KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – The besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol has been further terrorized by attacks by Russian troops for six weeks, with more than 10,000 civilians dead in the strategic southern port, with their bodies strewn across the streets. ”
As Russia attacks targets around Ukraine and prepares for a major offensive in the east, the country’s president has warned President Vladimir Putin’s forces could use chemical weapons, and Western officials say they are investigating an unconfirmed claim by Ukrainian forces. In Mariupol.
The city has seen heavy casualties and civilian casualties in the war, but Russian forces’ land, sea and air strikes have limited information about what is happening inside the city.
Speaking by phone to the Associated Press on Monday, Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko accused Russian forces of blocking humanitarian convoys within the city for weeks as part of a cover-up. Boychenko said the death toll in Mariupol alone would exceed 20,000.
Boychenko also provided new details on allegations by Ukrainian authorities that Russian forces had brought mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the bodies of victims of the siege. Russian forces have taken several bodies to a large shopping center where storage facilities and refrigerators are located.
“Mobile cremations have come in the form of trucks: you open it, there’s a pipe inside, and these bodies are burned,” Mayer said.
Mayor – More than 10,000 civilians have already died in Mariupol # Mariupol Vadim Boychenko said. The number of victims may be more than 20,000. it is a # Genocide Made by Ukrainians, Russia pic.twitter.com/q85HgqxxGE
– Rustem Umerov (rustem_umerov) April 12, 2022
Boychenko spoke from the Ukrainian-controlled territory outside Mariupol. The mayor said he had several sources for details of alleged cremation of bodies by Russian forces in the city, but did not elaborate.
The discovery of large numbers of civilians after Russian forces withdrew from cities and towns around the capital, Kiev, has already provoked widespread condemnation and accusations that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine.
The forces withdrew after failing to capture Kiev in the face of fierce Ukrainian opposition, and Russia says it is now focusing on the industrial area of Donbass in eastern Ukraine. There are already signs that the military is preparing for a major offensive there.
President Vladimir Putin, who visited Russia’s Far East on Tuesday, stressed that the military in Ukraine would achieve its goals, aimed at ensuring Russia’s security and protecting civilians in the east. He added that his country had no intention of isolating itself and that despite the sanctions, foreign powers would not succeed in isolating themselves.
Putin’s visit to the Vostochny space launch site marked his first outing outside Moscow since the February 24 invasion of Russia.
The British Defense Ministry said Russian troops were continuing to withdraw from Belarus in support of operations in eastern Ukraine, where fighting was expected to intensify in the next two or three weeks.
While building forces in the east, Russia continued to attack targets throughout Ukraine in an attempt to reduce the country’s security. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday used air and sea missiles to destroy an ammunition depot and aircraft carrier and an ammunition depot near Kyiv in the Strokostyantiniev region in the western Kmelnitsky region.
Donbass has been torn apart by fighting between Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces since 2014, and Russia has recognized the separatists’ demands for independence. Military strategists say Russian leaders believe local support, logistics and territory in Donbass will favor Russia’s larger and better-armed military, which will allow its troops to finally settle the waves in their favor in the way they have fought so far.
Russia has appointed an experienced general to guide its renewed drive in Donbass, but there are questions about the declining and depressed Russian forces’ ability to capture multiple bases.
As their offensive in many parts of the country was repulsed, Russian forces increasingly relied on bombing cities – which leveled many urban areas and killed thousands. Western officials have warned that Putin could use unusual weapons, especially chemical agents – as part of a campaign by US and UK officials to release intelligence on Russian plans.
In Monday night’s speech, Zhelensky reiterated his warning, specifically that weapons could be used in Mariupol. “We take this as seriously as possible,” Zhelensky said.
The separatist official with Russia, Edward Basurin, urged them to use them on Monday, telling Russian state television that separatist forces should seize a giant metal plant in Mariupol from Ukrainian forces and first block all exits from the factory. “Then we will use chemical forces to get them out of there,” he said.
Here Eduard Basurin, security spokesman for the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, argues that “chemical troops” should be used against Mariupol’s last remaining defenders. “They will find a way to smoke these stains out of their holes,” he says. pic.twitter.com/NRjRx5JTVO
– Kevin Rothrock (KevinRothrock) April 11, 2022
The Ukrainian battalion guarding the plant said Monday that it had provided no evidence that the drone had thrown a toxic substance at the city. No serious injuries were reported.
Now the far-right group, which is part of the Ukrainian military, is unable to independently verify the claim of the Azov Brigade.
On Tuesday, separatist forces “did not use any chemical weapons in Mariupol,” Pasur was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
But Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Malier said Ukrainian authorities were investigating. He told Ukrainian television, “There is an opinion that it may be phosphorus explosives.” Britain has warned that Russia could use phosphorus bombs – which cause terrible burns and prohibit its use in public areas under international law – 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 administration’s continued concerns about “Russia’s ability to use various riot control agents in Ukraine, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents.”
Secretary of State Liz Truss said the UK was acting “urgently” to investigate the report.
Meanwhile, Western military analysts say Russia’s offensive is increasingly focusing on the territory extending from Kharkiv, the second largest city in northern Ukraine, to Kersen in the south.
A senior U.S. defense official described Monday that a long Russian convoy was moving toward the eastern city of Izyum, backed by artillery, air traffic and infantry.
Prior to that attack, no diplomatic progress had been made in expelling more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes and expelling more than 4 million Ukrainians from the country, killing thousands.
The UN children’s agency says nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children have fled their homes since the start of the Russian invasion, while Ukrainian authorities accuse Russian forces of committing atrocities, including airstrikes on hospitals outside Puja and Kiev. The train station was attacked last week as people tried to flee.
Meanwhile, the mayor said about 120,000 civilians in Mariupol were suffering without food, water, shelter and communication facilities.
Ukraine accuses Russia of forcibly evacuating people from the city to the separatist-controlled eastern part of the country before sending them to remote, economically depressed areas. Russia has refused to move people against their will.