What happened in the Russia-Ukraine war this week? Catch up with the must-read news and analysis

The Guardian
The Guardian
Residents look over the remains of their building, which was destroyed by a Russian missile on Wednesday, in the Kyiv suburb of Vyshhorod.

Every week we wrap up the must-reads from our coverage of the Ukraine war, from news and features to analysis and opinion.

Devastating wave of attacks

Russia fired dozens of missiles at Ukraine in a new onslaught against the country’s civilian infrastructure on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people in residential areas, as Moscow once more tried to retaliate for its military defeats by targeting the population.

Ukraine’s armed forces estimated that Russia launched 70 cruise missiles, of which 51 were intercepted by air defences, in what the army called a “large-scale attack on crucial infrastructure facilities”, Lorenzo Tondo and Julian Borger reported.

One of the 10 that evaded the defences in Kyiv hit an apartment block in the northern suburb of Vyshgorod, killing three people and wounding 15.

There was a kindergarten in the lower ground floor of the building, but it was evacuated just in time after air raid sirens went off. The blast left a three-metre crater in front of the building, destroyed the apartments around it, blew the tops off nearby trees and ruined a children’s playground.

Earlier in the day, a newborn baby was killed when a Russian rocket struck a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine. Ukraine’s state emergency service said a woman with her two-day-old baby and a doctor were in the facility in the town of Vilniansk, close to the city of Zaporizhzhia, when it was hit. The mother and the doctor were pulled alive from the rubble by rescue workers but the baby died, it said on the Telegram messaging app.

As winter sets in, morale is key
Snow-covered anti-tank obstacles at Independence Square in Kyiv. Photograph: Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Julian Borger spoke to Ukrainians in Kyiv as temperatures fall and Russia continues its strikes on power infrastructure.

Russia has used the iconography of the second world war to maintain Russian public support for the invasion. Ukrainians are quick to point out that ultimately victorious struggle is their legacy too, and they draw from it lessons in resilience.

“We are Ukrainians. We’re strong and we can get through this,” said Angelina Anatolieva, a 50-year-old Pecherskyi resident. “Do you remember the siege of Leningrad? They lived through that and we can live through this. We can live through anything.”

By 4pm on Thursday, the national grid had been pieced back together by the intensive efforts of utility workers, who rushed to restore power plants, high-voltage lines and transformers. They did so under the constant threat of Russian “double tap” tactics, in which a second strike targets damaged sites with the aim of killing humanitarian and repair workers.

Earlier in the week in Kherson, residents in the newly liberated – and freezing – city were gathering all the wood they could after the bombing devastated their power supplies, Lorenzo Tondo and Isobel Koshiw reported.

Winter is coming and with it a nightmare for millions who have no electricity, water or heating.

“I have already started using the burzhuika,” says Kateryna Sliusarchuk, 71, referring to Ukraine’s traditional homemade welded metal stove, as temperatures in Kherson dropped close to zero. “Of course, I’ll have to wave my arms around and look for wood every day to protect myself from the cold. And it won’t be easy at my age.”

Mothers, wives of drafted soldiers accuse Putin of whitewash
A priest conducts a ceremony for Russian conscripts before their departure for Ukraine. Photograph: Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters

Two months after mobilising tens of thousands of Russian men, the Kremlin has said that Vladimir Putin will grant some of their mothers and wives an audience to quell fears over the mass call-up.

But advocates for soldiers’ families have said they were passed over for the meeting and are expecting it to be a whitewash covering up the Kremlin’s disregard for its own soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

Valentina Melnikova, a veteran advocate for soldiers’ families going back to 1989, said in an interview with the Guardian that she had not been approached about the meeting with Putin, which is expected to take place later this week.

“Of course they didn’t invite us and we of course don’t want to go,” she said.

What happened to the Ukrainians defending Snake Island?

When Putin’s forces approached a tiny Black Sea outpost, demanding its Ukrainian defenders surrender or die, their expletive-laden response became a symbol of resistance.

The phrase, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself!” went viral. It became a national slogan, a global meme and a symbol of Ukraine’s heroic defiance in the face of Russian aggression. The five words went on a great journey, travelling far beyond the transmission station where they were first uttered. They perfectly summed up Ukraine’s response to Russia’s overweening assault, to its arrogance and presumption.

As the first airstrikes hit Kyiv, the invasion came to the island in the form of the Russian patrol boat Vasily Bykov. Captain Bohdan Hotskiy ordered his guards to grab their weapons and take up positions. They had no heavy arms of any kind, he recalled to Luke Harding – only sniper rifles and grenades.

Then a second Russian ship arrived from the south. It was the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, almost 200 metres long and equipped with guided cruise missiles and anti-aircraft systems.

“The Moskva started hitting us with artillery. It was too far away. We couldn’t shoot back at it,” Hotskiy recalls. “Then war planes started bombing us. We took cover in hiding places.”
Bohdan Hotskiy recalls his time defending Snake Island when it was attacked by Russia on 24 February. Photograph: Christopher Cherry/The Guardian

War turns former enemies into friends

Opposition to Russian aggression has helped Poles and Ukrainians put a bitter 20th-century history behind them, Emma Graham-Harrison writes from the eastern Polish village of Przewodów.

But Putin’s war has changed Poland’s relationship with Ukraine – and people’s understanding of their own history – virtually overnight. Last week a Russian-made missile claimed the first lives outside Ukraine’s borders.

“Feb 24 forced people to see we have something in common, a common enemy,” said Prof Tomasz Pudłocki of the Institute of History at Kraków’s Jagiellonian University, who is a native of the Polish border city of Przemyśl. “It was very clear to Poles and Ukrainians that whatever their political position, Russia is now the aggressor.”
People attend the funeral of one of two victims of a missile that hit the south-eastern Polish village of Przewodów near the border with Ukraine. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Russian troops accused of burning bodies at Kherson landfill
Two Russian helmets at the Kherson landfill where Russian soldiers have been accused of burning dead bodies. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Lorenzo Tondo and Artem Mazhulin travelled to Kherson, where they visited a landfill site at which Russian troops have been accused of burning dead bodies. “As the Russian occupation of the region was on its last legs over the summer, the site, once a mundane place where residents disposed of their rubbish, became a no-go area, according to Kherson’s inhabitants, fiercely sealed off by the invading forces from presumed prying eyes,” Tono and Mazhulin write.

“The reason for the jittery secrecy, several residents and workers at the site told the Guardian, was that the occupying forces had a gruesome new purpose there: dumping the bodies of their fallen brethren, and then burning them.

“The residents report seeing Russian open trucks arriving to the site carrying black bags that were then set on fire, filling the air with a large cloud of smoke and a terrifying stench of burning flesh.

“They believe the Russians were disposing of the bodies of its soldiers killed during the heavy fighting of those summer days.”

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