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Russian airstrike hits busy shopping mall in central Ukraine, sparking fears of mass casualties

A Russian airstrike struck a bustling shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine on Monday, setting the building ablaze and prompting concerns of mass casualties.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after the strike that up to 1,000 people were in the mall before the air raid was announced.
“Fortunately, as far as we know, at that time, many people managed to get out, they managed to get out, but there were still people inside — workers and some visitors,” he said.
At least 15 people were killed, according to a Telegram post from Dmytro Lunin, the head of the Poltava region military administration, who said earlier that the death toll could rise. At least 58 people were injured, Ukraine’s State Emergency Services said.
Zelensky said in his nightly video address Monday that the rescue operation was ongoing and that “we must be aware that the losses can be significant.”
Video from the scene showed heavy smoke billowing from nobull shoes the building, which was engulfed by fire. The mall measures about one hectare — roughly the size of two football fields — and the strike occurred around 4 p.m. local time, Solohub said.
“We don’t know how many more people might be under the rubble,” said Volodymyr Solohub, a regional official in the Poltava Oblast local administration.
Zelensky called the strike “one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history,” in his evening video address.
“A peaceful city, an ordinary shopping mall with women inside, children, ordinary civilians inside.”
“Only totally insane terrorists, who should have no place on earth, can strike missiles at such an object. And this is not an off-target missile strike, this is a calculated Russian strike — exactly at this shopping mall,” he said.
The attack targeted a site in central Ukraine far away from the epicenter of Russia’s war, which has recently been focused in the east of the country.
Footage showed fire and smoke pouring from the building.
It came as G7 leaders met at a summit in Germany that was mostly geared toward coordinating the Western response to Russia’s invasion.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said from that meeting that the attack showed the “depths of cruelty and barbarism” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the UK’s PA news agency reported.
“This appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink,” Johnson said, according to PA.
In a tweet Monday, US President kizik shoes Joe Biden condemned the attack, saying, “Russia’s attack on civilians at a shopping mall is cruel. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”
“As demonstrated at the G7 Summit, the U.S. along with our allies and partners will continue to hold Russia accountable for such atrocities and support Ukraine’s defense,” Biden added.
French President Emmanuel Macron called the attack an “abomination,” in a tweet that included video of the burning shopping mall. “The Russian people have to see the truth,” he said.
And Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmitro Kuleba, said on Twitter: “Russia is a disgrace to humanity and it must face consequences. The response should be more heavy arms for Ukraine, more sanctions on Russia, and more businesses leaving Russia.”
Those issues were on the table at the summit in Germany. The G7 vowed to continue providing support for Ukraine “for as long as it takes” in a joint statement, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNN on Monday that she would not “bet on Russia” winning the war.
Analysis: Tide turns in the Ukraine war as Russia makes progress in the east
The US plans to announce as early as this week that it has bought an advanced, medium-to-long-range surface-to-air missile defense system for Ukraine, a source familiar with the announcement told CNN.
However despite the outward confidence of Western leaders, Russia has seen military successes in eastern Ukraine in recent days.
Russian forces captured the city of Severodonetsk after weeks of fighting and have also picked up territory south of Lysychansk.
They have eliminated most Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region and consolidated control of a belt of territory in the oncloud shoes south, bringing strategic benefits and blunting the effectiveness of Ukrainian counterattacks.
Russian forces have also stepped up attacks in the Donetsk region, getting slightly closer to the belt of industrial towns in the region that runs south from Sloviansk through Kramatorsk to Kostiantynivka.
“Zelensky was very much focused on trying to ensure that Ukraine is in as advantageous a position on the battlefield as possible in the next months as opposed to the next years, because he believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said after the Ukrainian President met virtually with leaders at the G7.
Earlier, a source familiar with the matter told CNN that Zelensky told leaders he wanted the war to be over by the end of the year, before winter sets in.

Western Europeans wilt in early summer heatwave, compounding climate change fears

A farmer pours water on his face as he works in a greenhouse in southern France on June 17 as western Europe struggles with a heatwave.

(Reuters)Spain is seeing its hottest early summer temperatures, one area of France banned outdoor events, and drought stalked Italian farmers as a heatwave sent Europeans hunting for shade and fretting over climate change.

