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More than 900 civilian bodies found in Kyiv region, police say

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Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – After the withdrawal of Russian forces, more than 900 civilian bodies were discovered in the region around the Ukrainian capital – most of them fatally shot, police said on Friday, an indication that many people were “simply executed”.

The death toll is twice as high as that announced by the Ukrainian authorities almost two weeks ago.

Andriy Nebytov, the head of the Kyiv regional police, said the bodies were left on the streets or given a temporary burial. He cited police data showing that 95% died from gunshot wounds.

“Thus, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said.

More bodies are being found every day, under rubble and in mass graves, he added.

Most of the victims were found in Bucha, where there were more than 350, he said.

Nebytov said utility workers in Bucha collected and buried bodies in the Kiev suburb while it remained under Russian control. Russian troops, he added, “tracked down” people expressing strong pro-Ukrainian views.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry pledged to step up missile attacks on the Ukrainian capital in response to Ukraine’s alleged aggression on Russian territory, an ominous warning that followed Moscow’s stinging loss of its flagship in the Black Sea.

The threat of increased attacks on Kyiv came after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of injuring seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings in airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine. Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.

“The number and scale of rocket attacks on objects in Kyiv are increasing in response to the nationalist Kiev regime carrying out terrorist attacks or diversions on Russian territory,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Russia issued the warning as it continues to prepare for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, in the devastated southeastern city of Mariupol, locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies.

In Kyiv, renewed bombardment could mean a return to the steady wailing of air raid sirens from the early days of the invasion and anxious nights in subway stations. Hesitant signs of pre-war life have resurfaced in the capital after Russian troops failed to take the city and retreated to focus on eastern Ukraine, leaving evidence of possible war crimes in their wake.

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed targets in Russia, and the reports have not been independently verified.

However, Ukrainian officials said their forces had launched missile attacks on a key Russian warship. If true, Wednesday’s reported attack on the guided missile cruiser Moskva, named after the Russian capital, would mark a major victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia.

The warship sank while being towed into port on Thursday after being badly damaged in disputed circumstances. Moscow confirmed fire on board but no attack. US and other western officials could not confirm what caused the fire.

The Moskva had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles. If Ukrainian forces knocked out the ship, it was likely to be the largest warship sunk in combat since 1982. A British submarine torpedoed an Argentine naval cruiser called the ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands War, killing over 300 sailors.

The sinking of the Russian warship reduced Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea, although military analysts disagreed on the significance of the event for the course of the war. In any case, the loss was seen as symbolic of Moscow’s fortunes in a seven-week invasion that was widely viewed as a historic blunder after withdrawing from the Kyiv region and much of northern Ukraine.

“A Russian “flagship” is a worthy dive site. We now have another dive site in the Black Sea. We will definitely visit the wreck after our victory in the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov boasted on Friday.

In his late-night address on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainians to be proud of surviving 50 days under Russian onslaught, when the invaders “gave us a maximum of five.”

Russia’s warning of renewed airstrikes didn’t stop Kiev residents taking advantage of a sunny and slightly warmer spring day as the weekend approached. More people than usual took to the streets on Friday, walking dogs, riding electric scooters and walking hand in hand.

In a central park, a small group of people, including a woman wrapped in a Ukrainian flag, danced to music from a portable speaker.

Local residents reported hearing explosions in parts of Kiev overnight, but it was not clear which locations were being attacked.

News of the Moskva River has overshadowed Russian claims of progress in the southern port city of Mariupol, which Moscow’s forces have blocked since the early days of the invasion. A dwindling number of Ukrainian defenders have held out against a siege that has taken a terrible toll on trapped and starving civilians.

The mayor of Mariupol said this week that more than 10,000 civilians had died and the death toll could surpass 20,000. Other Ukrainian officials have said they expect to find evidence of atrocities against civilians in Mariupol, like those found in Bucha and other cities outside of Kyiv.

Mariupol City Council said on Friday that locals reported that Russian troops were digging up bodies buried in residential yards and not allowing new burials “of people killed by them.”

“Why the exhumation is being carried out and where the bodies are being taken is unknown,” the council said via news app Telegram.

The capture of Mariupol would allow Russian forces in the south, advancing through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully ally with troops in the Donbass region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and the target of the forthcoming offensive.

Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in Donbass since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine. Russia has recognized the independence of two rebel areas in the region.

Although it is not certain when Russia will launch the full-scale campaign, a regional Ukrainian official said on Friday that seven people died and 27 were injured after Russian forces fired on buses carrying civilians in the village of Borovaya, near the northeastern city of Kharkiv had opened. The claim could not be independently verified.

Dmytro Chubenko, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office, told Ukrainian news website Suspilne that Ukrainian authorities have opened a criminal case related to an alleged “violation of the laws and customs of war in connection with premeditated murder.”

A large blast also hit the eastern city of Kramatorsk, where a week earlier a rocket attack on a train station killed more than 50 people as thousands heeded warnings to evacuate the Donbass region waited to leave.

Associated Press journalists in Kramatorsk heard the sound of a rocket or missile and then the explosion, followed by sirens wailing on Friday. It was not immediately clear what was hit or if there were casualties. A day earlier, a factory in the same city was hit by an airstrike.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that Russian strikes in the Kharkov region had “liquidated a group of mercenaries from a Polish private military company” of up to 30 people and “liberated” an iron and steel plant in Mariupol. The claims could not be independently verified.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Defense justified the damage to the Moskva by saying that a fire detonated ammunition on board. Apart from the cruise missiles, the Moskva also carried anti-aircraft missiles and other artillery.

The ministry did not say what might have caused the fire, but reported that the crew, who normally number around 500 people, had abandoned the ship. It was unclear whether there were injuries.

Maksym Marchenko, governor of Ukraine’s Black Sea region of Odessa, said Ukrainian forces hit the Moscow River with two Neptun missiles and caused “serious damage”. The Neptune is an anti-ship missile recently developed by Ukraine based on an earlier Soviet design.

Fisch reported from Kramatorsk. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kyiv-bodies-ukraine_n_62599fefe4b0723f8018c117 More than 900 civilian bodies found in Kyiv region, police say

Mike Fahey

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