The mayor of the beleaguered port city of Mariupol said Russian troops had buried up to 9,000 civilians killed in the conflict in nearby mass graves to cover up “military crimes”.
“The biggest war crime of the 21st century was committed in Mariupol. This is the new Babi Yar,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said, referring to the site of multiple Nazi massacres in which nearly 34,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed in 1941.
Boychenko said the Russians had buried civilians killed in Manhush, about 20 km west of Mariupol, in large trenches they had dug. He said “bodies began to disappear from the streets of the city”, accusing the Russians of “hiding the trace of their crimes and using mass graves as one of the instruments for this”.
“Then Hitler killed Jews, Roma and Slavs. And now Putin is destroying Ukrainians. He has already killed tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol,” Boychenko said. We must stop the genocide by all possible means.
Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor who is not currently in the city, posted satellite photos on Telegram claiming to show the graves, according to CNN. He said the graves appeared to be about 100 feet deep.
The shocking claim came the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the Battle of Mariupol, even as hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers held out in and around a sprawling steel plant in the city.
President Joe Biden pushed back on Putin’s claim, saying there was no proof of a Russian victory yet. “It’s debatable whether he controls Mariupol,” Biden said. “There is no proof yet that Mariupol has completely fallen.”
►An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows 54% of Americans think President Joe Biden was not ‘tough enough’ in his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine . Thirty-six percent think his approach was about right, while 8% say he was too harsh.
►Britain has announced new sanctions against 26 companies and military leaders, including some generals accused of having “committed atrocities” on the front line. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said sanctions targets “have blood on their hands”.
►Chinese leader Xi Jinping reaffirmed his rejection of sanctions against Russia and again refused to criticize the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He again called for a negotiated settlement of the crisis.
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Russia bans Vice President Harris and Mark Zuckerberg from entering the country
Russia announced it was banning more than two dozen high-profile Americans from entering the country, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg because of US sanctions and harsh criticism from the government. Kremlin.
In a statement posted on its website Thursday, the ministry said the move was a response to “widening anti-Russian sanctions” imposed by the Biden administration. He claimed to target senior executives, public intellectuals and journalists shaping what he called “the Russophobic narrative” that is prevalent in American public debate.
Besides Harris and Zuckerberg, the ban includes senior defense and justice officials; the CEOs of LinkedIn and Bank of America; renowned commentators on foreign affairs; as well as the editor of the Russian-focused news site Meduza.
In a statement on Thursday, the ministry said the travel bans would apply “in perpetuity” and that the sanctions list would be updated “shortly” due to “hostile actions” by Western authorities.
Similar restrictions were imposed on 61 Canadian citizens, also accused of carrying out “russophobic” policies. Among those sanctioned are Cameron Ahmad, director of communications for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the commander of Canada’s Special Operations Forces, Steve Boivin.
Biden outlines new $800 million military aid package for Ukraine
President Joe Biden on Thursday announced additional military aid to Ukraine totaling about $800 million, matching the same amount designated last week as Russia focuses deadly attacks on the eastern Donbass region.
“We will never fail in our efforts to defend freedom and oppose tyranny,” Biden said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
US military aid to Ukraine includes 72 155mm howitzers, 72 trucks to tow them and 144,000 artillery shells, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. The howitzers will equip five Ukrainian artillery battalions specifically to fight in the Donbass, Kirby said.
Also included are 121 Phoenix Ghost drones developed by the US Air Force specifically for Ukrainians, Kirby said. Drones have abilities for Switchblade Kamikaze Drones, which are single-use weaponized drones that fit in a backpack. They are designed with cameras, guidance systems and dropout systems.
Biden said not all US aid was advertised.
“Sometimes we’ll talk soft and carry a big Javelin, because we’re also sending a lot of them,” Biden said, referring to Javelin surface-to-air missiles and playing off a famous line from President Theodore Roosevelt.
US bill for military aid to Ukraine hits $4 billion
The latest injection of security aid brings total US aid to Ukraine during Joe Biden’s presidency to about $4 billion, including $3.4 billion since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded the Ukraine on February 24. Biden said more military aid would come.
The United States will also provide an additional $500 million in financial assistance to Ukraine to support salaries, pensions and other government programs, Biden said. This is in addition to $500 million committed for similar purposes last month. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday that “we know this is just the beginning of what Ukraine will have to rebuild.”
Second prisoner exchange completed in 3 days
Nineteen Ukrainians were released from Russian captivity on Thursday in a second prisoner exchange to take place this week, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk said in a Facebook post.
“Today we are bringing home 19 people, including 10 soldiers (including 2 officers) and 9 civilians,” she wrote. “This time there are injuries among the dismissed, and that is very important. Well, now they will be able to get full treatment and undergo a rehabilitation course.”
She credited President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “constant personal involvement” with the process. The release came two days after 76 Ukrainians, including 60 soldiers, were returned to their families. The number of Russian prisoners involved in the exchange has not been disclosed, but previous exchanges have involved an equal number of Ukrainians and Russians.
The Uniting for Ukraine program will provide temporary refuge in the United States
War-displaced Ukrainians will be allowed to seek temporary refuge in the United States under a new program announced by the Biden administration on Thursday. President Joe Biden has promised that the United States will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Starting next week, Ukrainians can apply for a streamlined approval process to enter the United States for up to two years under the Uniting for Ukraine program.
To be eligible, they must have resided in Ukraine as of February 11 and have a US sponsor. They will also be required to undergo background checks, complete biometric tests and vaccinations, and meet other public health requirements.
People who wish to sponsor a refugee must undergo background checks to ensure that they are able to support refugees and that they are not exploiting or abusing them.
The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine has exceeded 5 million and continues to rise. A further 7.7 million people have been internally displaced, according to the UN.
Russian ships banned from US ports
The United States will ban Russian ships from American ports in retaliation for the war in Ukraine. No vessel flying the Russian flag or owned or operated by Russian interests will be allowed to dock in a US port or access US shores, President Joe Biden said Thursday. Biden said the ban would further deprive Russia “of the benefits of the international economic system that it has enjoyed so much in the past.”
Earlier this month, the European Union banned Russian vessels and vessels operated by Russia from entering ports in its bloc of 27 countries, but granted exemptions for agricultural and food products, aid humanitarian and energy. The United Kingdom and Canada have also banned Russian ships from their ports.
Putin claims victory in Mariupol
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday claimed victory in the Battle of Mariupol and canceled plans to storm the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold at a sprawling steelworks. Putin called the military effort to liberate Mariupol a “success” and urged Ukrainian troops holed up in the Azovstal plant to surrender, promising “decent treatment” for all and medical care for the injured. He ordered Russian troops to blockade the factory.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu estimated that 2,000 Ukrainian fighters remained inside the Azovstal steelworks.
“There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities,” Putin said. “Block off this industrial area so a fly can’t walk through it.”
Biden, responding to a reporter’s question on Thursday, pushed back against Putin’s claims.
“It’s debatable whether he controls Mariupol,” Biden said. “There is no proof yet that Mariupol has completely fallen.”
Contribute: The Associated Press