Ukraine: Putin’s ‘denazification’ claims dismantled by Atkins
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The despot, who yesterday pulled back from a full invasion, compared the West’s criticism of his country to the public backlash faced by the Harry Potter author. Ms Rowling, 56, who has been criticised over her stance on gender issues, immediately responded. She told her 14 million Twitter followers that “critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians”.
The writer was slammed by trans rights activists and faced a backlash in 2020 after tweeting criticism of an article that used the term “people who menstruate”.
Yesterday she referenced an article about jailed anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, and hit out at the Russian president for “jailing and poisoning critics”. Her tweet was accompanied by the hashtag #IStandWithUkraine. The row came as Russia appeared to admit defeat in its bid to topple Kyiv.
There were also reports a Russian commander in Ukraine was killed by his own troops, angered at the scale of casualties they were seeing.
The commander, named as Colonel Medvechek of the Russian 37th Motor Rifle Brigade, is believed to have been deliberately run down, Western officials claimed.
Putin had earlier made his extraordinary rant during a televised speech.
In a delusional attempt to distract from his failing invasion of Ukraine, he claimed Russia is being “cancelled” by the West.
He said: “They cancelled Joanne Rowling recently – the children’s author, her books are published all over the world – just because she didn’t satisfy the demands of gender rights.
“They are now trying to cancel our country. I’m talking about the progressive discrimination of everything to do with Russia.”
During his monologue, Putin went on to reference “cancel culture” Nazis trying to burn books in the 1930s, a theme he has returned to a number of times during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
He said: “We remember the footage when they were burning books. It is impossible to imagine such a thing in our country and we are insured against this thanks to our culture. And it’s inseparable for us from our motherland, from Russia, where there is no place for ethnic intolerance, where for centuries representatives from dozens of ethnic groups have been living together.”
The rant came as the Kremlin appeared to give up trying to topple the Ukrainian capital, insisting it will now only focus on “liberating” separatists in the east of the country. It follows defeats around Kyiv and stalled efforts to capture ports on the south coast.
Sergei Rudskoi, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of Russia’s armed forces, said: “The main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed.
“The combat potential of Ukraine’s armed forces has been significantly reduced, which allows us to focus our main efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbass.” It was also reported that two more senior Russian commanders have been killed, including Medvechek.
A Western official said: “The brigade commander was killed by his own troops, we believe, as a consequence of the scale of losses that have been taken by his brigade. “We believe that he was run over by his own troops.”
The same official said that a lieutenant general commanding the Russian 49th Combined Arms Army has also died in the fighting.
He is the seventh Russian general to be killed in combat since the invasion began a month ago.
Officials confirmed yesterday that Ukrainian troops in the capital have managed to push back the Russians in recent days, so that they are now around 30 miles from downtown Kyiv.
One official said: “We are not seeing a turning of the tide but Ukraine has had some success in counter-attacks.”
In the south of the country, it was said the Russian advance on the key Black Sea port city of Odesa was being slowed by “logistic issues and Ukrainian resistance”. In the besieged city of Mariupol, the authorities have said about 300 people died in a Russian air strike on a theatre where hundreds of people were sheltering. If confirmed, it is likely to lead for renewed calls for Western powers to step up military support for the Ukrainian forces.
In a further blow to Putin, Ukrainian leaders said a Russian warship had been destroyed near the port of Berdyansk.
It follows an attack earlier in the week that hit the giant landing ship the Orsk at the same port.
Drone footage released on social media also claimed to show the destruction of a Russian tank by the Ukrainian Army in an unnamed location.
Boris Johnson continued to shore up international opposition to the invasion yesterday with a “frank and candid discussion” with China’s President Xi Jinping. The call came after Nato leaders urged Beijing to “abstain” from supporting Russia’s war effort and to refrain from any actions that would help it circumvent sanctions.
Meanwhile, the UK is set to provide £2million in vital food supplies for areas of Ukraine encircled by Russian forces, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has confirmed.
It is estimated 12 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance across Ukraine.
Ms Rowling also said she was personally matching all donations to a charity she co-founded to help children in Ukraine, up to £1million.
At least 30 killed in hit on theatre
UKRAINIAN officials have revealed at least 300 civilians, including women, children and the elderly, were killed in the strike on a theatre in Mariupol last week, writes Mark Reynolds.
It is believed people are still trapped under the rubble of the bombed venue, in the south-eastern port city. But they cannot be reached because the rescue services in the city had been decimated by Russian forces.
The head of the UN human rights team in Ukraine said monitors have learned of mass graves in the city and one had 200 bodies. Matilda Bogner said civilian deaths in Ukraine now exceeded 1,035.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office yesterday said 135 children have been killed and 184 wounded
since the invasion began.
On Thursday two children aged six and 13 were injured by Russian shelling in Novomykhailivka. Teenagers – aged 13, 14 and 15 – were blown up by a mine in Obilne in the Zaporizhia region.
‘It’s worse than WWII’
A UKRAINIAN couple who fled Mariupol have described life in the city as “real hell”, writes Edd Dracott.
Victor Mayevsky, 62, and his wife Valentina, 63, are now safe in Poland after previous failed escapes during so-called ceasefires. On the first attempt they left their apartment only for the route to be shelled.
They then went to the home of Victor’s 86-year-old aunt in the city centre. Victor said: “Through the window I saw… there was blood all around on the street, there were parts of the bodies of people…the dead were buried right in the yards.
“The sky was red – it was real hell.” Days later, after countless more shellings, the couple ended up sleeping in a basement with 19 other people.
They found packets of breadcrumbs, which they would fill with water for meals.
Victor said: “My aunt is 86…she often asked the question, ‘Why all these bombings, who needs them? For what?
“‘During the Second World War during the occupation of Mariupol there was no such horror! Even Hitler did not allow such atrocities as the Russian army (does) now!’”
Russia ‘loses its fifth general’
Russia has lost another of its generals in the war, Kyiv military sources said.
Lieutenant General Yakov Rezantsev, 48, commander of the army’s 49th combined arms division, is said to have been killed in a strike by the Ukrainian armed forces.
It marks the fifth Russian general that Ukraine claims to have taken out and the 15th military commander overall, as Putin’s invading forces suffer heavy losses at the hands of dogged Ukrainian defenders.
Rezantsev, left, was apparently killed after the Ukrainian army destroyed the commanding post of the 49th Russian Army in southern Ukraine. It is not clear the exact location of the strike.
Are there better alternatives to democracy? Comment by John R Bryson
President Putin would proclaim that the Russian approach is a projection of strength, and the democratic approach is about weakness, given the diversity of views.
Events in Russia over Ukraine highlight there are serious weaknesses with the Russian approach to governance. There is no question that President Putin’s Ukrainian plan has failed.
The Kremlin’s mantra is that everything is going to plan, but surely this cannot be the case; the outcomes achieved cannot reflect the intended objectives.
Why has Putin failed so dramatically? It has altered the balance of power between West and East and this cannot have been part of Putin’s objectives.
We need to celebrate the diversity of views at the core of democracies. For Putin, tolerance of diversity would
have prevented what must be his greatest failure.
*John R Bryson is a Professor of Enterprise & Economic Geography at Birmingham Business School
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