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Russian missiles hit Kharkiv as gas flow to Europe resumes

#Russian #missiles #hit #Kharkiv #gas #flow #Europe #resumes

Russian artillery strikes hit Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Thursday, after Moscow announced it would widen its war aims even as Russian gas flows to Europe through the Nord Stream pipeline resumed.

The attacks on the eastern city – scarred by weeks of Russian shelling – came after 10 days of planned work on the Nord Stream gas pipeline had ended, which had stoked fears of a permanent shutdown.

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

Three people were killed in strikes a day earlier in Kharkiv, where some semblance of normality had returned in recent weeks after Ukrainian troops pushed back Russian troops from the city’s borders.

“We ask Kharkiv residents to be extremely careful. The enemy fires chaotically and brutally on the city. Stay in the shelters!” wrote governor Oleg Synegubov on social media.

Presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said there was also some damage to a mosque in Kharkiv, and accused Russia of “contempt” after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran this week.

A school was also hit in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting, which Ukrainian officials said was being used as a storage facility for food aid.

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

“I’ve worked 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 killed thousands, forced millions to flee and devastated the economy.

The central bank announced on Thursday that it would devalue the hryvnia by 25 percent.

“The new hryvnia rate will become an anchor for the economy and will increase its resilience in uncertain conditions,” the bank said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the resumption of gas supplies from Russia to Europe via Germany comes a day after Europe announced emergency measures to circumvent Russian energy “blackmail”.

In its latest punitive package on Wednesday, the European Union targeted gold exports and froze assets at Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank.

The German government had feared Moscow would not reopen the Nord Stream pipeline’s taps after Russia severely throttled flows in retaliation to sanctions in recent months.

“It works,” a Nord Stream spokesman said Thursday, without specifying the amount of gas delivered.

– “Other” war aims for Russia –

Western powers have stepped up arms supplies to Ukraine, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for more and faster supplies.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Wednesday Washington will send four more M142 high-mobility artillery missile systems (Himars), which have significantly boosted Kiev’s capabilities.

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

Russia has warned against arms shipments and said it will no longer focus solely on gaining control of eastern Ukraine’s Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which have been partially controlled by pro-Moscow rebels for years.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have hit civilian targets in cities far from the front lines, killing dozens of civilians.

– Four months in the refugee home –

In an emotional speech before the US Congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska described the plight of millions of Ukrainian parents and children and urged Washington to repel Russian missiles around air defense systems.

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

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

“Help us to stop this terror against the Ukrainians,” Zelenska said.

Refugees who fled Ukraine in the first weeks of the war find themselves in limbo.

At a refugee center at the Global Expo exhibition center in Warsaw, about 1,500 people were housed in what they thought would only be temporary accommodation before they could find more permanent housing or return to Ukraine.

“Now I just hope to return home…or be relocated somewhere in Poland,” said Olena Polonitska, who has lived at the center for four months with her 11-year-old son, Kyrill.

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