Kyiv – The presidents of four countries on Russia’s doorstep toured war-ravaged areas near the Ukrainian capital and demanded accountability for what they called war crimes as Kyiv and Moscow gave conflicting accounts of what happened to a badly damaged missile cruiser, which is the flagship of Russia is Russia’s fleet in the Black Sea.
The visit of the leaders of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Wednesday was a strong sign of solidarity from the countries on NATO’s eastern flank, three of which, like Ukraine, were once part of the Soviet Union. They traveled by train to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to meet with their counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and visited Borodyanka, one of the nearby towns where evidence of atrocities was found after Russian troops withdrew to attack concentrate on the east of the country.
“The fight for the future of Europe is taking place here,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, calling for tougher sanctions, including against Russian oil and gas supplies and all of the country’s banks.
Elsewhere, in one of the most crucial battles of the war, Russia said more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops surrendered in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian troops are holding out in pockets of the city. A Ukrainian official denied the claim, which could not be independently verified.
And in the Odessa region, Governor Maksym Marchenko said Ukrainian forces hit the guided missile cruiser Moskva – the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – with two missiles and caused “serious damage”. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the ship was damaged, but not that it was hit by Ukraine – it said ammunition on board exploded as a result of a fire of unknown cause. The entire crew was evacuated, it said; The cruiser usually has about 500 on board.
Russia invaded on February 24 with the aim of taking Kyiv, overthrowing the government and installing a pro-Moscow government, according to Western officials. But the ground advance slowly faltered and Russia lost potentially thousands of fighters. The conflict has killed scores of Ukrainian civilians and forced millions more to flee. It has also rattled the global economy, threatened global food supplies and shaken the balance of post-Cold War Europe.
A UN task force warned on Wednesday that the war threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries, which face even higher food and energy costs and increasingly difficult financial conditions. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war is “aggravating” a food, energy and financial crisis in poorer countries already struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and lack of access to finance.
A day after calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine “genocidal,” US President Joe Biden approved $800 million in new military aid to Kyiv, saying Western weapons have kept Ukraine’s fight going and “we can’t don’t rest now”. The ammunition includes artillery systems, infantry fighting vehicles and helicopters.
Joining Zelenskyy in a lavish room in Kyiv’s historic Mariinskyi Palace were Nauseda, Estonian President Alar Karis, Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Latvian Egils Levits, reaffirming their commitment to political and military support for Ukraine.
“We know that story. We know what the Russian occupation means. We know what Russian terrorism means,” Duda said. He added that both those who committed war crimes and those who gave the orders should be held accountable.
“If someone sends planes, if someone sends troops to bomb neighborhoods, kill civilians, murder them, that’s not war,” he said. “This is cruelty, this is banditry, this is terrorism.”
In his daily nightly address, Zelenskyy noted that the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court visited the Kiev suburb of Bucha, which until recently was controlled by Russian forces and where evidence of mass killings and more than 400 bodies was found.
“It is inevitable that Russian troops will be held accountable. We will drag everyone before a tribunal, and not just for what was done in Bucha,” Zelenskyy said late Wednesday.
He also said work would continue to clear tens of thousands of unexploded shells, mines and tripwires left in northern Ukraine by the retreating Russians. He urged people returning home to beware of unfamiliar objects and to report them to the police.
Also on Wednesday, a report commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found “clear patterns of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in the conduct of hostilities.” It was written by experts selected by Ukraine and published by the Vienna-based organization working for security and human rights.
The report said there were also violations by Ukraine, but concluded that those committed by Russia “are far greater in scope and nature.”
Residents of Yahidne, a village near the northern city of Chernihiv, said Russian troops forced them to stay in the basement of a school for almost a month so that they could only go outside to use the toilet, cook over open fires and kill the dead could be buried in a mass grave.
In one of the rooms they kept a list of the deceased. It had 18 names.
“An old man died near me, and next his wife died,” said Valentyna Saroyan. “Then a man lying there died, then a woman sitting next to me. … Another old man looked so healthy, he was doing exercises, but then he sat and fell. That was it.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his troops committed any atrocities, saying on Tuesday Moscow had “no choice” but to invade and will “proceed until it is fully completed and the tasks set have been accomplished.” He insisted that Russia’s campaign go ahead as planned, despite a major retreat after its forces failed to take the capital and suffered significant casualties.
Russian troops are now preparing for a major offensive in the eastern Donbass region, where separatists allied with Moscow and Ukrainian forces have been fighting since 2014.
A key part of the Russian campaign is Mariupol in the Donbass, which the Russians have been shelling for weeks.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said 1,026 soldiers from Ukraine’s 36th Naval Brigade surrendered at a metal factory in the city. But Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, dismissed the claim, telling Current Time TV that “the battle for the seaport is still ongoing today.”
It was unclear when a surrender might have occurred or how many forces were still defending Mariupol.
According to the BBC, Aiden Aslin, a British man fighting with the Ukrainian military in Mariupol, called his mother and a friend to tell him and his comrades that he and his comrades were out of food, ammunition and other supplies and were surrendering would.
Russian state television broadcast footage from Mariupol on Wednesday showing dozens of men in camouflage clothing walking with their hands raised and carrying others on stretchers or in chair handles. A man held a white flag. In the background was a tall industrial building with broken windows and a missing roof, identified by the broadcaster as the Iliich Metal Works.
Stashevskyi reported from Yahidne, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington and AP journalists around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/04/14/neighbors-back-ukraine-demand-accountability-for-war-crimes/ Neighbors support Ukraine, demand accountability for war crimes