Ukraine-Russia: A look back at the conflict this week
A Russian attack severely damaged a children's hospital and maternity ward in the besieged port city of Mariupol. The incident killed three people, with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky denouncing it as an “atrocity”. The city, which has a population of 446,000, has seen its death toll pass 1,500 in 12 days of attack, the mayor's office said, while the World Health Organisation has said Russian forces have hit more than a dozen hospitals since they invaded Ukraine.
The UK government announced a slight relaxation to immigration rules for Ukrainian refugees, with Home Secretary Priti Patel saying those with passports fleeing the conflict would be able to come to the UK via a “fully online” process. Additionally, it was reported the public will be able to house Ukrainian refugees – along with charities, businesses and community groups who can also register to offer employment. The UK government has however been condemned by French President Emmanuel Macron for failing to live up to its "grand statements" on helping Ukrainian refugees.
President Zelensky accused Russia of kidnapping the mayor of the southern port city of Melitopol. The video address in which he made the comments came after Kirill Timoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, posted a video on Telegram claiming to show a group of armed men carrying mayor Ivan Fedorov across a square. A Moscow-backed rebel group, the Luhansk People’s Republic, accused him of “terrorist activities” and claimed they had been looking for him since Russia took the city.
The UK government announced a £15 billion sanction hit – a full asset freeze and travel ban – on seven Russian oligarchs including Roman Abramovich and Oleg Deripaska. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “These sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals, and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.”
Additionally, Italian police seized a Russian-owned superyacht valued at the equivalent of £443 million and identified as belonging to billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, who made a fortune in fertilizer production and coal energy.
US President Joe Biden warned direct conflict between Russia and NATO would be "World War Three". He dismissed the possibility of NATO forces partaking in a no-fly zone, fearing it could lead to a direct conflict with Russia. The president also announced the US would dramatically downgrade its trade status with Russia and ban imports of Russian seafood, alcohol and diamonds.
Fears were expressed that Russia could be planning to use chemical or biological weapons for an attack in Ukraine – and "we should all be on the lookout" in this regard, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. Furthermore, Ukraine fears Russia will launch a “false flag” attack on nuclear plant Chernobyl and then blame the besieged country, with the Ukrainian defence ministry even raising concerns that Russian troops could collect dead bodies and plant them at the nuclear site.
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