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In today's Morning Brief, we go inside Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, as it falls victim to what locals and experts say is a Russian strategy of targeting civilians.

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Kharkiv is a key prize in the Ukraine war, but Russia is running out of options to take it

The city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest, was a bustling metropolis just a month ago. Chic eateries and sleek shopping malls sat alongside elegant neo-baroque architecture in what had been a rapidly developing urban centre.

Now, large areas of the city resemble Stalingrad more than Stuttgart, as Kharkiv falls victim to what locals and experts say is a Russian strategy of targeting civilians.

Entering the city from the south, there are initially few signs of the war, save the military barricades and checkpoints at regular intervals. 

Downtown Kharkiv is a different story: windows and storefronts blown out by artillery shelling, other buildings demolished entirely by airstrikes or cruise missile hits.

WATCH | Kharkiv volunteers work to clear rubble, reinforce buildings: 

Kharkiv volunteers work to clear rubble, reinforce buildings

10 months ago
Duration 0:58

Kharkiv is a key Russian prize in this war — a Russian-speaking city just 15 kilometres from the border. There were numerous Russia-backed attempts in 2014 to declare a "Kharkiv People's Republic" in the mould of those established in Donetsk and Luhansk, but the city has remained under Ukrainian government control.

Russian forces made numerous unsuccessful attempts to capture the city in the invasion's opening day, sending in lightly armoured special forces units in a bid to seize local government buildings. Following those failed incursions, Russian forces have made few attempts to breach the city, instead subjecting it to massive — and increasing — bombardment.

Along Kharkiv's central Moskovsky Avenue, an apartment building scorched by rocket artillery fire sits across from a massive crater in a parking lot, the result of an airstrike the day prior to CBC's visit on Saturday.

"The rockets hit yesterday, and there was a huge fire in the apartment building," said Oleg Tornenko, a 55-year-old resident of the building.

"[The Russians] want people to leave here. They're trying to force them out."

Read the full story here.

Kyiv under fire

(Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

A firefighter fights a fire after Russian attacks struck a warehouse in the suburbs of Kyiv on Thursday. Click here to read CBC's ongoing coverage of the conflict in Ukraine.

In brief

Cars stolen from Ontario and Quebec are openly being advertised and sold in West African countries, including Nigeria and Ghana, according to a Marketplace investigation, which also found thieves are targeting vehicles with push-to-start ignitions. Stolen vehicles are being shipped overseas by thieves so audacious, they leave behind takeout containers, identifiable bumper stickers and even licence plates. Experts say that car companies prioritizing convenience over security with those push-to-start ignitions allow thieves to quickly and easily steal vehicles to ship overseas, where demand for Canadian cars is high because of their reliability and the availability of parts, and the consequences for thieves are low. "It's low risk, high reward," said Det. Greg O'Connor of the Peel police auto crime unit, who told Marketplace this type of car theft has a low overhead cost and takes little time. Cars can be loaded onto shipping containers and be en route within hours, he said. Police in Peel Region, west of Toronto, say that 80 to 85 per cent of stolen vehicles are tied to organized crime and destined to be shipped overseas, many to West Africa. Read the full story here.

WATCH | How your car can be stolen in less than two minutes: 

How your car can be stolen in less than two minutes

10 months ago
Duration 1:00

Kaif Ali is only 23, but she's spent the last five years putting her life back together — starting with escaping war in Somalia, to putting her faith in a smuggler to find safety, to landing in Canada and learning English, studying nursing and becoming a front-line health-care worker. A Toronto resident, Ali told CBC News she escaped Somalia with her younger sister after her father and older sister were targeted and killed. The two paid a smuggler, who arranged for them to flee with fake Kenyan passports. It's a choice she says she was forced to make in order to get to safety. Now, Ali is one of a growing number of Somalis who, advocates say, have had their refugee claims invalidated by the federal government because of those fraudulent documents. Canada says Ali is Kenyan, that her refugee claim is therefore false and that she could be deported unless she successfully appeals. Ali says she and many others over the years openly told immigration officials when they arrived that their documents were false. Read more on this story here.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was speaking to his party's caucus staff on Tuesday when he told them how close he came to stepping back from his job ahead of the upcoming leadership review. "What's the easiest path for me? Just to take a walk. I don't need this job. I could go to the private sector, have my evenings, weekends off," the premier told the gathering. The remarks are contained in an audio file secretly recorded by someone in attendance and obtained by CBC News. Kenney then pivots to why he decided to fight to remain in charge of the United Conservative Party. The leadership review is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks by mail-in ballot after the party board made a last-minute switch from in-person voting because of unprecedented registration numbers. Read the full story here

WATCH | UCP MLAs call on Jason Kenney to resign, secret recording leaked: 

