Hundreds of civilians have died in Ukraine as Russian forces expand shelling attacks

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March 6 (UPI) — Hundreds of civilians have died in Ukraine as Russian forces expanded shelling attacks, officials said Sunday.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that Russia has dropped missiles on the city of Vinnytsia in western Ukraine, destroying the airport in a city with a population of about 600,000 people.

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Earlier Sunday, Zelensky warned the city of Odessa to prepare for an air assault on the port city and said that such an attack would constitute a war crime.

“They are preparing to bomb Odessa,” Zelensky said. “Russians have always come to Odessa, always felt in Odessa only warmth, only sincerity. And now what? Bombs against Odessa, artillery against Odessa, missiles against Odessa.”

Shelling attacks led to the second failed attempt to evacuate thousands of people Mariupol, a coastal city on the Sea of Azov which Russian forces had surrounded Thursday leaving civilians without access to food and electricity.

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Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Region Military Administration, announced the suspension of the evacuation in a statement posted to Facebook.

“The evacuation column with the local population could not leave today outside Mariupol: the Russians began regrouping their forces and a powerful shelling of the city,” Kyrylenko said. “It is extremely dangerous to take people out under such conditions.”

Kyrylenko added that a humanitarian convoy heading towards the city has not been able to reach Mariupol.

Doctors Without Borders, the humanitarian aid group, said Saturday that it had received reports from its staff trapped in the city that supermarkets had been hit by Russian missiles.

Inna Sovsun, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, said in a statement the city was left without heat after the Donetsk-Mariupol gas pipeline was damaged by Russian forces.

In the town of Irpin outside Kyiv, Russian forces fired mortar shells at evacuees crossing a bridge to flee the fighting, The New York Times reported.

The attack, which killed at least three people, sent hundreds of civilians running for their lives as Ukrainian soldiers nearby helped pick up children to carry them to safety.

In another strike that hit the village of Markhalivka, a 12-year-old girl who used a wheelchair was killed, her father told CNN. The man’s wife, mother-in-law, two sons-in-law and his wife’s friend also died in the attack.

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The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sunday released a report noting that Russian forces have killed at least 364 civilians in the country and injured another 759 civilians.

Of those killed, 25 of them have been children while 41 children have been injured, according to the OHCHR report.

The majority of the casualties have been in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, where 88 people have been killed and 415 have been injured.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and airstrikes,” the report reads. “OHCHR believes that the real figures are considerably higher.”

According to the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, 38 children had been killed and 71 injured.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that Russian forces have not been targeting civilians.