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Ukraine News: Officials predict more grim discoveries ahead

CHERNIHIV, UKRAINE – Ukraine’s leaders predict more gruesome discoveries in the coming days after Russian forces retreated leaving ruined buildings, streets littered with destroyed cars and Increased civilian casualties caused global condemnation.

Kremlin forces ravaged the northern city of Chernihiv as part of an effort to sweep south toward the capital before retreating. Dozens of people then lined up to receive bread, diapers and medicine from trucks parked outside a dilapidated school that is now serving as a distribution point for relief supplies.

Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned on Thursday that despite Russia’s recent withdrawal, the country remains vulnerable and he has begged for arms from NATO and other sympathetic nations to help counter face an expected attack to the east. The nations of the alliance have agreed to increase arms supplies, spurred by reports that Russian forces have committed atrocities in the areas around the capital.

The mayor of the city of Bucha, near Kyiv, said investigators had found at least three locations where mass shootings of civilians occurred during the Russian occupation. Most of the victims died from gunshots, not shelling, he said, and a number of handcuffed corpses had been “thrown like firewood” in recently discovered mass graves, including one corpses in the orphanage.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said the civilian death toll was 320 on Wednesday, but he expected the number to rise as more bodies are found in his city, which once had a population of 50,000 People. He said there are only 3,700 units left.

In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that Bucha’s horrors could only be the beginning. In the northern city of Borodianka, just 30 kilometers northwest of Bucha, Zelenskyy warned of even more casualties, saying “it’s much more horrible there.”

Ukrainian officials earlier this week said the bodies of 410 civilians had been found in towns around the capital. Volunteers spent days collecting the bodies, and many more were picked up Thursday in Bucha.

In the seaport city of Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities are expected to find more of the same. “Equally cruel. The same terrible crimes,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian and some Western leaders have blamed the massacres on Moscow’s troops, and the weekly Der Spiegel reported that German foreign intelligence services intercepted radio messages between Russian soldiers. discuss the killing of civilians. Russia perjured that the scenes in Bucha were staged.

During the six-week war, Russian forces failed to capture Ukraine’s capital quickly, denying what Western countries say the Russian leader’s original aim was to overthrow the government. Ukrainian government. In the face of that defeat and heavy damage, Russia has shifted its focus to the Donbas, a predominantly Russian-speaking, industrial region in eastern Ukraine where Moscow-backed rebels have been battling forces Ukraine for 8 years.

On Thursday, a day after Russian forces began shelling their village in the southern region of Mykolaiv, 52-year-old Sergei Dubovienko was driving north in his small blue Lada car with wife and mother-in-law went to Bashtanka, where they found temporary shelter in a church. .

“They started destroying houses and everything” in Pavlo-Marianovka, he said. “Then the tanks appeared from the forest. We thought there would be shelling again tomorrow morning so I decided to hit the road.”

Hundreds of people have fled villages in the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, which are being attacked or occupied by Russian forces.

Tatiana Vizavik, 50 years old, fled Chernobaievka in the Kherson region with her son, daughter-in-law and six grandchildren.

When the Russian attack began, they moved to the basement of an apartment building and stayed there for five nights. “We have nothing to eat. We don’t have drinking water,” said Vizavik. “We were afraid to go out. Then some volunteers started to help us. “

She said they didn’t know if their house would survive the shelling because they were too scared to check it out before leaving town. They hope to reach safety in the Czech Republic.

Marina Morozova and her husband fled from Kherson, the first major city to fall to the Russians.

“They are waiting for a big battle. We saw shells that didn’t explode. It was horrifying,” she said.

Morozova, 69, said the only news people got was from Russian TV and radio stations. She said the Russians gave humanitarian aid so they could film it and distribute it.

Anxious to continue moving away from areas where Russian troops had entered, the couple and others boarded a truck that took them west. Some will try to leave the country, while others will stay in the quieter parts of Ukraine.

The United Nations estimates the war has displaced at least 6.5 million people inside the country.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says more than 4 million people have left Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on February 24 and sparked Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. second war. Half of all refugees are children, according to UNHCR and the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.

The International Organization for Migration, which tracks not only refugees but all those moving from their homes, estimates that more than 12 million people are stranded in the hit regions of Ukraine. .

The UN’s humanitarian chief told the AP news agency on Thursday he was “not optimistic” about securing a ceasefire after meeting with officials in Kyiv and in Moscow this week, stressing. the lack of trust that the two sides have for each other. He spoke hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Ukraine of opposing its proposals on the military status of Crimea and Ukraine.

It is unclear how long it will take to withdraw Russian forces to redeploy, and Ukrainian officials have urged people in the east of the country to leave before hostilities intensify there.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukrainian and Russian officials had agreed to establish routes to evacuate civilians on Thursday from several areas in the Donbas.

In addition to prompting NATO countries to send more weapons, revelations of possible war crimes have prompted Western nations to step up sanctions and the Group of Seven major world powers to warn that they will continue. continue to strengthen these measures until the Russian troops leave Ukraine.

The US Congress voted on Thursday to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and ban its oil imports, while the European Union passed new sanctions, including an import embargo. coal export. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from its world-leading human rights body.

US President Joe Biden said the UN vote demonstrated “how Putin’s war has made Russia an international rival”. He called the images coming from Bucha “appalling.”

“The signs of people being raped, tortured, executed – in some cases physically insulted – are an outrage at our common humanity,” Biden said.

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Schreck reports from Kyiv, Ukraine. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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