to seize Ukraine's capital Kyiv or its second city Kharkiv, Russia is trying to take full control of the Donbas, comprised of two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.

Russia has poured thousands of troops into the region, attacking from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces holding out in the city of Sievierodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk. Their fall would leave the whole of Luhansk province under Russian control, a key Kremlin war aim.

5:30am: G7 faces challenges to keep climate change goals on track amid rising fuel prices due to the war in Ukraine

Ministers from the world's wealthiest democracies will wrangle over how to keep climate change goals on track as they meet in Berlin on Thursday for talks overshadowed by spiralling energy costs and fuel supply worries sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Energy, climate and environment ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) countries want to reaffirm a commitment to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius and protect biodiversity at the May 25-27 meeting.

The group will also consider committing to a phase-out of coal power generation by 2030, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters, though sources suggested that opposition from the United States and Japan could derail such a pledge.

The draft, which could change considerably by the time talks conclude on Friday, would also commit G7 countries to have a "net zero electricity sector by 2035" and to start reporting publicly next year on how they are delivering on a past G7 commitment to end "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has triggered a scramble among some countries to buy more non-Russian fossil fuels and burn coal to cut their reliance on Russian supplies, raising fears that the energy crisis triggered by the war could undermine efforts to fight climate change.

12:57am: Ukraine rebukes Western proposals for concessions to end war

The angry comments by Zelensky come as Ukrainian troops are facing a renewed offensive in two eastern regions that Russian-speaking separatists seized part of in 2014.

The New York Times editorial board said on May 19 that a negotiated peace might require Kyiv to make some hard decisions, given that a decisive military victory was not realistic.

And former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger this week suggested at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Ukraine should let Russia keep Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

"Whatever the Russian state does, you will always find someone who says 'Let's take its interests into account'," Zelensky said in a late-night video address.

"You get the impression that Mr Kissinger doesn't have 2022 on his calendar, but 1938, and that he thinks he is talking to an audience not in Davos but in Munich back then."

In 1938, Britain, France, Italy and Germany sighed a pact in Munich that gave Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler land in the then Czechoslovakia as part of a failed attempt to persuade him to abandon further territorial expansion.

"Perhaps the New York Times also wrote something similar in 1938. But let me remind you, it's now 2022," said Zelensky.

"Those who advise Ukraine to give something to Russia, these 'great geopolitical figures', never see ordinary people, ordinary Ukrainians, millions living on the territory they are proposing to exchange for an illusory peace."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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