New 'war crime' discovered after 200 decomposing Ukrainian bodies found in the basement of a destroyed apartment building in Mariupol
- Thousands of civilians have been killed in the besieged port city of Mariupol
- Russian forces have been deliberately accused of targeting sheltering civilians
- An official said the stench of bodies decomposing hung over the neighbourhood
PUBLISHED: 06:23 AEST, 25 May 2022 | UPDATED: 06:50 AEST, 25 May 2022
An estimated 200 decomposing bodies have been found in the basement of an apartment complex which was destroyed during the Russian siege of Mariupol, Ukraine.
International observers have accused Vladimir Putin's forces of deliberately targeting civilian buildings in their effort to crush Ukrainian resistance during the three-month-old conflict.
The bodies were decomposing and the stench hung over the neighbourhood, said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor. He did not say when they were discovered, but the sheer number of victims makes it one of the deadliest known attacks of the war.
Ukrainian authorities have found 200 decomposing bodies in the basement of an apartment complex in Mariupol which had been destroyed during the Russian siege of the vital port city
Thousands of civilians have been killed in the city after Russian airstrikes, artillery and missiles targeted civilian buildings including a maternity hospital
Some bodies found in the city have been removed to a new cemetery on the outskirts of the city. But observers claim Russians are using mass graves and mobile crematoriums to cover up evidence of their war crimes
Heavy fighting, meanwhile, continued in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that Moscow´s forces are intent on seizing. Russian troops intensified their efforts to encircle and capture Sievierodonetsk and neighbouring cities.
Mariupol was relentlessly pounded during a nearly three-month siege that ended last week after some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters abandoned a steel plant where they had made their stand. Russian forces already held the rest of the city, where an estimated 100,000 people remain out a prewar population of 450,000, many of them trapped during the siege with little food, water, heat or electricity.
At least 21,000 people were killed in the siege, according to Ukrainian authorities, who have accused Russia of trying to cover up the horrors by bringing in mobile cremation equipment and by burying the dead in mass graves.
During the assault on Mariupol, Russian airstrikes hit a maternity hospital and a theatre where civilians were taking shelter. An Associated Press investigation found that close to 600 people died in the theatre attack, double the figure estimated by Ukrainian authorities.
This body has been wrapped in a Mickey Mouse duvet cover awaiting burial
Undertakers lower the coffin of Ukrainian serviceman Oleksander Matyukhin, 32, in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 23, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Russians of waging 'total war' and seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.
'Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,' Zelensky said, referring to end of World War II.
Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas for eight years and hold large swaths of territory. Sievierodonetsk and neighboring cities are the only part of the Donbas´ Luhansk region still under Ukrainian government control.
Russian forces have achieved 'some localised successes' despite strong Ukrainian resistance along dug-in positions, British military authorities said.
Moscow´s troops also took over the town of Svitlodarsk and raised the Russian flag there, Ukrainian media reported. Svitlodarsk is about 31 miles southeast of the strategically important city of Kramatorsk.
Two top Russian officials appeared to acknowledge that Moscow´s advance has been slower than expected, though they vowed the offensive would achieve its goals.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia´s Security Council. said the Russian government 'is not chasing deadlines.' And Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of a Russia-led security alliance of former Soviet states that Moscow is deliberately slowing down its offensive to allow residents of encircled cities to evacuate - though forces have repeatedly hit civilian targets.
As Kharkiv, Ukraine´s second-largest city, recovers from weeks of relentless bombardment, residents formed long lines to receive rations of flour, pasta, sugar and others staples this week. Moscow´s forces withdrew from around Kharkiv earlier this month, pulling back toward the Russian border.
Galina Kolembed, the aid distribution centre coordinator, said that more and more people are returning to the city. Kolembed said the centre is providing food to over 1,000 people every day, a number that keeps growing.
'Many of them have small kids, and they spend their money on the kids, so they need some support with food,' she said.
Meanwhile, the wife of the top commander who held out inside the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol said Tuesday that she had a brief telephone conversation with her husband, who surrendered to the Russians and was taken prisoner last week.
The sun's rays pass through charred structures of one of the shelled sections of the Barabashovo market in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 23, 2022
Klavdiya Tyshenko stands at the entrance of her home ruined by shelling in Irpin, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022
A resident sits outside a house ruined by shelling in Irpin, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Kateryna Prokopenko, who is married to Azov Regiment leader Denys Prokopenko, said the call broke off before he could say anything about himself.
She said the call was made possible under an agreement between Ukraine and Russia, mediated by the Red Cross.
Prokopenko and Yuliia Fedosiuk, the wife of another soldier, said several families received calls in the past two days. The women said they are hopeful the soldiers will not be tortured and will eventually 'come back home.'
Russian authorities have threatened to put Mariupol defenders on trial on war crimes charges.
Cars pass by destroyed Russian tanks in a recent battle against Ukrainians in the village of Dmytrivka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, May 23, 2022. Three months after it invaded Ukraine hoping to overtake the country in a blitz, Russia has bogged down in what increasingly looks like a war of attrition with no end in sight
Residents live in a subway station still used as temporary shelter in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Kharkiv subway resumed service on Tuesday morning after it was closed for more than two months during Russian attempt to capture the city
People queue to receive flour at a food donation spot in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 23, 2022
A Ukrainian serviceman stands in a trench in Kharkiv region, eastern Ukraine
Ukrainian nationals fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine arrive at the Richardson International Airport, in Winnipeg, Manitoba
People look at a destroyed Russian tanks placed as a symbol of war at Mykhailivs'ka Square downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 23, 2022