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Possible mass graves near Mariupol as Russia attacks in east – Press Telegram

By DAVID KEYTON and YESICA FISCH

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Satellite photos of what appeared to be rows after rows of newly dug mass graves on the outskirts of Mariupol have increasingly focused on the horrors of war as Russia lashes out at resilient Ukrainians at the city’s steel mill on Friday. and other goals in an effort to seize the country’s industrial east.

“Every day they drop several bombs on Azovstal,” said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, about the besieged steelmaker. “The fight, the bombings, the bombings don’t stop.”

Cities in other parts of the Donbas also suffered Russian fire during the night, and the attacks interfered with attempts to evacuate civilians.

The region, home to coal mines, metal plants and heavy equipment factories, is preparing for what could be a decisive campaign as Russian President Vladimir Putin tries to salvage an 8-week war victory, widely seen as a mistake and a humanitarian disaster.

On Thursday, Putin claimed victory in the battle for the strategic southern port city of Mariupol, although an estimated 2,000 Ukrainians remained trapped in the vast steel mill, which they bombed for weeks. Putin ordered his troops not to storm the fort but to seal it.

At the same time, Maxar Technologies released new satellite images showing more than 200 graves in a city near Mariupol, and Andryushchenko accused Russia of burying thousands of civilians there.

“The graves have been unearthed and corpses are still dumped there,” he said. Initial estimates from the Ukrainians said the apparent mass graves could hold 9,000 bodies, but Andryushenko said there could be more.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said humanitarian corridors would not be opened for civilian evacuations in Ukraine on Friday because it was too dangerous. She urged civilians to “be patient” and “hold on.”

“The Russians refuse to open a corridor for civilians, cynically pretending that they do not understand the difference between a corridor for the military to surrender and a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians,” Vereshchuk said.

In the days of the Russian offensive to take the east, the campaign has not yet turned into a total assault, and military analysts say Moscow’s forces are still on the rise. Scattered eastern cities have been hit by incoming projectiles that expel citizens in panic.

Slovyansk, a town of about 100,000 people in eastern Ukraine, was attacked overnight, according to Mayor Vadym Lyakh, who said no injuries were reported. But he urged residents to leave and said a bus convoy would be organized. In Rubizhne, Russian fire prevented attempts to introduce buses, Lugansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said.

Heavy bombing was also heard during the night in Kharkiv, a northeastern city outside the Donbass, but one of the gateways intended to be used by the Russians to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Donbass to the north, south and east. .

If successful, the campaign would give Putin a vital piece of the country and a much-needed victory to show the Russian people in the midst of growing war casualties and economic hardship caused by Western sanctions.

But analysts say Russian forces are not yet making much progress in the Donbas. A senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment, said the Ukrainians were obstructing Russia’s efforts to push south from Izyum, which is outside the Donbas.

“Russian forces have continued offensive operations in eastern Ukraine, but have only made marginal gains,” according to the Washington-based Institute for War Study.

On Friday, Rustam Minnekayev, a senior Russian military official, described Russia’s military targets that appeared to be broader than the Kremlin has revealed in recent weeks. He said Russian forces intend to take full control not only of eastern Ukraine but also of the south.

He said such a move would pave the way for the nation of Moldova, where Russia supports the separatist region of Transnistria. Moldovan officials are cautiously watching Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

The battle for Mariupol was seen as the key to the assault on the east. His capture would free Russian forces from participating in the largest campaign in the east. But the institute said Russian troops in the city were likely to be badly damaged and that Moscow would have difficulty redistributing them quickly.

Mariupol saw some of the worst suffering of the war, and satellite images released on Thursday pointed to even more.

In the pictures, long rows of mounds of earth extend from an existing cemetery in Manhush, outside Mariupol. Local officials have accused Russia of using the graves to try to hide the massacre that was taking place in the city.

There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin to satellite imagery. When mass graves and hundreds of civilians were found dead in Bukha and other cities around Kiev after Russian troops withdrew three weeks ago, Russian officials denied that their soldiers had killed civilians there and falsely accused Ukraine of organizing the atrocities. .

The UN Office of Human Rights has once again condemned the Russian invasion.

“Over the past eight weeks, international humanitarian law has not only been ignored, but has apparently been sidelined,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

People fleeing Mariupol have described being trapped in horrific conditions. Yuriy and Polina Lulac said they spent almost two months living in a basement with at least a dozen people without running water and little food.

“What was happening there was so horrible that you can’t describe it,” said Yuriy Lulac, who used a derogatory word for Russian troops, saying they were “killing people for nothing.”

“Mariupol is gone. There are only graves and crosses in the courtyards,” he said.

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Fisch reported from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Associated Press journalists Mstyslav Chernov and Philip Dana in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv and Robert Burns and Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report, as did other AP staff members around the world.

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

Possible mass graves near Mariupol as Russia attacks in east – Press Telegram Source link Possible mass graves near Mariupol as Russia attacks in east – Press Telegram

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