HomeNationalCivilians flee east Ukraine, warnings of 'horrific' abuses MIGMG News

Civilians flee east Ukraine, warnings of ‘horrific’ abuses MIGMG News

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Civilians in eastern Ukraine struggled to evacuate Friday as Russia redirects its firepower, with President Volodymyr Zelensky warning of “even more horrific” devastation being uncovered around the capital.

Ukrainian allies tightened the screws on Moscow further in response to shocking images from Bucha and other regions around Kyiv, with the European Union announcing an embargo on Russian coal and a ban on Russian vessels at its ports.

And at the United Nations, the General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, only the second-ever suspension of a country from the body.

“Russia’s lies are no match for the undeniable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine,” US President Joe Biden said, calling Russia’s actions in the country “an outrage to our common humanity.”

More than a month into President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has shifted its focus after stiff resistance put paid to hopes of an easy capture of the country.

Instead, troops are being redeployed towards the east and south, aiming to create a long-sought land link between occupied Crimea and the Moscow-backed separatist statelets of Donetsk and Lugansk in Donbas.

Heavy shelling has already begun to lay waste to towns in the region, and officials have begged civilians to flee, but the intensity of fighting is starting to hamper evacuations.

Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday said Russian shelling had damaged a railway route being used by evacuees in the town of Schastia, north of Lugansk.

“The railway was damaged. Train evacuation is in question. Thousands of people are still in the cities of Lugansk region,” he wrote on Facebook.

And in Donetsk, the head of the regional military administration Pavlo Kyrylenko said three evacuation trains had been temporarily blocked after a Russian airstrike on an overpass by a station.

But officials continued to press civilians to leave where possible.

“There is no secret – the battle for Donbas will be decisive. What we have already experienced, all this horror, it can multiply,” warned Gaiday.

“Leave! The next few days are the last chances. Buses will be waiting for you in the morning,” he added.

– ‘I want to escape this hell’ –

A barrage of shells and rockets was already hammering the industrial hub Severodonetsk, the easternmost city held by Ukrainian forces in Donbas, leaving buildings engulfed in flames.

“Every day it’s worse and worse. They’re raining down on us from everywhere. We can’t take it anymore,” said Denis, a man in his forties with a pale, emaciated face.

“I want to escape this hell.”

Around the capital meanwhile, residents and Ukrainian officials returning after the Russian redeployment are trying to piece together the scale of the devastation.

Violence in the town of Bucha, where authorities say hundreds were killed – including some found with their hands bound – has become a byword for allegations of brutality inflicted under Russian occupation.

But Zelensky warned worse was being uncovered.

“They have started sorting through the ruins in Borodianka,” northwest of Kyiv, he said in his nightly address.

“It’s much more horrific there, there are even more victims of Russian occupiers.”

Violence in the area has caused massive destruction, leveling and damaging many buildings, and bodies are only now being retrieved.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said Thursday that 26 bodies had been recovered from two destroyed apartment buildings so far.

“Only the civilian population was targeted: there is no military site here,” she said, describing evidence of war crimes “at every turn”.

Fresh allegations emerged from other areas too, with villagers in Obukhovychi, northwest of Kyiv, telling AFP they were used as human shields.

And in the besieged Mariupol, even the pro-Russian official designated “mayor” of the destroyed city acknowledged that around 5,000 civilians had been killed there.

– ‘Help us now’ –

Moscow has denied targeting civilians in areas under its control, but growing evidence of atrocities has galvanized Ukraine’s allies to pile on more pressure.

On Thursday, the EU approved an embargo on Russian coal and the closing of its ports to Russian vessels as part of a “very substantial” new round of sanctions that also includes an export ban and new measures against Russian bans.

In addition, it backed a proposal to boost its funding of arms supplies to Ukraine by 500 million euros, taking it to a total of 1.5 billion euros.

The Group of Seven industrialized nations also agreed more sanctions, including a ban on new investments in key sectors and fresh export restrictions, as well as the phasing out of Russian coal.

