Vladimir Putin said that as Russian forces closed the Mariupol ruins, which reportedly killed 21,000 civilians, civilians had fled eastern Ukraine ahead of the foreshadowing attack, and that Moscow’s invasion would continue “peacefully.”
Ukrainian forces in the east launched a major new Russian offensive on Tuesday, with Luhansk Governor Sergei Kaitoy urging the immediate evacuation of all residents using the agreed humanitarian corridors. “It’s so scary to be in your sleep and burning from a Russian shell,” Kaitoi said on social media. “Exit: The situation is getting worse every day. Take your essentials and go to the pick-up point.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky said on Tuesday that investigators had received reports of “hundreds of rape cases”, including sexual abuse of minors, in areas around Kiev that had previously been occupied by Russian troops.
“New mass graves are discovered almost daily,” Zelenskiy told the Lithuanian parliament. “Certificates are being collected. Thousands of victims. Hundreds of torture cases. Bodies are frequently found in drains and cellars. Hundreds of rape cases have been reported, including young women and very young children. Even of a child. “
Authorities have demanded an investigation into attacks on women during the conflict. “These allegations must be investigated independently to ensure justice and accountability,” said Sima Bahos, director of the UN Women’s Organization.
Zhelinsky urged the EU to impose sanctions on Russian oil and set a definite deadline for ending Russian gas imports. “We can not wait,” he told lawmakers in Vilnius via video link. “We need powerful decisions. Only then will the Russian government understand the need for them to seek peace, and war will be a disaster for them.
Western officials and analysts say the invading force is preparing for a major offensive in the east as Russian troops retreat heavily from around the Ukrainian capital in the face of fierce opposition and heavy logistical problems.
Russian troops continued to attack the industrial district of Mariupol Azovstal, where the Ukrainian navy was taking the last stand in defense of the strategic port, reduced to rubble six weeks after the bombings.
The city’s mayor Vadim Poychenko said on Tuesday that 21,000 civilians had been killed since the invasion began on February 24, adding that it had become difficult to calculate the exact number of casualties since street fighting began.
Russia is believed to be trying to capture Mariupol to annex the occupied Crimea to the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the eastern Donbass region. However, Kiev said the security of the affected city would continue.
“Liaison with the units of the security forces, which are as brave as Mariupol, is stable and maintained,” the Ukrainian military command said in a daily statement, adding that Russian forces were also targeting the eastern cities of Bobasna, west of Luhansk, and Kurokov, near Donetsk.
Pentagon spokeswoman John Kirby said the United States could not confirm that Russia had used chemical weapons in the siege of Mariupol after Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Malyar said it was checking reports in Kiev.
Mariupol City Hall said it was unable to inspect the area where the poison was allegedly used due to enemy fire. It said Ukrainian soldiers in contact with it were being monitored for possible symptoms.
During a visit to eastern Russia on Tuesday, Putin described the country’s military in Ukraine as “undoubtedly achieving its goals”, describing its aims as “classic” and stressing that the move was aimed at ensuring Russia’s security and protecting people in the Russian-controlled Donbass.
He said the Kiev peace talks were deliberately derailed and that the war could continue for some time. Putin visited the Vostochny Cosmotrome, 3,450 miles (5,550 km) east of Moscow, saying “we are back to a dead end.”
He said Russia would continue its operation “rhythmically and peacefully” until the end and that Western sanctions had failed. “The Blitzkrieg that our adversaries were counting on did not work,” he said, adding that “in the modern world it is not possible to severely isolate anyone – especially a vast country like Russia”.
The withdrawal of Russian forces from towns and villages around Kiev led to the discovery of mass killings, which provoked widespread condemnation and called for an investigation into possible war crimes.
The mayor of Pucha, Anatoly Fedoruk, said the bodies of 403 people believed to have been killed by Russian forces had so far been found and the number was rising and 25 women had complained of being raped. “What people find in their homes is shocking, and they will remember the Russian occupiers for a very long time,” Fedoruk said.
Putin dismissed the reports as “fake” and said Russia’s decision to invade was “correct”. The Belarusian president also backed the invasion, saying it was a premature strike. Alexander Lukashenko, who spoke with Putin after a cosmopolitan tour, said without proof that if Russia did not invade, the West planned to launch a “crushing blow” against it within the next six weeks.
Russia’s invasion has so far displaced more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes, of which more than 4.6 million have fled abroad.
In response, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin said unprecedented sanctions imposed by the West could shrink Russia’s economy by more than 10% by 2022, the biggest drop in GDP since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. On Tuesday.