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Russian retreat reveals destruction as Ukraine asks for help – The Denver Post

By ADAM SCHRECK and ANDREA ROSA

CHERNIHIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops left behind crushed buildings, streets littered with wrecked cars and residents in dire need of food and other aid in a northern Ukrainian town, fueling the Kyiv calls on Thursday for increased Western support to help halt Moscow’s offensive before refocusing on the east of the country.

Dozens of people lined up to receive loaves of bread, nappies and medicine from vans parked outside a destroyed school now serving as an aid distribution point in Chernihiv, which Russian forces besieged for weeks in part of their attempt to sweep south towards the capital before retreating.

City streets are lined with bombed-out houses and buildings, missing roofs or walls, and a message in chalk on a classroom blackboard still reads: “Wednesday, February 23 – Classwork” .

Russia invaded the next day, launching a war that has seen more than 4 million Ukrainians flee the country, displace millions more inside and send shockwaves across Europe and beyond .

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned on Thursday that despite a recent Russian withdrawal, the country remains vulnerable, pleading for “weapons, weapons and weapons” from NATO to deal with the upcoming offensive in the East. Western alliance nations have agreed to increase their arms supply, spurred by reports of atrocities committed by Russian forces in areas surrounding the capital, kyiv.

Western allies have also stepped up financial sanctions targeting Moscow, including a European Union ban on Russian coal imports and a U.S. decision to suspend normal trade relations with Russia.

Kuleba encouraged Western countries to continue to attack Russia, suggesting that any relaxation would ultimately lead to more suffering for Ukrainians.

“How many Buchas have to take place for you to impose sanctions? Kuleba asked reporters, referring to a town near kyiv where Associated Press reporters counted dozens of bodies, some burned, others apparently shot at close range or with their hands tied. “How many children, how many women, how many men have to die – innocent lives have to be lost – for you to understand that you cannot allow punishment fatigue, like we cannot allow battle fatigue?”

Ukrainian officials said earlier this week that the bodies of 410 civilians had been found in towns around the capital. Volunteers spent days picking up the bodies, and more were picked up at Bucha on Thursday.

Ukraine and several Western leaders have blamed the massacres on Moscow troops, and the weekly Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that the German foreign intelligence agency had intercepted radio messages between Russian soldiers discussing the killings of civilians. Russia falsely claimed that Bucha’s scenes were staged.

Kuleba became emotional as he referred to the horrors of the city, telling reporters they couldn’t understand “what it feels like after seeing pictures of Bucha, talking to people who escaped, knowing that the person that you know was raped four days in a row.”

His comments came in response to a reporter’s question about a video allegedly showing Ukrainian soldiers shooting a captured and wounded Russian soldier. He said he had not seen the video but it would be investigated and acknowledged there may be “isolated incidents” of violations.

The video has not been independently verified by the AP.

During the 6-week war, President Vladimir Putin’s forces failed to quickly take the Ukrainian capital and achieve what Western countries said was the Russian leader’s original goal of toppling the government Ukrainian. In the wake of that setback and heavy casualties, Russia focused on Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.

The United Nations humanitarian chief told the AP on Thursday that he was “not optimistic” about securing a ceasefire after meeting with officials in Kyiv and Moscow this week, stressing the lack of trust that both parties have for each other. He spoke hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukraine of backtracking on proposals it had made on Crimea and Ukraine’s military status.

It is unclear how long it will take for the withdrawal of Russian forces to redeploy, and Ukrainian officials have urged residents of the country’s east to leave before fighting escalates there.

The head of Ukraine’s national railway system said Russian shelling had already blocked the evacuation of residents from some eastern regions by train.

“The situation in the Donbass is heating up and we understand that April will be quite warm, so those who have the opportunity to leave – women, children, the elderly – should stay in a safe place,” said Borys Filatov, the mayor of Dnipro. , a town just west of the Donbass, said during a briefing.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukrainian and Russian officials agreed to establish civilian evacuation routes from several areas in Donbas on Thursday.

Even as Ukraine braced for a new phase of the war, Russia’s withdrawal brought some relief to Chernihiv, which lies near Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus and was cut off for decades. weeks. But the departing soldiers left behind twisted buildings and traumatized residents, who climbed over rubble and passed cars destroyed by the fighting.

Resident Vladimir Tarasovets described the nights during the siege when he watched the burning city and listened to the sound of shelling.

“It was very hard, very hard. Every evening there were fires, it was scary to look at the city. In the evening, when it was dark, there was no light, no water, no gas, no amenities at all,” he said. “How did we get here? I have no words to describe how we got there.

Tatiana Nesterenko, who left Chernihiv for Medyka in Poland, said she spent 40 days hiding in her basement.

“Our house was destroyed by an airstrike,” she said. “There was no help, no volunteers for us. We extinguished the fire by ourselves.

Revulsion over the invasion of Ukraine has intensified over the past week as footage has revealed what some Western leaders have called Bucha war crimes. As well as prompting NATO countries to agree to send more weapons, the revelations led Western countries to tighten sanctions, and the world’s major powers in the Group of Seven warned that they would continue to intensify measures until Russian troops leave Ukraine.

The US Congress on Thursday voted to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and ban its oil imports, while the European Union approved new punitive sanctions against Russia, including an embargo on coal imports . The UN General Assembly, meanwhile, on Thursday voted to suspend Russia from the world body’s main human rights body.

Der Spiegel reported that individual radio messages dealing with the killing of civilians could be linked to photos of bodies found in Bucha. The outlet reported that German intelligence agency BND informed lawmakers of the information on Wednesday.

In a radio message, a Russian soldier allegedly told another how he and others shot a person on a bicycle. In another post, a speaker recounts how the Russian military interrogated enemy soldiers before killing them.

Overnight, Russia maintained its barrage on several towns, hitting fuel storage sites around Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Chugev with cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea.

A Ukrainian navy vessel caught fire in unclear circumstances in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, Planet Labs PBC satellite photos analyzed by the Associated Press program on Thursday.

Mariupol has seen some of the greatest deprivation of the war, and the mayor said Wednesday that more than 5,000 civilians had been killed there. Russian forces are fighting street by street to take the city; this would allow it to secure a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

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Schreck reported from Kyiv, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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