Soldiers are seen around piles of sand used to block a road in the Ukrainian capital, kyiv, amid Russian attacks.
Aytac Unal, Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
- The bodies were found under the rubble of a building in Mariupol.
- At least 21,000 people were killed during the nearly three-month siege.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of waging “total war” and inflicting destruction on his country.
Workers digging through the rubble of a building in Mariupol have found 200 bodies in the basement, Ukrainian authorities have said, as new horrors are revealed in the crumbling city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the war in three months.
Bodies were decomposing and the stench hung over the neighborhood, Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor, said on Tuesday. He did not say when they were discovered.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting has continued in Donbass, the eastern industrial region that Moscow’s forces intend to seize. Russian troops intensified their efforts to surround and capture Severodonetsk and nearby towns.
Mariupol has been pounded relentlessly during a nearly three-month siege that ended last week after some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters abandoned a steel mill where they had holed up.
Russian forces already held the rest of the city, where around 100,000 people remain out of a pre-war population of 450,000, many of whom are trapped during the siege with little food, water, heating or electricity.
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At least 21,000 people were killed in the siege, according to Ukrainian authorities, who accused Russia of trying to cover up the horrors by bringing in mobile cremation equipment and burying the dead in mass graves.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused the Russians of waging an “all-out war” and seeking to inflict as much death and destruction on his country as possible.
“Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,” Zelensky said, referring to the end of World War II.
Russian forces were conducting an all-out assault on Tuesday to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin towns straddling a river in eastern Ukraine, a battle that could determine the success or failure of Moscow’s main campaign in the ‘is.
Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbass for eight years and hold large swaths of territory. The easternmost part of Ukraine’s Donbass pocket, the city of Severodonetsk on the eastern bank of the Seversky Donets River and its twin Lysychansk on the western bank, became the central battleground there, forces Russians advancing from three directions to encircle them.
“The enemy has concentrated its efforts on carrying out an offensive in order to encircle Lysychansk and Severodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province.
“The intensity of the fires on Severodonetsk has increased several times; they just destroy the city,” he said on television, adding that there were around 15,000 people living there.
Troops from Moscow also took control of the city of Svitlodarsk and raised the Russian flag there, Ukrainian media reported. Svitlodarsk is about 50 km southeast of the strategically important city of Kramatorsk.
Two senior Russian officials appeared to acknowledge that Moscow’s advance had been slower than expected, although they had sworn the offensive would achieve its objectives.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, said the Russian government “is not chasing deadlines”. And Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of a Russian-led security alliance of former Soviet states that Moscow was deliberately slowing its offensive to allow residents of encircled towns to evacuate – although that the forces repeatedly hit civilian targets.
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