Ukraine War; felt like an earthquake

Russia’s first large-scale air attacks in nearly two months come as Ukraine prepares for a counteroffensive. At least 12 people have been killed and several injured after Russian forces attacked cities and regions across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv, in a series of night-time air raids. Rescue workers were searching for survivors on Friday, hours after the first large-scale assault in months.

In the central city of Uman, at least 10 people were killed and 17 wounded when a missile hit an apartment building, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said.

In Dnipro, city’s Mayor Borys Filatov said, a woman and a young child were killed in the attacks in the early hours of Friday but gave no further details.

“No more words,” he wrote.

Ukraine

Videos shared on social media showed part of the building in Uman, a city of 80,000 people in the Cherkasy oblast, up in flames with rubble underneath.

“We have two cruise missile hits on Uman; a residential building and a warehouse building,” Cherkasy Governor Ihor Taburets wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “We are finding out the consequences.”

President Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram that this “Russian terror must face a fair response from Ukraine and the world”.

It was not clear what Russia was targeting, although it has regularly struck civilian infrastructure, particularly energy facilities throughout the winter.

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Beginning late last year, Russia launched such attacks roughly weekly, though they had tapered off as winter ended, with Western countries saying Moscow had used up much of its long-range missile arsenal in a failed bid to freeze Ukrainian cities.

Moscow says it does not deliberately target civilians, but its assaults have killed thousands of people and devastated cities and towns across Ukraine.

Kyiv says attacks on cities far from the front lines have no military purpose apart from intimidating and harming civilians, a war crime.

There were no immediate reports on the damage or any casualties in Kyiv, with city officials saying air defence systems had destroyed at least 11 cruise missiles and two drones.

“Woke up to explosions,” a Kyiv resident told Al Jazeera via text message. “It felt like an earthquake.”

Blasts were also heard in Kremenchuk and Poltava in central Ukraine, as well as Mykolaiv in the south, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency and social media channels.

The wave of raids comes as Moscow’s forces continue to battle for control of the ruined city of Bakhmut, and as Kyiv prepares to retake territory in the country’s east and south.

“It [also] comes as we continue to get increasing demands from Ukrainian officials for better air defense” from its Western allies, said Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kyiv.

The raids also follow a landmark phone call between Zelensky and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first between the two leaders since Moscow began its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

China is trying to position itself as a peacemaker between the two countries.

“China always stands on the side of peace and China’s core position is to promote peace via talks,” the state-run Global Times quoted Xi as saying during the call.

China unveiled its 12-point peace plan on Ukraine – calling for de-escalation and an eventual ceasefire – on the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

12 Point peace plan: 

Released by the foreign ministry, the plan urges an end to Western sanctions against Russia, the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians and steps to ensure the export of grain after disruptions caused global food prices to spike last year.

The proposal mainly elaborates on long-held Chinese positions, including that all countries’ “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity be effectively guaranteed”.

It said nuclear power plants must be kept safe and the threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed.

The plan also called for an end to the “Cold War mentality”, which is Beijing’s standard term for what it regards as global dominance by the United States and its interference in other countries’ affairs.

Ukraine’s response on peace plan: 

Ukrainian President Zelensky said Kyiv needed to cooperate with China to put an end to the war.

“China started talking about Ukraine, and that’s not bad,” Zelensky said. “It seems to me that there is respect for our territorial integrity, security issues.”

“We need to work with China on this point. … Our task is to unite everyone in order to isolate one,” he added.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s president, said any plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine must involve the withdrawal of Moscow’s troops back to Ukraine’s 1991 borders at the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Western response on Peace plan: 

The 12-point document did not reveal any new initiatives, and Western diplomats and experts reacted with skepticism and disappointment, noting that China is not neutral and has not condemned Russia’s invasion.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Beijing was not well-placed to negotiate an end to the war.

“China doesn’t have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine,” he told reporters in Tallinn, adding that Beijing had signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin days before the invasion.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen echoed Stoltenberg’s sentiments, saying China had not shared a peace plan but some principles.

On the other hand Ukraine has received 98 % of promised combat vehicles according to the NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg: NATO and allied countries have provided Ukraine with 1,550 armored vehicles and 230 tanks to form units and help it retake territory from Russian forces, the military alliance’s chief said.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, said on Thursday that the deliveries constituted more than 98 percent of the combat vehicles promised to Ukraine during Russia’s invasion and war, giving Kyiv a bigger punch as it contemplates launching a counteroffensive.

The data is taken from multiple media outlets and edited by the media team of the Youth Diplomacy Forum. 

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