Russia has completed the withdrawal of 24,000 troops from kyiv and Chernihiv in preparation for an expected major offensive in Donbass.
Putin’s soldiers were sent to Belarus and Russia to resupply and reorganize ahead of the heavy attack in eastern Ukraine, US intelligence sources said.
Residents of Donbass have been ordered to evacuate now ahead of the impending maneuver.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Moscow is now gathering reinforcements and trying to drive deeper into the east of the country, where the Kremlin has said its aim is to “liberate” the region.
“The fate of our land and our people is being decided. We know what we are fighting for. And we will do everything to win,” Zelensky said, six weeks into the war.
But a Western security official said it would take battle-damaged Russian forces up to a month to regroup for the major push.
A man pushes his bicycle through debris and destroys Russian military vehicles on a street in Bucha
Firefighters remove debris from a destroyed building shelled by the Russian military in Borodyanka
A Ukrainian serviceman steps on an abandoned Russian army tank in Andriivka after the withdrawal
A damaged car is seen next to a heavily damaged building in Hostomel which was liberated by Ukraine
“Later, people will be under fire,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, “and there is nothing we can do to help them.”
Zelensky added today that Russia continues “to build up combat forces to realize its evil ambitions in (eastern) Donbass”.
“They are preparing to resume an active offensive,” he said.
Pleading with civilians to leave the area “while still possible”, local officials in Lugansk and Donetsk in the Donbass said the area was already facing constant indiscriminate shelling.
It comes as the mayor of Mariupol put the city’s civilian death toll at 5,000.
Vadym Boichenko said 210 of the civilians killed during the shelling, street fighting and blockade were children.
He said Russian forces bombed hospitals, including one where 50 people were burned to death.
Mr Boichenko said more than 90% of the city’s infrastructure had been destroyed.
Attacks on the strategic southern Sea of Azov city have cut off food, water, fuel and medicine and pulverized homes and businesses.
Local residents walk past a destroyed building in the town of Borodianka, northwest of Kyiv, after a Russian shelling
Bucha resident Tetiana Ustymenko mourns at the grave of her son, buried in the garden of her home
Residents of Donbass have been ordered to evacuate now ahead of the impending maneuver
British defense officials said 160,000 people remained stuck in the town, which had a population of 430,000 before the war.
A humanitarian aid convoy accompanied by the Red Cross has been trying for days without success to enter the town.
Capturing Mariupol would allow Russia to secure a continuous land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
In the north, Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians had been found in towns around kyiv, victims of what Mr Zelensky described as a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment and torture.
At a cemetery in the town of Bucha, workers began loading more than 60 bodies apparently collected over the past few days onto a grocery shipping truck to transport them to a facility for further investigation.
The Kremlin has insisted its troops have committed no war crimes, accusing the Ukrainians of staging Bucha’s footage.
Cyclists pass a building reduced to rubble by the Russian army in Borodyanka
A heavily damaged car is seen next to a damaged new building in Hostomel which had been occupied for a month
Hostomel was occupied for more than a month by Russian forces as they made their way to the Ukrainian capital, before finally retreating to Belarus last week.
Thwarted in their efforts to quickly take the capital, an increasing number of President Vladimir Putin’s troops, as well as mercenaries, are said to have entered the Donbass.
At least five people were killed by Russian shelling on Wednesday in the Donbas region, according to Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, who urged civilians to move to safer areas.
In the Luhansk region of the Donbass, Russian shelling set fire to at least 10 multi-storey buildings and a shopping center in the city of Sievierodonetsk, the regional governor reported. There was no immediate word on the dead or injured.
Russian forces also attacked a fuel depot and factory in the Dnipropetrovsk region, just west of Donbass, authorities said.
In response to alleged atrocities outside kyiv, the United States announced sanctions against Putin’s two adult daughters and said it was toughening sanctions against Russian banks.
Britain has banned investment in Russia and pledged to end its dependence on Russian coal and oil by the end of the year.
Civilians board a train as they are evacuated from combat zones in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast
A growing number of President Vladimir Putin’s troops, as well as mercenaries, have been reported moving into the Donbass
At a cemetery in the town of Bucha, workers began loading more than 60 bodies apparently picked up in recent days
The European Union should also take additional punitive measures, including a coal embargo.
US President Joe Biden has said “Russia has already failed in its original war” after the country’s forces were forced back from the Ukrainian capital of kyiv. He warned, however, that “this fight is far from over”.
“This war could go on for a long time,” but the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine and Ukrainians in the fight for freedom, Biden said. “We will stifle Russia’s ability to grow for years to come.”
Meanwhile, the US and UK boycotted an informal Security Council meeting called by Russia to push its baseless claims that the US has biological warfare labs in Ukraine.
The meeting was the latest of several moves by Russia that have led Western countries to accuse Moscow of using the UN as a disinformation platform to distract from the war.
Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky, who chaired the meeting, claimed that Ukraine, backed by the United States, was carrying out what he considered dangerous projects and experiments in the part of a military biological program.
These allegations have already been refuted. Ukraine owns and operates a network of biological laboratories that have received funding and research support from the United States and are no secret.
They are part of an initiative called the Biological Threat Reduction Program which aims to reduce the likelihood of deadly disease outbreaks, whether natural or man-made.
American efforts date back to the 1990s to dismantle the former Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction program.