“A free press is a pillar, maybe the pillar of a free society,” said U.S. President Joe Biden, as he called for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, from Russian captivity. A French artist dedicates a mural to executed Ukrainian POW. Pope Francis says he will do anything to bring peace in Ukraine.
Russia launched 18 missiles at Ukraine’s capital Monday morning. Ukraine says it intercepted 15 of them. Preliminary reports from Kyiv indicate that there were no casualties, according to the Associated Press.
Also overnight, Russia targeted the eastern Ukrainian city of Pavlohrad with a missile strike. The AP reports seven missiles were aimed at the city, but some were intercepted. Reuters reports that 34 people, including five children, were hurt in the strike.
The report, posted on Twitter, said there is imagery that shows that Russia “has made a particular effort” to strengthen the northern border of occupied Crimea, “including with a multi-layered defensive zone near the village of Medvedevka.”
In addition, according to the ministry, Russia has dug “hundreds of miles of trenches well inside internationally recognized Russian territory, including in the Belgorod and Kursk regions.”
The trenches show, the update said, that Russia is worried that Ukraine could achieve “a major breakthrough.” Some of the work, however, the ministry said, has “likely been ordered by local commanders and civil leaders in attempts to promote the official narrative that Russia is ‘threatened’ by Ukraine and NATO.”
Russian attacks across Ukraine have killed at least 477 children wounded nearly 1,000 since Russia invaded more than a year ago, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said Sunday in a report posted on the messaging app Telegram.
Most casualties were documented in the Donetsk and Kharkiv oblasts, where 452 and 275 children were either killed or wounded, respectively. The casualty rate among children is expected to be higher, the report said, as the current count does not include data from Russian-occupied territories or where hostilities are ongoing.
On Sunday in Uman, two children who had died in an attack Friday were buried. In all, 23 people, including six children, died in the Russian attack on an apartment building in Uman.
Last month, Ukraine’s National Police said nearly 400 children are missing.
More than 19,000 children from Russian-occupied territories have been subjected to forced deportations to Russia. So far, Ukraine has retrieved only 364 of them, according to Children of War, a Ukrainian national database.
On March 17, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russia President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian official overseeing the forced deportations of Ukrainian children to Russia.
At a recent Moscow news conference, Lvova-Belova rejected the ICC’s war crime charges as false, saying her commission acted on humanitarian grounds to protect the interests of children in an area where military action was taking place, according to the Reuters news agency.
The Kremlin has previously called the ICC’s actions “outrageous and unacceptable.”
But many Ukrainian children who were returned to families and guardians tell a different story.
In April, Vitaly, a child from the Kherson region, told Reuters: “We were treated like animals. We were closed in a separate building.” He said he and other children were told their parents no longer wanted them.
Sunday was the professional day of border guards in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address Sunday. “They were the first to face the occupier in the east,” he said, “they are holding the border firmly.”
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.