As Russia’s Assaults Move East, A Ukrainian Commander Says The Port City Is Facing A ‘humanitarian Catastrophe’

As Russia’s Assaults Move East, A Ukrainian Commander Says The Port City Is Facing A ‘humanitarian Catastrophe’

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3 hr 14 min agoRussian forces are trying to wipe Mariupol “off the face of the Earth,” Ukrainian military commander saysFrom CNN’s Ivan Watson, AnneClaire Stapleton and Niamh Kennedy

An aerial view shows residential buildings that were damaged during the Russian attack in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 3. (Pavel Klimov/Reuters)Russian military forces are trying to wipe the besieged southern city of Mariupol “off the face of the Earth,” a Ukrainian military commander currently in Mariupol told CNN Wednesday night.

“It is a humanitarian catastrophe. The military that were involved in active hostilities here are completely surrounded. There are supply problems with water, food, medication and general supply. It’s a very difficult situation,” said Serhiy Volyna, deputy commander of the Marine Battalion in Mariupol, who has been fighting in the region since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.

“We have been encircled in Mariupol for more than 40 days. The enemy outnumbers us and in terms of weaponry, their artillery, they have sea-based artillery, tanks, armored vehicles and of course mortars. It is difficult for us,” Volyna said.

“It’s just air bombardment… They are just wiping the city off the face of the Earth and wherever any reinforcements they are also using their tanks to crush that,” he continued. 

Volyna served with Ukrainian forces during the Crimean annexation of 2014 and also served with Ukrainian forces and took part in military operations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, now partially controlled by Russian backed separatists.  

When asked if he may now be fighting against former colleagues who crossed over to the Russian side, he replied: “Yes, of course it is entirely possible.”

He called it a “strange situation” that former members or the Ukrainian marines and the Coast Guard of the Black Sea Fleet are “now fighting” in Russian units, labelling them “enemies of our country.”

As far as what Russia’s goals are when it comes to Mariupol, he said that first, Russia wants to use the city to “provide water supply to Crimea.” Russia’s second goal in Mariupol is “to seize the entire coastal territory, near the Azov and the Black Sea and to cut Ukraine off from access to the sea,” he said.

Russia has only made the gains it has due its significant air power, calling their forces less skillful than the Ukrainian troops as far as ground combat is concerned, he said. 

“Whenever they approach us, they suffer huge losses. That’s why after this, having suffered the initial defeat, their marines are demoralized so they’re trying to enter a city only when it’s destroyed,” he added.

3 hr 32 min agoUkrainian soldiers’ Facebook accounts targeted by hackers, Meta saysFrom CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan and Sean Lyngaas

Facebook parent company Meta detailed Thursday an array of shady cyber tactics that it says groups linked to Russia and Belarus are using to target Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.

The tactics the groups are using include posing as journalists and independent news outlets online to push Russian talking points, attempting to hack dozens of Ukrainian soldiers’ Facebook accounts, and running coordinated campaigns to try to get posts by critics of Russia removed from social media, according to Meta.

A hacking group known as “Ghostwriter,” which cyber experts believe is linked to Belarus, attempted to hack into the Facebook accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military personnel, the company said.

The hackers were successful in “a handful of cases,” Meta said, and “they posted videos calling on the Army to surrender as if these posts were coming from the legitimate account owners. We blocked these videos from being shared.” Meta also noted that actions by groups linked to the Russian and Belarusian government appeared to intensify shortly before the invasion, adding that it had observed that accounts linked to the Belarusian KGB “suddenly began posting in Polish and English about Ukrainian troops surrendering without a fight and the nation’s leaders fleeing the country on February 24, the day Russia began the war.”  

Meta also said it had removed a network of about 200 accounts operated from Russia that repeatedly filed false reports about people in Ukraine and Russia in an attempt to get them and their posts removed from the platform. The accounts regularly falsely reported to Meta that people in Ukraine and Russia had broken the company’s rules on hate speech as well as other policies. This tactic, known as “mass-reporting,” is commonly used by people trying to have an opponent’s social media accounts shut down. 

Russia’s invasion brought a “huge surge in attacks against social media accounts via mass reporting,” said Vadym Hudyma, co-founder at Digital Security Lab Ukraine, an organization that helps secure the online accounts of journalists and activists.

Many of the targeted Twitter and Facebook accounts were not verified, which made it harder to recover the accounts of organizations that were, for example, raising money and coordinating medical supplies in response to the Russian invasion, Hudyma told CNN. “Many social media pages were temporarily shut down. We’ve probably recovered most of them quite quickly. But that was a mess.” 

Meta also said it continues to see the use of fake profile photos in disinformation campaigns. 

In a previous announcement in February, Meta said it had had discovered and shut down a covert Russian influence operation that ran accounts posing as people in Kyiv, including news editors, and targeting Ukrainians. 

“They claimed to be based in Kyiv and posed as news editors, a former aviation engineer, and an author of a scientific publication on hydrography — the science of mapping water,” Meta said in a blog post. 

It tied the fake accounts to people previously sanctioned by the US government. The accounts and websites run by this influence operation do not appear to have been very successful in reaching a lot of people, according to data reviewed by CNN.

3 hr 53 min agoWhat’s happening in Ukraine seen as a “systematic slaughter of innocent people,” says UK prime minister From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that “people looking at what has been happening in Ukraine” can see “that this is systematic slaughter of innocent people, whatever term you want to use.”

He was responding to a question about the use of the word “genocide,” and whether that was his “assessment” in relation to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is totally unconscionable and the world, I think, is now overwhelmingly on the side of the Ukrainians,” Johnson said. 

“The UK will continue with our friends and partners to do everything that we can to help,” he added. “We are certainly looking at what more military assistance we can give.” 

3 hr 54 min ago”Those who choose war always lose,” Zelensky tells Greek ParliamentFrom CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

Greek MP’s listen to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece, on April 7. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Greek Parliament Thursday that “those who blackmail Europe with an economic and energy crisis always lose.”

In a virtual address, Zelensky urged the Greek Parliament to “do more” and use its “opportunities as a member of the European Union to organize the salvation of Mariupol.”

“Those who choose war always lose. Those who try to deprive a country of its independence and its territorial integrity always lose. Those wh

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As Russia’s assaults move east, a Ukrainian commander says the port city is facing a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

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