More than 5,000 civilians have been killed in the besieged port of Mariupol since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, a senior official has claimed.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said of the thousands of civilians killed in weeks of Russian airstrikes and street fighting, 210 were children.
He said Russian forces bombed hospitals, including one where 50 people were burned to death, and added that more than 9% of the city’s infrastructure was completely destroyed.
The town has been surrounded by Russian forces for over a month and has cut off the town from food, water, fuel and medicine.
Nearly 160,000 people remained trapped in the city, which had a prewar population of 430,000, according to British defense officials.
A humanitarian aid convoy accompanied by the Red Cross has been trying unsuccessfully to enter the town since Friday.
In other developments, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Moscow was now gathering reinforcements and trying to push deeper into the east of the country.
“The fate of our land and our people is being decided. We know what we are fighting for. And we will do everything to win,” Mr. Zelensky said.
His comments came after a US defense official said Russian forces had completed the withdrawal of all of its roughly 24,000 or more troops from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions in the north.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were being sent to Belarus or Russia to restock and reorganize.
In response to scenes of atrocities that emerged when Russian forces left the town of Bucha, northwest of the capital, Kyiv, last week, US and Western allies imposed new sanctions on the Kremlin.
Biden pledges to ‘increase the pain’ of Putin to increase economic isolation
The UK government has imposed an asset freeze on Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, and an outright ban on overseas investment in the country, worth £11 billion in 2020.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order directly targeting Mr Putin and the families of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and also blocked new investment in Russia.
‘Nothing short of major war crimes is happening,’ Biden said in speech to union leaders, referring to Ukrainian town of Bucha recaptured from Russian forces where civilians were found shot at point-blank range .
“Responsible nations must come together to hold these perpetrators accountable,” he said. “And with our allies and partners, we will continue to increase economic costs and increase Putin’s pain.”
Moscow insisted its troops had committed no war crimes and said the Bucha footage was staged by the Ukrainians.
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Additional reports by agencies