Recent ‘attacks’ in Ukraine ‘appear to be focused directly on civilians’: Lloyd Austin

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Washington: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, on Thursday, recent “attacks” in Ukraine “appear to be focused directly on civilians.” Addressing a news conference with his Slovakian counterpart, Austin stopped short of saying Russia was outright committing war crimes.    

Austin further said, “if you (Russia) attack civilians, purposely target civilians… that is a crime.” He added that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are “under review” by the US State Department.

“There’s a process that we’ll go through to review all of this, but we call upon Vladimir Putin to cease these horrible actions; again, these are civilians not combatants and so they should not be targeted,” Austin said.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” in the harshest condemnation of Putin’s actions from any US official since the war in Ukraine began three weeks ago.

Russia began invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The war in Ukraine has entered its fourth week on Thursday. Earlier in the day, survivors started emerging from the rubble of the theater in Nariupol city, they were sheltering in after it was bombed by Russian forces on Wednesday. The number of casualties is not known yet.

Meanwhile, Russian forces continue to inch towards Ukraine capital Kyiv. Also, on Thursday, nine evacuation routes leading out of different Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol, the Ukrainian government said. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said evacuation corridors did not work on Wednesday as the Russian military did not stop shelling.

first published:March 17, 2022, 9:23 p.m.

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