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News24.com | War in Ukraine: How the First Seven Days Unfolded

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A man walks past a destroyed building following a rocket attack on the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday. Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP

After ringing Ukraine with tens of thousands of troops, Russia invades its neighbour in the early hours of 24 February, setting off the worst conflict in Europe in decades.

As Ukraine fights for its existence, Here is a look at seven days that have shaken the world.

Russia invades

At dawn last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announces a “special military operation” to “demilitarise and de-nazify” Ukraine and support Moscow-backed separatists in the east.

He threatens countries that interfere with “consequences that you have never known before”.

A full-scale invasion starts immediately with air and artillery strikes on several cities. Russian forces also briefly take control of an airfield on the outskirts of Kyiv.

READ | Ukraine conflict: Russian businessman places $1m bounty on Putin’s head

Ukraine declares martial law and cuts ties with Russia.

Refugees flee

Refugees pour out of Ukraine into Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and Slovakia. Within a week more than a million flee abroad.

On Friday, European countries begin closing their airspace to Russian airlines and EU members begin slapping sanctions on Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Ukraine resists

Ukrainian forces put up stronger-than-expected resistance, frustrating Russian plans for a lightning takeover.

In a series of selfie videos President Volodymyr Zelensky vows to stay put and lead the resistance. “I need ammunition, not a ride,” he tells the Americans, who offer to evacuate him.

As fears that Kyiv will fall quickly fail to materialise, videos emerge of Ukrainians trying to block Russian tanks with their bare hands, or berating Russian soldiers in the street.

On Saturday, Russia orders its troops to advance “from all directions”.

Nuclear threat

On Sunday, Putin ratchets up tensions further by putting Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world take part in Ukraine solidarity marches.

The EU says it will spend nearly half a billion euros on arming Ukraine as member nation pledge their own military aid. Unprecedented sanctions remove some of Russia’s banks from the SWIFT interbank payment system.

READ | War or peace? Ramaphosa must come clean on his Russian ‘friends’

The invasion also sparks a radical rethink in German defence policy, with Berlin massively hiking military spending.

Kharkiv blasted during talks

A first round of talks between Kyiv and Moscow held on Ukraine’s border with Belarus on Monday fails to make headway.

As the talks go on, civilian districts of Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv are shelled and hit by rockets. Zelensky makes an impassioned appeal for his country to be given “immediate” EU membership.

In Kyiv, the army says it has fought off several attempts by Russian forces to storm the outskirts.

The ruble collapses with Russia’s central bank doubling its main interest rate to try to prop it up.

Russian gains in south

On Tuesday, satellite images show a massive column of Russian vehicles bearing down on Kyiv.

Russia is kicked out of the 2022 World Cup as its forces surround the southern city of Kherson as well as the strategic Black Sea port of Mariupol, which is left without power.

A missile strike devastates Kharkiv’s city hall.

During his State of the Union address President Joe Biden labels Putin a “dictator”.

Russian media silenced

On Wednesday, Russian paratroopers land in Kharkiv, which continues to be pounded by shelling and missiles, with university buildings among those hit.

Russia blocks an independent television channel and a liberal radio station on Wednesday, with a virtual blackout on news of the war.

For the first time, Moscow gives a death toll for its troops, saying 498 have been killed.

New talks

A week after the offensive began, the Russians take Kherson, the first major city to fall.

Ukrainian and Russian officials travel to the Belarus-Poland border for a second round of talks.

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News24.com | Thousands Protest in Madrid Against NATO Summit

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A crowd demonstrates against NATO.

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organisation faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s goal of weakening NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defence spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organisers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2 200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO indicates a decline in international security

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centred on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.

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News24.com | Turkey Police Break up Istanbul Pride March, Detain Dozens: AFP

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Hakan Akgun/dia images

Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground said.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.

Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban – in 2014 – drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

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News24.com | NASA Blasts Off From Australian Outback in ‘historic’ Launch

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NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside of the United States blasted off from Australia’s Outback late Sunday, in a “historic” moment for the country’s space industry.

In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Centre, the rocket, carrying technology likened to a “mini Hubble” telescope, lifted off — blasted about 350 kilometres (218 miles) into the night sky.

“It is a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones told AFP ahead of the lift-off.

Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in the far north of Australia, described it as a “coming out” party for the country’s space industry and said the chance to work with NASA was a milestone for commercial space firms in the country.

After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital sounding rocket soared into the sky to study x-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.

After reaching its apogee, the rocket’s payload was to capture data on the star systems before parachuting back to earth.

READ | NASA is slowly powering down the Voyager probes. Here are 18 photos from its 45-year mission.

According to NASA, the launch offers a unique glimpse of the distant systems and unlocked fresh possibilities for scientists.

“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” Nicky Fox, NASA’s Heliophysics Division director in Washington, said on announcing the mission.

Jones said the unique location had made preparations hard, with years of work to get regulatory approval and the need to haul rockets on barges to the launch site – about 28 hours drive from Darwin in northern Australia.

“I think for the team, it’s gonna be, you know, a huge relief that it’s done,” he said.

READ | ‘Giant leap forward’ – South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

But with the next launch already looming on July 4, the break would be short-lived.

“We need to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it in readiness for the next launch because it’s just as important.”

It is the first NASA rocket to launch from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed as the start of a “new era” for the country’s space industry by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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