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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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Russia has widened its strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine in the past week and is likely to expand its target range further, Britain said on Sunday, while Ukrainians returning to territory abandoned by Russian forces tried to find their dead.

KHARKIV REGION

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* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday investigators had discovered new evidence of torture used against some soldiers buried near Izium, one of more than 20 towns that were retaken in the northeastern Kharkiv region after a lightning advance by Ukraine’s forces earlier this month.

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* He said in a video address that authorities had found a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 soldiers in Izium, some of which he said bore signs of torture.

* The Kremlin has not commented publicly on the discovery of graves at Izium. Moscow regularly denies committing atrocities in the war or deliberately attacking civilians.

* ‘Like Chornobyl’: Ukrainians have begun returning to their home towns in the northeastern region of Kharkiv after it was recaptured by the Ukrainian forces.

FIGHTING

* The Russian army, seeking contract soldiers for what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine, is using mobile recruiting trucks to attract volunteers, offering nearly $3,000 a month as an incentive.

* Five civilians were killed in Russian attacks in the Donetsk region over the past day, while in Nikopol several dozen high-rise and private buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were damaged by Russian strikes, the regional governors said separately.

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* Russia’s defense ministry said on Saturday its forces had launched strikes on Ukrainian positions in several parts of Ukraine, and accused Kyiv of shelling near the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukraine denied shelling near the plant.

* One of the four main power lines at the Zaporizhzhia plant has been repaired and is supplying the plant with electricity from the Ukrainian grid two weeks after it went down, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Saturday.

* Both sides reported injuries in fighting in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Saturday.

* Reuters could not verify battlefield reports.

DIPLOMACY

* Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday brushed off Ukraine’s swift counteroffensive, casting Russia’s invasion as a necessary step to prevent what he said was a Western plot to break Russia apart.

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* U.S. President Joe Biden urged Russian President Vladimir Putin not to use tactical nuclear or chemical weapons in the wake of setbacks in Ukraine in a clip released by CBS on Sunday. “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It would change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two,” he told “60 Minutes.”

* Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a global food crisis aggravated by the war will be the focus of world leaders when they convene for the United Nations General Assembly this week, a gathering that is unlikely to yield any progress toward ending the conflict.

ECONOMY

* A total of 165 ships with 3.7 million tonnes of agricultural products on board have left Ukraine under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to unblock Ukrainian sea ports, the Ukrainian infrastructure ministry said.

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A POP QUEEN’S MESSAGE

* Alla Pugacheva, the queen of Soviet pop music, denounced Putin’s war in Ukraine, which she said was killing soldiers for illusory aims, burdening ordinary people and turning Russia into a global pariah.

QUOTES

* “In the last seven days Russia has increased its targeting of civilian infrastructure even where it probably perceives no immediate effect,” Britain’s defense ministry said in a tweet.

“As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government.” (Compiled by Raissa Kasolowsky Editing by Frances Kerry)

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