“Ukraine is preparing for “big battles” against Moscow’s forces in the east of the country.”
The Ukrainian government is organizing mass evacuations in towns and cities in the east as Russian military shifts the thrust of its offensive.
The Ukrainians are gearing up for a massive Russian offensive as Moscow relinquishes the attempted encirclement of Kyiv in the north and rushes the troops to the east. “Ukraine is preparing for ‘big battles’ against Moscow’s forces in the east of the country, officials in Kyiv said, as thousands of civilians flee in fear of an imminent Russian offensive,” the TV channel France24 reported Sunday.
The changing Russian tactic could mean more bloodshed on Ukrainian soil, news reports suggest. “Ukrainian forces dug in and Russia’s military lined up more firepower Sunday ahead of an expected showdown in eastern Ukraine that could become a decisive period in a war that has flattened cities, killed untold thousands and isolated Moscow economically and politically,” The Associated Press reported.
The revised Russian invasion plan appears to be the capture of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and cutting off its access to the Black Sea — turning the remaining part of the country into a land-locked rump state.
The UK-based SkyNews reported the evacuation efforts in the east:
The Ukrainian deputy prime minister has this morning confirmed that nine humanitarian corridors will be opened for attempted evacuations on Sunday.
This will include an evacuation route for private cars from the besieged southern city of Mariupol.
Iryna Vereshchuk said: “All the routes for the humanitarian corridors in the Luhansk region will work as long as there is a ceasefire by the occupying Russian troops.”
Earlier, officials in Ukraine said nine trains were being prepared for civilian evacuations from the eastern region of Luhansk.
Luhansk regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai added that a school and a high-rise apartment building were shelled early on Sunday in the city of Sievierodonetsk.
The large-scale evacuation plan comes after a Russian missile hit an eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on Friday, killing 52 people and injuring more than 100.
UK’s Johnson Visits Kyiv, Pledges Support for the Beleaguered Country
With Russian troops moving away from Kyiv, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among the first European leaders to visit Ukraine. On Saturday, the British PM made an unannounced trip to the besieged capital and met President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Johnson pledged more military aid to the country, including a shipment of 120 armored vehicles and anti-ship missile systems.
Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer also arrived in Kyiv the same day to meet with President Zelensky and travel to the town of Bucha, where a mass grave was uncovered after the Russian military withdrawal.
The BBC reported British prime minister’s surprise visit:
Mr Johnson’s visit to Kyiv was not announced in advance and the first indication he was in the city came when a photograph of his meeting with President Zelensky was put on Twitter by the Ukrainian embassy in London.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister has travelled to Ukraine to meet President Zelensky in person, in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”
In a statement after the meeting, Mr Johnson paid tribute to “President Zelensky’s resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people”, saying: “Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv”.
He said: “I made clear today that the United Kingdom stands unwaveringly with them in this ongoing fight, and we are in it for the long run.
“We are stepping up our own military and economic support and convening a global alliance to bring this tragedy to an end, and ensure Ukraine survives and thrives as a free and sovereign nation.”
The Ukrainians have the courage of a lion.
President @ZelenskyyUa has given the roar of that lion.
The UK stands unwaveringly with the people of Ukraine.
Slava Ukraini 🇬🇧 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/u6vGYqmK4V
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 9, 2022
More Reports of Russian War Crimes
The Russian pullout in the north has been marred by reports of mass graves and the execution of unarmed civilians. Almost a week after Ukrainian forces discovered a mass grave with 300 bodies in the town of Bucha, some 12 miles from Kyiv, authorities on Saturday reported of another grave containing dozens of civilians in a village near the Ukrainian capital.
German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported the gruesome find:
A grave with dozens of Ukrainian civilians is reported to have been found in the village of Buzova, close to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
Taras Didych, head of the Dmytrivka community that includes Buzova, told Ukrainian television that the bodies of the civilians were found in a ditch near a petrol station.
The death toll was yet to be confirmed. (…)
With Russian troops retreating from their attack on the capital and focusing their offensive on Ukraine’s east, the grave in Buzova is the latest reported mass grave to be discovered.
Western Intel Backs Ukraine’s War Crime Claims
The Ukrainian claims of widespread war crimes by retreating Russian troops have been backed up by the Western intelligence. According to Hamburg-based weekly Der Spiegel, the German intelligence agency (BND) intercepted radio communication between Russian troops discussing the mass killings in Bucha.
The German intelligence also pointed to the role of mercenaries brought in by Moscow to quell the Ukrainian resistance. “The BND material also apparently provides evidence that members of the Russian mercenary unit called the Wagner Group played a leading role in the atrocities,” Der Spiegel reported Thursday.
On Saturday, the UK Ministry of Defense released intelligence accusing the Russian military of “disproportionate” attacks on civilians. “Russia’s departure from northern Ukraine leaves evidence of the disproportionate targeting of non-combatants including the presence of mass graves, the fatal use of hostages as human shields, and mining of civilian infrastructure,” the British military intel said.
Russian rockets hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro causing major destruction, reports on Sunday afternoon suggest. “The airport itself was destroyed, as well as nearby infrastructure,” city officials said.
Russian forces fired rockets into Ukraine's Luhansk and Dnipro regions on Sunday, Ukrainian officials said, completely destroying Dnipro airport.
— DW News (@dwnews) April 10, 2022
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