President Zelenskyy: Russia is trying to “empty” the Donbas of people
As war in Ukraine enters the 66th day, Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov admitted moving over one million Ukrainians into Russia since the invasion began. The admission comes amid media reports that advancing Russian forces were forcibly deporting Ukrainians to Russia in huge numbers.
The BBC reported Russian foreign minister’s claims:
More than a million people have been evacuated from Ukraine to Russia since the start of the invasion of Ukraine – according to Russia’s foreign minister.
Sergei Lavrov told Chinese state media thousands of foreigners, as well as people from the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, were among those who had been evacuated.
Ukraine has previously accused Russia of taking people across the border against their will and allegedly using them as hostages.
Moscow’s disclosure also gives substance to the Ukrainian claims that Russia was trying to alter the demographics of the captured region. On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to depopulate Ukraine’s eastern Donbas.
The UK’s SkyNews reported President Zelenskyy’s remarks:
Russia is attempting to “empty” the Donbas of people and peace talks are in danger of collapsing, Ukraine’s president has claimed.
Speaking in his nightly address, Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of carrying out “constant brutal bombardments” on buildings and residential areas of the eastern region of his country.
Russia Intensifies Offensive in the East, South
After pulling back troops from the Kyiv region in the north, Russia appears to be consolidating its gains in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government confirmed that the Russian offensive was picking up in the east. “Ukrainian authorities also reported intense Russian fire in the Donbas — the eastern industrial heartland that the Kremlin says is its main objective — and near Kharkiv, a northeastern city outside the Donbas that is seen as key to the offensive,” the Associated Press reported Friday.
Russia is building up troops for a fresh ground offensive in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military says. “Russia was continuing to mass troops near the city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region at the eastern Ukrainian border, the Ukrainian General staff added. Russian units also fired at targets with rockets and artillery in the Dnipropetrovsk region, southwest of the city of Kharkiv, the [Ukraine military] update said,” German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported Saturday.
Kyiv Launches Manhunt for Russian War Criminals
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has identified Russian soldiers behind the massacre in Bucha, where reportedly a mass grave of Ukrainian civilians was uncovered after the Russian retreat from the outskirts of Kyiv.
“Ukraine has launched a hunt for 10 Russian soldiers accused of war crimes in Bucha – the town outside of the capital Kyiv where civilians were tortured, raped and murdered,” the BBC reported Friday. “The Ministry of Defence – which shared pictures of the soldiers – described them as ‘the despicable 10’.”
The town of Bucha, located just 15 miles from Kyiv, was under the control of Russia’s 64th motorized infantry brigade for more than a month.
The Unending Siege of Mariupol
After weeks of heavy Russian bombardment and shelling, a tiny number of Ukrainian defenders are still holding on to a pocket of resistance in the industrial part of Mariupol, a strategically vital eastern Ukrainian port city.
“Many of the troops are thought to be injured, some of them seriously. An unknown number of families are also at the site, civilians, children and the elderly,” German weekly Der Spiegel noted on Friday.
Last week, President Vladimir Putin called off the storming of the city’s last Ukrainian holdout. The Russian leader instead wants the his military to ‘seal off’ the defenders inside the industrial zone, telling his Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in a televised meeting to “block it so a fly can’t pass.”
The fall of Mariupol will create a land corridor between the Russian-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
The TV channel France24, on Saturday, reported the renewed Russian offensive against the holdout:
Russian shelling continues in the beseiged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where local officials warned of a dire situation unfolding in the Azovstal steel plant. The city’s mayor held an emotional press conference Saturday calling on the international community to help evacuate Mariupol, saying that there were 600 wounded Ukrainian fighters and civilians holed up in the plant.
The United Nations is trying the broker the evacuation of trapped civilians, news reports say.DONATE
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