As Ukraine gathers its dead, Russians are ready for a new push

On the shattered outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine gathered its dead and collected proof of Russian atrocities as the two sides prepared for what may be a climactic fight by Moscow’s soldiers to conquer the country’s industrial east.

As the United States and its Western partners sought to impose further sanctions on Russia in retribution for what they called war crimes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that Russian forces were attempting to advance farther into Ukraine’s east, but the Ukrainian army was holding them back.

“Our country’s and people’s fates are in the balance. We realize what we’re up against. And we’ll go to whatever length to win,” Zelenskyy stated.

In advance of the expected Russian attack, Ukrainian officials have increased appeals for citizens to evacuate westward from towns near the battle line, and some key services have been relocated. Postal and pension operations were clearing out, and bank branches in town were closing down, according to local authorities in Sloviansk.

According to a Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss information, Russia could wait up to a month to recuperate before launching a big offensive in eastern Ukraine. According to the official, about a fourth of the country’s battalion tactical groups have been rendered “non-combat-effective” and have either withdrawn or amalgamated with other units.

Investigators attempted to document what looked to be extensive civilian fatalities in the scarred and silent streets of Bucha and other towns around Ukraine’s capital, where Russian forces withdrew during the previous several days. Some were found with their hands bound or their body scorched, indicating that they had been shot at close range.

Workers at a cemetery in Bucha began loading more than 60 bodies into a grocery shipment truck for transport to a facility for further investigation during the course of the day. Several of the black body bags had not been completely closed. A peek revealed a young adult’s bloodied face. A pair of white sneakers was revealed by another.

Days after the Russian retreat, more dead were still being collected in Bucha. Two were seen by the Associated Press in a residence in a quiet area. The faint boom of workmen clearing the town of mines and other explosive ordnance might be heard from time to time.

Two police officers from the nearby town of Makariv arrived in Andriivka, a village about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of Kyiv, on Tuesday to identify a man whose body was discovered in a field next to tank tracks. Capt. Alla Pustova said officers discovered 20 dead in the Makariv area.

Residents of Andriivka said that Russians visited in early March and seized their phones. Some people were imprisoned and subsequently freed, while others had no idea what happened to them. Some people said they hid for weeks in musty, tight cellars that were usually used to store vegetables for the winter.

The soldiers had left, and Russian armored personnel carriers, a tank, and other vehicles sat devastated on both ends of the road that ran through the village as the sixth week of the battle came to a close. Several structures were reduced to masonry and corrugated metal mounds. Residents were unable to cook or heat their homes due to a lack of heat, electricity, or cooking gas.

Rescue personnel dug through the rubble of apartment towers in Borodyanka, to the village’s north, looking for bodies. Nearby, mine-disposal units were at work.

The Kremlin has emphasized that Russian troops have committed no war crimes, accusing the Ukrainians of staging the photographs from Bucha.

President Vladimir Putin’s troops, together with mercenaries, are now flooding into the Donbas, Ukraine’s predominantly Russian-speaking industrial heartland in the east, after being thwarted in their attempts to take the capital and forced to evacuate.

Russian military targeted a gasoline store and a factory in the Dnipropetrovsk region, west of the Donbas, overnight, according to authorities. According to the regional governor, Russian shelling in the Luhansk area, which is part of the Donbas, set fire to at least 10 multi-story buildings and a mall in the town of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday. There was no immediate news on whether someone had died or been injured.

Since 2014, Ukrainian soldiers have been fighting separatists backed by Russia in Luhansk and the other Donbas area, Donetsk. Moscow recognized the areas as autonomous states before its assault on February 24.

At least 410 civilians dead have been discovered in towns near Kyiv, according to Ukrainian police, while Associated Press journalists in Bucha counted dozens of corpses dressed in civilian clothes.

Zelenskyy said residents had been tortured, shot in the back of the head, thrown down wells, blown up with grenades in their flats, and crushed to death by tanks while in cars in a video speech to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday.

He believes that those who provided the orders and those who carried them out should be charged with war crimes before a Nuremberg-style trial.

In response to the alleged crimes, the United States imposed sanctions on Putin’s two adult daughters and indicated it would toughen sanctions against Russian banks. Britain has barred foreign investment in Russia and has committed to ending its reliance on Russian coal and oil by the end of this year.

Additional severe measures, including a coal ban, were expected from the European Union.

Doctors Without Borders said its staff witnessed an attack on a cancer hospital in a residential district of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Monday. It was the third known strike on a hospital in the port city in recent days, according to the group, whose conquest is crucial to giving Russia control of the Black Sea coast.

It stated that it did not have an overall death toll, but that its team did see one body.

The party also spotted numerous little holes on the ground, strewn across a vast area, which they believe were caused by cluster bombs. In Ukraine, Russia has denied employing cluster munitions.

Medical facility attacks are considered war crimes, and Russia has been accused of targeting medical institutions, notably a maternity hospital in the beleaguered southern port city of Mariupol, which is part of the Donbas and has seen some of the war’s greatest suffering.

According to British defense authorities, 160,000 people are still stuck in that city due to Russian airstrikes and severe combat, with no access to light, communication, medicine, heat, or water.

Since Friday, a convoy led by the Red Cross has been attempting to approach Mariupol and has gotten as close as 20 kilometers (12 miles), but the Red Cross has declared the city too unsafe to enter.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have been discussing methods to cease the violence. Despite the claims of war crimes, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the negotiations are continuing.

Associated Press journalists throughout the world contributed to this report, including Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Cara Anna in Bucha, Ukraine, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Cara Anna in Bucha, Ukraine.

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