Russia takes control of town of Svitlodarsk; 200 bodies found in Mariupol

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May 24 (UPI) — Ukrainian forces withdrew from the contested town of Svitlodarsk on Tuesday as Russian forces attacked more than three dozen locations in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, which is where Moscow has put a special focus over the past several weeks.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said Russian forces had taken control of the town in the eastern Donbas region which had been surrounded on three sides.

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“About 10,000 civilians remain in occupied Svitlodarsk,” said Kyrylenko. “No more than 30% of the population left the city. Today, May 24, the Russian army entered Svitlodarsk in the Donetsk region. Russian flags have already been hoisted there.”

Kyrylenko said the Ukrainian forces were not retreating but “regrouping.”

“This is the right and logical decision in this situation to save the lives of [the military] and regroup,” he said.

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He added that the city of Lyman, further north in the Donetsk region, was also “very difficult.”

“It’s now under constant fire,” he said. “The enemy entered the territory of the Lyman community a long time ago. Their main goal is to take the center of the community of Lyman.”

Ukrainian officials said that Russian forces fired on almost 40 towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — and said the strikes were part of one of the largest offensives on European soil since World War II.

Ukrainian officials said several civilians were killed and civilian infrastructure was destroyed in both regions, which are home to large pro-Russia separatist communities.

“The occupiers fired on 38 towns in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, destroying and damaging 62 civilian objects, including 53 houses, an agricultural enterprise, a kindergarten, a bank branch, a pharmacy and the national police administration building,” Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force said, according to to CNBC.

Ukrainian foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba said he has spoken with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about sending additional support.

“More weapons, including heavy, are headed to Ukraine as Russia continues its devastating attacks in the Donbas,” Kuleba said in a tweet. “We also discussed ways to unblock Ukraine’s exports and ensure global food security.”

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Kuleba said the scope of the Donbas attack on Tuesday hasn’t been seen since World War II. He also accused Moscow of stealing Ukrainian grain and trying to sell it on the open market as its own.

“I call on all states to stay vigilant and refuse any such proposals,” he wrote on Twitter. “Don’t buy the stolen. Don’t become accomplices to Russian crimes. Theft has never brought anyone luck.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday accused Russia of deliberately targeting Ukrainian grain warehouses, ports and other critical infrastructure to provoke a global food crisis.

“The consequences of these shameful acts are there for everyone to see,” von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Global wheat prices are skyrocketing. And it is fragile countries and vulnerable populations that suffer most.

“And on top of this, Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail — holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support. This is using hunger and grain to wield power.”

Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday they have discovered about 200 bodies beneath the debris of an apartment building in Mariupol, the southern port city that’s been targeted for weeks by Russian forces.

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An adviser in the Mariupol mayor’s office said the bodies were found in advanced states of decomposition and it’s believed that they were left there by Russia’s emergency situations ministry.

The bodies were uncovered as crews were dismantling a destroyed apartment building in the city, the adviser said in a Telegram post that includes graphic images.

Russian forces attacked Mariupol for weeks before declaring victory and Ukrainian troops were holed up at a steel plant in the city, along with some civilians, before surrendering last week. Hundreds of civilians were evacuated from the city.

Similar discoveries have been made elsewhere in Ukraine since the fighting began on Feb. 24. Dozens of civilians were found dead in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, in April.

A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday they have discovered about 200 bodies beneath the debris of an apartment building in Mariupol, the southern port city that’s been targeted for weeks by Russian forces.

An adviser in the Mariupol mayor’s office said the bodies were found in advanced states of decomposition and it’s believed that they were left there by Russia’s emergency situations ministry.

The bodies were uncovered as crews were dismantling a destroyed apartment building in the city, the adviser said in a Telegram post that includes graphic images.

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Russian forces attacked Mariupol for weeks before declaring victory and Ukrainian troops were holed up at a steel plant in the city, along with some civilians, before surrendering last week. Hundreds of civilians were evacuated from the city.

Similar discoveries have been made elsewhere in Ukraine since the fighting began on Feb. 24. Dozens of civilians were found dead in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, in April.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Russian forces attacked more than three dozen locations in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, which is where Moscow has put a special focus over the past several weeks.

Ukrainian officials said that Russian forces fired on almost 40 towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — and said the strikes were part of one of the largest offensives on European soil since World War II.

Ukrainian officials said several civilians were killed and civilian infrastructure was destroyed in both regions, which are home to large pro-Russia separatist communities.

“The occupiers fired on 38 towns in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, destroying and damaging 62 civilian objects, including 53 houses, an agricultural enterprise, a kindergarten, a bank branch, a pharmacy and the national police administration building,” Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force said, according to to CNBC.

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Ukrainian foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba said he has spoken with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about sending additional support.

“More weapons, including heavy, are headed to Ukraine as Russia continues its devastating attacks in the Donbas,” Kuleba said in a tweet. “We also discussed ways to unblock Ukraine’s exports and ensure global food security.”

Kuleba said the scope of the Donbas attack on Tuesday hasn’t been seen since World War II. He also accused Moscow of stealing Ukrainian grain and trying to sell it on the open market as its own.

“I call on all states to stay vigilant and refuse any such proposals,” he wrote on Twitter. “Don’t buy the stolen. Don’t become accomplices to Russian crimes. Theft has never brought anyone luck.”

Luhansk’s governor said about 15,000 civilians are trapped in Severodonetsk, where Russian soldiers are trying to encircle the city. The location has been under intense Russian bombardment for days.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday accused Russia of deliberately targeting Ukrainian grain warehouses, ports and other critical infrastructure to provoke a global food crisis.

“The consequences of these shameful acts are there for everyone to see,” von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Global wheat prices are skyrocketing. And it is fragile countries and vulnerable populations that suffer most.

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“And on top of this, Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail — holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support. This is using hunger and grain to wield power.”