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Ukraine allies see risk in Russia's response to battlefield setbacks

World Sep 18, 2022 06:53PM ET
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6/6 © Reuters. Police and experts work at a place of mass burial during an exhumation, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine September 17, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich 2/6

By Pavel Polityuk and Phil Stewart

IZIUM, Ukraine (Reuters) - The top U.S. general warned on Sunday it was unclear how Russia would react to its battlefield setbacks in Ukraine, as Britain said Moscow's forces had widened strikes on civilian infrastructure and were likely to expand their targets further.

Ukraine's General Staff said Ukrainian forces repelled attacks by Russian troops in the areas of the Kharkiv region in the east and Kherson in south where Ukraine launched counter-offensives this month, as well as in parts of Donetsk in the southeast.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed there would be no let up in the fighting.

"Perhaps it seems to some of you that after a series of victories we now have a lull of sorts," he said in his regular nightly address. "But there will be no lull. There is preparation for the next series ... For Ukraine must be free. All of it."

Ukrainians who returned to the northeastern area retaken in Kyiv's lightning advance earlier this month were searching for their dead while Russian artillery and air strikes kept pounding targets across Ukraine's east.

PUTIN, BIDEN WARNINGS

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed off Ukraine's swift counteroffensive and said Moscow would respond more forcefully if its troops were put under further pressure.

Such repeated threats have raised concerns Putin could at some point turn to small nuclear weapons or chemical warfare.

U.S. President Joe Biden, asked what he would tell Putin if he was considering using such weapons, replied in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes": "Don't. Don't. Don't. It would change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two."

Some military analysts have said Russian might also stage a nuclear incident at Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant held by Russia but run by Ukrainian staff.

Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other for shelling around the plant that has damaged buildings and disrupted power lines needed to keep it cooled and safe.

U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for vigilance after visiting a base in Poland aiding Ukraine's war effort. His remarks were a reminder of the risks of escalation as the United States and its NATO allies aid Ukraine from a distance.

"The war is not going too well for Russia right now So it's incumbent upon all of us to maintain high states of readiness, alert," he said after his trip to the base, which reporters traveling with him were asked not to identify.

Five civilians were killed in Russian attacks in the eastern Donetsk region over the past day and in Nikopol, further west, several dozen residential buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were hit, regional governors said on Sunday.

In a intelligence update, Britain's defence ministry said Russian strikes at civilian infrastructure, including a power grid and a dam, had intensified.

"As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government," it said.

MASS GRAVES

On Saturday, Zelenskiy said authorities had found a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 soldiers in Izium, some of which he said bore signs of torture.

Izium residents have been searching for dead relatives at a forest grave site where workers began exhuming bodies last week. Ukrainian officials said last week they had found 440 bodies in woods near Izium. They said most of the dead were civilians and the causes of death had not been established.

The Kremlin has not commented on the discovery of the graves, but in the past Moscow has repeatedly denied deliberately attacking civilians or committing atrocities.

Making his way between graves and trees where exhumations were underway, Volodymyr Kolesnyk was trying to match numbers on wooden crosses with names on a neatly handwritten list to locate relatives who he said were killed in an air strike early in the war. Kolesnyk said he got the list from a local funeral company that dug the graves.

"They buried the bodies in bags, without coffins, without anything. I was not allowed here at first. They (Russians) said it was mined and asked to wait," he told Reuters.

In Kozacha Lopan, a village some 45 km (30 miles) north of Kharkiv and only about 5 km (3 miles) from the Russian border, a Reuters reporter was taken to a squalid cellar with rooms fitted with iron bars, which officials said had served as a makeshift prison during the occupation. District mayor Vyacheslav Zadorenko said the rooms had been used as a "torture cellar" to detain civilians. Reuters was unable to verify those accounts.

Elsewhere in the region, residents of towns recaptured after six months of Russian occupation were returning with a mixture of joy and trepidation.

