Wednesday, 17 August, 2022

Fighting rages in eastern Ukraine

Fighting rages in eastern Ukraine

SLOVIANSK: Fighting raged Tuesday in and around Ukraine's eastern Donbas region as Russian troops tried to build on recent battlefield gains, while NATO pressed ahead with Finland and Sweden's historic membership bids, reports AFP.  

With the war now well into its fifth month, Kyiv's allies committed Tuesday to support Ukraine through what is expected to be a long and expensive recovery, and agreed on the need for broad reforms to boost transparency and battle corruption. The talks in Switzerland heard that the rebuilding of war-shattered Ukraine is estimated to cost at least $750 billion.

But on the battlefield the conflict continued to wreak devastation, with Ukraine's presidency reporting Russian shelling and missile strikes in several regions overnight.

In Moscow, the defence ministry reported that over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have targeted the city of Kharkiv with "high-precision" weapons killing up to 150 Ukrainian servicemen.

The attack followed shelling in Donetsk, which Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered his troops to continue assaulting as they bid to take total control of the Donbas.

In Brussels, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg announced the process to ratify Sweden and Finland as the newest members of the military alliance had formally launched.

"With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades," he said in a joint press statement with the Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers.

Sweden and Finland both announced their intention to drop decades of military non-alignment status and become part of NATO in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

Meanwhile, Russia said on Tuesday it was investigating the torture of Russian soldiers held prisoner in Ukraine and recently released as part of a prisoner swap with Kyiv in late June.

The Russian Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said in a statement that it was "verifying facts of inhuman treatment of Russia soldier prisoners in Ukraine".

Last week Moscow and Kyiv exchanged 144 prisoners of war each -- the biggest exchange since the start of Moscow's Ukraine campaign launched on February 24.

The Russian committee said Moscow's soldiers told investigators about "the violence they had suffered".

According to its statement, one of the soldiers said Ukrainian medics treated him without anaesthetic and that he was "beaten, tortured with electricity" in captivity. The soldier allegedly said he was left without food and water for days.

Another injured Russian soldier, who had his left amputated, said he was badly beaten and had his wound irritated by Ukrainian medics, the statement said.

The testimonies of the freed Russian soldiers are examples of "violations of the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war", the Russian committee said.