LVIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian authorities say Russian military forces bombed an art school where about 400 people took refuge in the port city of Mariupol, where President Volodymyr Zelensky said a relentless blockade by Russian troops would go down in history for what he said. War crimes.
Local authorities said the school building had collapsed and people could live under the rubble. No casualties were immediately reported. On Wednesday, Russian forces also bombed a theater in Mariupol where civilians were taking refuge, authorities said.
“To do this in a peaceful city, what the occupiers did is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” Zelensky said in his video address to the nation.
Mariupol, a strategic port in the Azov Sea, has been bombing for at least three weeks and has become a symbol of the horrors of the Russian war in Ukraine. Local authorities said the blockade cut off food, water and energy supplies and killed at least 2,300 people, some of whom had to be buried in mass graves.
Russian forces have surrounded the devastated city in recent days and penetrated deeper. Heavy fighting closed a large steel plant and local authorities on Saturday appealed for more Western help.
“Children, old people are dying. The city has been destroyed and it has been wiped off the face of the earth, “said Mariupol police officer Michael Versinin in a video address to Western leaders from the wreckage-wide road, which was confirmed by the Associated Press.
The fall of Mariupol, a scene of some of the worst tragedies of the war, will mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, whose progress has stalled for more than three weeks outside of other major cities in Europe’s biggest ground attack since World War II.
In the capital Kiev, at least 20 children carried by Ukrainian surrogate mothers are trapped in a makeshift bomb shelter, with parents waiting to travel to war zones to pick them up. Just a few days old, the children are being cared for by nurses who are unable to leave the shelter due to the constant shelling by Russian troops trying to encircle the city.
Details have also surfaced about a rocket attack that killed at least 40 Marines in the Black Sea port city of Mykolaiv on Friday, according to a Ukrainian military official who spoke to The New York Times. It was not immediately clear how many Marines were inside, and rescuers were still searching the barracks.
A senior Ukrainian military official who spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity for sensitive information estimated that as many as 40 Marines were killed, making it one of the deadliest attacks on Ukrainian forces during the war.
Meanwhile, the Russian military said on Sunday that it had launched a new series of attacks on Ukrainian military installations with long-range hypersonic and cruise missiles.
A spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said a Kinzhal hypersonic missile had hit a Ukrainian energy depot in the town of Kostyantinivka, near Mykolaiv. The Russian military said on Saturday it had used a Kinzol for the first time in the war to destroy an ammunition depot in Diliatin, in the Karpathian Mountains of western Ukraine.
Russia says the Kinzol, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound. The Pentagon’s press secretary, John Kirby, said Saturday that the United States had failed to confirm the use of hypersonic missiles in Ukraine.
Konashenkov said the Caliber cruise missiles launched by Russian warships from the Caspian Sea were involved in an attack on a fuel depot in Kostyantinivka and were used to destroy an armor repair factory in Nizhny Novgorod region of northern Ukraine.
Despite the siege of Mariupol and the geographical scope of Russia’s invasion, many are shocked at Ukraine’s ability to hold back its large, well-armed enemy. The UK Ministry of Defense says it continues to effectively protect Ukraine’s airspace.
“Gaining control of the skies was one of Russia’s main objectives for the early days of the conflict, and their continued failure to do so has significantly blunted their operational progress,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Russia is now relying on stand-off weapons launched from the relative security of Russian airspace to hit targets inside Ukraine, the British Ministry said.
Russian death estimates vary widely, but even conservative figures are in the thousands. Russia’s five-day war in the 2008 war with Georgia killed 64 people. It lost about 15,000 in 10 years in Afghanistan and more than 11,000 in the year war in Chechnya.
Dmitry Gorenberg, a Russian security researcher at the Virginia-based CNA think tank, says the number of Russian casualties in Ukraine is close to the 10% benchmark of war effectiveness. Gorenberg says four Russian generals have been reported killed on the battlefield – out of an estimated 20 in combat – without signal command.
Russia needs 800,000 troops to take control of Ukraine in the long run in the face of armed opposition – almost the equivalent of its full-fledged military, says Michael Clarke, a former head of the British-based Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank.
“Unless the Russians want a complete genocide – they can level all the major cities, and the Ukrainians will rise up against the Russian occupation – there will only be endless guerrilla warfare,” Clark said.
UN agencies have confirmed more than 847 civilian deaths since the start of the war, although they acknowledge that the actual number is probably much higher. The United Nations says more than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees.
Ukraine and Russia Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said on Saturday that eight of the 10 humanitarian corridors had been evacuated from Mariupol and other besieged cities, leaving a total of 6,623 people.
Vereshchuk said planned humanitarian aid could not be provided for the southern town of Kherson, which Russia occupied at the start of the war, because Russian troops had stopped trucks on the way.
Ukraine and Russia have held several rounds of talks aimed at ending the conflict but are divided on a number of issues, with Moscow pushing for the disarmament of its neighbor and Kyiv demanding security guarantees.
In the vicinity of Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people wanted security have been attacked.
A satellite image from Maxer Technologies released on Saturday confirmed that most of Mariupol’s theater had been destroyed. It also shows the word “child” written in Russian in large white letters outside the building.
Ukraine’s national police say Russian forces opened fire on eight towns and villages in the eastern Donetsk region between Friday and Saturday. Dozens of civilians were killed or injured and at least 37 residential buildings and facilities, including a school, a museum and a shopping center, were damaged.
In the western city of Lviv, the cultural capital of Ukraine, which was hit by a Russian missile on Friday, military veterans were training dozens of civilians on how to handle firearms and grenades.
“It’s hard because my hand is really weak, but I can handle it,” said Katrina Ishchenko, a 22-year-old trainee.
Mariupol City Council on Saturday claimed that Russian troops had forcibly relocated thousands of city residents, mostly women and children, to Russia. It did not say where and the AP could not immediately confirm the claim.
Zelensky’s adviser, Oleksiy Arestovich, said the closest forces that could help Mariupol were already fighting “the enemy’s irresistible force” and that “there is no military solution for Mariupol.”
Zelensky on Sunday instructed 11 political parties with ties to Russia, including 44 of the country’s 450 seats in parliament, to suspend activities under martial law.
“Politicians’ efforts to divide and cooperate will not succeed,” he said in a statement.
The Associated Press writer from Lviv, Ukraine, Uras Karmanov, and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.
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