Civilians escape Kherson after Russian strikes on freed city

Fleeing the shelling, civilians on Saturday poured out of the southern Ukrainian city they celebrated recapturing weeks ago.

The move from Kherson comes as Ukraine commemorates the Stalinist famine and tries to ensure that Russia’s war in Ukraine does not deprive the rest of the world of vital food exports.

On the outskirts of the city of Kherson, a line of trucks, vans and cars stretched for a kilometer or more, some pulling trailers or carrying animals and other belongings.

Days of intensive shelling Russian forces prompted a bittersweet departure: many civilians were happy that their city had been recovered, but regretted that they could not stay.

“It’s sad that we’re leaving our home,” said Jevhen Yankov, riding in a minibus. “We are free now, but we have to leave because there is shooting and there are casualties among the residents.”

Sticking her head out, Svitlana Romanivna added: “We’ve been through real hell. Our neighborhood was on fire, it was a nightmare. Everything was on fire.”

Emilie Fourrey, emergency project coordinator for the aid group Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, said the evacuation of 400 patients from the Kherson psychiatric hospital, which is near the power plant and the front line, began on Thursday. days.

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Ukraine has faced a massive onslaught of Russian artillery fire and drone attacks in recent days, with shelling particularly intense in Kherson. Often the barrage targeted infrastructure, although civilian casualties were reported. Repair crews across the country worked to restore heat, electricity and water services that had been disrupted.

Russia, after experiencing setbacks on the battlefield, has stepped up attacks on critical infrastructure. A prominent Russian nationalist said on Saturday that there are not enough doctors in Russia’s military, in a rare public admission. problems in the army.

In the capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky oversaw a busy day of diplomacy, meeting several European Union leaders and hosting an “International Food Security Summit” to discuss food security and agricultural exports from the country.

The Prime Ministers of Belgium, Poland and Lithuania and the President of Hungary attended the meeting, and many others participated by video.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that Ukraine, despite its financial difficulties, allocated 900 million euros. hryvnias ($24 million) to buy corn for countries such as Yemen, Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria.

Zelensky said that Ukraine is trying to get its grain on ships and to countries that need it.

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“Our goal is ambitious and concrete – to save at least 5 million people from hunger,” Zelensky said.

The reminder of the food supply was timely: Ukrainians were commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, or Great Famine, which killed more than 3 million people in two years. people, the anniversary of the beginning, because the Soviet authorities under the dictator Josef Stalin confiscated food and grain stocks. and deported many Ukrainians.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz marked the commemoration with parallels with the impact of the war on Ukraine on world markets. Exports from Ukraine have resumed under a UN-brokered deal, but are still far from pre-war levels, pushing up global prices.

“Today we are united in saying that hunger can never be used as a weapon again,” Scholz said in a video message. “That is why we cannot tolerate what we are witnessing: the worst global food crisis in years, with dire consequences for millions of people, from Afghanistan to Madagascar, from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa.”

He said that Germany, together with the UN World Food Program, will provide an additional 15 million. euros for the further transportation of grain from Ukraine.

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Scholz, as part of a cross-party group of lawmakers in Germany, is pushing for a parliamentary resolution next week to recognize the 1930s famine as “genocide”.

Last year, Ukraine and Russia supplied about 30% of the world’s wheat and barley exports, 20% of corn and more than 50% of sunflower oil, the UN said.

In a post on the Telegram social network on Saturday, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said more than 3,000 local utility workers were continuing to work “around the clock” and had managed to restore heat to more than 90% of residential buildings. Although about a quarter of Kyiv’s residents were left without electricity, he said water had been restored to all of the city’s residents.

The dispute over the restoration of power arose after Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre De Croo met with Zelensky in Kiev on Saturday.

“It could be a tough winter,” he said, referring to Belgium’s contribution to generators, support for schools and hospitals in Ukraine, as well as military aid such as “fuel, machine guns, self-propelled artillery, etc.

“And as we stand here, we hope to give you hope and endurance as you fight through this difficult time.”

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Keaten reported from Kiev, Ukraine.

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