At the United Nations, 93 of the 193 members of the General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the body’s rights council over its actions in Ukraine.

Russia blasted the move as “illegal and politically motivated”, while Biden said it confirmed Moscow as an “international pariah”.

Ukraine has welcomed new measures on Moscow, as well as the UN suspension, but it continues to push for more support.

“Ukraine needs weapons that will allow us to win on the battlefield, and this will be the strongest sanction,” Zelensky said in his address, echoing calls from his foreign minister, who earlier asked NATO for heavy weaponsry, including air defense systems, artillery. , armored vehicles and jets.

“Either you help us now – and I’m speaking about days, not weeks – or your help will come too late, and many people will die, many civilians will lose their homes, many villages will be destroyed,” Dmytro Kuleba said after meeting NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

In a show of support, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Kyiv on Friday with the bloc’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell for talks with Zelensky.

The prospects for peace talks meanwhile appeared to fade further as Russia accused Ukraine of shifting its position from earlier discussions in Istanbul.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak meanwhile warned Moscow to “lower the degree of hostility” if it was interested in peace.

Latest developments

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:

– New EU, G7 sanctions –

The European Union approves an embargo on Russian coal – the first time the bloc has targeted the energy sector, on which they are heavily dependent – and the closing of its ports to Russian vessels.

Earlier, leaders of the G7 biggest economies agreed to ban “new investments in key sectors of the Russian economy, including the energy sector”, alongside widening export bans on certain goods and tightening screws on Russian banks and state-owned companies.

They also pledge to “elevate our campaign against the elites and their family members who support President (Vladimir) Putin in his war effort”.

The US Congress also votes to end normal trade relations with Moscow and codify the ban on Russian oil.

– UN rights body suspension –

The UN General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council as punishment for the invasion of Ukraine.

It is only the second ever suspension of a country from the council, after Libya in 2011.

Russia rejects the suspension as “illegal”, while Ukraine says it is “grateful”.

– Von der Leyen in Kyiv –

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Kyiv on Friday to show Europe’s “unwavering support” for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, she says.

– Borodianka ‘horrific’ –

The destruction left by Russian troops in the town of Borodianka outside of Kyiv is “much more horrific” than the situation uncovered in the nearby town of Bucha, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General says 26 bodies have been recovered from underneath two destroyed apartment buildings there.

– Mariupol deaths –

The “new mayor” of Mariupol, put in place by pro-Russian forces, announces that around 5,000 civilians have died in the besieged southeastern Ukrainian city.

Ukrainian authorities had put forward a “conservative” estimate of 5,000 dead, while indicating that there could be “tens of thousands of civilian casualties” in the city.

– Health services attacked –

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has confirmed over 100 attacks on health services in Ukraine as it calls for humanitarian access to Mariupol.

“As of now, WHO has verified 103 incidents of attacks on health care, with 73 people killed and 51 injured, including health workers and patients,” says WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

– Radio intercepts –

German intelligence services have intercepted radio traffic of Russian soldiers discussing the killings of civilians in Bucha, der Spiegel reports.

The Kremlin has denied the allegations of mass killings, claiming instead that the images emerging from Bucha were “fakes” or that the deaths occurred after Russian soldiers pulled out.

– Talks ‘overshadowed’ –

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey, who is hosting negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, says the images of bodies from Bucha and other areas have “overshadowed” what had been an “emerging positive atmosphere”.

– ‘Significant’ Russian losses –

Russian troops have suffered “significant losses” in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says in an interview with Britain’s Sky News, but does not specify a toll.

Russia in late March said it had lost 1,351 soldiers with another 3,825 wounded.

– Hungary ‘helping’ Putin –

Ukraine accuses its neighbor and the Kremlin-ally Hungary of appeasing Russian aggression and “destroying unity in the EU”.

Newly-elected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he is prepared to pay for Russian gas in rubles, a demand of Putin’s that was rejected by the West.

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