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Thursday August 11th, 2022 2:41PM

Russia-Ukraine war: Key things to know about the conflict

By The Associated Press
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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Ukrainians to keep up their resistance to Russia’s invading forces, as authorities claimed the death toll in an airstrike on a theatre last week was in the hundreds.

During a nightly video address, Zelenskyy said late Thursday that, “With every day of our defense, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much. We are getting closer to victory.”

As Russian troops continue their bombardment, Ukrainians have kept up stiff resistance. Ukraine has accused Moscow of forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of civilians to Russia so they could be used as “hostages” to pressure a surrender. But Russia said they've been going of their own free will.

Here are some key things to know about the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

WHAT HAPPENED IN MARIUPOL?

The city government of Mariupol reported Friday that last week’s Russian airstrike on theater used as bomb shelter killed 300 people, citing witnesses. The post on its Telegram channel cited eyewitnesses for the death toll, of “about 300.” It was not immediately clear whether emergency workers had finished excavating the site or how the eyewitnesses arrived at the horrific death toll.

Before it was struck, an enormous inscription reading “CHILDREN” was posted outside the theatre in Russian, intended to be visible from the skies. More than 1,300 people had been sheltering in the building and for days, the government in the battered port city was unable to give a casualty count for the March 16 attack.

ARE UKRAINIANS BEING FORCED INTO RUSSIA?

Kyiv and Moscow gave conflicting accounts about whether people were being moved to Russia willingly or whether they were being coerced or manipulated.

Ukraine officials say Russian troops are confiscating passports from Ukrainian citizens then moving them to “filtration camps” in Ukraine’s separatist-controlled east before sending them to distant, economically depressed areas in Russia. Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s ombudsperson, said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, were moved against their will.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said 6,000 of those forced to Russia were from the devastated port city of Mariupol, and 15,000 more people in a section of Mariupol under Russian control have had their identifying documents confiscated.

But Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said the roughly 400,000 people evacuated to Russia since the start of the war were from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have been fighting for control for nearly eight years.

WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING ON THE BATTLEFIELD?

Ukraine’s navy said Thursday that it sank a large landing ship near the port city of Berdyansk that had been used to supply Russian forces with armored vehicles.

A local government official in the northern city of Chernihiv said a “catastrophe” is unfolding as Russian troops deliberately target sites where food is being stored. An airstrike there this week destroyed a crucial bridge.

City council secretary Olexander Lomako estimated that more than 130,000 people remain in the city, which had a pre-war population of 285,000, but that Ukraine remains in full control.

Chernihiv has been further cut off after a vital pedestrian bridge over the Desna river was damaged by shelling, the local governor said Friday. The tall and narrow concrete bridge had become a vital link to the outside world after the main road bridge over the Desna was destroyed earlier this week by a Russian airstrike. That severely hampered efforts to get supplies in and civilians out on a highway leading south to the capital, Kyiv.

HOW IS THE WEST CRACKING DOWN ON RUSSIA?

Western nations continued to crank up the cost of war for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Germany’s economy minister said Friday that his country has forged contracts with new suppliers that will allow it to significantly reduce its reliance on Russian coal, gas and oil in the coming weeks.

He said Germany also expects to be able to become almost entirely independent of Russian gas by mid-2024. To do this the government has secured the use of three “floating” terminals capable of regasifying LNG brought in by ship and is working hard to build permanent LNG terminals for long-term imports.

As the Russian stock market opened to limited trading on Thursday, the Group of Seven leaders announced they are restricting the Russian Central Bank’s use of gold.

The U.S. also announced a new round of sanctions targeting 48 state-owned defense companies, 328 members of the Duma, Russia’s lower parliament, and dozens of Russian elites. The White House said the efforts were designed to blunt Russia’s ability to use its international reserves to fund the war.

Britain on Thursday sanctioned 65 more companies and individuals over the invasion. The targets include Russia’s largest private bank and a woman who the British government says is the stepdaughter of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

On Friday, Lavrov described Western efforts to sanction Russia internationally as “total war." He said the goal was “to destroy, break, annihilate, strangle the Russian economy, and Russia on the whole.”

But Hungary, known for being Putin's strongest ally within the EU, on Friday rejected an emotional appeal from Zelenskyy to supply Ukraine with weapons and support sanctions on Russia’s energy sector, calling the requests “against Hungary’s interests.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated Friday that any use of chemical or nuclear weapons “will totally change the nature of the war in Ukraine. It will be absolutely unacceptable.”

WHAT HAS THE AP DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED?

Ukrainian troops repositioned their forces just west of Kyiv amid reports they had pushed out the Russians following fierce battles. In the village of Yasnohorodka, west of Kyiv, AP reporters saw signs of heavy fighting. R

The tower of the village church was damaged by a blast and houses on the main crossroad lay in ruin.

“You can see for yourself what happened here. People were killed here. Our soldiers were killed here. There was fighting,” said Yasnohorodka resident Valeriy Puzakov.

To the east, the outskirts of Kharkiv were shrouded by foggy smoke Friday, with shelling constant since the morning. In a city hospital, several injured soldiers arrived, with bullet and shrapnel wounds. As doctors worked, the sound of shelling could be heard in the surgery ward.

Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press show thick black smoke rising Thursday over the port in Berdyansk, with a large ship on fire. The timing of the photos correspond with what the Ukrainian navy described as a successful attack on a Russian landing craft. The image also corresponds to online videos purportedly showing the attack at the port in the city held by Russia on the Sea of Azov.

Shelling was heard in northern Kharkiv on Thursday afternoon, and AP journalists saw an ambulance collecting four bodies near the remnants of rockets. Smoke billowed from neighborhoods and at least one house was destroyed.

WHAT HAS THE WAR'S CIVILIAN TOLL BEEN SO FAR?

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Friday that since Russia's invasion started, almost a quarter of Ukraine’s population — more than 10 million people — have been forced from their homes.

Some 3.7 million refugees have fled the country, the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II. Also, 6.5 million people have been displaced within Ukraine, and at least 13 million are estimated to be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave, he said.

“Millions have been living through the horror of war in Ukraine," Grandi said. “Without an immediate end to the fighting, this unspeakable suffering and mass human displacement will only get worse."

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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