Russia-Ukraine war: Russia shells Merefa school, cultural center; 21 dead
As the Russia-Ukraine war entered the 23rd day on Friday, Moscow continued to intensify its assault on Ukraine, with attacks and civilian casualties being reported in several cities. At least 21 people were killed and 25 injured in eastern Ukraine's Merefa town, outside Kharkiv, after Russian shelling hit a school and a cultural center on Thursday. Here are more updates on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
The Merefa attack came just a day after Ukraine accused Russian forces of destroying a theater in the southern city of Mariupol Wednesday. Reportedly, over 1,000 people were hiding in the building's bomb shelter. Condemning the Mariupol theater attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said it was heartbreaking what Russia was doing to the people of Ukraine, adding, "Everything is a target for them [Russia]."
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy on Thursday expressed gratitude to US President Joe Biden for providing additional military aid to Ukraine but didn't reveal what the package included. Also, Biden is scheduled to speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine and China's stand on the matter. Notably, Beijing has so far refused to condemn Moscow over its assault on Ukraine.
Even as the war between Russia and Ukraine entered the fourth week, the Kremlin on Thursday said that Moscow had been "putting in colossal effort" into the talks with Ukraine on a possible peace agreement. "Agreeing [on] such a document, the observance of all its parameters and their implementation could very quickly stop what is happening [in Ukraine]," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, 726 civilians—including 52 children—were killed in Ukraine, a top United Nations official earlier said on Wednesday, warning "the actual number is likely much higher." "The magnitude of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine cannot be denied. This demands a thorough investigation and accountability," said UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.
On the other hand, India's External Affairs Ministry on Thursday clarified its "Operation Ganga" was still on and they were trying to bring Indians stranded in Ukraine out of the warzone. "We will keep doing what we can to evacuate those who want to come," it said. Last month, India had launched "Operation Ganga" to evacuate Indians from war-hit Ukraine through its neighboring countries.