Zelensky: Why vow 'never again' if world stays silent?

Russia strikes Kyiv TV tower, killing 5 and damaging Babyn Yar Holocaust site

Head of memorial site calls attack in area where 34,000 Jews were murdered ‘symbolic,’ as Putin is ‘seeking to distort and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion’

A Russian airstrike hit Kyiv’s main television tower in the heart of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday, knocking out some state broadcasting but leaving the structure intact.

After a blast sounded around the city and smoke was seen rising in the Babyn Yar district, the interior ministry said equipment had been damaged and “channels won’t work for a while.”

At least five people died and five were injured in the missile strike, the Ukrainian emergencies service said.

Images from the scene showed charred bodies and cars damaged in the apparent Russian attack, which knocked out some broadcasts.

The attack on the television tower also struck close to a major Holocaust memorial in Kyiv, according to Ukrainian authorities and the board of the site. A spokesperson for the memorial said most of the damage to the Babyn Yar site was to buildings in the Jewish cemetery located in the complex but a security team was still making assessments.

There did not appear to be any direct damage to the Babyn Yar monument itself, a spokesperson for the site told The Times of Israel.

Ukrainian firefighters were called to extinguish a fire that broke out after the buildings were hit by a Russian missile.

Ukrainian firefighters work to put out a blaze in a building in the Jewish cemetery located in Kyiv’s Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site on March 1, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)

The Babyn Yar memorial rests on a mass grave containing 34,000 Jews who were slaughtered there in 1941 when the city was under Nazi occupation. The massacre was carried out by SS troops along with local collaborators.

“To the world: what is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish and had family members die in the Holocaust, wrote in a tweet.

“Once again, these barbarians are murdering the victims of Holocaust!” said Andriy Yermik, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff.

Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center and former head of the Jewish Agency, said in a statement: “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin seeking to distort and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign democratic country is utterly abhorrent. It is symbolic that he starts attacking Kyiv by bombing the site of Babyn Yar, the biggest of Nazi massacres.”

Sharansky was referring to claims by Putin ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that he was doing so, in part, to “denazify” the country.

“We, at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, built on Europe’s largest mass grave of the Holocaust, work to preserve historical memory following decades of Soviet suppression of historical truth, so that the evils of the past can never be repeated. We must not allow the truth to — once again — become the victim of war,” said Sharansky, who was born in Ukraine.

Ukrainian firefighters stand beneath a television broadcast tower in the Jewish cemetery located in Kyiv’s Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site on March 1, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)

Earlier in the day, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center issued a statement, heavily criticizing Putin and his invasion and calling for him to be investigated by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

People with Ukrainian and Israeli flags approach a memorial to victims of the 1941 Nazi massacre of Jews in Babyn Yar in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The strike followed the Russian defense ministry’s warning that Russian troops would carry out an attack on what they said was the infrastructure of Ukraine’s intelligence services in Kyiv and urged residents living nearby to leave.

“In order to suppress information attacks on Russia, the technological infrastructure of the SBU (Ukraine’s Security Service) and the 72nd main PSO (Psychological Operations Unit) center in Kyiv will be hit with high-precision weapons,” Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

“We call on… Kyiv residents living near relay nodes to leave their homes,” Konashenkov added.

The statement came as Russian troops ramped up efforts to take Kyiv, with a 40-mile convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advancing on the capital in what the West feared was a bid to topple Ukraine’s government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.

Ukrainian authorities have accused the Russian army of carrying out strikes on residential areas in several cities, including the country’s second-biggest city of Kharkiv, where fierce fighting is taking place.

Ukraine says up to 350 civilians have been killed since Russia invaded.

In this frame from footage released by the State service of special communication and information protection of Ukraine, firemen work inside the regional administration building in the city’s central square of Kharkiv, Ukraine, after Russian shelling, on March 1, 2022. (State service of special communication and information protection of Ukraine via AP)

The warning to Kyiv residents also came as Russian strikes pounded the central square in Kharkiv and other civilian sites. Putin’s forces also pressed their attack on other towns and cities across the country, including the strategic ports of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.