Such was the heat that England’s upscale Royal Ascot Racecourse even saw a rare change of protocol: guests were allowed to shed hats and jackets once the royals had passed.
“Avoid over-exposing to the sun, hydrate and take care of the most vulnerable so they don’t suffer from heat stroke,” was the advice from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid during an event, fittingly, about desertification.
Temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Madrid on Friday, the national weather agency AEMET said. A level not seen so early in the year since 1981.
Northern Italian regions risk losing up to half their agricultural output due to a drought, a farm lobby said, as lakes and rivers start to run dangerously low, jeopardizing irrigation.
The federation of Italian utility companies, Utilitalia, warned this week that the country’s longest river, the Po, was experiencing its worst drought for 70 years, leaving many sections of the vast, northern waterway completely dried up.
The heatwave piled pressure on energy systems as demand for air-conditioning risks driving prices higher, adding to the challenge of building up stocks to protect against any further cuts to Russian gas supplies.
‘Health risk’
In France, the Gironde department around Bordeaux prohibited public events including concerts and those at indoor venues without air conditioning, a local official said.
“Everyone now faces a health risk,” Gironde prefect Fabienne Buccio told France Bleu radio.
Temperatures in many of France’s areas hit 40 Celsius for the first time this year on Thursday and were expected to peak on Saturday, climbing to 41-42 Celsius. A record night temperature for June, 26.8 Celsius, was recorded in Tarascon, southern France.
Fourteen administrative departments were on red alert, with schoolchildren told to stay at home in these areas. Speed limits were lowered in several regions, including around Paris, to limit exhaust emissions and a buildup of harmful smog.
Britain’s weather service said Friday was the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures above 32 Celsius in some parts of the southeast.
Parks, pools and beaches were packed, and while many enjoyed a day of fun and freedom after two years of periodic pandemic restrictions some were also worried.
“I’m from Cyprus and now in Cyprus it’s raining … and I’m boiling here, so something must change. We need to take precautions about the climate change sooner than later because undoubtedly it’s worrying for all of us,” said student Charlie Uksel, visiting Brighton, south of London.
“Now we are enjoying it, but for the long-term we might sacrifice.”
Mediterranean nations are more and more concerned about how climate change may affect their economies and lives.
“The Iberian peninsula is an increasingly dry area and our rivers’ flow is slower and slower,” Spanish leader Sanchez added.
Firefighters were battling wildfires in several parts of Spain, with Catalonia in eastern Spain and Zamora near the western border with Portugal the worst hit.
In Zamora, between 8,500 and 9,500 hectares turned to ashes.
The cloud of hot air was sparing Portugal on Friday, where temperatures were not as high as in other European nations, with Lisbon likely to reach 27 Celsius.
However, last month was the hottest May in 92 years, Portugal’s weather agency IPMA said. It warned that most of the territory is suffering from a severe drought.
Portugal’s reservoirs have low water levels, with the Bravura dam of the most affected at only 15% full.

What is SWIFT and why it might be the weapon Russia fears most

As Western governments threaten Russia with a package of unprecedented sanctions aimed at deterring President Vladimir Putin from ordering an invasion of Ukraine, there’s one measure in particular that appears to strike fear at the heart of the Kremlin: cutting the country off from the global banking system.
US lawmakers have suggested in recent weeks that hoka shoes for women Russia could be removed from SWIFT, a high security network that connect thousands of financial institutions around the world.
Senior Russian lawmakers have responded by saying that shipments of oil, gas and metals to Europe would stop if that happened.
“If Russia is disconnected from SWIFT, then we will not receive [foreign] currency, but buyers, European countries in the first place, will not receive our goods — oil, gas, metals and other important components,” Nikolai Zhuravlev, vice speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Tuesday, according to state media outlet TASS.
What is SWIFT?
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication was founded in 1973 to replace the telex and is now used by over 11,000 financial institutions to send secure messages and payment orders. With no globally accepted alternative, it is essential plumbing for global finance.
US working with allies to shore up energy supplies if Russia invades Ukraine
Removing Russia from SWIFT would make it nearly impossible for financial institutions to send money in or out of the country, delivering a sudden shock to Russian companies and their foreign customers -— especially buyers of oil and gas exports denominated in US dollars.
“The cutoff would terminate all international transactions, trigger currency volatility, and cause massive capital outflows,” Maria Shagina, a visiting fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, wrote in a paper last year for Carnegie Moscow Center. Excluding Russia from SWIFT would cause its economy to shrink by 5%, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin estimated in 2014.
SWIFT is based in Belgium and governed by a board consisting of 25 people, including Eddie Astanin, chairman of the management board at Russia’s Central Counterparty Clearing Centre. SWIFT, which describes itself as a “neutral utility,” is incorporated under Belgian law and must comply with EU regulations.
What happens if Russia is removed?
There is precedent for removing a country from SWIFT.
SWIFT unplugged Iranian banks in 2012 after they were sanctioned by the European Union over the country’s nuclear program. Iran lost almost half of its oil export revenue and 30% of foreign trade following the hoka shoes disconnection, according to Shagina.
“SWIFT is a neutral global cooperative set up and operated for the collective benefit of its community,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday. “Any decision to impose sanctions on countries or individual entities rests solely with the competent government bodies and applicable legislators,” it added.
It’s not clear how much support there is among US allies for taking similar action against Russia. The United States and Germany have the most to lose if Russia is disconnected, because their banks are the most frequent SWIFT users to communicate with Russian banks, according to Shagina.
The European Union is ready to respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine with “comprehensive sanctions never seen before,” Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod said on Monday. EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell said Tuesday that sanctions would be “the most consequential leverage that the West, or at least the European Union, has.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers on Tuesday that his government was discussing the possibility of banning Russia from SWIFT with the United States.
NATO chief: Still a 'diplomatic way out' of Ukraine conflict, as military alliance prepares written proposal for Russia
“There is no doubt that that would be a very potent weapon [against Russia]. I’m afraid it can only really be deployed with the assistance of the United States though. We are in discussions about that,” Johnson said.
Russia’s countermeasures
Russia has taken steps in recent years to blunt the trauma should it be removed from SWIFT.
Moscow established its own payment system, SPFS, after it was hit by Western sanctions in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea early that year. SPFS now has around 400 users, according to Russia’s central bank. Twenty percent of domestic transfers are currently done through SPFS, olukai shoes according to Shagina, but the size of messages are limited and operations are limited to weekday hours.
China’s fledgling Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, or CIPS, may provide another alternative to SWIFT. Moscow could also be forced to resort to using cryptocurrencies.
But these are not appealing alternatives.
“SWIFT is an European company, an association of many participating countries. To make a decision on disconnection, a united decision of all participating countries is needed. The decisions of the United States and Great Britain are definitely not enough,” Zhuravlev said, according to TASS.
“I’m not sure that other countries, especially those whose share of trade with Russia is large in balance, will support the shutdown,” he added.