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Russia-Ukraine conflict: Day 18

It’s day 18 of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. Air raid sirens and shelling have been ringing out across the beleaguered country as Russian forces gain ground around the capital. Russian forces have advanced closer to the capital Kiev from the north, west and northeast. Russian strikes have also destroyed an airport in the town of Vasylkiv, south of the capital. Elsewhere in Ukraine, the besieged northern city of Chernihiv has come under intensive shelling. New artillery and air attacks have also been reported in several other cities. In the south, the port city of Mykolaiv is also under heavy bombardment. Ukrainian officials say a mosque has been shelled in the besieged city of Mariupol. Kiev, has for the first time, given a toll for the country’s forces.

Calls for ceasefire in Ukraine

France and Germany renew their calls on Russia for a ceasefire in Ukraine and a diplomatic solution to the conflict. In a conference phone call, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift the days-long siege of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Macron referred to allegations of rights abuses by Russian soldiers, warning that they may amount to war crimes. Over the past days, diplomatic efforts by world leaders to end the Ukrainian conflict have made no progress. Kiev says it remains open to diplomacy, but won’t give in to ultimatums.

Erbil rocket attacks

Iraqi media say a number of explosions have been heard in the city of Erbil in the country’s Kurdistan region. The media cited local officials as saying that multiple rockets have hit a US military base in the area. There are also reports suggesting that Washington’s new consulate building and two advanced Israeli Mossad training centers in Erbil have come under rocket attacks. Security forces are on high alert and the roads to Erbil airport have been closed. Alarm sirens have also been activated in the US embassy inside the highly secured Green Zone of capital Baghdad. US officials say there have been no casualties. The attacks are the latest in a series of such strikes targeting the US interests in Iraq.

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