(ANDRIIVKA, Ukraine) — The mayor of the besieged port city of Mariupol put the number of civilians killed there at more than 5,000 Wednesday, as Ukraine collected evidence of Russian atrocities on the ruined outskirts of Kyiv and braced for what could become a climactic battle for control of the country’s industrial east.
Ukrainian authorities continued gathering up the dead in shattered towns outside the capital amid telltale signs Moscow’s troops killed civilians indiscriminately before retreating over the past several days.
Another development was that the U.S., its Western allies and the Kremlin were able to apply new sanctions for war crimes against it.
Russia pulled out 24,000 to 24,000 of the estimated 22,000. They then went into Belarus or Russia for resupply, organization, and possibly return to fighting the East, said a U.S. defense officer speaking under condition anonymity.
In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that the Russian military continues to build up its forces in preparation for the new offensive in the east, where the Kremlin has said its goal is to “liberate” the Donbas, Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland. He also said that Ukraine was ready for battle.
Leon Klein–Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Leon Klein–Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesA view of damaged vehicles after shelling in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 29, 2022.“We will fight and we will not retreat,” he said. “We will seek all possible options to defend ourselves until Russia begins to seriously seek peace. This is our country. This is our future. And we won’t give them up.”
Ukrainian authorities have urged those living in Donbas to flee now as a precaution against a Russian invasion.
“Later, people will come under fire,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, “and we won’t be able to do anything to help them.”
A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence estimates, said it will take Russia’s battle-damaged forces as much as a month to regroup for a major push on eastern Ukraine.
Vadym Borichenko, Mariupol mayor, said that 210 children were among the more than 5k civilians who died in Russian street fighting and bombardment over several weeks. He claimed that Russian forces had bombed several hospitals including one in which 50 were burned to the ground.
Boichenko said more than 90% of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed. Attacks on the strategically important southern city of the Sea of Azov cut off fuel, food and medicine, and also pulverized houses and businesses.
British military officials stated that the city had 160,000 inhabitants. It was home to a population of 430,000 before World War II. The Red Cross accompanied by a humanitarian convoy tried for many days to enter the city, but was unsuccessful.
Russia would be able to capture Mariupol and secure an uninterrupted land corridor from the Crimean Peninsula to Russia, which Moscow took over in 2014 after Ukraine was occupied.
According to Ukrainian authorities, at least 410 bodies were found in the northern part of Kyiv by civilians. This is reportedly the result of Zelenskyy’s Russian-style campaign of torture, murder, rape and dismemberment. Some victims may have been shot close to the head. Some victims were discovered with their hands tied.
Workers began loading more than 60 bodies from the Bucha Cemetery, northeast Kyiv into a truck to transport them to an investigation facility.
Zelenskyy claimed Russia interfered with an international inquiry into possible war crimes. Russia allegedly removed corpses from Bucha and tried to conceal other evidence.
“We have information that the Russian troops have changed tactics and are trying to remove the dead people, the dead Ukrainians, from the streets and cellars of territory they occupied,” he said in his address. “This is only an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more.”
Switching from Ukrainian into Russian, Zelenskyy urged ordinary Russians “to somehow confront the Russian repressive machine” instead of being “equated with the Nazis for the rest of your life.”
He called on Russians to demand an end to the war, “if you have even a little shame about what the Russian military is doing in Ukraine.”
Bucha still had more dead bodies. Two bodies were discovered by The Associated Press in a home in a peaceful neighborhood. Sometimes, the sound of unexploded ordnance and mine debris being removed from the streets was heard.
According to police, they discovered at least twenty bodies west of Kyiv in Makariv. In the village of Andriivka, residents said the Russians arrived in early March and took locals’ phones. Some were arrested and later released. Some people were detained, then released. Others described spending weeks sheltering in underground cellars that were used to store winter vegetables.
They were all gone and the Russian armored personnel carrier, the tank, and other vehicles that had been there, lay ruined on the two ends of the main road through the village. Many buildings had been reduced to rubble and corrugated steel. The residents were without electricity, heat or cooking gas.
“First we were scared, now we are hysterical,” said Valentyna Klymenko, 64. According to her, she and her husband survived the siege on potato stacks covered in blankets and mattresses. “We didn’t cry at first. Now we are crying.”
Rescue workers searched for victims in the rubble and apartment blocks to the north of Borodyanka. The area was home to mine-disposal systems.
While the Kremlin insists its troops did not commit war crimes, it claims that images from Bucha were staged and staged by Ukrainians.
Thwarted in their efforts to swiftly take the capital, increasing numbers of President Vladimir Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, have been reported moving into the Donbas.
At least five people were killed by Russian shelling Wednesday in the Donbas’ Donetsk region, according to Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko, who advised civilians to flee for safer places.
The regional governor said that Russian bombardment had set fire to 10 buildings in Luhansk and an area mall in Sievierodonetsk. No immediate information was available on injuries or deaths.
According to authorities, Russian forces also attacked fuel depots and factories in Dnipropetrovsk, west of Donbas.
Ukraine-backed separatists have been fighting in Donbas for years. Moscow recognised the Luhansk, Donetsk areas as independent states before it invaded on Feb. 24, 2014.
In reaction to the alleged atrocities outside Kyiv, the U.S. announced sanctions against Putin’s two adult daughters and said it is toughening penalties against Russian banks. Britain banned Russian investments and pledged that it would end dependence on Russian oil and coal at the end of this year.
It is expected that the European Union will also take further punitive steps, including an embargo of coal.
The United States and Britain boycotted a meeting of the Security Council that Russia called to make its absurd claims about U.S. biological warfare labs in Ukraine.
This meeting is the latest in a series of moves made by Russia, which have led Western countries accuse Moscow that it uses the U.N. to disinformation and divert attention away from war.
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky, who presided over the meeting, asserted that Ukraine, supported by the U.S., was implementing what he claimed were dangerous projects and experiments as part of a military biological program.
These allegations were previously disproven. The U.S. has funded and supported research in Ukraine’s network of biological laboratories. This is not an untrue. These labs form part of an international program to decrease the risk of fatal outbreaks.
The U.S. efforts date back to work in the 1990s to dismantle the former Soviet Union’s program for weapons of mass destruction.
This report was contributed by Oleksandr and Cara Stashevskyi in Bucha (Ukraine), Edith M. Lederer in the United Nations and Yuras Karmanau, Lviv, Ukraine.
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