According to Ukraine, Russia is preparing an offensive in the southeast

BUCHA, Ukraine — Russian forces were preparing for an offensive in southeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, the Ukrainian military said, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy prepared to speak with the UN Security Council amid outrage over evidence that Moscow’s soldiers intentionally killing civilians.

The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending troops to eastern Ukraine to seize control of the industrial heartland known as Donbass. This follows a Russian retreat from towns around the capital, Kyiv, which led to the discovery of bodies, prompted allegations of war crimes and calls for tougher sanctions against Moscow.

Russian forces are focused on capturing the cities of Popasna and Rubishne in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the Black Sea port of Mariupol, the General Staff said on its Facebook page. Donetsk and Luhansk are controlled by Russian-backed separatists and recognized by Moscow as independent states. The General Staff said access to Kharkiv in the east, Ukraine’s second largest city, was blocked.

“The enemy is regrouping troops and focusing its efforts on preparing an offensive operation in the east of our country,” the statement said. “The goal is to establish full control over the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

Zelenskyy, speaking from Ukraine, planned to address Security Council diplomats on Tuesday to make demands for an investigation into possible war crimes.

Germany and France responded by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats who pretended to be spies. President Joe Biden said Putin should be tried for war crimes.

“This guy is brutal, and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous,” Biden said, referring to the city northwest of the capital that was the scene of some scares.

In another show of support, European Union President Ursula von der Leyen plans to travel to Kyiv this week to meet Zelenskyy, announced her spokesman Eric Mamer.

Before Zelenskyj speaks, the most powerful UN body should be informed by Secretary General Antonio Guterres; his political boss Rosemary DiCarlo; and UN Humanity chief Martin Griffiths trying to negotiate a ceasefire. Griffiths met with Russian officials in Moscow on Monday and will visit Ukraine.

Associated Press journalists in Bucha counted dozens of bodies in civilian clothes and apparently unarmed, many shot at point blank range and some with their hands tied or flesh burned.

After touring the neighborhoods of Bucha and speaking to hungry survivors queuing for bread, Zelenskyy promised in a video address that Ukraine would work with the European Union and the International Criminal Court to identify Russian militants involved in atrocities .

“The time will come when every Russian will know the whole truth about who among their fellow citizens was killed, who gave orders, who turned a blind eye to the killings,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the scenes outside Kyiv as “staged anti-Russian provocation.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the images contained “signs of video forgery and various forgeries.”

Russia has denied earlier allegations of atrocities as inventions by Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said the bodies of at least 410 civilians were found in towns around Kyiv that were retaken by Russian forces.

The Ukrainian public prosecutor’s office described a room discovered in Bucha as a “torture chamber”. A statement said the bodies of five men with their hands tied were found in the basement of a children’s sanatorium where civilians were being tortured and killed.

The bodies seen by AP journalists in Bucha included at least 13 in and around a building that locals said Russian troops used as a base. Three other bodies were found in a stairwell and a group of six were burned together.

Among the dead, witnessed by the news agency’s journalists, were bodies wrapped in black plastic, piled at one end of a mass grave in a Bucha churchyard. Many of these victims had been shot in cars or killed in explosions trying to flee the city. With the morgue full and the cemetery inaccessible, the only place where the dead are kept was the churchyard, Father Andrii Galavin said.

Tanya Nedashkivs’ka said she buried her husband in a garden outside their home after he was arrested by Russian troops. His body was one of those left piled in a stairwell.

“Please, I beg you, do something!” She said. “I am speaking here, a Ukrainian woman, a mother of two children and a grandchild. For all wives and mothers, make peace on earth that no one mourns ever again.”

Another Bucha resident, Volodymyr Pilhutskyi, said his neighbor Pavlo Vlasenko was taken away by Russian soldiers because the military-style pants he was wearing and the uniforms, which Vlasenko said belonged to his son, looked suspicious. When Vlasenko’s body was later found, it showed burn marks from a flamethrower, his neighbor said.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, stressed at a press conference on Monday that during the period that Bucha was under Russian control, “not a single local person suffered from violent actions.”

However, high-resolution satellite imagery from commercial provider Maxar Technologies showed many of the bodies lay outdoors for weeks during the time Russian forces were in Bucha. The New York Times first reported on the satellite images showing the dead.

Western and Ukrainian leaders have previously accused Russia of war crimes. The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has already launched an investigation. But recent reports have reinforced the sentencing.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the pictures from Bucha reveal the “incredible brutality of the Russian leadership and those who follow their propaganda”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said there was “clear evidence of war crimes” in Bucha that required new punitive measures.

“I am for a new round of sanctions, especially on coal and petrol. We must act,” he said on France-Inter radio.

Though united in outrage, European allies appeared divided on how to respond. While Poland urged Europe to quickly wean itself off Russian energy, Germany said it would stick to a phased approach of phasing out coal and oil imports over the next few months.

Russia withdrew many of its forces from the Kyiv area after being thwarted in its attempt to quickly seize the capital. Instead, she sent troops to south-eastern Ukraine.

About two-thirds of Russian troops around Kyiv have left and are either in Belarus or en route, where they are likely to get more supplies and reinforcements, said a senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence assessment .

More than 1,500 civilians were able to flee Mariupol on Monday using the dwindling number of available private vehicles, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. The besieged southern port city saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

But amid the fighting, a Red Cross-escorted convoy of buses that was thwarted for days to deliver supplies and evacuate residents once again failed to get into the city, Vereshchuk said.

Elsewhere, Russian shelling killed 11 people in the southern city of Mykolaiv, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said in a video message on social media.

Zelenskyy called for more weapons as Russia prepares new offensives.

“If we had already got what we need – all these planes, tanks, artillery, anti-missile and anti-ship weapons – we could have saved thousands of people,” he said.


Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine; Edith Lederer at the United Nations; Lolita Baldor in Washington and Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. According to Ukraine, Russia is preparing an offensive in the southeast

Dais Johnston

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