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Ukraine War: Russians Start Leaving Ukraine’s Kherson City

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Rossiya 24

Tens of thousands of civilians and Russian-appointed officials are being moved out of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region ahead of a Ukrainian offensive, says the Russia-installed local leader.

Vladimir Saldo said all Russian-appointed departments and ministries would cross the Dnieper river.

Some 50-60,000 civilians would also leave in an “organised, gradual displacement”, he said earlier.

Ukraine has called on residents to ignore the Russian move.

The head of Kherson’s regional administration said Russia wanted to take civilians hostage and use them as human shields. The transfer or deportation of civilians by an occupying power from occupied territory is considered a war crime.

In a separate development, Russia’s Vladimir Putin said he had signed a decree imposing martial law on four Ukrainian regions, including Kherson, which Moscow annexed last month in a move rejected as illegal by the international community.

He told Russia’s Security Council that it would give regional leaders additional powers to maintain social order and safeguard important facilities.

On Tuesday night, residents in Kherson started receiving text messages, urging them to evacuate immediately to avoid shelling of residential areas by Ukrainian forces.

The messages said transport across the Dnipro River would be available from 07:00 on Wednesday.

“They are told to evacuate because the evil Ukrainians are going to shell the city,” one resident told the BBC, asking to remain anonymous.

“People are panicking because of propaganda.”

Russian TV footage on Wednesday showed a number of people gathering near the west bank of the Dnieper. As they queued for boats, it was not clear how many were leaving.

But Ukrainian officials have questioned whether large numbers of people are actually being evacuated, suggesting that images of a crowd assembled by the river are largely for show.

Serhiy Khlan, an aide to the ousted head of the Kherson region, suggested the “deportations theatre” could be acting as cover for a much bigger Russian move: a complete military evacuation from the west bank of the river.

“I foresee the withdrawal of troops,” he said, adding that he expected Russian forces to attempt to destroy the city after leaving.

Russia, he said, was planning to establish a new capital for the Kherson region at Henichesk, close to the Crimean Peninsula, adding that banks and offices related to the occupation of Kherson had already been evacuated.

One Kherson resident told the BBC’s World Service that she was not going anywhere until Kherson was liberated by Ukrainian troops: “People are not panicking, nobody wants to be evacuated.”

She said that Russian soldiers were now worried how they could survive in the city. “There are plenty of them here; they are dressed as civilians. We can see them – they are different to Kherson people. They walk in groups, their hair is cut short, they are dressed mainly in black.”

Ukrainian officials have warned that this might represent the start of a forcible deportation to Russia.

In early September, the UN said there were already credible accusations of forced deportation of Ukrainian children from other Russian-occupied areas. Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, called the allegations “unfounded”.

Image source, Reuters

As part of the decree, President Putin announced three additional levels of heightened security inside Russia.

The highest level applies to Russia-annexed Crimea and other areas near the border with Ukraine, such as the regions of Belgorod, Kursk and Krasnodar.

In these areas, there will be more security, possible evacuation orders and some restrictions placed on travel. Regional authorities will be given more powers to ensure measures are implemented, establish territorial defence and “mobilise” the economy for the war effort.

In Moscow and surrounding central and southern regions, regional authorities have the power to introduce similar, but less severe, restrictions.

Image source, Getty Images

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak pointed out it was less than a month since Russia had held a ceremony to annex Kherson: “Reality can hurt if you live in a fictional fantasy world.”

Late on Monday, Russia’s new military commander in Ukraine, Gen Sergei Surovikin, had described the situation in Kherson city, the regional capital, as difficult.

A Russian-installed official, Kirill Stremousov, warned Kherson residents that Ukrainian forces would launch an assault on the city “in the very near future”. “No-one is going to retreat, but we also want to save your life. Please move as quickly as possible to the left bank,” he added.

Mr Saldo, who was appointed governor of the region by Moscow, told Russian TV that no-one was about to surrender, but it was “undesirable” for residents to remain in a city facing military action. “In the past two days, more than 5,000 people have left Kherson,” he was quoted as saying.

The head of Ukraine’s presidential office said Moscow was trying to intimidate residents with fake news that Ukraine’s military was shelling their city. “It is a fairly primitive tactic, taking into account that the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] do not shell cities,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram.

Earlier this month, Kherson’s exiled deputy mayor said only 100,000 residents remained in Kherson city of the pre-war population of 320,000, with many fleeing Russia’s occupation.

The mayor of Russian-occupied Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, warned that Kherson’s civilians were facing enforced deportation and being deprived of their homes so that Russia could populate the city with “soldiers and traitors”. Last month, Ukraine said 2.5 million people had been forcibly deported from Ukraine to Russia.

The Russian-appointed governor accused Ukraine of building up for a large-scale offensive and planning to destroy the Kakhovka dam on the River Dnieper, flooding the area.

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Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian forces when they invaded Ukraine in February. However, in just a few weeks, the Ukrainian military has recaptured territory in the north of the region and pushed as far as 30km (19 miles) south along the Dnieper, threatening to trap Russian troops.

Ukrainian officials said last week that 400 sq km (155 sq miles) of territory had been regained in less than a week. Russian forces have also been hit by damage to the bridge linking annexed Crimea to Russia. An explosion earlier this month has severely affected Russia’s ability to resupply its troops.

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Original Article: bbc.co.uk

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Three Women Among Dozen Publicly Flogged in Afghanistan – Taliban Official

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Reuters

Twelve people, including three women, have been flogged in front of thousands of onlookers at a football stadium in Afghanistan.

The group were guilty of “moral crimes” including adultery, robbery and gay sex, a Taliban official told the BBC.

This is thought to be the second time in a month the Islamist group has carried out public lashings.

