THE GUARDIAN: Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said up to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, with no total yet available for civilian casualties, as fighting intensified in the battle for the southern city of Mariupol.
Ukraine’s president said the military situation in the south and east was “still very difficult”, while praising the work of his armed forces. “The successes of our military on the battlefield are really significant, historically significant. But they are still not enough to clean our land of the occupiers,” he said in a late-night video address, calling again for allies to send heavier weapons and for an international embargo on Russian oil.
Ukraine president claims up to 20,000 Russian soldiers have died; reprisals from Moscow expected in wake of sinking of flagship cruiser the Moskva
Zelenskiy, speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, assessed that about 10,000 of his soldiers had been injured in the war so far, and that up to 20,000 Russian soldiers had died. Moscow said last month that 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded. There is no way yet to independently verify either claim.
Ukrainian forces remain braced for Russian reprisals after the sinking of flagship cruiser the Moskva, the pride of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which US defence officials confirmed had sunk after a Ukrainian missile strike. The government in Kyiv said it had destroyed the giant missile cruiser during a combat operation in the Black Sea on Wednesday. The boat’s ammunition deck exploded after it was hit by two Neptune anti-ship missiles, it added.
Russia said that since the sinking, it had struck what it described as a factory on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv that made and repaired anti-ship missiles.
The US believes two Ukrainian missiles hit the Moskva, causing Russian casualties, a senior official said, countering Moscow’s claim that the missile cruiser sank because of an onboard explosion and more than 500 sailors were evacuated. The fate of the vast majority of the crew remains unclear.
Zelenskiy has appealed to Joe Biden for the United States to designate Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” joining North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Syria, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with their conversation. A White House spokesperson responded by saying: “We will continue to consider all options to increase the pressure on Putin.”
Russia this week reportedly sent a formal warning to the US not to send more arms to Ukraine or risk facing “unpredictable consequences”. The diplomatic note, or démarche, warned that US and Nato deliveries of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine were “adding fuel” to the conflict.
The US is preparing to send the latest $800m (£610m) tranche of military aid to Ukraine, bringing to $2.6bn the total since the start of the war. The Biden administration has also made clear that it was sending increasingly heavy and sophisticated equipment, including helicopters, aerial and marine drones, and long-range 155mm howitzers, while training Ukrainian soldiers in their use.
The Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, and top finance officials including the finance minister, Serhiy Marchenko, and the central bank governor, Kyrylo Shevchenko, will head to Washington next week to attend International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, sources told Reuters and Associated Press. It will be the first chance for key Ukrainian officials to meet in person with financial officials from advanced economies since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February.
The bodies of more than 900 civilians have now been discovered in the Kyiv region after the withdrawal of Russian forces, police have said. It is double the number announced two weeks ago by Ukrainian authorities.
Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, said the bodies had been abandoned in the street or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95% had died from gunshot wounds. “Consequently, we understand that under the occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said.
After seven weeks of war, Ukraine said it was trying to break Russia’s siege of the south-eastern port city of Mariupol, a city so devastated by shelling and cut off by invading forces that the head of the World Food Programme warned civilians trapped there were at risk of starving to death.
Home to 400,000 people before Russia’s invasion, Mariupol has been reduced to rubble. Thousands of civilians have died and tens of thousands remain trapped.
Ukrainian defence ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said in a briefing that the Russians had not completely captured it but added: “The situation in Mariupol is difficult and hard. Fighting is happening right now. The Russian army is constantly calling on additional units to storm the city.” If Moscow captures Mariupol, it would be the first big city to fall.
Russia’s defence ministry said it had captured the city’s Illich steelworks, but that report could not be confirmed. Ukrainian defenders are mainly believed to be holding out in Azovstal, another huge steelworks.
Both plants are owned by Metinvest – the empire of Ukraine’s richest businessman and backbone of Ukraine’s industrial east – which told Reuters on Friday it would never let its enterprises operate under Russian occupation.