Local

Investigation into whether Russia used chemical warfare in Ukraine, as 10,000 civilians killed in Mariupol

KIEV, Ukraine – The besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol has sparked more terror after six weeks of heavy shelling by Russian troops, with the mayor saying more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the strategic southern port, with their bodies “on the streets”.

As Russia pounds the northeastern city of Kharkiv and prepares for an attack in eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has warned that President Vladimir Putin’s forces may use chemical weapons, and Western officials have said they are investigating a poisonous substance was dropped in Mariupol.

The city has seen some of the heaviest attacks and civilian suffering in the war, but attacks by land, sea and air from Russian forces fighting to seize it have increasingly limited information about what is happening inside the city. .

Speaking by telephone to the Associated Press on Monday, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko accused Russian forces of blocking weeks of humanitarian convoys in the city, in part to cover up the massacre. Boichenko said the death toll in Mariupol alone could exceed 20,000.

Boichenko also gave new details about the claims of Ukrainian officials that Russian forces have brought mobile incineration equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the bodies of the victims of the siege. He said Russian forces had transported many bodies to a huge shopping mall with storage facilities and refrigerators.

“Mobile crematoria have arrived in the form of trucks: You open it and there is a pipe inside and these corpses are being burned,” said the mayor.

Boichenko spoke of Ukrainian-controlled territories outside Mariupol. The mayor said he had many sources for his description of the alleged methodical burning of corpses by Russian forces in the city, but did not specify the sources.

The discovery of large numbers of apparently slaughtered civilians following the withdrawal of Russian forces from cities and towns around the capital, Kyiv, has already sparked widespread condemnation and accusations that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine.

These forces withdrew after failing to occupy Kyiv in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance and now say they will focus on Donbas, an industrial area in eastern Ukraine. Western officials have signaled that the Russian military is preparing for a major offensive there.

During a visit to Russia’s Far East on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said the Russian military would achieve its goals in Ukraine, saying the campaign was aimed at ensuring Russia’s security. He added that his country had no intention of isolating itself and that foreign powers would not be able to isolate it – despite a series of sanctions against Russia.

Putin’s visit to the Vostochny space launch site marked his first trip outside Moscow since the Russian invasion on February 24.

The British Ministry of Defense stated that Russian forces continue to withdraw from Belarus to support operations in eastern Ukraine.

“Fighting in eastern Ukraine will intensify over the next two to three weeks as Russia continues to refocus its efforts there,” the ministry tweeted. “Russian attacks remain focused on Ukrainian positions near Donetsk and Luhansk with further battles around Kherson and Mykolaiv and a new impetus towards Kramatorsk.”

Donbass has been torn apart by fighting between Russia’s separatist allies and Ukrainian forces since 2014, and Russia has acknowledged the separatists’ claims of independence. Military generals say Russian leaders seem to be hoping that local support, logistics and ground in Donbass favor Russia’s largest and best-armed army, potentially allowing Russian troops to turn the tide decisively to their advantage. difficult so far.

Russia has appointed an experienced general to lead its renewed push to Donbass, but questions remain about the ability of exhausted and discouraged Russian forces to conquer large swathes of territory.

With their offensive in many parts of the country prevented, Russian forces are increasingly relying on city bombing – a strategy that has leveled many urban areas and killed thousands. And Western officials have repeatedly warned that Putin could resort to the use of unconventional weapons, especially chemical ones. The warnings were part of a campaign by US and UK authorities to release findings of information about Russian plans, in part as a deterrent.

Zelensky repeated this warning in his night speech on Monday. “We take it as seriously as we can,” Zelensky said.

A pro-Russian separatist official, Eduard Basurin, appeared to urge their use on Monday, telling Russian state television that Russian-backed forces would have to seize a giant metal plant in Mariupol from the Ukrainians first. all exits from the factory. “And then we will use chemical troops to smoke them from there,” he said.

A Ukrainian regiment defending the plant claimed on Monday, without providing evidence, that a drone had dropped a poisonous substance on Mariupol. He said there were no serious injuries.

The claim of Azov’s Constitution, an extreme right-wing group now part of the Ukrainian army, could not be independently verified.

Basurin, according to the Interfax news agency, said on Tuesday that the separatist forces “have not used any chemical weapons in Mariupol”.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the United States could not confirm the drone report from Mariupol. But Kirby noted the government’s persistent concerns “about Russia’s ability to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas canisters, in Ukraine.”

Foreign Minister Liz Tras said the United Kingdom was “working urgently” to investigate the report.

There seemed to be little diplomatic progress towards ending a war that has driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes, more than 4 million of them from the country.

Ukrainian authorities accuse Russian forces of committing atrocities, including the massacre in the city of Bukha, outside Kyiv, airstrikes on hospitals and a rocket attack that killed at least 57 people at a train station last week.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since the Russian-led invasion began. The United Nations has confirmed that 142 children were killed and 229 injured, although the actual numbers are probably much higher.

In Mariupol, about 120,000 citizens are in dire need of food, water, warmth and communications, the mayor said.

Ukraine accuses Russian forces of forcibly removing people from the city in Russia. Ukrainian officials say Russian troops have seized passports from Ukrainian citizens and then taken them to “filter camps” in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine before sending them to remote, economically disadvantaged areas in Russia.

Bojchenko said on Monday that those who did not pass the “filtering” were transferred to makeshift prisons. He said 33,000 or more people had been transferred to Russia or to separatist territories in Ukraine.

The Russians refused to move people against their will.

Austrian Chancellor Carl Nehammer met with Putin on Monday after meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv at the weekend, but left a pessimistic note after what he called “very direct, open and tough” talks. He said he left the meeting without much optimism about ending the war soon.

___

Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Anna reported from Bukha, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington and AP reporters around the world contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.



Investigation into whether Russia used chemical warfare in Ukraine, as 10,000 civilians killed in Mariupol Source link Investigation into whether Russia used chemical warfare in Ukraine, as 10,000 civilians killed in Mariupol

Related Articles

Back to top button