"I've still kept this feeling, that any moment a shell could explode or an airplane could fly over," said Nataliia Yelistratova, who travelled with her husband and daughter 80 km (50 miles) on a train from Kharkiv to her hometown of Balakliia to find her apartment block intact, but scarred by shelling.

"I'm still scared to be here," she said after discovering a piece of shrapnel in a wall.

(This story refiles to add dropped word in "no let up" in paragraph three)

Ukraine allies see risk in Russia's response to battlefield setbacks
 

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Comments (8)
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Sep 18, 2022 5:36PM ET
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NATO cannot draw first blood and start attacking russia, we can only help the ukranians with weapons for now, but off course if putin escalates and use tactical nuclear weapons or chemical weapons against ukraine NATO will enter the war thats a 100% probability. Problem is if putin miscalculates NATO resolve to help Ukraine, then we will have ww3 against russia.
jason xx
jason xx Sep 18, 2022 1:31PM ET
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Why wait for puketin to use a tactical nuke? Let NATO off its leash and remove the threat. Its time.
Peter Andersen
Peter Andersen Sep 18, 2022 12:28PM ET
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Putin is looking for nazistt in ukraine why there is no one there putin has started a junior military school like hitlerrr did called hitlerr jugend what is the difference putin is like hitlerr
jason xx
jason xx Sep 18, 2022 12:28PM ET
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Listen Russia denies everything. Its time to take off the gloves and remove the threat at all cost. Lets get it done...
Roman Sheveloff
Roman Sheveloff Sep 18, 2022 12:28PM ET
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Come to Russia. Always tough from your computer.
Martin Babei
Martin Babei Sep 18, 2022 8:15AM ET
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The day will come when this war criminal in brought to justice. Until that day, let make shore no euro or dollar is enriching countries like Russia. I therefore, here is a list of companies still operating is Russia and therefor supporting the war efforts. Abbott Labs, Accor, ADM. Amway, Arconic, Baker Hughes, Bridgestone, Bunge (has suspended new business from Russia), Cargill. Citrix, Cloudflare, Cummins, DDB, Deere, Deutsche Bank, Dow, Fast Retailing. Ferragamo, Halliburton, Herbalife, Greif, Logitech, Pirelli, Subway. Make shore you don’t buy their stock of products, because you are supporting the war by doing so.
waqar ilyas
waqar ilyas Sep 18, 2022 8:15AM ET
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hopefully those who committed same atrocities in Iran and Libya will also be punished likewise
waqar ilyas
waqar ilyas Sep 18, 2022 8:15AM ET
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*Iraq ... not iran
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 18, 2022 6:56AM ET
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Listen to Russian soldiers intercepted phone calls from Ukraine on YouTube. They are heart breaking.
jason xx
jason xx Sep 18, 2022 6:56AM ET
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Russian soldiers are doing the ******** They are the invader and enemy. You should not have sympathy for them.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 18, 2022 6:56AM ET
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I hear want you are saying, but at a cosmic level, its sad.
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Sep 18, 2022 5:07AM ET
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Russians are cowards and not real men or soldiers. They break all rules of engagement and do not care about war rules. They are in ukraine for genocide only and they will continue this and bo..mb civilians and ukraine infrastructure until they are thrown out of ukraine. Give ukraine all necessary weapons to help them end the war quickly that means long range missiles and fighterplains….and advanced airdefense system…
Mekigis Laukinis
Mekigis Laukinis Sep 18, 2022 5:07AM ET
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give ukrainians a nuke. they will prove who they are
adriaan kuhn
adriaan kuhn Sep 18, 2022 4:52AM ET
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it almost looks like the battle of mukden where russia had its first major defeat in japanese/russian before ww1. putin will lose defenders are always more passionate than aggressors
Peter Andersen
Peter Andersen Sep 18, 2022 12:52AM ET
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It putin way to play his wars same in Syria and Tjetjenien Same Taktik torturing people to create fear no laws only destruction
 
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