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Ukraine war: Zelenskyy's home town struck, anger over 'blood money' claims

Emergency services personnel work to extinguish a fire following a Russian attack in Kryvyi Rih
Emergency services personnel work to extinguish a fire following a Russian attack in Kryvyi Rih Copyright Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP
Copyright Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP
By Euronews, AFP, AP
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All the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

A Russian missile attack on Friday on Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's home town in central Ukraine killed one policeman and injured at least 52 others, while another attack in the southern Kherson region killed three people.

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The strikes were among multiple Russian attacks across the country overnight, officials said. 

Meanwhile, Moscow is trying to strengthen its position politically with local elections in areas it has illegally annexed, including some it still does not control. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it does not recognise the "fake elections."

The strikes came days after 16 people were killed in a Russian attack on a market in eastern Ukraine.

Ten buildings were damaged in the attack on Zelenskyy's home town of Kryvyi Rih on Friday. 

Three people pulled from the rubble were in serious condition, according to Ihor Klymenko, Ukraine's minister of Internal Affairs. Photos posted by Klymenko on Telegram showed a building on fire, burnt timbers and emergency services evacuating the injured.

Three people were also killed Friday after a Russian bomb struck the village of Odradokamianka in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, Klymenko said.

Also on Friday, a funeral was being held for an 18-year-old who was among 16 people killed Wednesday in a Russian attack on a market in Kostiantynivka in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. 

The attack, which wounded 33 others, turned the market into a fiery, blackened ruin.

AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File
Martin Selmayr has been criticisedAP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File

Anger over 'blood money' claims

The European Union's executive branch strongly criticised the bloc's representative in Austria for accusing the country of paying "blood money" to Russia for gas supplies and said on Friday he had been ordered back to Brussels.

EU representative Martin Selmayr said during an event on Wednesday that Austria continues to get 55% of its gas from Russia — but no one, he noted, is out on Vienna's central Ringstrasse boulevard to protest that.

"That surprises me, because blood money is being sent to Russia every day with the gas bill," Selmayr said, according to the report. He added that he understands energy supply problems, but that Austria is a rich country and could, like other nations, do without Russian gas.

On Thursday, Austria's Foreign Ministry said that Selmayr had been summoned for a meeting with one of the ministry's top officials.

In Brussels on Friday, European Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari noted that the EU has jointly agreed to cut gas imports from Russia and phase them out, and that Austria too has subscribed to this effort.

"Diplomacy is not just about content but it’s also about the right tone," Ujvari said, adding that envoys to any of the EU's 27 member countries "must weigh every word carefully, because they play an important role as trusted messengers between us and the host government."

"The choice of words by the head of our representation in Austria was not only unnecessary but also inappropriate," he said. He added that Selmayr has been called back to Brussels to have a discussion with the EU hierarchy.

Tanks arrive in Ukraine

The first ten Leopard 1 tanks, promised by Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands in February, have arrived in Ukraine, with more to follow, the Danish army announced on Friday.

The three European countries had announced in early February that they would be sending around 100 heavy tanks "in the next few months" to support Kiev against the Russian army.

"The first ten tanks have been sent to Ukraine. And more are on the way," the army said in a statement. "Ten more have been delivered from the factory".

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The Danish military is training Ukrainian forces in Germany to use these tanks, according to the army.

"I have no doubt that this will help them in the ongoing battle," said Commander Gunner Arpe Nielsen, quoted in the statement.

The Leopard 1 A5s donated by Denmark were used by its army until 2005. In 1997, the country purchased 51 German-developed Leopard 2 A4s and decommissioned the Leopard 1s.

Seventeen people arrested on suspicion of recruiting for Russia

As many as 17 people were arrested in Cuba because of charges related to a human trafficking ring that allegedly recruited men on the island to fight in Ukraine with the Russian military, the country's Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

Cuba's Foreign Ministry had explained earlier this week that authorities were working to "neutralise and dismantle a human trafficking network that operates from Russia to incorporate Cuban citizens living there, and even some from Cuba, into the forces military personnel involved in military operations in Ukraine".

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On Thursday, the head of the investigation, César Rodriguez, announced that 17 people had been arrested so far, though he didn't specify their names or nationality.

However, he clarified that one of them is "the internal organiser of these activities". Two others were identified as recruiters, he added.

Judicial authorities are considering charges of "trafficking in human beings, mercenarism (and) hostile acts from a foreign state", which could involve incarceration for 30 years to life, or even the death penalty.

The father of two young people recruited by this cell appeared on state television, saying that one of his sons had managed to leave the island in July, while the other is in the hands of authorities in Cuba.

The Cuban government, despite the historical, strong political ties with Russia, has denied any complicity with Moscow. 

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