KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – The mayor of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol says more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Russian siege of his city and that the full death toll could double.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko spoke by telephone Monday to the Associated Press, saying corpses “laid blankets” in the city streets. He said Russian forces brought mobile cremation equipment to the city to dispose of the bodies and accused Russian forces of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city in an attempt to hide the massacre.
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Russia claimed on Monday that it had destroyed several Ukrainian air defense systems in what appeared to be a renewed push to achieve air superiority and exclude weapons, which Kyiv has described as crucial ahead of an expected broad-based new offensive. in the East.
In an attack, Moscow said it hit four S-300 launchers near the central city of Dnipro, which had been supplied by a European country it did not name. Slovakia gave Ukraine just such a system last week, but denied that it had been destroyed. Russia has previously reported two attacks on similar systems elsewhere.
Moscow’s initial invasion stalled on several fronts as it met fierce opposition from Ukrainian forces, which prevented the Russians from taking the capital and other cities. The lack of gaining full control of Ukraine’s skies has hampered Moscow’s ability to provide air cover for troops on the ground, limiting their advance and likely exposing them to greater losses.
With their offensive in many parts of the country thwarted, Russian forces have increasingly relied on bombing cities – a strategy that has left many urban areas flattened and killed thousands of people. The war has also broken down Ukraine’s economy, with the World Bank estimating that it will shrink by more than 45% this year.
Ukrainian authorities accuse Russian forces of committing atrocities, including a massacre in the city of Buchaoutside Kiev, airstrikes on hospitals and a missile attack that killed at least 57 people last week at a train station.
In Bucha, work resumed on Monday to bury corpses from a mass grave in a cemetery.
Galyna Feoktistova waited for hours in the cold and rain in hopes of identifying her 50-year-old son who was shot and killed more than a month ago, but eventually she went home to get some warmth. “He’s still there,” said her surviving son, Andriy.
Meanwhile, the UN children’s agency said almost two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since Russia’s invasion began, and the UN has confirmed that 142 children have been killed and 229 injured, although the actual numbers are probably much higher.
Elsewhere, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday for talks that were “very direct, open and tough.”
In a statement issued by his office, Nehammer said his primary message to Putin was “that this war must end, because in war both sides can only lose.” Nehammer said he also raised the issue of war crimes committed by the Russian military, saying those responsible “will be held accountable.”
Austria is a member of the European Union and has backed the 27 countries’ sanctions against Russia, although so far they have opposed cutting off supplies of Russian gas. The country is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.
In other developments, the head of the separatist rebel government in Donetsk said Ukrainian forces had lost control of the port area of the besieged port city of Mariupol.
“As for the port of Mariupol, it is now under our control,” Denis Pushilin, president of the Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian state television, according to Russian news agencies. The claim could not be immediately confirmed.
Russia has appointed a tanned general to lead its renewed advance in the eastern Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014 and have declared independent states. Both sides are digging for what could become a devastating war of attrition.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more Western aid, saying his forces needed heavier firepower to withstand the coming attack and push back Russian forces. Resounds his remarks in an AP interviewZelenskyy said on Sunday that the coming week could be crucial and that Western support – or lack thereof – could prove crucial.
“To be honest, whether we will be able to (survive) depends on this,” Zelenskyy said in a “60 Minutes” interview. “Unfortunately, I do not trust that we will receive everything we need.” In a video address to South Korean lawmakers on Monday, he specifically requested equipment that could shoot down Russian missiles.
But these weapons could increasingly come under attack as Russia appears to shift its balance in the 6-week-old war.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the military used cruise missiles to destroy the four launchers on Sunday on the southern outskirts of the Dnipro. He said the military also hit such systems in the Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions.
The Russian allegations could not be independently verified.
The Pentagon said it had seen no evidence to support Russia’s claims. A senior U.S. defense official said Russia carried out an air strike on Sunday at Dnipro airport, destroying some equipment, but the official said the United States had not seen any signs that an air defense system had been knocked out.
Lubica Janikova, spokeswoman for Slovakia’s prime minister, denied on Monday that the S-300 system it sent to Ukraine had been destroyed. She said any other claim is not true.
Ukraine has specifically requested more S-300s in recent months, even though it already had a number of Soviet-built systems and other long-range air defense systems. It has also received consignments of portable, shoulder-fired Western anti-aircraft weapons such as Stingers, which are effective against low-flying aircraft.
There are still questions about the ability of depleted and demoralized Russian forces to conquer much of the land after their advance towards Kiev was repulsed by determined Ukrainian defenders.
The British Ministry of Defense said on Monday that Ukraine has already repulsed several attacks from Russian forces in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions – which make up the Donbas – which has resulted in the destruction of Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery.
Western military analysts say Russia’s attacks are increasingly focusing on an arc of territory stretching from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the north, to Kherson in the south.
On Sunday, Russian forces shelled government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements to Izyum to the southeast to try to break Ukraine’s defenses, the Ukrainian military said.
A residential area in Kharkiv was hit by an oncoming fire on Monday afternoon. Associated Press reporters saw firefighters put out the fire and check for victims after the attack and saw at least five people killed, including a child.
Oleh Synyehubov, the regional governor of Kharkiv, said earlier Monday that Russian shelling had killed 11 people in the last 24 hours.
In Mariupol, Russia deployed Chechen fighters known to be particularly violent. Conquering the city on the Sea of Azov would give Russia a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia conquered from Ukraine and annexed eight years ago.
Mariupol residents have been short of food, water and electricity since Russian forces surrounded the city. Hundreds of thousands have fled, though Russian attacks have also frustrated evacuation missions.
Vladislav Usovich, an 18-year-old conscript serving in Russia-backed separatist forces, slowly advanced along with other fighters through residential areas around a factory on Sunday in Mariupol.
“I thought it would go better. I thought it would be faster. Everything is going slowly, “he said.” The Ukrainians are prepared warriors. NATO trained them well. “
Anna reported from Bucha, Ukraine. Robert Burns of Washington and Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.
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