Konashenkov said that Russian troops and pro-Moscow rebels have linked up in a key region along the Azov Sea coast in eastern Ukraine. Russian troops annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and have used the region to launch attacks since Thursday, when Moscow began its invasion.

The rebels had “joined the military units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, which took control of the regions of Ukraine along the coast of the Sea of Azov,” Konashenkov said in a statement.

Pro-Kremlin separatist fighters in east Ukraine have been pushing west as part of the offensive. A defense official in the Donetsk breakaway region earlier Tuesday said forces intended to surround a key port city separating the annexed peninsula and rebel territory.

Electricity has been cut off in Mariupol on the Azov Sea following attacks from advancing Russian forces, the head of the region Pavlo Kyrylenko said earlier in the day.

Video from Melitopol, a city in southeastern Ukraine located on a river that flows into the Azov Sea, showed a group of Ukrainians standing in the middle of a road to block a Russian military convoy and shouting at the troops, one of whom fired his rifle into the air.

An armored Russian vehicle can then be seen advancing, as the Ukrainian citizens stood in its path.

Day 6 of the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II found Russia increasingly isolated by tough economic sanctions that have thrown its economy into disarray and left the country practically friendless, apart from China and Belarus.

In Kharkiv, with a population of about 1.5 million, Ukrainian authorities said 10 people were killed when the region’s Soviet-era administrative building was hit. Explosions tore through residential areas, and a maternity ward was moved to an underground shelter.

Kharkiv’s Freedom Square — Ukraine’s largest plaza, and the nucleus of public life for the city — was struck with what was believed to be a missile, in an attack seen by many Ukrainians as brazen evidence that the Russian invasion wasn’t just about hitting military targets but also about breaking their spirits.

Ukraine’s emergency service said eight people were also killed in a Russian airstrike on a residential building in Kharkiv.

Russian shelling killed at least 11 civilians in the city on Monday.

Zelensky called the attack on Kharkiv’s main square “frank, undisguised terror,” blaming a Russian missile and calling it a war crime. “This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation,” he said.

In an emotional appeal to the European Parliament later, Zelensky said: “We are fighting also to be equal members of Europe. I believe that today we are showing everybody that is what we are.”

He said 16 children had been killed on Monday, and he mocked Russia’s claim that it is going after only military targets.

“Where are the children, what kind of military factories do they work at? What tanks are they going at, launching cruise missiles?” Zelensky said.

An armed man is seen inside the damaged city hall of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 1, 2022, destroyed as a result of Russian shelling. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)

In a worrying development, Human Rights Watch said it documented a cluster bomb attack outside a hospital in Ukraine’s east in recent days. Local residents have also reported the use of the munitions in Kharkiv and the village of Kiyanka, though there was no independent confirmation.

If confirmed, that would represent a worrying new level of brutality in the war and could lead to even further isolation in Russia.

The Kremlin denied Tuesday that it has used such weapons and insisted again that its forces only have struck military targets — despite evidence documented by Associated Press reporters of shelling of homes, schools and hospitals.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said earlier this week that he plans to open an investigation into possible war crimes.

Unbowed by Western condemnation, Russian officials upped their threats of escalation, days after raising the specter of a nuclear attack. A top Kremlin official warned that the West’s “economic war” against Russia could turn into a “real one.”

The first talks Monday between Ukraine and Russia yielded no stop in the fighting, though the two sides agreed to another meeting in the coming days.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian military official said Belarusian troops joined the war Tuesday in the Chernihiv region, without providing details. But just before that, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said his country had no plans to join the fight.

The Russian military’s movements have so far been stalled by fierce resistance on the ground and a surprising inability to dominate Ukraine’s airspace.

Ukrainians used resourcefulness to try to stop the Russian advance: On a highway between Odessa and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, residents piled tractor tires filled with sand and topped with sandbags to block Russian military convoys. In Kyiv, sandbags were piled in front of doors and windows of City Hall.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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