Dozens of Ukrainians found in grave near kyiv as battle looms in east

Natalia Titova, 62, reacts as she shows her house, which was destroyed by Russian shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Chernihiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022. REUTERS

KYIV – A grave with dozens of Ukrainian civilians has been discovered in the village of Buzova near kyiv, an official said, the latest mass grave reported to be discovered as Russian forces withdraw from their offensive on the capital and concentrate their assault on the east.

Taras Didych, leader of the Dmytrivka community which includes Buzova, told Ukrainian television the bodies were found in a ditch near a gas station. The death toll has not yet been confirmed.

“Now we are coming back to life, but during the occupation we had our ‘hot spots’, many civilians died,” Didych said on Saturday.

Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the information.

The increase in civilian casualties has sparked a new wave of international condemnation, particularly for hundreds of deaths in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv which until last week was occupied by Russian forces.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russian forces of war crimes in Bucha.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its southern neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.

Russia has failed to take a major city since the invasion began on February 24, but Ukraine says Russia is gathering forces in the east for a major assault and has urged people to flee.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia was seeking to establish a land corridor between Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and the eastern region of Donbass, which is partly held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Some towns there are under heavy bombardment with tens of thousands of people unable to evacuate.

“It will be an uphill battle, we believe in this fight and in our victory. We are ready to fight simultaneously and seek diplomatic means to end this war,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech on Saturday.

Zelenskiy said Russia’s use of force was “a disaster that will inevitably hit everyone.”

“Russian aggression was not meant to be limited to Ukraine alone…the whole European project is a target for Russia,” he said.

“Russia can still afford to live in illusions and bring new military forces and equipment to our land. And that means we need even more sanctions and even more weapons for our state.

Zelenskiy called on the West to impose a full embargo on Russian energy products and supply more weapons to Ukraine.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Saturday and pledged armored vehicles and anti-ship missile systems, as well as additional support for World Bank loans.

Britain will also tighten its sanctions against Russia and move away from the use of Russian hydrocarbons.

Johnson, speaking to reporters with Zelenskiy, said the support for Ukraine was aimed at ensuring that it “can never again be bullied, never again be blackmailed, never again be threatened with the same way”.

Johnson was the last foreign leader to visit Kyiv after Russian forces withdrew from the region.

These visits are a sign that kyiv is returning to some degree of normalcy.

Some residents are returning and cafes and restaurants are reopening. Italy said it plans to reopen its embassy this month.

Nine trains

But in the east, Ukrainian officials’ calls for civilians to flee were made more urgent by a missile attack Friday on a train station in the town of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, crowded with women, children and old people trying to get out.

Ukrainian officials said more than 50 people had been killed.

Russia has denied responsibility, saying the missiles used in the attack were used only by the Ukrainian military. The United States says it believes Russian forces were responsible.

Reuters was unable to verify details of the attack.

Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksander Honcharenko said he expected only 50,000 to 60,000 of the city’s 220,000 residents to remain as people flee.

Residents of the besieged Luhansk region would have nine trains out on Sunday, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, wrote on the Telegram messaging service.

British military intelligence said Russia’s withdrawal from the capital region revealed “disproportionate” targeting of civilians.

Russia’s invasion forced about a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, turned cities into rubble, and killed or injured thousands.

The European Union adopted new sanctions against Russia on Friday, including import bans on coal, timber, chemicals and other products. Oil and gas imports from Russia remain untouched.

Ukraine has banned all imports from Russia, a key pre-war trading partner with annual imports valued at around $6 billion.

“The enemy’s budget will not receive these funds, which will reduce its potential for financing the war,” Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko wrote on her Facebook page.

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