UCP MLAs call on Jason Kenney to resign, secret recording leaked

10 months ago
Duration 1:58

After meeting with his global counterparts in Paris this week, Canada's natural resources minister pledged to pump out more oil and gas to alleviate the energy crisis in Europe. Oil and natural gas are in short supply in parts of the world after many countries sanctioned Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. The Canadian industry wants to increase production, but there are questions about how much extra oil and natural gas can be pulled from the ground and what impact it could have on the world, especially considering oil production in Western Canada is already near record levels. Jonathan Wilkinson said yesterday that Canada's industry is expected to increase oil production by 200,000 barrels per day, and the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of natural gas per day, by the end of the year. Commodity prices have spiked in the last month as Russia's exports, from oil to coal, have fallen. It's why gasoline prices hit record levels in Canada this month. If Canada can boost its own oil output by 200,000 barrels per day, that in itself won't have much of an impact on offsetting those Russian barrels. If anything, it could help the United States, which is looking to replace about 500,000 barrels of petroleum that it was importing from Russia. Read more on this story here

Canada's men's national soccer team will look to Sunday to punch their ticket to the upcoming World Cup after suffering their first lost in qualifying. Forced to play much of the game with only 10 players, Canada dropped a 1-0 decision last night in Costa Rica. The Canadians remain atop the eight-country final round-robin with a three-point edge over Mexico and the U.S. The top three teams in the group go directly to November's World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place team will go to a playoff against a team from the Oceania group. A draw against Jamaica on Sunday at a sold-out BMO Field in Toronto will be enough to secure Canada's place. The Canadians will finish their qualifying games against Panama on Wednesday. Read more from the match here

WATCH | Short-handed Canadian squad drops 1st qualifier to Costa Rica: 

10-man Canada falls to Costa Rica, misses chance to qualify for World Cup

10 months ago
Duration 1:39

For the first time in history, a film with a predominantly deaf cast is up for best picture at the Oscars. CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults) follows teenage singer Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), the only hearing person in a tight-knit family of four, as she joins her school choir and sets her sights on a prestigious music college. Jones is joined by veteran actors Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant, playing her family members. CODA isn't the only movie nominated for an Oscar this year featuring people who are deaf. Competing for best documentary short subject, Netflix film Audible tells the story of a star football player at a Maryland high school for deaf students. The nominations are a rare but encouraging sign that the industry is recognizing actors and stories from the deaf community. Canadians working in the film industry say there are various approaches to making productions inclusive to deaf talent — and that includes hiring behind-the-scenes collaborators who are deaf in an overwhelmingly hearing industry. Read more on this story ahead of Sunday's Oscars.

Now for some good news to start your Friday: Aimee Kootnikoff was surprised to look out on her West Kootenay farm one day and see a goat riding on a horse. Kootnikoff runs Kootenay Acres in Krestova, about 26 kilometres west of Nelson, B.C. She says about two months ago, she discovered her goat, Arret, standing on the back of one of her horses, Bouge. Kootnikoff assumed it would be a one-time occurrence, but a few weeks later she saw Arret climb onto a bale of hay and hop onto Bouge's back again and again — with Bouge complying by repositioning his body to make it easier for Arret to get on. Goats are often used to help calm skittish horses but Kootnikoff says this seems to be more of a mutually beneficial friendship, as Arret uses Bouge to reach food from high-up tree branches and Bouge enjoys a back massage from Arret's hooves. Read more and watch the video of this animal relationship.

First Person: Why I am reclaiming my mother's language before it's too late

When she decided to learn Oji-Cree, Rochelle Bragg gained more than vocabulary. She also learned to appreciate her family's roots and legacy. Read her column here.

Front Burner: Anti-trans bills sweep the U.S.

Earlier this month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered child protective services to investigate parents of transgender youth seeking gender-affirming care. Even going so far as to say that this care should be categorized as "child abuse." Abbot's directive, although not actually law, was an alarming consequence of a rise of anti-trans bills being proposed at the state level across the U.S. In Alabama, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a doctor to provide gender-affirming care to minors.

Today on Front Burner, press secretary for the National Women's Law Center Gillian Branstetter gets into the importance of gender-affirming care, and the impact of blocking trans youth from safely accessing it. We also explore the forces behind this Republican-led movement, and the kind of effort an opposition needs to mount to counter it.

Today in history: March 25

1880: George Brown, editor of Toronto's Globe newspaper and a Father of Confederation, is shot by a disgruntled former employee he never knew. Brown's seemingly minor leg wound became infected and he died May 9 at the age of 61. His killer, George Bennett, was hanged.

1958: The first test flight of the Canadian Avro Arrow fighter jet is carried out. The Arrow program was cancelled by the federal government nearly a year later.

1982: Canada's first in-vitro fertilization babies and North America's first test-tube twins, Colin and Gregory Rankin, are born in Oakville, Ont.

1988: Canada's Kurt Browning becomes the first figure skater to land a quadruple jump in competition. He lands a quadruple toe loop during his long program at the world championships in Budapest.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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