The mly command center in kyiv hit by a Russian strike

Kyiv: Russian missiles hit a military command center in the central Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia, Kyiv officials said on Friday, adding it was not known if there were any casualties.

“Today around 4:30 p.m. Russian occupiers launched a missile strike on the territory of the Air Force Command in Vinnytsia,” the Ukrainian Air Force said on Telegram. He posted an image of the alleged rubble center and said missiles had hit “several buildings, causing significant infrastructure damage”.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin on Friday slammed the West for discriminating against Russian culture, which he compared to Nazi supporters burning books in the 1930s. “Today they are trying to undo a millennial country “, Putin said during a televised meeting with Russian winners of culture-related awards.

“I am talking about the progressive discrimination against anything related to Russia, this trend that is taking place in a number of Western states, with the full connivance and sometimes with the encouragement of Western elites,” Putin added.

“The proverbial ‘cancellation of culture’ has become a cancellation of culture,” Putin said, adding that works by Russian composers were excluded from concerts and books by Russian authors were “banned”.

“The last time such a mass campaign to destroy unwanted literature was carried out by the Nazis in Germany almost 90 years ago…books were burned right in the squares,” Putin said.

Since Putin sent Russian troops to Ukraine on February 24, the West has imposed sanctions on Moscow that have seen Russia increasingly isolated, politically and financially, and extend to areas such as sports and Culture.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden edged closer to war in Ukraine on Friday as Russia appeared to backtrack on its ambitions after a month of fierce resistance by Ukrainian forces backed by ever-growing Western support.

Biden visited Poland after forging a new package of measures with the EU aimed at reducing Europe’s dependence on energy imports from the sanctions-hit economy. Russia. His visit near the border came as a clearer scale of ruin emerged from the beleaguered port city of Mariupol in Ukraine, which a month after the invasion resembles World War II scenes of Russian towns razed to the ground by the Nazis.

Authorities fear some 300 civilians died in a Russian airstrike on a theater turned bomb shelter in Mariupol last week, in what would be the bloodiest attack of the invasion. “I escaped, but I lost all my family. I lost my house. I am desperate,” Oksana Vynokurova, 33, told AFP after finally fleeing Mariupol by train to the city of Lviv, in the west of the country.

“My mother died. I left my mother in the yard like a dog, because everyone is shooting,” she said. Also getting off the train, Svetlana Kuznetsova said: “There is no water, light and electricity. We lived in cellars. We cooked food over fires.

“I have never seen such horror. Mariupol does not exist,” added the middle-aged woman. “Mariupol is like Grozny (in Chechnya). Everything is destroyed.” Smaller-scale strikes have continued uninterrupted as Russia, suffering heavy casualties and scant progress against key targets, continues a relentless bombing campaign against Ukrainian cities.

Giving only its second toll of the war, the Russian military said it suffered 1,351 dead during the invasion. Ukraine and Western intelligence say it’s several thousand more.

In a potentially significant shift, the Russian military said the first phase of its campaign was over and its troops would now focus on “liberating” the Russian-speaking Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.

Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said the change was possible because “the combat potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been significantly reduced”.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, however, has not indicated any relaxation in his country’s refusal to accede to Russian demands after what he described as “very difficult” talks with Moscow. “We insist, above all, on a ceasefire, security guarantees and the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said. And while Mariupol and other places are now charred ruins, Western systems, including shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, have helped Ukraine’s armed forces hold their line – and increasingly step up to the plate. ‘offensive.

“Ukrainian counterattacks and the withdrawal of Russian forces to overstretched supply lines allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Kyiv” , the UK Ministry of Defense said in a daily update. .

Further east, Russian strikes targeting a medical facility in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, killed four civilians and injured several others, police said. Several residents told AFP that cluster munitions were being used in Kharkiv, spraying death indiscriminately.

After NATO, European Union and G7 summits in Brussels, Biden warned that the NATO alliance would “respond” if Russian President Vladimir Putin resorted alongside chemical weapons. En route to Poland, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Russia would pay a “heavy price” – but stressed that “the United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period, under any circumstances”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Biden of seeking to “divert attention”, and also denied Ukrainian claims that Russia violated international law by dropping phosphorus incendiary bombs on civilians.

Biden and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced the creation of a joint energy task force in Brussels, before heading to the eastern Polish town of Rzeszow, just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Ukraine. Taken together, Western sanctions “exhaust Putin’s resources to fund this atrocious war,” von der Leyen told reporters alongside Biden.

Germany, Moscow’s biggest customer in Europe, said it would halve Russian oil imports by June and end all coal deliveries by the fall. “The first important steps have been taken to free ourselves from the grip of Russian imports,” said Economy Minister Robert Habeck.

In Poland, Biden met with members of the US 82nd Airborne Division, part of NATO’s increasingly heavy-handed deployment on its eastern flank. He was also informed of the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine, where more than 3.7 million people have fled, mainly to Poland.

The UN estimates that more than half of Ukrainian children have already been driven from their homes – “a grim milestone that could have lasting consequences for generations to come”, according to UNICEF chief Catherine Russell.

In the scorching town of Irpin, on the northwestern outskirts of kyiv, Daria played with her dinosaur mitts as an evacuation bus took away her family and others. It was his fourth birthday on Thursday.

“We had planned candles and a cake, but we had to leave them there,” said Daria’s mother, Susanna Sopelnikova, 29, holding her firmly in her lap. In a related development, with donations declining and shortages of medicine and equipment, a Moscow children’s hospice fears possible closure due to the impact of Western sanctions on Russian military action in Ukraine.

Since its creation in 2018, the Maison au Phare hospice has welcomed around 1,000 children and young adults. As Western countries have imposed increasingly harsh sanctions over the past month, the foundation fears the worst because of their impact on drugs and equipment.

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