2 of Ukraine’s cities take hits from Russians | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Russian forces fired cruise missiles at the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa on Saturday and bombarded a besieged steel mill in Mariupol, hoping to complete their conquest of the port city in time for Victory Day celebrations.

Officials announced that the last women, children and older adults had been evacuated from the mill, but Ukrainian fighters remained trapped.

In a sign of the effective defense that has sustained the conflict into its 11th week, Ukraine’s military flattened Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the war’s first days and has become a symbol of resistance. Western military analysts also said a Ukrainian counteroffensive was advancing around the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, even as it remained a target of Russian shelling.

The largest European conflict since World War II has killed thousands of people, forced millions to flee their homes and destroyed large swaths of some cities. Ukrainian leaders warned that attacks would only worsen in the lead-up to Russia’s holiday on Monday celebrating Nazi Germany’s defeat 77 years ago.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people “embody the spirit of those who prevailed during the Second World War.” Blinken accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying “to twist history to attempt to justify his unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine.”

“As war again rages in Europe, we must increase our resolve to resist those who now seek to manipulate historical memory in order to advance their own ambitions,” Blinken said in a statement as the United States and United Kingdom commemorated the Allied forces’ victory in Europe.

The most intense fighting in recent days has been in eastern Ukraine, where the two sides are entrenched in a battle to capture or reclaim territory. The Kremlin’s offensive has focused on the industrial Donbas region, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

The governor of the Luhansk region, one of two that make up the Donbas, said a Russian strike destroyed a school in the village of Bilogorivka where 90 people were seeking safety in the basement. Gov. Serhiy Haidai, who posted pictures of the burning rubble on Telegram, said 30 people were rescued. Emergency services later reported that two bodies had been found and that more could be buried under the rubble. Rescue work was suspended overnight but was to resume today.

Russia also has sought to sweep across southern Ukraine to cut off the country from the sea and to create a corridor to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, long a home to Russian troops. But it has struggled to achieve those objectives.

On Saturday, six Russian cruise missiles fired from aircraft hit the Odesa region, where a curfew is in place until Tuesday morning. Videos posted on social media showed thick black smoke rising over the Black Sea port city as sirens wailed.

The Odesa City Council posted on the Telegram messaging app a news release from the Ukrainian military’s Operational Command “Pivden,” meaning South.

“The enemy continues not only the physical destruction of the region’s infrastructure, but also the psychological pressure on the civilian population,” the military wrote.

While the city’s infrastructure was damaged, no casualties were immediately reported.

Meanwhile, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting the Russian-held Snake Island in a bid to impede Russia’s efforts to control the Black Sea. An image taken early Saturday by Planet Labs PBC showed that most of the island’s buildings had been destroyed by Ukrainian drone attacks, as well as what appeared to be a Serna-class landing craft against the island’s northern beach.

The image corresponds with a Ukrainian military video showing a drone striking the Russian vessel, engulfing it in flames. Snake Island, located some 20 miles off the coast, was the scene of an incident early in the war when Ukrainian border guards stationed there defied Russian orders to surrender, purportedly using colorful language.

In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters made a final stand against a complete Russian takeover of the strategically important city, which would give Russia a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula that was annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Satellite photos shot Friday by Planet Labs PBC showed devastation at the sprawling Azovstal seaside steel mill, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the city. Buildings had gaping holes in the roofs, including one under which hundreds of fighters were likely hiding.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote in a Telegram post that a significant piece of Zelenskyy’s wishes was completed on Saturday in the port city, which has been devastated by weeks of Russian shelling.

“The President’s order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal,” Vereshchuk wrote. “This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed.”

After rescuers evacuated the last civilians Saturday, Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that the focus would turn to extracting the wounded and medics. “Of course, if everyone fulfills the agreements,” he said. “Of course, if there are no lies.”

He added that work would continue today on securing humanitarian corridors for residents of Mariupol and surrounding towns to leave.

In recent days, fighters inside described bringing out small groups of civilians who had been hiding there for weeks. The fighters said via social media that they and the Russians had used a white flag system to halt fighting in order to get civilians out.

But Russian forces have intensified fire on the mill with mortar rounds, artillery, truck-mounted rocket systems, aerial bombardment and shelling from the sea, making evacuation operations difficult.

Three Ukrainian fighters were reportedly killed and six more wounded during an evacuation attempt Friday. Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, said his troops had waved white flags, and he accused Russian forces of firing an anti-tank weapon at a vehicle.

It remains unclear what will happen to the estimated 2,000 fighters at Azovstal, both those still in combat and the hundreds believed to be wounded. In recent days, the Ukrainian government has been reaching out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for them. The fighters have repeatedly vowed not to surrender.

Zelenskyy said officials were trying to find a way to evacuate them. He acknowledged the difficulty but said: “We are not losing hope; we are not stopping. Every day, we are looking for some diplomatic option that might work.”

Russian forces have probed the plant and even reached into its warren of tunnels, according to Ukrainian officials.

Kharkiv, which was the first Soviet capital in Ukraine and had a prewar population of about 4 million, remained a key target of Russian shelling in the northeast. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Saturday that the Russian military also hit large shipments of weapons from the U.S. and other Western countries with Iskander missiles in the region. His claims couldn’t be independently verified.

