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    Shocking before and after pictures have revealed the full extent of the destruction wrought by Russian missiles on a prestigious 19th-century school in eastern Ukraine. The Lysychansk Multidisciplinary Gymnasium, located in the town of the same name in Luhansk, was built in the late 19th century as Ukraine's eastern Donbas region became industrialised. Belgium, France, Britain and Switzerland poured huge sums of money into the Donbas when coalfields were discovered there in the 1800s, and several towns and cities were rapidly developed thanks to the foreign investment.  Belgium became an official partner in the region and Belgian architects were deployed to help construct infrastructure and a host of impressive buildings, of which the gymnasium was an excellent example.  But despite surviving two World Wars and constant unrest in the region since 2014 as pro-Russian separatists attempted to seize power, the reputed school and prized historic landmark was utterly decimated last Sunday by Putin's forces. Pictures and footage posted by Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai showed the shell of the building crumbling as flames raged throughout its storied corridors and hallways. ...
    By The Associated Press LVIV, Ukraine — The Luhansk governor said Russian forces now control 80% of the region, which is one of two regions that make up the Donbas in eastern Ukraine. One of Russia’s stated goals is to expand the territory in the Donbas under the control of Moscow-backed separatists. Before Russia invaded on Feb. 24, the Kyiv government controlled 60% of the Luhansk region. Gov. Serhiy Haidai said the Russians, who renewed their offensive this week in eastern and southern Ukraine, have strengthened their attacks in the Luhansk region. After seizing Kreminna, Haidai said the Russians now are threatening the cities of Rubizhne and Popasna and he has urged all residents to evacuate immediately. The Donetsk region, also part of the Donbas, has seen extremely heavy fighting as well — particularly around the port city of Mariupol. ___ KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR: — Russia hits Ukrainian cities, pours more troops into war — More than 5 million people have fled Ukraine, the UN says — Japan formally revokes Russia’s ‘most favored nation’ status — Russia’s...
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned against the formation of a 'pseudo-republic' in the south of his country on Sunday. Zelensky said Russians were using blackmail and bribery in an attempt to force local officials to form a break-away region in the south, much like those in Donetsk and Luhansk - which Putin declared as 'independent' at the start of the war. Protection for the two eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in 2014 was used as a pretext by Russia to start the invasion. Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 290,000 residents, was the first major city to fall earlier this month. In this handout video grab taken from a footage released by the Ukrainian Presidency, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks face camera in a street of Kyiv on March 11 In this handout video grab taken from a footage released by the Ukrainian Presidency, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks face camera in a street of Kyiv on March 11 Ukrainian officials on Sunday also accused Russia of organizing a 'fake referendum' in the south...
    So now, at last, the crisis is upon us. The months of mounting tension are over, and we know where we stand. By recognising the independence of his separatist puppets in eastern Ukraine and sending in his troops as so-called ‘peacekeepers’, Vladimir Putin has chosen the path of confrontation. Even to the most naïve observer, it must now be blindingly obvious that the Russian President never had any interest in a diplomatic solution. He has been bent on war for months, determined to stamp out the embers of democracy in Kiev and bring Ukraine back into Moscow’s imperial orbit. As Boris Johnson told the Commons yesterday, Putin’s brutal land-grab represents the greatest threat to European peace since the 1930s. It’s a well-worn analogy, but for once it feels right. Vladimir Putin is not Adolf Hitler; not yet. But he is nonetheless a cruel, autocratic, intolerant bully, simmering with rage and resentment, fixated on the imagined injustices of history, obsessed with redrawing the map of Europe and reasserting Russia’s dominance over its smaller neighbours. Today, as in the 1930s, the West...
    As we left the car, there was a loud thump, followed quickly by two more thuds from the edge of the small town. ‘That is shelling,’ said the Ukrainian soldier beside me, stating the obvious. We entered the kindergarten, with its brightly coloured walls and cheery cartoon stickers on the lockers for the coats of pupils. But the children were at home, still recovering from the missile that ripped through their classroom wall last week. ‘There was an explosion and glass flew, smoke, all that,’ said Natalya Slesareva, 54, one of three adults rushed to hospital with concussion after Thursday’s attack. ‘Then we realised that it was shelling. It was during breakfast time.’ Ian Birrell in Ukraine pictured with the helicopters in MI8 belonging to the Armed Forces The attack on children at the start of the school day in Stanytsia Luhanska highlighted the escalation of conflict along the 173-mile frontline that runs through eastern Ukraine between areas run by the Kiev government and Moscow-backed separatists. Yesterday saw scores more shells fired over the border, killing two Ukrainian soldiers and...
    MOSCOW -- Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered a full military mobilization Saturday amid a spike of violence in the war-torn region and fears in the West that Russia might use the strife as a pretext for an invasion.Denis Pushilin, the head of the pro-Russia separatist government in Ukraine's Donetsk region, released a statement announcing a full troop mobilization. A similar announcement quickly followed from his counterpart in the Luhansk region.Pushilin cited an "immediate threat of aggression" from Ukrainian forces, accusations that Ukrainian officials vehemently denied earlier."I appeal to all the men in the republic who can hold weapons to defend their families, their children, wives, mothers," Pushilin said. "Together we will achieve the coveted victory that we all need."SEE ALSO | Biden says US has reason to believe Russia 'intends to attack' Ukraine: 'I'm convinced'The separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting for almost eight years. But the violence along the line of contact separating the two sides, including a humanitarian convoy hit by shelling, has risen in recent days. A car bombing Friday in the city of Donetsk...
    KYIV (Reuters) - Four people died and ten were hospitalized as a series of forest fires swept a large area in the eastern Ukrainian Luhansk region, Ukraine's emergency service said on Thursday. The fires threatened 22 settlements and engulfed an area of about 18,000 hectares, the service said in a statement, adding that 120 people were evacuated. In July, one person died and nine were hospitalized in a similar forest fire that swept through the Luhansk region, destroying 80 dacha holiday cottages and 30 houses in two villages. This spring, forest fires around the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant in the north of the country and elsewhere pushed pollution levels in Ukraine's capital Kyiv to the worst in the world. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan) Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.
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