The move could signal a return to the hard-line practices seen in the previous Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Omar Mansoor Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman for Logar region in eastern Afghanistan, where the lashings happened, said that all three women were freed after they were punished. Some of the men were jailed, he said, but it is not clear how many.

The men and women received between 21 and 39 lashes each. The maximum number a person can receive is 39, another Taliban official said.

Nineteen people were also punished last week in a similar flogging in Takhar province in northern Afghanistan, reports say.

The flogging in Logar province comes a week after the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered judges to enforce punishments for certain crimes in line with the group’s strict reading of Islamic Sharia law.

This interpretation of Islamic law includes public executions, public amputations and stoning – although exact crimes and corresponding punishments have not been officially defined by the Taliban.

The supreme leader’s order is the latest sign that the Taliban is taking a tougher stance on rights and freedoms; after promising to rule more moderately when they took power last year.

During their rule from 1996-2001, the Taliban were condemned for regularly carrying out punishments in public, including floggings and executions at the national stadium in Kabul.

The government also vowed that they would not repeat the brutal repression of women; but since the group’s return to rule women’s freedoms have been severely curbed and a number of women have been beaten for demanding rights.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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Ukraine War: Zelensky Denounces Russian ‘terror’ in UN Address

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of “crimes against humanity” after a bombardment caused blackouts across Ukraine.

At least six civilians were killed in the barrage, and officials were forced to shut down three nuclear reactors due to power outages.

Neighbouring Moldova also experienced blackouts, but it was not directly hit.

With winter setting in, Moscow has stepped up strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Officials say Russia’s missile strikes on energy stations has caused “colossal” damage and left more than half of the country’s power grid in need of repair.

Addressing an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, Mr Zelensky said the latest strikes had forced “millions of people to stay without energy supplies, without heating, without water” as temperatures started to drop below zero.

“That’s the Russian formula of terror,” he told delegates in New York via video link.

On Wednesday, an air-raid alert was issued across Ukraine, followed by reports of explosions in a number of locations – including in the capital Kyiv and in the Western city Lviv.

In the southern Zaporizhzhia region, a newborn baby was killed when a missile hit a maternity unit, emergency services said.

General Valeriy Zaluzhniy – the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces – said 67 cruise missiles were launched by Moscow, with air defences successfully intercepting 51 projectiles.

But the attack has caused significant damage to infrastructure across the country.

In Kyiv, parts of the city were left without water and completely without power. By nightfall Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least 80% of residents remained without power or water.

Most thermal and hydro-electric power plants were forced to shut down as well, Ukraine’s energy ministry said.

Shortly before the fresh reports from Kyiv and Lviv, officials said southern Ukraine had come under renewed assault.

The governor of the Mykolaiv region warned of “many rockets” arriving from the south and east.

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Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov did not comment on the attacks during a visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan, but he pledged that the “future and the success of the special operation (Moscow’s term for its war in Ukraine) are beyond doubt”.

Moscow has said that attacking Ukraine’s power grid could weaken its ability to fight and drive its leaders to the negotiating table.

But French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter that such strikes against “civilian infrastructure” constituted a war crime, following similar comments from the US.

Blackouts in Moldova

More than half of Moldova was left without electricity, deputy prime minister Andrei Spinu wrote on Twitter. He said the attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has caused a “massive blackout”.

Within a few hours power was restored in much of the capital, Chisinau, where a third of the Moldovan population lives.

Moldova also experienced widespread power cuts as a result of strikes on Ukraine on 15 November, Mr Spinu said. Mobile networks were also badly affected.

Energy policy analyst Sergiu Tofilat said that because Moldova and Ukraine were connected to the European grid in March, one of the connection points on the power line between Moldova and neighbouring Romania shut down automatically if Ukraine was hit to protect the system: “We reconnect once Ukraine has assessed the damage.”

In response to the outages, Moldovan President Maia Sandu said Russia had “left Moldova in the dark”.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine kills people, destroys residential blocks and energy infrastructure with missiles…” she wrote on Facebook. “But the electricity supply can be restored. We will solve the technical problems and we will have light again. All state institutions are working in this direction.”

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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G20: Xi Accuses Trudeau of Leaks to Media About China-Canada Relations

Cassandra Sherman

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China’s Xi Jinping has been filmed accusing Justin Trudeau of leaking meeting details, days after they held talks at the G20 summit in Bali.

President Xi told the Canadian PM, via a translator, this was inappropriate and accused him of lacking “sincerity”.

He was likely referring to reports that Mr Trudeau discussed alleged Chinese espionage and interference in Canadian elections at the sit down.

The talks, which happened behind closed doors, were the pair’s first in years.

In the footage, filmed by journalists at the now finished gathering of world leaders, President Xi and Mr Trudeau can be seen standing close to each other and conversing via a translator.

“Everything we discussed has been leaked to the papers and that is not appropriate,” the Chinese leader told Mr Trudeau in Mandarin.

It captures a rare candid moment of President Xi, whose image is normally carefully curated by Chinese state media.

After smiling and nodding his head, the Canadian PM responded by saying “in Canada we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have”.

“We will continue to look to work constructively together but there will be things we disagree on,” he added.

Before Mr Trudeau could finish, President Xi cut his counterpart off and asked that he first “create the conditions” – eventually shaking Trudeau’s hand and walking away.

The short but revealing exchange highlighted tensions between China and Canada, running high since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges. All three were later released.

But tensions recently resurged following the arrest of Yuesheng Wang, a public utility worker at Hydro-Quebec, who was charged with espionage.

Mr Wang “obtained trade secrets to benefit the People’s Republic of China, to the detriment of Canada’s economic interests,” Canadian police said in a statement.

At the time, Mr Trudeau and President Xi were at the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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