The aftermath of a missile strike in Poland; celebration in Kherson; Ukraine dominates the G20
Every week we wrap up the must-reads from our coverage of the Ukraine war, from news and features to analysis and opinion.
Missile hits Poland
A missile fell on the Polish village of Przewodów, landing a few miles from the Ukrainian border and killing two people on Tuesday afternoon. The incident marked the first time the territory of a Nato country has been struck during the near nine-month Ukraine war, raising global alarm that the war could spill into neighbouring countries.
Emma Graham-Harrison travelled to the tiny Polish border village, which had been “trying as much as possible to keep life normal” until the tragedy underscored the proximity of the war. She found Father Bogdan Wazny, saying mass to an empty church.
“The physical border here also mentally separated us from the war [in Ukraine]. We always felt this way,” Wazny says, the day after the missile landed. “We never felt the danger here.”
“We [in Przewodów] managed to calm down after 24 February [when Russia invaded Ukraine] despite the fact that we live next door to the war,” says school principal Ewa Byra. “The emotions had subsided and we managed to cope. But yesterday’s event awakened those emotions again.”
Earlier, Dan Sabbagh, Isobel Koshiw and Lorenzo Tondo covered the immediate aftermath of the devastation as Polish and Nato officials scrambled to confirm what had happened and to coordinate a response.
Warsaw said it had summoned Moscow’s ambassador for an explanation but called for calm. Russia’s defence ministry denied its missiles crossed into Poland, calling the reports a “deliberate provocation”.
Patrick Wintour covered Joe Biden’s briefing to reporters after an emergency meeting convened during G20 talks in Bali. Biden said the missile was unlikely to have been fired from Russia due to its trajectory.
Jon Henley swept up the reaction across Europe as Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, said that it was “highly probable” the missile was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence and “unfortunately fell on Polish territory”.
“Russia bears the ultimate responsibility,” Nato’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after an emergency meeting of alliance ambassadors in Brussels, adding that Russia was ultimately to blame for starting the war and launching the attack that triggered Kyiv’s defences.
“The obvious point is that missiles were flying around yesterday because Russia was firing over 80 missiles into Ukraine,” British defence secretary, Ben Wallace, added.
Ukraine war dominates G20
Russia battled to prevent diplomatic isolation at the G20 summit in Bali as its traditional allies – China and India – started to distance themselves from the war in Ukraine.
In his address, Chinese president Xi Jinping warned against the “weaponisation” of food and energy, adding that he opposed nuclear war in all circumstances, remarks that cast a shadow over Russia’s repeated nuclear threats. “We must firmly oppose politicisation, instrumentalisation and weaponisation of food and energy problems,” Xi said.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said it was necessary to recognise the UN had failed as a multilateral institution, putting greater pressure on the G20 to find solutions. He said it was time for a ceasefire and for diplomacy to come to the fore.
While Russia’s representative, Sergei Lavrov, stayed in his hotel, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the summit by video link, pitching himself as a man prepared to reach an agreement with Russia but only on terms that protected Ukrainian sovereignty, and recognised the valour with which his troops had fought to protect their homeland.
“I am convinced now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped. It will save thousands of lives,” he said.
Rishi Sunak told the G20 that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, should have been prepared to face world leaders at the summit, because Russia leaving Ukraine would make “the single biggest difference” to world affairs.
The British prime minister used his address to condemn the Ukraine invasion and the targeting of civilians and warned world leaders about the threat it posed to the international order. “One man has the power to change all of this,” Sunak told the summit, which was also addressed by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Patrick Wintour took a look at the “dysfunctional family” that is the G20 and found that behind-the-scenes negotiations on extending the grain deal allowing Russian and Ukrainian wheat to reach world markets was probably the most substantive achievement of the summit.
Wintour also profiled foreign minister Lavrov – who has outlasted seven US secretaries of state and faced the toughest test of the veteran’s career as Putin’s punch-bag at the summit.
Ukraine celebrates liberation of Kherson
Lorenzo Tondo and Luke Harding covered the moment the key southern city of Kherson was retaken by Ukrainian forces.
Hundreds of citizens flooded the city streets on Saturday morning after an eight-month occupation, embracing Ukrainian soldiers and foreign journalists after what has been described as a “historic day” for Kyiv – and perhaps the most important strategic breakthrough since the beginning of the Russian invasion.
In Kherson city, locals danced around a bonfire outside the regional administration building, sang patriotic songs, and chanted “Z-S-U”, the initials of Ukraine’s triumphant armed forces. Cars tooted their horns; citizens waved banners adorned with watermelons, the region’s much-loved fruit.
People said that they could not quite believe it when they realised the occupation was over. The first sign that Ruslan Kalyn saw was a Ukrainian jeep, and he immediately ran home to tell his wife. “I can’t express the emotions that ran though me. I burst into tears. It was unbelievable euphoria. I went home and shouted ‘Marina, we’ve been liberated!’, but she didn’t believe me. I said ‘I’ve been on the square and seen our flag’,” he told Isobel Koshiw.
The liberation of Kherson marks the latest, and most serious, of a string of battlefield defeats.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced its recapture marked “the beginning of the end of the war” in a surprise visit to the city on Monday. Crowds chanted his name. Zelenskiy also accused Russian soldiers of war crimes and killing civilians in Kherson. “Investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes. Bodies of dead civilians and servicemen have been found. The Russian army left behind the same savagery it did in other regions of the country it entered,” the Ukrainian president said.
Progress east of the Dnipro will be harder
Ukraine’s swift recapture of Kherson sets the stage for a critical phase in the war, Dan Sabbagh, wrote.
Ukraine’s success in Kherson was a victory achieved by smashing the Russian supply chain, concluded with US Himars artillery and aided by favourable geography – the isolated position of Kherson on the west of the Dnipro.
However the Zaporizhzhia front to the east is essentially a straight line across open country that has not moved for months, so in theory Moscow’s forces should be well dug in. Russia’s other advantage is that it has called up what it says are 300,000 conscripts, a third of whom are at the front.
The winter weather will also make the situation more complicated for both sides.
In this week’s Today in Focus episode, Luke Harding asked whether Ukraine can build on the momentum of its win to turn the tide.
The February night everything changed
Luke Harding recounted the surreal time, nine months ago, when it seemed like surely Putin was bluffing.
“It was the evening before everything changed,” he writes in a Guardian Long Read. “The Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov had invited me for dinner. A few friends, he said, and borshch. We had met earlier that winter – a pleasant meal in a Georgian restaurant in Podil, a neighbourhood in the lower part of Kyiv next to the Dnipro River. The date was now 23 February 2022. It was 8.15pm, and I was late. I stopped in a shop, bought a bottle of Kolonist port from a winery in Odesa, and hurried to Kurkov’s flat.”
Three men found guilty of murder over flight MH17
After a 32-month trial, a Dutch court found three men guilty of the murder of 298 people onboard flight MH17, which was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile when it was flying over eastern Ukraine in 2014. Jennifer Rankin covered the sentencing.
Martin Farrer spoke to the mother of one of the victims, who expressed her relief after the guilty verdicts were read out in a court. Meryn O’Brien, who lost her 25-year-old son Jack, said: “Everyone was relieved the process has come to an end, and it is very fair, and it has been meticulous.”
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