Evidence of atrocities against Ukrainian civilians emerged on Thursday as the UN chief reviewed the destruction in towns outside kyiv that saw some of the worst horrors of the war’s first onslaught.
The Russian aggression in Ukraine, which Canada’s House of Commons voted unanimously to recognize as an act of genocide, has regrouped and refocused on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine after to be withdrawn from the Kyiv region, where it encountered fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Donbass is a predominantly Russian-speaking region, part of which has been held by Kremlin-backed Ukrainian separatists since 2014.
To recall the horrific toll of the war since it began on February 24, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the region outside the capital, Kyiv, and visited several towns, including Bucha, where evidence of widespread killings of civilians was found. .
“Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians,” António Guterres said during his visit to Irpin, another kyiv suburb that was attacked.
He sought to bring home the devastation, saying he imagined his own family had to flee the airstrikes on their home, and he reiterated how important it was that the war crimes allegedly committed in Bucha and elsewhere are under investigation.
“But when we talk about war crimes, we cannot forget that the worst crime is war itself,” he said.
The discovery of dozens of civilians killed around kyiv helped galvanize more support for Ukraine in the West, which imposed a series of sanctions on Russia and sent arms to Ukraine.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov promised his country would join others in providing military assistance as he visited another scene of atrocities in Borodyanka, outside Kyiv.
“We cannot be indifferent,” he said. “We can’t say it’s a Ukrainian problem; we can’t say that some people die, but that doesn’t interest us.
WATCH | Research is underway to assess the extent of the destruction at Borodyanka:
Putin warns of ‘lightning-fast’ retaliatory strikes
Western countries have stepped up their arms shipments to Ukraine in recent days. More than 40 countries gathered this week at a US airbase in Germany and pledged to send heavy weapons, such as artillery, for what is expected to be a massive battle of opposing armies along a heavily fortified front line in the east.
Washington now says it hopes Ukrainian forces can not only repel Russia’s eastern assault, but also weaken its military so it can no longer threaten its neighbors.
In response, Russia said it amounted to a NATO “proxy war” against it.
“If anyone intends to intervene from the outside in current events and create strategic threats to Russia that are unacceptable to us, he should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning fast. “, President Vladimir Putin told lawmakers in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.
“We have all the tools for that, things no one else can brag about having now. And we won’t brag about them; we’ll use them when necessary. And I want everyone to know that.”
The Eastern Offensive Accelerates
Putin’s threats come as his troops focus on the vital industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, where fighting is accelerating.
The Ukrainian military said several areas in the Donbass region had come under heavy fire over the past day, with several towns coming under heavy attack as Moscow’s forces attempted to encircle the Ukrainian troops.
The fighting escalated after Russia suddenly cut off natural gas to two NATO countries, Poland and Bulgaria, on Wednesday in what was seen as an attempt to punish and divide the West on its support for Ukraine.
WATCH | Poland and Bugaria postpone loss of Russian gas following ruble ultimatum:
Ukraine’s army general staff said Russian forces were “exerting intense fire” at several locations in the east as they continued the second phase of their invasion. The most intensive action has taken place around Donetsk and near Kharkiv, which lies outside the Donbass region but is seen as key to Russia’s apparent attempt to surround Ukrainian troops there.
As Russia continues this offensive, civilians are once again bearing the brunt of it.
“It’s not just scary, it’s when your stomach contracts from the pain,” said Tatiana Pirogova, a resident of the northeastern city of Kharkiv. “When they’re spinning during the day it’s still fine, but come evening I can’t describe how scary it is.”
Fears of cholera risks in Mariupol
In the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities have warned that civilians remaining there face dangerously unsanitary conditions, with water and sewage systems not working and bodies decomposing under the rubble.
Hundreds of thousands of Mariupol residents have fled, but the city council said on Thursday the remaining 100,000 face “deadly danger” as they risk contracting diseases such as cholera and dysentery from the deeply unsanitary conditions in the city, which was largely reduced to rubble by the Russian siege.
“Deadly epidemics could break out in the city due to the lack of centralized water supply and sewage, the decomposition of thousands of corpses under the rubble, a catastrophic shortage of drinking water and food,” he said. said the council on the Telegram messaging app.
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed evidence of increased Russian fire targeting the Mariupol steelworks, where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are being held, in recent days.
The footage shows how concentrated attacks severely damaged a central steelworks facility in Azovstal, the last stronghold of Ukrainian fighters in the key battlefield town.
Around 1,000 civilians are sheltering with around 2,000 Ukrainian fighters in the Steelworks, a huge Soviet-era complex with a maze of underground facilities built to withstand airstrikes.
The UN announced on Wednesday that its humanitarian office was mobilizing a team to coordinate the complex evacuation of civilians from the besieged steel mill with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
António Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in principle to UN and ICRC involvement in the evacuation of the factory during talks earlier this week.
Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN was trying to translate the Guterres-Putin deal in principle “into a detailed agreement and an agreement on the ground”.
WATCH | A Maxar technician explains how satellite images help track the Russian invasion:
Explosions signal possible Ukrainian counterattack
Meanwhile, in what could be another Ukrainian counterattack, a series of explosions went off near a television tower on Wednesday evening in Kherson, southern Ukraine, which is occupied by Russian forces since the start of the war.
The explosions at least temporarily interrupted Russian channels, Ukrainian and Russian news agencies reported.
Ukraine has urged its allies to send even more military equipment so it can continue its fight.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that “to date, NATO allies have pledged and delivered at least $8 billion in military support to Ukraine. And we see the importance to further step up our support for Ukraine”.
As Russia’s initial blitz was delayed – and suffered the humiliating loss of a massive warship – Britain’s Ministry of Defense says the Russian navy still has the capability to strike coastal targets in Ukraine.
WATCH | A view of the consequences of a Russian attack:
In an intelligence briefing released on Thursday morning, the ministry said about 20 Russian naval vessels, including submarines, are currently operating in the Black Sea area.
But the ministry says Russia is unable to replace the Moskva missile cruiser, which sank earlier this month in the Black Sea, because the Bosphorus Strait remains closed to all non-warships. turkish. Russia also lost the landing ship Saratov, which was destroyed by explosions and fire on March 24.