But Western military analysts said Ukrainian forces were making progress in securing positions around the city. The Ukrainian army said it retook control of five villages in the area and part of a sixth, and it later said that Russian forces destroyed three bridges on a road northeast of the city to try to slow the Ukrainian advance.

Overnight, a Russian missile destroyed a national museum in the Kharkiv region that was dedicated to the life and work of the 18th-century philosopher and poet Gregory Skovoroda, the local council said. It posted photographs on Facebook showing the building engulfed in flames.

Zelenskyy expressed anger at the missile attacks on the museum and on Odesa, “where almost every street has something memorable, something historical.” He said Russian forces have destroyed or damaged about 200 cultural heritage sites.

“Every day of this war, the Russian army does something that leaves you speechless,” he said. “But then the next day it does something that makes you feel this way in a new way.”

CYBERATTACK WARNING

Amid the physical attacks, the Ukrainian government is warning residents of the potential for increased Russian cyberattacks on Victory Day.

The Ukrainian State Special Communications Service wrote on Telegram that it expects “an increase in hacker attacks” on Monday, noting that “not only bullets and shells” are being used by Russia during the invasion.

“A smartphone or computer hacked by Russian hackers is also a murder weapon, simply with a delayed effect,” the agency wrote.

On the eve of a holiday such as Victory Day, Russian hackers might want to escalate cyberthreats against Ukraine, according to the agency.

“They use such periods to intensify cyberattacks,” wrote the State Special Communications Service. “Many cyberattacks are aimed at ordinary users. They are also a target of Russian hackers, because during the war every Ukrainian can potentially become an entry point for hackers in the country’s information infrastructure.”

The agency posted an 18-point list of measures to help protect Ukrainians from cyberattacks.

CROATIAN ARREST

Meanwhile, a Croatian citizen who fought alongside Ukrainian troops in Mariupol has been detained by the Russian army, Croatian state media reported Saturday.

Croatia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that it “has knowledge of a detained Croatian citizen” and is working with the Ukrainian authorities to resolve the situation. It offered no further information because of the “sensitivity of the situation.”

The state HRT television station reported that the Croatian man tried to flee Mariupol with other Ukrainian fighters but was caught by the Russians. No other details were immediately available.

The N1 regional television station said the arrest was first reported by Russian media.

AL-QAIDA WEIGHS IN

Far from the war, Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri made an appearance in a prerecorded video to mark the 11th anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Osama bin Laden.

Al-Zawahri said in the video that “U.S. weakness” was the reason that its ally Ukraine became “prey” for the Russian invasion.

The 27-minute speech was released Friday, according to the SITE Intelligence group, which monitors militant activity. The leader appears sitting at a desk with books and a gun.

Urging Muslim unity, al-Zawahri said the U.S. was in a state of weakness and decline, citing the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Bin Laden was the mastermind and financier behind the attacks.

“Here [the U.S.] is after its defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, after the economic disasters caused by the 9/11 invasions, after the corona pandemic, and after it left its ally Ukraine as prey for the Russians,” he said.

Bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by U.S. forces on his compound hideout in Pakistan.

Al-Zawahri’s whereabouts are unknown. He is wanted by the FBI, and there is a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Information for this article was contributed by Elena Becatoros, Jon Gambrell, Yesica Fisch, David Keyton, Yuras Karmanau, Mstyslav Chernov, Lolita C. Baldor and staff members of The Associated Press; and by Tyler Pager, Julian Duplain, Andrew Jeong, Elln Francis, Adela Suliman, Tobi Raji, Shayna Jacobs, Timothy Bella and Christine Armario of The Washington Post.

    CAPTION CORRECTS THE LOCATION -People clean an area after Russian airstrike in Kostyantynivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
 
 
  photo  People stand in destroyed residential area after Russian airstrike in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
 
 
  photo  Servicemen of Russian Army and Donetsk People’s Republic militia guard the camp where local residents who left a shelter in the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal temporary staying in Bezimenne, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
 
 
  photo  People receive humanitarian aid in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Saturday, May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko)
 
 
  photo  A territorial defence man poses for a photo next to cars destroyed during the Russian occupation in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Saturday, May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
 
 
  photo  A man takes pictures of parts of a missile in a crater of an explosion after Russian airstrike in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
 
 
  photo  Women wrapped in the Ukrainian national flag take selfies near an installation depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin with a gun in his mouth and writing “Shoot yourself” in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
 
 
  photo  A volunteer shapes metal plates at a facility producing material for Ukrainian soldiers in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Saturday, May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
 
 
  photo  Residents look through the debris of their homes Saturday in Malotaranivka, Ukraine, after a Russian strike on the small village near Kramatorsk. (The New York Times/Lynsey Addario)
 
 
  photo  A man evacuated from the Mariupol steel mill walks to a bus under the eye of Russian soldiers and Donetsk People’s Republic militiamen on Friday as the last of the civilians holed up in the plant were moved out. (AP/Alexei Alexandrov)
 
 

 Gallery: Images from Ukraine, month 3



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