By ADAM SCHRECK and ANDREA ROSA
KIIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine has told residents of its industrial core to march while they still can and urged Western nations to send “weapons, weapons and armor” on Thursday after Russian forces withdrew from the devastated environs around Kiev to regroup for an offensive in Kiev. the east of the country.
The six-week Russian invasion failed to take the Ukrainian capital quickly and achieve what Western countries say was President Vladimir Putin’s initial goal of overthrowing the Ukrainian government. Russia’s focus is now on the Donbas, a predominantly Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine.
In Brussels, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged NATO to provide more weapons and help its war-torn country avoid further alleged atrocities. Ukrainian authorities are working to identify hundreds of bodies found on the outskirts of northern Kiev after the withdrawal of Russian troops and to document evidence of possible war crimes.
“My agenda is very simple. It’s weapons, weapons and weapons,” Kuleba said when he arrived at NATO headquarters to talk to the military’s foreign ministers.
“The more weapons we have and the sooner they reach Ukraine, the more human lives will be saved,” he said.
While NATO is working to prevent actions that could lead any of its 30 members to a war with Russia, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has urged Western alliance nations to send more weapons to Ukraine, not just defensive weapons.
Western countries have provided Ukraine with portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, but have been reluctant to supply aircraft, tanks or any equipment that Ukrainian troops would have to be trained to use.
Moscow announced more than a week ago that it planned to concentrate its forces in the east, and has largely withdrawn from Kiev and the north. A growing number of Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, have reportedly moved to the Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and controlling some territory.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk urged civilians to evacuate safer regions before it is too late. She said Ukrainian and Russian officials agreed to establish 10 civilian evacuation routes on Thursday.
Russia’s change of focus has brought relief to Chernihiv, a city near Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus that has been besieged and cut off for weeks.
Abandoned troops left twisted buildings and traumatized residents, who climbed over the rubble and passed cars destroyed by the fighting. Dozens of people lined up on Thursday to receive food, diapers and medicine at a shattered school that now serves as an aid distribution point.
A classroom blackboard was marked with xiz: “Wednesday, February 23: Class Work.” Russia invaded Ukraine the next day, besieging Chernihiv as troops tried to sweep south toward the capital.
“We can finally bring food,” said Viktiriia Veruha, who was distributing aid at the school. “Now we can bring food, medicine and we can evacuate the people of Chernihiv, which is also very important.”
Tatiana Nesterenko, who left the city and crossed to Medyka in Poland, has joined more than 4.3 million refugees who have fled Ukraine since the war began.
“We spent 40 days in a basement,” he said. “Our house was destroyed by an air raid.… Many people are homeless now, and there have been many casualties. There was no help, no volunteers for us. We put out the fire alone.”
The British Defense Ministry said on Thursday that Russia was aiming for the “line of control” between Ukrainian-controlled and rebel-controlled areas in the Donbas with artillery and airstrikes and attacking infrastructure targets around Ukraine to erode Ukrainian defense.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said during the night it hit the fuel storage sites around the cities of Mykolaiv, Zaporozhe, Kharkiv and Chuguev using cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea.
A Ukrainian Navy boat caught fire in unclear circumstances in the besieged port city of Mariupol, according to satellite photos analyzed Thursday by the Associated Press. Images from Planet Labs PBC appear to show the Ukrainian command ship Donbas burning in the port of the Sea of Azov on Wednesday afternoon while also burning a nearby building.
Mariupol experienced some of the greatest deprivations of war. Russian forces are fighting street by street to capture the city; Doing so would allow Russia to secure a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said more than 5,000 civilians had been killed, including 210 children. British defense officials estimate that 160,000 people remain trapped in the city, which had a population of 430,000 before the war.
Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians had been found in Bukha and other cities on the outskirts of Kiev, victims of what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described as a Russian campaign of assassinations, rapes, dismemberments and torture.
In areas north of the capital, Ukrainian officials have gathered evidence of Russian atrocities amid signs that Moscow troops have killed people indiscriminately before withdrawing. Some of the victims were reportedly shot at close range or killed with their hands tied.
Western officials have warned that similar atrocities are likely to occur in other areas occupied by Russian troops. Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of removing corpses in an attempt to cover up war crimes in areas still under his control, “for fear that the global anger over what was seen in Bucha would be repeated.”
“This is just an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more,” he said in a nightly video.
The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine before grim findings near Kiev fueled more urgent calls for perpetrators of civil atrocities to be brought to justice. Ukrainian authorities were transporting piles of bags of corpses to a facility for identification and investigation.
The Kremlin insists that its troops did not commit war crimes and claimed that the Ukrainians starred in images of brutality coming out of Bucha and nearby cities.
The French government summoned the Russian ambassador via a tweet suggesting that the images of dead civilians were fake. Thursday’s tweet, which has since been removed but reprinted by numerous French media outlets, featured a Bucha street with a demolished tank and numerous journalists under the “platform” caption.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the tweet “indecent”.
Two former German government ministers have filed a criminal complaint with federal prosecutors, hoping to use national laws to pursue an investigation into war crimes against Russian officials, including Putin and Russian military personnel.
Lawyer Nikolaos Gazeas, who compiled the 140-page criminal complaint, quoted a report in the weekly Der Spiegel on Thursday in which the German foreign intelligence agency intercepted radio messages between Russian soldiers talking about the killings of civilians in Bucha.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation late Wednesday that called for a report from the federal government on evidence of war crimes committed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In response to the alleged atrocities, the United States has announced sanctions against Putin’s two adult daughters and said it is toughening its sentences against Russian banks. Britain has banned investment in Russia and pledged to end its dependence on Russian coal and oil by the end of the year.
The European Union is also expected to take additional punitive measures, including an embargo on Russian coal.
Zelenskyy said the sanctions would not be effective unless they included a ban on Russian oil imports, on which Europe is heavily dependent.
Since the war began, Russia and Ukraine have held talks, both by video link and in person, but have found no common ground to end the fighting.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday accused Ukraine of backtracking on its proposals on Crimea and Ukraine’s military status. Lavrov accused Washington and its allies of pressuring Ukraine to continue fighting, but said Russia intends to continue talks.
Rosa reported from Chernihiv, Ukraine. Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Cara Anna in Bucha, Ukraine, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and journalists from the Associated Press from around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Ukraine pleads for weapons as fight looms on eastern front – Press Telegram Source link Ukraine pleads for weapons as fight looms on eastern front – Press Telegram