KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — More than 900 civilian bodies have been discovered in the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital following the withdrawal of Russian forces — most of them shot dead, police said Friday, indicating that many people were “simply executed”.
The death toll is double that announced by the Ukrainian authorities almost two weeks ago.
Andriy Nebytov, chief of Kyiv regional police, said the bodies had been left on the streets or temporarily buried. He cited police data indicating that 95% died from gunshot wounds.
“Therefore, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said.
More and more bodies are being found every day, under the rubble and in mass graves, he added.
The highest number of victims were found in Bucha, where there were more than 350, he said.
According to Nebytov, Bucha utility workers collected and buried bodies on the outskirts of Kyiv while it remained under Russian control. Russian troops, he added, were “hunting down” people who expressed strong pro-Ukrainian views.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry has vowed to step up missile attacks on the Ukrainian capital in response to Ukraine’s alleged aggression on Russian territory, an ominous warning that followed Moscow’s scathing loss of his flagship in the Black Sea.
The threat of intensified attacks on Kyiv came after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of injuring seven people and damaging around 100 residential buildings in airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine. . Authorities in another region bordering Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.
“The number and scale of missile attacks against objects in Kyiv will be intensified in response to the nationalist regime in Kyiv committing terrorist attacks or hijackings on Russian territory,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said. , Igor Konashenkov.
Russia issued the warning as it continues to prepare for a new offensive in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, residents of the southeastern town of Mariupol reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies.
In Kyiv, another bombardment could mean a return to the constant wail of air raid sirens heard during the early days of the invasion and the chilling nights sheltered in subway stations. Tentative signs of pre-war life resurfaced in the capital after Russian troops failed to capture the city and retreated to focus on eastern Ukraine, leaving behind evidence of possible war crimes.
Ukrainian officials have not confirmed any striking targets in Russia, and the reports could not be independently verified.
However, Ukrainian officials said their forces hit a key Russian warship with missiles. If true, Wednesday’s reported attack on the missile cruiser Moskva, named after the Russian capital, would represent a significant victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia.
The warship sank while being towed to port on Thursday after sustaining heavy damage in circumstances that remained controversial. Moscow acknowledged a fire on board but no attack. American and Western officials could not confirm the cause of the fire.
The Moskva had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles. If Ukrainian forces destroyed the ship, it was probably the largest warship sunk in combat since 1982. A British submarine torpedoed an Argentine Navy cruiser called the ARA General Belgrano during the war of the Falklands, killing more than 300 sailors.
The sinking of the Russian warship reduced Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea, although military analysts disagree on the significance of the event for the course of the war. Either way, the loss was seen as emblematic of Moscow’s fortunes in a seven-week invasion widely seen as a historic mistake after the kyiv region and much of northern Ukraine.
“A ‘flagship’ Russian warship is a worthy dive site. We now have one more dive spot in the Black Sea. We will definitely visit the wreck after our victory in the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted on Friday.
In his late night address Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainians they should be proud to have survived 50 days under Russian attack while the invaders “gave us a maximum of five”.
Russia’s warning of more airstrikes didn’t stop Kyiv residents from enjoying a sunny and slightly warmer spring day heading into the weekend. More people than usual were on the streets on Friday, walking dogs, riding electric scooters and walking hand in hand.
In a central park, a small group of people, including a woman draped in a Ukrainian flag, danced to music from a portable speaker.
Residents reported hearing explosions in parts of kyiv overnight, but the targeted sites were unclear.
News about the Moskva overshadowed Russian claims of advances in the southern port city of Mariupol, which Moscow forces have blockaded since the early days of the invasion. A dwindling number of Ukrainian defenders withstood a siege that came at a horrific cost to trapped and starving civilians.
The mayor of Mariupol said this week that more than 10,000 civilians had died and the death toll could exceed 20,000. Other Ukrainian officials said they expected to find evidence in Mariupol of atrocities against civilians like those found in Bucha and other towns outside kyiv.
The Mariupol City Council said on Friday that residents reported seeing Russian troops dig up bodies buried in residential yards and not allowing further burials “of people killed by them”.
“Why the exhumation is taking place and where the bodies will be taken are unknown,” the council said on the Telegram messaging app.
Capturing Mariupol would allow Russian forces from the south, crossing the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbass region, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine and the target of the impending offensive. .
Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the Donbass since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine. Russia has recognized the independence of two rebel-held areas in the region.
Although it is not certain when Russia will launch the full-scale campaign, a Ukrainian regional official said on Friday that seven people died and 27 were injured after Russian forces opened fire on buses carrying civilians. in the village of Borovaya, near the northeastern city of Kharkiv. The claim could not be independently verified.
Dmytro Chubenko, spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office, told Ukrainian news site Suspilne that Ukrainian authorities had opened criminal proceedings in connection with an “alleged violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with murder with premeditation”.
A large explosion also hit the eastern city of Kramatorsk, where a missile strike on a train station a week earlier killed more than 50 people as thousands of people heeding evacuation warnings from the Donbas region waited to go.
Associated Press reporters in Kramatorsk heard the sound of a rocket or missile, then the explosion, followed by wailing sirens on Friday. It was not immediately known what had been hit or if there had been any casualties. A day earlier, a factory in the same town had been hit by an airstrike.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that Russian strikes in the Kharkiv region “liquidated a Polish private military company mercenary squad” numbering up to 30 and “liberated” a steel plant in Mariupol. The claims could not be independently verified.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Defense explained the damage to the Moskva by saying a fire had detonated ammunition on board. Besides cruise missiles, the Moskva also carried air defense missiles and other guns.
The ministry did not say what could have caused the fire, but said the crew, usually around 500 people, abandoned ship. It was unclear if there were any casualties.
Maksym Marchenko, governor of Ukraine’s Black Sea region of Odessa, said Ukrainian forces struck the Moskva with two Neptune missiles and caused “serious damage”. The Neptune is an anti-ship missile recently developed by Ukraine based on an earlier Soviet design.
Fisch reported from Kramatorsk. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.