Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in Mariupol and Russia has been massing thousands of troops in the area for a new assault, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.
"We have destroyed more Russian weapons and military equipment than some armies in Europe currently possess. But this is not enough," he said in an online video, adding that if Ukraine did not get more tanks, jets and missile systems, other countries in Europe would be the next targets of Russia.
France and Germany both pledged to send more weapons.
Earlier on Wednesday Russia’s defence ministry said more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines have surrendered in the port of Mariupol, signalling that it had moved closer to capturing the ruined city, its main strategic target in eastern Ukraine.
Taking the Azovstal industrial district, where the marines have been holed up, would give the Russians full control of Mariupol, Ukraine’s main Sea of Azov port, and reinforce a southern land corridor before an expected new offensive in the country’s east.
Surrounded and bombarded by Russian troops for weeks and the focus of some of the fiercest fighting in the war, Mariupol would be the first major city to fall since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th.
Russia’s defence ministry said 162 officers were among 1,026 soldiers of the 36th Marine Brigade who had surrendered to Russian and pro-Russian separatist forces near the Illich Iron and Steel Works. Russian television showed pictures of what it said were marines giving themselves up, many of them wounded.
Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces were attacking Azovstal and the port, but a defence ministry spokesman said he had no information about any surrender. Reuters journalists accompanying Russian-backed separatists saw flames billowing from the Azovstal area on Tuesday.
On Monday, Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade said it was preparing for a final battle in Mariupol that would end in death or capture as its troops had run out of ammunition.
Ukraine has accused Russia of blocking aid convoys to tens of thousands of civilians trapped in Mariupol. Its mayor, Vadym Boichenko, said Russia had brought in mobile crematoria “to get rid of evidence of war crimes” – a statement it was not possible to verify. Moscow has blamed Ukraine for civilian deaths and accused Kyiv of denigrating Russian armed forces.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ardent supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin, urged remaining Ukrainians holed up in Azovstal to surrender. "Within Azovstal at the moment there are about 200 wounded who cannot receive any medical assistance," Kadyrov said in a Telegram post. "For them and all the rest it would be better to end this pointless resistance and go home to their families."
Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine has seen more than 4.6 million people flee abroad, killed or wounded thousands and left Russia increasingly isolated on the world stage.
In the village of Lubianka northwest of Kyiv, from where Russian forces had tried and failed to subdue the capital before being driven away, a message to Ukrainians had been written on the wall of a house that had been occupied by Russian troops. “We did not want this... forgive us.”
The Kremlin says it launched a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “liberate” Ukraine, a message villagers said had been repeated to them by the Russian troops. “To liberate us from what? We’re peaceful... We’re Ukrainians,” Lubianka resident Viktor Shaposhnikov said.
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became the latest in a string of European politicians to visit Kyiv but Germany’s president did not join them as he had planned. The fact that the president Frank-Walter Steinmeier was not welcome was “irritating”, German chancellor Olaf Scholz told RBB public radio.A Ukrainian official denied a newspaper report that Mr Zelenskiy had rejected the visit due to Mr Steinmeier’s recent good relations with Moscow.
US president Joe Biden said for the first time that Moscow's invasion of Ukraine amounted to genocide, a term denounced by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. "This is hardly acceptable from a president of the United States, a country that has committed well-known crimes in recent times," Mr Peskov told reporters.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that it was “absolutely right” for more people to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide, supporting Biden’s assertion. “I think, as President Biden highlighted, there are official processes around determinations of genocide but I think it’s absolutely right that more and more people be talking and using the word genocide in terms of what Russia is doing, what Vladimir Putin has done,” Mr Trudeau told reporters.
An initial report by a mission of experts set up by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) documents a “catalogue of inhumanity” by Russian troops in Ukraine, the US ambassador to the OSCE said. “This includes evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rape, executions, looting and forced deportation of civilians to Russia,” Michael Carpenter said.
Russia has denied targeting civilians and has said Ukrainian and western allegations of war crimes are fabricated. Many towns from which Russia retreated in northern Ukraine were littered with the bodies of civilians. International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan said after visiting Bucha, a town where bound bodies of people apparently shot at close range were found, that Ukraine was a “crime scene” and this was within ICC jurisdiction.“We have to pierce the fog of war to get to the truth,’ Mr Khan said on Twitter.
Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the Kyiv district police chief saying 720 bodies had been found in the region around the capital, with more than 200 people missing.
The general headquarters of the armed forces of Ukraine said Russian forces were maintaining attacks on civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region in the northeast and the central Zaporizhzhia region. At least seven people were killed and 22 wounded in Kharkiv over the past 24 hours, Governor Oleh Synehubov said. A 2-year-old boy was among those killed, he said in an online post, and Ukrainian forces shot down two Russian planes which were attacking towns in the region.
Reuters could not immediately verify his statement, but filmed people in Kharkiv quietly carrying bodies from an apartment block hit by shelling. A woman sat sobbing by the body of her son, lying on the floor in the room she said she had implored him to leave before a second explosion killed him. – Reuters