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UN documents ‘unlawful’ killings in Ukraine as Russia vows bigger campaign


Ukraine’s government, emboldened by a fresh influx of high-grade Western weaponry, said its beleaguered forces were still holding out inside a sprawling, seaside steelworks in the razed city of Mariupol.

FILE: A Ukranian serviceman walks between rubble of the destroyed regional headquarters of Kharkiv on 27 March 2022. Picture: Aris Messinis/AFP

ZAPORIZHZHIA – Russia said Friday it intended a full-bore assault to carve out a sizeable slice of Ukraine but risked intensified world outrage as the UN documented the killing of dozens of civilians in one town.

Ukraine’s government, emboldened by a fresh influx of high-grade Western weaponry, said its beleaguered forces were still holding out inside a sprawling, seaside steelworks in the razed city of Mariupol.

The Kremlin has claimed the “liberation” of Mariupol, whose control is pivotal to its war plans nearly two months after President Vladimir Putin ordered the shock invasion of Russia’s Western-leaning neighbour.

“Since the start of the second phase of the special operation… one of the tasks of the Russian army is to establish full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine,” Major General Rustam Minnekaev said.

“This will provide a land corridor to Crimea,” he added, according to Russian news agencies, referring to the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Minnekaev’s comments were the most detailed description yet of Russia’s goals in the “second phase” of its operation, which was forced on the Kremlin after Ukraine’s dogged resistance around the capital Kyiv.

Russia’s defence ministry said it was ready for a ceasefire at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, to allow out hundreds of trapped civilians — but only if Ukraine’s soldiers surrendered.

The defenders have refused to yield, and Russia stands accused of serial violations of other humanitarian offers.

“The enemy’s offensive operation in the south hinges on Mariupol. The enemy is trying to focus all its efforts on it,” Ukrainian regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told AFP.

Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, dismissed the Russian military plan outlined by Minnekaev.

“We have our own scenarios to defend Ukraine and I would point out that plenty of Kremlin plans have already been ruined by the work of our army and our people,” he said on social media.

Russia’s change of strategic focus to southern and eastern Ukraine saw invading forces leave behind a trail of indiscriminate destruction and civilian bodies around Kyiv, including in the commuter town of Bucha.

‘MASS GRAVE’
A United Nations mission to Bucha documented “the unlawful killing, including by summary execution, of some 50 civilians there”, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Its spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said Russian forces had “indiscriminately shelled and bombed populated areas, killing civilians and wrecking hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure, actions that may amount to war crimes”.

The UN mission was sent on April 9, a week after an AFP team found bodies of people dressed in civilian clothing lining the streets of Bucha, after the town had been under Russian occupation for over a month.

US satellite imagery company Maxar released photos that it said showed a “mass grave” on the northwestern edge of Manhush, west of Mariupol.

UK police said they had received “around 50” referrals relating to alleged war crimes in Ukraine, in support of an investigation by the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Ukrainian officials say the bodies of more than 1,000 civilians have been retrieved from areas around Kyiv, and they are working with French investigators to document alleged war crimes.





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