War in Ukraine: Five things to know about the conflict with Russia on Saturday

Ukraine bears share of blame for attack on nursing home, UN says

Two weeks after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, Kremlin-backed rebels attacked a nursing home in the eastern district of Luhansk. Dozens of elderly and disabled patients, many of whom are bedridden, are trapped inside without water or electricity.

The March 11 assault started a fire that spread throughout the facility, suffocating people who were unable to move. A small number of patients and staff managed to escape and hide in the nearby forest, finally getting help after walking 5 kilometers.

In a war rife with atrocities, the attack on a nursing home near the village of Staraya Krasnyanka was notable for its brutality. Ukrainian authorities have placed the blame entirely on Russian forces, accusing them of killing more than 50 vulnerable civilians in a brutal and unprovoked attack.

But new United Nations report found that the Ukrainian armed forces bear a greater and possibly equal share of the blame for what happened in Staraya Krasnyanka, which is about 580 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. A few days before the attack, the Ukrainian military took up positions inside the nursing home, effectively turning the building into a target.

At least 22 of the 71 patients survived the attack, but the exact death toll remains unknown, according to the UN.

The report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights does not conclude that Ukrainian soldiers or Moscow-backed separatist fighters have committed a war crime. But it says the fight at the Staraya Krasnyanka nursing home symbolizes the Human Rights Office’s concerns about the possible use of “human shields” to prevent military operations in certain areas. (AP)

The first Ukrainian military arrived for exercises in the UK

The first group of Ukrainian troops arrived in the UK for training as part of London’s support for Kyiv following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UK government announced on Saturday.

“This ambitious new training program is the next step in Britain’s support for the Ukrainian Armed Forces in their fight against Russian aggression,” the Briton said. This was stated by US Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace..

“Leveraging the expertise of the world-class British Army, we will help Ukraine rebuild and strengthen its resistance as they defend their country’s sovereignty and their right to choose their future,” he added.

According to the Ministry of Defense, the program involves 1,050 British troops who are being held at military installations in the northwest, southwest and southeast of the UK.

The training course, lasting several weeks, “will equip volunteer recruits with little or no military experience with the skills they need to effectively fight on the front lines,” the defense ministry said in a statement. Training includes weapons handling, first aid, field tricks, patrolling, and the law of armed conflict.

On the occasion of the latest visit by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has since resigned after a series of scandals, to Kyiv on 17 June, Downing Street announced that London had proposed “training up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days”.

Boris Johnson said that this military training program “could change the equation of this war, using the most powerful force of all – the determination of the Ukrainians to win.”

Russia “made hell” in the east due to increased shelling of Donetsk

Russian forces are succeeding in “creating hell” in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, the region’s governor said Saturday, as deadly shelling by Vladimir Putin’s forces continues in the east and south.

The governor of the eastern Luhansk region, Sergei Gaidai, said that Russia had carried out more than 20 artillery, mortar and rocket attacks on the region overnight, and its forces were advancing towards the border with the Donetsk region.

Ukrainian authorities say the Russian army continued to bomb eastern Donetsk and northeastern Kharkiv regions of Ukraine on Saturday. Moscow is preparing “new moves” after four and a half months of war, officials say.

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Zelensky dismissed several Kyiv ambassadors

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday fired several senior Kyiv officials abroad, including the country’s outspoken ambassador to Germany, the president’s website reports.

In a decree that did not specify the reasons for the move, Zelensky announced the dismissal of Ukraine’s ambassadors to Germany, India, the Czech Republic, Norway and Hungary.

Zelensky urged his diplomats to enlist international support and military assistance for Ukraine as it struggles to repel Russia’s February invasion.

Kyiv’s relationship with Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies as well as Europe’s largest economy, is particularly sensitive.

Andriy Melnyk, appointed Ambassador to Germany by Zelenskiy’s predecessor in late 2014, is well known among politicians and diplomats in Berlin.

The 46-year-old regularly engages in candid social media correspondence and has branded politicians and intellectuals opposed to arming Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion as peacekeepers.

He once accused German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of acting like a “offended liverwurst” when Scholz did not immediately accept Zelensky’s invitation to visit Kyiv.

Kyiv and Berlin are now arguing over a German-made turbine that is being serviced in Canada.

Germany wants Ottawa to return the turbine to Russian gas giant Gazprom to pump gas to Europe. But Kyiv urged Canada to keep the turbine, saying that sending it to Russia would violate sanctions imposed on Moscow. (Reuters)

5. US promises more aid to Ukraine and warns China

The US has promised to send Ukraine its fifteenth aid package worth $400m (€392m) in the form of military equipment.

The new military aid, which includes four Himars multiple rocket launchers and 155mm rounds, will improve Ukraine’s ability to strike at the Russian army’s weapons depots and supply chains, a senior Pentagon official said.

Washington has already provided Kyiv with $6.9 billion (€6.7 billion) in military aid since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24. The US also applied diplomatic pressure at the G20 ministerial meeting in Indonesia on Friday.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting on Saturday to distance himself from Moscow and condemn Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine.

He said that China’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine complicates US-China relations at a time when they are already preoccupied with disagreements and feuds on many other issues.

In five hours of talks during their first face-to-face meeting since October, Blinken said he did not believe Beijing’s protests that it was taking a neutral stance in the conflict.

Wang Yi blamed the US for worsening relations and said US policy was undermined by what he called a misperception of China as a threat.