200 bodies found in Mariupol basement, Ukrainian officials say

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Workers digging through the rubble of an apartment building in Mariupol found 200 bodies in the basement, Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday, a grim reminder of the horrors that continue to be uncovered in the city in ruins which saw the worst suffering of the 3 month war.

Bodies were decomposing and a stench permeated the neighborhood, said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor. It is not known when they were discovered.

LOOK: Civilians desperately seek shelter as Russia tries to expand its gains in southern Ukraine

Perched on the Sea of ​​Azov, Mariupol has been pounded relentlessly during a month-long siege that finally ended last week after some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters abandoned a steel mill where they had fought their last battle.

Russian forces already held the rest of the city, where around 100,000 people remain out of a pre-war population of 450,000, many of whom are trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.

Ukrainian authorities said at least 21,000 people had been killed – and accused Russia of trying to cover up the extent of the horrors by bringing in mobile cremation equipment. They also claimed that some of the dead were buried in mass graves. Strikes also affected a maternity ward and a theater where civilians were sheltering.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused the Russians of waging an “all-out war”, seeking to inflict as much death and destruction on his country as possible.

“Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,” Zelensky told Ukrainians on Monday evening, on the eve of the third anniversary of the start of the war.

The conflict began with expectations that Russia could overtake the country in a blitz that would only last a few days or weeks. But fierce Ukrainian resistance, bolstered by Western weapons, bogged down Moscow’s troops.

The Kremlin is now focused on the eastern industrial heartland of Donbas – where Moscow-backed separatists fought Ukrainian forces for eight years and held swaths of territory.

This bitter conflict had already claimed 14,000 lives before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24 – and even after shifting their focus there, Moscow’s troops struggled to gain ground.

Russian forces have stepped up efforts to surround and capture Sievierodonetsk and nearby towns, the only part of the Luhansk region in the Donbass that remains under Ukrainian government control, British military authorities said on Tuesday.

Russian forces achieved ‘some localized successes’ despite strong Ukrainian resistance along entrenched positions, the UK MoD said, but the fall of Sievierodonetsk and the area around it could cause logistical problems for the Russians .

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“If the Donbass front line moves further west, it will stretch Russian lines of communication and likely see its forces face new logistical resupply difficulties,” the ministry said.

Two senior Russian officials appeared to acknowledge on Tuesday that Moscow’s advance had been slower than expected – despite promising the offensive would achieve its objectives.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview that the Russian government “is not chasing deadlines.”

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of a Russian-led security alliance of former Soviet states that Moscow was deliberately slowing down its offensive to allow residents of encircled towns to evacuate – even though the forces repeatedly struck civilian targets.

As Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, recovers from weeks upon weeks of relentless shelling, residents have formed long lines to receive rations of flour, pasta, sugar and other foods basic this week.

Galina Kolembed, coordinator of the aid distribution center, told The Associated Press that more and more people are returning to the city after Russian forces withdrew to focus on Donbass.

Kolembed said the center provides food to more than 1,000 people every day – a number that continues to grow. “A lot of them have young children and spend their money on the children, so they need help with food,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kirill Stremousov, a Russian official based in Ukraine’s Kherson region, said the pro-Kremlin administration would ask Moscow to set up a military base there.

Stremousov has previously said the region will ask the Kremlin to integrate it into Russia.

Becatoros brought from Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Danica Kirka in London and other AP staff from around the world contributed.


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