Mariupol death toll rises to 5,000 as Ukraine braces in east

Mariupol death toll rises to 5,000 as Ukraine braces in east

ANDRIIVKA, Ukraine (AP) — The mayor of the besieged port city of Mariupol on Wednesday put the number of civilians killed there at more than 5,000, as Ukraine gathered evidence of Russian atrocities on the outskirts of ruined kyiv and prepared for the that could become a highlight. battle for control of the country’s industrial east.

Ukrainian authorities continued to round up the dead in shattered towns outside the capital amid telltale signs that Moscow’s troops killed civilians indiscriminately before withdrawing in recent days.

In other developments, the US and its Western allies moved to impose new sanctions against the Kremlin for what they called war crimes.

And Russia has completed the withdrawal of all of its estimated 24,000 or so troops from the kyiv and Chernihiv areas in the north, sending them to Belarus or Russia to resupply and reorganize, said a US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Moscow is now mustering reinforcements and trying to push deeper into the country’s east, where the Kremlin has said its goal is to “liberate” Donbas, Ukraine’s mostly-speaking industrial heartland. Russian.

“The fate of our land and our people is being decided. We know what we are fighting for. And we will do everything to win,” Zelenskyy said, six weeks after the war.

Ukrainian authorities have urged people living in Donbas to evacuate now, before an imminent Russian offensive, while there is still time.

“Later, people will be attacked,” 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 up to a month for Russian forces damaged by the battle to regroup for a big push into eastern Ukraine.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said that of the more than 5,000 civilians killed during weeks of Russian bombing and street clashes, 210 were children. He said Russian forces bombed hospitals, including one where 50 people burned to death.

Boichenko said that more than 90% of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed. Attacks on the strategic southern city on the Sea of ​​Azov have cut off food, water, fuel and medicine and pulverized homes and businesses.

British defense officials said 160,000 people remained trapped in the city, which had a pre-war population of 430,000. A humanitarian aid convoy accompanied by the Red Cross has been trying for days without success to enter the city.

Capturing Mariupol would allow Russia to secure a continuous land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

In the north, Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians were found in towns around Kyiv, victims of what Zelenskyy described as a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment and torture. Some victims had apparently been shot at close range. Some were found with their hands tied.

At a cemetery in the city of Bucha, workers began loading more than 60 bodies apparently collected in recent days onto a grocery delivery truck for transport to a facility for further investigation.

There were still more bodies to collect in Bucha. The Associated Press spotted two in a house in a quiet neighborhood. From time to time there was the dull rumble of workers clearing the city of mines and other unexploded ordnance.

Police said they found at least 20 bodies in the Makariv area west of kyiv. In the town of Andriivka, residents said the Russians arrived in early March and took the phones of locals. Some people were detained and later released. Others met unknown destinations. Some described sheltering for weeks in cellars normally used to store vegetables for the winter.

The soldiers were gone, and Russian armored personnel carriers, a tank and other vehicles were destroyed at both ends of the road through the town. Several buildings were reduced to piles of bricks and corrugated metal. Residents struggled without heat, electricity or cooking gas.

“First we were scared, now we are hysterical,” said 64-year-old Valentyna Klymenko. She said that she, her husband and two neighbors withstood the siege by sleeping on piles of potatoes covered with a mattress and blankets. “We didn’t cry at first. Now we are crying.”

North of the village, in the town of Borodyanka, rescue teams combed through the rubble of apartment blocks looking for bodies. Demining units were working nearby.

The Kremlin has insisted that its troops have not committed war crimes and has claimed that Bucha’s images were staged by the Ukrainians.

Thwarted in their efforts to quickly take the capital, an increasing number of President Vladimir Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, are reportedly moving into the Donbas.

At least five people were killed in Russian shelling on Wednesday in the Donetsk region of Donbas, according to Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, who urged civilians to move to safer areas.

In the Luhansk region of Donbas, Russian shelling set fire to at least 10 multi-storey buildings and a shopping mall in the city of Sievierodonetsk, the regional governor said. There was no immediate news of deaths or injuries.

Russian forces also attacked a fuel depot and factory in the Dnipropetrovsk region, just west of Donbas, authorities said.

Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in Donbas since 2014. Before its February 24 invasion, Moscow recognized the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as independent states.

In reaction to the alleged atrocities outside kyiv, the United States has announced sanctions against Putin’s two adult daughters and said it is tightening sanctions against Russian banks. Britain has banned investment in Russia and has pledged to end its dependence on Russian coal and oil by the end of the year.

The European Union is also expected to take additional punitive measures, including an embargo on coal.

Meanwhile, the United States and the United Kingdom boycotted an informal Security Council meeting called by Russia to press its baseless claims that the United States has biological warfare laboratories in Ukraine.

The meeting was the latest of several moves by Russia that have led Western countries to accuse Moscow of using the UN as a disinformation platform to divert attention from the war.

Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky, who chaired the meeting, claimed that Ukraine, with the support of the United States, was implementing what he said were dangerous projects and experiments as part of a military biological program.

These accusations have previously been debunked. Ukraine owns and operates a network of biological laboratories that have received funding and research support from the US and are no secret. They are part of an initiative called the Biological Threat Reduction Program that aims to reduce the likelihood of deadly outbreaks, whether natural or man-made. American efforts date back to the 1990s to dismantle the former Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction program.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the aid group Doctors Without Borders said its staff witnessed an attack Monday at a cancer hospital in the southern city of Mykolaiv. The group said it was the third known attack in recent days on a hospital in the port city, the capture of which is key to giving Russia control of the Black Sea coast.

He said he didn’t have a total death toll, but his team saw a body.

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Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Cara Anna in Bucha, Ukraine, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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