Russia says Ukraine is shooting its own citizens; some evacuations in Mariupol

DOBROPILLIA/KIEV: The shelling of Ukraine killed and wounded its own civilians in the southern Kherson region, Russia said Sunday after shelling southern and eastern areas with missile strikes, while some civilians escaped a steel mill in besieged Mariupol.
Moscow has shifted its focus to southern and eastern Ukraine after failing to take the capital, Kiev, in a nine-week attack that bulldozed cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million to flee abroad.
His forces have captured the city of Kherson, giving them a foothold just 100 km (60 mi) north of Russia-annexed Crimea, and have mainly occupied Mariupol, the strategic eastern port city on the Azov Sea.
The Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian troops of shelling a school, kindergarten and cemetery in the villages of Kyselivka and Shyroka Balka in the Kherson region, Russia’s RIA news agency said on Sunday.
The ministry gave no further details. There was no immediate response from Ukraine to the report, which Reuters was unable to independently verify.
But the Ukrainian army said in a bulletin on Sunday that Russian forces were fighting to break past Kherson’s administrative borders and clear the way for attacks on the cities of Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih.
Russia’s control of Kherson will help support its advance north and west and improve its control of Crimea, British military intelligence said in a Twitter update.
Russia declared victory in Mariupol on April 21, as hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians took refuge in the Azovstal steel plant.
The United Nations has pushed for an evacuation deal. On Saturday, a Ukrainian fighter inside said some 20 women and children had survived.
“We are pulling civilians out of the rubble with ropes β€” it’s the elderly, women and children,” said the combatant, Sviatoslav Palamar, referring to wreckage at the factory, which stretches across 4 square kilometers (1.5 sq mi).
Palamar said Russia and Ukraine respected a local ceasefire, and he hoped the evacuated civilians would be taken to the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhya in the northwest.
There was no comment from Russia or the United Nations about the evacuations. Hundreds of Ukrainians remain at the steel plant, Ukrainian officials say.
A Russian missile launched from Crimea destroyed the runway at the main airport in the western city of Odessa, regional governor Maksym Marchenko said, but no one was injured.
The airport could no longer be used, the Ukrainian military said. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised to rebuild it, saying in a video address late at night: “Odesa will never forget Russia’s behavior towards the country.”
There was no comment on the attack from Moscow, whose forces have sporadically attacked Ukraine’s third-largest city, where eight people have died in a recent Russian attack, Ukrainian officials said.
Moscow’s attack to the south is intended, in part, to link the area to Crimea as it pushes for full control over Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists already controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces before the collapse. invasion of Moscow on February 24.
In his speech, Zelenskiy said that Russia is “gathering additional troops for new attacks on our army in the east of the country” and “trying to increase pressure in the Donbas”.
Moscow calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of Western-fueled anti-Russian nationalism. Ukraine and the West say Russia has started an unprovoked war of aggression.
Despite weeks of peace talks, the two sides appeared to be as far apart as ever on Saturday.
Ukraine accuses Russian troops of committing atrocities in areas near Kiev in early April, a claim Moscow has denied. The negotiators last met on March 29 and have spoken via video link ever since.
The United States and its European allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on the Russian economy and have provided Ukraine with weapons and humanitarian aid.
US President Joe Biden wants a $33 billion aid package for Kiev, including $20 billion for weapons.
Britain will continue to “give the Ukrainians the equipment they need to defend themselves,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday.
Russia is using a troll factory to spread disinformation online, the British Foreign Office warned on Sunday.
“We cannot allow the Kremlin and its seedy troll farms to invade our online spaces with their lies about Putin’s illegal war,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.
In the Donetsk town of Dobropillia, the shockwave from a strike on Saturday blew the windows of an apartment building, leaving a large crater in the yard.
In his living room, a resident gave only his first name, Andriy, and said his partner had been knocked unconscious. “Thank God the four kids were in the kitchen,” he said.
People ransacked possessions to save what they could.
β€œAt about 9:20 am, this luck flew into our house,” said another resident, Oleh, sarcastically. “Everything has been destroyed.”
At least one person has been killed as a result of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s Luhansk region, governor Serhiy Gaidai wrote in a social media post. He said Russia carried out 19 attacks on residential areas in its cities and towns on Saturday.
Russia reported more Ukrainian attacks on its territory.
Officials in the Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine and Belarus, said air defenses had kept out a Ukrainian plane, but the resulting shelling hit parts of a Russian oil terminal.
South of Bryansk, in Kursk, another border region, several shells were fired from Ukraine at a Russian checkpoint, regional governor Roman Starovoit said, but without casualties or damage.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for such incidents, but it described a series of blasts in southern Russia on Wednesday as revenge and “karma” for the invasion of Moscow.

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