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Ukraine: Russians Kill 20 in Evacuation10/01 08:08

   A senior Ukrainian official says Russian forces on Saturday shelled a 
civilian evacuation convoy in the country's northeast, killing 20 people. 
Bombardments have intensified as Moscow illegally annexed a swath of Ukrainian 
territory in a sharp escalation of the war.

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- A senior Ukrainian official says Russian forces on 
Saturday shelled a civilian evacuation convoy in the country's northeast, 
killing 20 people. Bombardments have intensified as Moscow illegally annexed a 
swath of Ukrainian territory in a sharp escalation of the war.

   Kharkiv region Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said the convoy was struck in the 
Kupiansy district, calling the attack on people who were trying to flee the 
area to avoid being shelled "ruelty that can't be justified."

   Russian forces have not acknowledged or commented on the attack, apparently 
the second in two days to hit a humanitarian convoy. Russian troops have 
retreated from much of the Kharkiv region after a successful Ukrainian 
counteroffensive last month but continued to shell the area.

   The attack comes at a pivotal moment in Russian President Vladimir Putin's 
war. Facing a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Putin this week heightened threats of 
nuclear force and used his most aggressive, anti-Western rhetoric to date.

   Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his military vowed to keep 
fighting to liberate the annexed regions and other Russian-occupied areas.

   Ukrainian officials said Saturday that their forces had surrounded thousands 
of Russian forces holding the strategic eastern city of Lyman, which is located 
in one of the four incorporated areas. Zelenskyy formally applied Friday for 
Ukraine to join NATO, increasing pressure on Western allies to help defend the 
country.

   Also Saturday Ukraine's nuclear power provider said that Russian forces 
blindfolded and detained the head of Europe's largest nuclear plant. It 
appeared to be an attempt to secure Moscow's hold on the newly annexed 
territory.

   Russian forces seized the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power 
Plant, Ihor Murashov, around 4 p.m. Friday, Ukrainian state nuclear company 
Energoatom said. That was just hours after Putin signed treaties to absorb 
Moscow-controlled Ukrainian territory into Russia, including the area around 
the nuclear plant.

   Energoatom said Russian troops stopped Murashov's car, blindfolded him and 
then took him to an undisclosed location.

   Russia did not immediately acknowledge seizing the plant director. The 
International Atomic Energy Agency, which has staff at the plant, said it was 
aware of the reports of Murashov's capture, and had contacted Russian 
authorities for clarification on what happened.

   "His detention by (Russia) jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe's 
largest nuclear power plant," said Energoatom President Petro Kotin said, 
demanding the director's immediate release.

   The power plant repeatedly has been caught in the crossfire of the war in 
Ukraine. Ukrainian technicians continued running it after Russian troops seized 
the power station, and its last reactor was shut down in September as a 
precautionary measure amid ongoing shelling nearby.

   Amid growing international sanctions and condemnation of Russia, a Ukrainian 
counteroffensive that has embarrassed the Kremlin appeared on the verge of 
retaking more ground.

   A Ukrainian official said Saturday that the Russian-occupied city of Lyman 
was surrounded, with some 5,000 Russian forces trapped there. Luhansk Gov. 
Serhiy Haidai claimed that all routes to resupply Russian forces in Lyman were 
blocked.

   "The occupiers asked their leadership for the opportunity to leave, which 
they refused," Haidai said in a television interview. "Now they have three 
options: to try to break through, to surrender or to die together."

   His claims could not immediately be verified. Russia has not confirmed its 
forces were cut off, and Russian analysts had said Moscow was sending more 
troops to the area.

   The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said 
Ukraine likely will retake Lyman in the coming days.

   Citing Russian reports, the institute said it appeared Russian forces were 
retreating from Lyman, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, 
Ukraine's second-largest city. That corresponds to online videos purportedly 
showing some Russian forces falling back as a Ukrainian soldier said they had 
reached Lyman's outskirts.

   It said Ukraine also was making "incremental" gains around Kupiansk and the 
eastern bank of the Oskil River, which became a key front line since the 
Ukrainian counteroffensive regained control of the Kharkiv region in September.

   The Russian army struck the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv twice 
overnight, once with drones and the second time with missiles, according to 
regional Gov. Vitaliy Kim. The first attack was conducted with Iranian 
Shahed-136 kamikaze drones and the second with S-300 missiles, he said on 
Telegram.

   One of the rockets hit a five-story apartment building in the city center, 
while windows of the surrounding houses were blown out. In another part of the 
city, a private house and a two-story residential building suffered extensive 
damage. Five people were injured, including a 3-month-old baby, Kim said.

   In its heaviest barrage in weeks, Russia's military on Friday pounded 
Ukrainian cities with missiles, rockets and suicide drones, with one strike in 
the Zaporizhzhia region's capital killing 30 and wounding 88.

   In a daily intelligence briefing Saturday, the British Defense Ministry said 
the Russians "almost certainly" struck a humanitarian convoy there with S-300 
anti-aircraft missiles. Russia is increasingly using anti-aircraft missiles to 
conduct attacks on the ground likely due to a lack of munitions, the British 
military said.

   "Russia is expending strategically valuable military assets in attempts to 
achieve tactical advantage and in the process is killing civilians it now 
claims are its own citizens," it said.

   The attack came while Putin was preparing to sign the annexation treaties, 
which included the Zaporizhzhia region. Russian-installed officials in 
Zaporizhzhia blamed Ukrainian forces, but gave no evidence.

   Russia now claims sovereignty over 15% of Ukraine, in what NATO 
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called "the largest attempted annexation of 
European territory by force since the Second World War." The NATO chief was 
meeting Saturday with Denmark's prime minister amid investigations into 
explosions on Russian pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

 
 
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