KYIV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — The mayor of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol said Monday that more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Russian siege of his city, and the death toll could surpass 20,000, as weeks of attacks and privatizations continued. The bodies of the Mariupol people were “carpeted on the streets.”
Speaking by phone on Monday with the Associated Press, Mayor Vadim Boychenko also accused the Russian military of blocking weeks of failed humanitarian convoys in the city in an attempt to hide the massacre there from the outside world.
Mariupol has been cut off from Russian attacks, which began soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine in late February, and has suffered some of the most brutal attacks of the war. Boychenko gave new details of recent allegations by Ukrainian authorities that Russian forces brought mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the bodies of siege victims.
Boychenko said the Russian military had moved several bodies to a huge shopping center with storage facilities and refrigerators.
“Mobile cremations have come in the form of trucks: you open it, and there’s a pipe inside and these bodies are burned,” he said.
Boychenko spoke from a location in Ukrainian-controlled territory but outside Mariupol. The mayor said he had multiple sources for his details about the alleged burning of corpses by the Russian military in the city, but gave few more details.
The discovery of large numbers of civilians apparently executed after Russian forces retreated from cities around the capital Kyiv this month has sparked widespread accusations from Ukrainians and the West that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine.
Elsewhere on Monday, US officials pointed to new signs that Russian forces were gearing up for a major offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, after Russian forces failed their initial campaign to capture Kyiv. Focusing on.
Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces in the Donbass region since 2014, and have declared independent states. A major confrontation between fighters from the two countries in the Donbass would allow Russia to try to use its numbers and have more military power to capture more territory. Western military strategists say Russia also expects Ukraine’s fighters to be forced out into the open in more traditional battles in the East, rather than with the hit-and-run attacks often so successful.
Russia has appointed an experienced general to guide its renewed advance in the eastern Donbass region.
A senior US defense official said on Monday that a long Russian convoy with artillery, aviation and infantry support is now moving towards the eastern city of Izium, apparently for an imminent offensive.
More artillery is being deployed near the city of Donetsk, while ground combat units withdrawing from around the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions appear destined for refitting and re-supplying prior to the situation in the Donbass, said the official, who conducted internal US operations. spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. military assessment.
With their invasion thwarted in many parts of the country, Russian forces have relied more heavily on bombing cities – a tactic that has leveled many urban areas and killed thousands.
Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of atrocities, including a massacre in the city of Buka outside Kyiv, airstrikes on hospitals and a missile attack that killed at least 57 people at a train station last week.
In Bucha, work resumed on Monday from a mass grave in a churchyard.
Galina Feoktistova waited hours in the cold and rain hoping to identify her 50-year-old son, who had been shot and killed more than a month ago, but eventually went home for some warmth. “He’s still there,” said his surviving son, Andrey.
The mayor said about 120,000 citizens in Mariupol are in dire need of food, water, heat and communication.
Boychenko said only residents who passed through the Russian “filtration camp” have been released from the city.
Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are confiscating the passports of Ukrainian citizens and then taking them to “filtration camps” in Ukraine’s separatist-controlled east, then sending them to economically depressed areas in Russia .
Boychenko said on Monday that improvised prisons were organized for those who did not pass the “filtering”, while at least 33,000 people were moved to separatist territory in Russia or Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the UN children’s agency said nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since Russia’s invasion began. The United Nations has verified that 142 children have been killed and 229 injured, although the actual number is likely to be much higher.
Elsewhere, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehmer said he met in Moscow on Monday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that were “very direct, open and difficult”.
In a statement released by his office, Nehmer said his primary message to Putin was “this war needs to end, because in a war both sides can only lose.” Nehamer said he also raised the issue of war crimes committed by the Russian military and said those responsible “will be accounted for.”
Austria is a member of the European Union and has supported the 27-nation bloc’s sanctions against Russia, although so far it has opposed cuts to Russian gas deliveries. The country is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.
In other developments, the head of the separatist rebel government in Donetsk claimed that the Ukrainian military had lost control of the Mariupol port area.
“With regard to the port of Mariupol, it is now under our control,” President of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin told Russian news agencies. The claim could not be immediately confirmed.
But the mayor of Mariupol said fighting at the port continued. “It is difficult, but our heroic army continues,” Boychenko said.
Both sides are exploring what could be a devastating war of escape.
Retired British general Richard Barones, co-chairman of UK-based strategic consulting firm Universal Defense and Security Solutions, said Russian forces would seek to encircle the Donbass region from the north and south as well as from the east.
The ground in that part of Ukraine is flatter, more open and less wooded — so the Ukrainian ambush tactics used around Kyiv may be less successful, Barons said.
“As a result, it’s subtly balanced right now,” Barons said. If the Russians learn from their past failures, concentrate more forces, better link their air forces to ground forces, and improve their logistics, “then they may eventually begin to dominate Ukrainian positions, although I still Looks like it’s going to be a huge fight.”
In a video address to South Korean lawmakers on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky specifically requested equipment that can shoot down Russian missiles.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov claimed that the military used cruise missiles to destroy four S-300 launchers near the central city of Dnipro on Sunday. He said the army also targeted similar systems in the Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions.
The Pentagon said it saw no evidence to support Russia’s claims. And Slovakia’s prime minister’s spokeswoman Lubika Janikova denied Monday that the S-300 systems sent to Ukraine had been destroyed.
Questions remain about the ability of depleted and demoralized Russian forces to conquer much ground after their advance on Kyiv was repulsed by Ukrainian defenders.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that Ukraine has already repelled several attacks by Russian forces in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions – which make up the Donbass – that resulted in the destruction of Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery.
Western military analysts say Russia’s attack is focused on an area stretching from Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv in the north to Kherson in the south.
A fire broke out in a residential area of Kharkiv on Monday afternoon. Associated Press reporters watched as firefighters put out the fire and examined victims after the attack and noticed that at least five people, including a child, were killed.
Kharkiv’s regional governor, Oleh Sinyehubov, said earlier on Monday that 11 people had been killed in Russian shelling in the past 24 hours.
Karamanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Anna reported from Buka, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington and Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.
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