Military pushes closer to border; torture tools
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region ordered schools to operate remotely starting Monday as the Ukraine military’s counteroffensive pushed closer to the border.
Vyacheslav Gladkov said Sunday that scores of homes and recreation areas have been damaged by Ukraine artillery.
The U.S. sent long-range artillery to Ukraine with a condition that it not be used to bomb Russian cities and towns. But Ukraine troops have pushed close enough to the Russian border to reach those towns with their own equipment.
“I decided that from tomorrow, schools in the Belgorod district in a 10-kilometer zone along the border will be transferred to distance learning,” Gladkov said in a VK social media post.
The post drew numerous responses from locals urging Gladkov to create a volunteer battalion to provide protection, including mining the border.
“Why did other regions of the country begin ‘self-mobilization,’ while our region, regularly shelled, having the largest border with the enemy, hesitates?” wrote Andrey Rozenberg. “Self-defense detachments must be created.”
►Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, was among the foreign dignitaries who appeared at London’s Westminster Hall on Sunday to pay final respects to Queen Elizabeth II.
►Olga Simonova, 34, a Russian woman who was killed fighting for Ukraine in the war, was honored with a three-gun salute and had her casket draped with the Ukrainian flag at her burial in Kyiv over the weekend. Known as “Simba,” Simonova was 34.
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, an envoy of Pope Francis, was shot at Saturday as he delivered humanitarian aid in Pope Francis’ name near the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, the Vatican said. Krajewski emerged “unscathed and continuing his mission,” the Vatican News Service reported.
Krajewski’s group, which included a Catholic bishop, a Protestant bishop and a Ukrainian soldier, came under light arms fire while doing their work outside Zaporizhzhia and sought cover, he said. They escaped unharmed.
The incident took place on the ninth anniversary of Krajewski’s bishop ordination on Sept. 17, 2013, in St. Peter’s Basilica during a ceremony attended by Pope Francis. The cardinal said he and his group had loaded a minibus with provisions and driven to the front lines – where “no one besides soldiers enter anymore” because of the heavy fighting — when the firing began.
“For the first time in my life, I didn’t know where to run,” he told Vatican News. “It’s not enough to run. You have to know where to go.”
Ultimately, the shooting stopped and the group continued to deliver aid.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said more than 10 “torture chambers” have been found in the Kharkiv region since a counterattack prompted Russian forces to hastily retreat last week.
The region’s prosecutor’s office said on Telegram that it has launched an investigation after seizing tools of torture and documents indicating the Russians had established a police force that operated a jail where the alleged abuse took place.
Russian forces have been accused of committing atrocities and war crimes at several stages of the conflict, most notably in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. Reports of those tactics horrified the world and galvanized support for Ukraine. Last week, officials said they found more than 440 graves outside the Kharkiv city of Izium with bodies that showed signs of violent deaths.
Zelenskyy said Saturday night that “a room for torture and tools for electric torture” were found at the railway station in the Kharkiv town of Kozacha Lopan, and he compared the Russians to the Nazis during World War II.
“And they will answer in the same way,” he said, “both on the battlefields and in the courtrooms.”
Hugely popular Russian singer Alla Pugacheva said Sunday that she wants to be placed on Russia’s foreign agents list in solidarity with her husband. Her post on Instagram comes after Pugacheva’s husband, singer and TV presenter Maxim Galkin, was added to the foreign agents register on Saturday by the justice ministry. Galkin, who has criticized Russia for sending troops into Ukraine, is accused of conducting political activities on behalf of Ukraine and receiving Ukrainian funding. Galkin responded that he made money in Ukraine at a comedy show years ago.
“The rationale for the decision is that I allegedly receive funds from Ukraine, with which I do political activities,” he said on Instagram. “First of all, I don’t do political activities. On stage at my concerts, I do humor and political satire, as I have for 28 years.”
Contributing: The Associated Press