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President Zelenskyy warns Russia is eyeing other countries after Ukraine war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russia’s invasion of his country was just the beginning, and that Moscow has designs on capturing other countries, after a Russian general said it wants full control over southern Ukraine.

“All the nations that, like us, believe in the victory of life over death must fight with us. They must help us, because we are the first in line. And who will come next?” Zelenskyy said in a video address late on Friday.

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Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, was quoted by Russian state news agencies as saying full control over southern Ukraine would give it access to Transnistria, a breakaway Russian-occupied part of Moldova in the west.

That would cut off Ukraine’s entire coastline and mean Russian forces pushing hundreds of miles further west, past the major Ukrainian coastal cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa.

The statement was one of the most detailed about Moscow’s ambitions in Ukraine and suggests Russia does not plan to wind down its offensive there anytime soon.

Ukraine’s defense ministry said Minnekayev’s comments showed Russia was no longer hiding its intentions.

Moscow, it said on Twitter, had now “acknowledged that the goal of the ‘second phase’ of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine. Imperialism as it is.”

But despite Russia’s ambitious objectives and claims to have seized Mariupol, its forces made no major gains in the last 24 hours, British military intelligence said on Saturday.

Ukrainian counterattacks continue to hinder Moscow’s efforts, and heavy fighting is frustrating Russian attempts to capture the key port city, impeding their progress in the Donbas, the Ministry of Defense tweeted in a regular bulletin.

Allies stepping up

Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and liberate its population from dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies call Russia’s February 24 invasion an unjustified war of aggression.

Moldova’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Moscow’s ambassador on Friday to express “deep concern” about the general’s comments. Moldova was neutral, it said. Moldova last month applied to join the European Union, charting a pro-Western course hastened by Russia’s invasion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on whether Russia had expanded its goals or on how Moscow saw the political future of southern Ukraine.

As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Washington, Zelenskyy said allies were finally delivering the weapons Kyiv had asked for.

President Joe Biden said on Thursday he had authorized a further $800 million in military aid for Ukraine, including heavy artillery, ammunition and drones. Canada said on Friday it had provided more heavy artillery to Ukraine.

A senior EU official said the next couple of weeks would likely be decisive. “We are likely to see a very significant increase in the intensity of Russian military attacks in the east (and on) the coast,” he told reporters.

War crimes

Ukraine’s military said Russia is continuing its offensive operations in the east, trying to establish full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and secure a land connection to Crimea.

Russian forces are also partially blockading the city of Kharkiv, according to a Saturday morning update from Ukraine’s general staff.

In Mykolaiv, 87 civilians have died in the invasion, including one child, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said late Friday on his Facebook page. Nearly 400 people have been wounded. Reuters could not independently verify reports from either side.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region who has often described himself as Putin’s “foot soldier”, wrote on his official Telegram account late on Friday that Chechnya was deploying hundreds of additional volunteers to fight for Russia in Ukraine.

In Geneva, the United Nations human rights office said there was growing evidence of Russian war crimes, including indiscriminate shelling and summary executions. It said Ukraine also appeared to have used weapons with indiscriminate effects.

Russia denies targeting civilians and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities committed by its soldiers were faked. Ukraine has previously said it will punish any soldiers found to have committed war crimes.

Russia said it had “securely blockaded” thousands of Ukrainian troops holed up in a huge steel works in Mariupol, the main port of the Donbas, a day after President Vladimir Putin said the army would not bother rooting them out.

Putin declared victory in the city after a nearly two-month siege. In a Russian-held section of Mariupol, dazed-looking residents ventured out this week to a background of charred apartment blocks and wrecked cars.

Volunteers in white hazmat suits and masks roved the ruins, collecting bodies from apartments and loading them on to a truck marked with the letter “Z”, symbol of Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of civilians have died in Russia’s siege of the city and says 100,000 civilians are still there and need full evacuation.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Friday said “there is a possibility” a humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol could be opened up on Saturday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Moscow on Tuesday to meet Putin and discuss urgently bringing peace to Ukraine, a spokesperson said, adding that Guterres will then head to Kyiv for talks with Zelenskyy.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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