Ukrainian negotiator says talks with Russia continue
Russia cites ‘significant losses’ on battlefield
Zelenskiy pushes West to do more, calls for full energy ban
Teams scour rubble of destroyed buildings in towns near Kyiv
LVIV/BORODYANKA, Ukraine, April 8 (Reuters) – Russia gave its most sombre take yet on the six-week long war in Ukraine, describing the “tragedy” of rising troop losses and the economic pain of sanctions, as Ukrainian authorities rushed civilians out of the way of a looming big offensive in the east.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen more than 4 million people flee abroad, killed or injured thousands, turned cities into rubble and led to sweeping sanctions that Moscow says put its economy in the most difficult situation in three decades.
In a symbolic move, the U.N. General Assembly suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council, expressing “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis”. Russia then quit the council.
Russia has previously acknowledged its attack has not progressed as quickly as it wanted but on Thursday Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov lamented the rising death toll.
“We have significant losses of troops,” he told Sky News. “It’s a huge tragedy for us.”
Ukraine’s military general staff said on Friday that Russian forces were focused on capturing the besieged southern port of Mariupol, fighting near the eastern city of Izyum and breakthroughs by Ukrainian forces near Donetsk.
Russia says it launched what it calls a “special military operation” on Feb. 24 to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext.
After new sanctions in response to civilian deaths in the town of Bucha that were widely condemned by the West as war crimes, Ukraine called on allies to boost it militarily and stop buying Russian oil and gas, a demand that exposed divisions in Europe.
“Ukraine needs weapons which will give it the means to win on the battlefield and that will be the strongest possible sanction against Russia,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video late on Thursday.
He also said the situation in Borodyanka – another town northwest of Kyiv retaken from Russian forces – was “significantly more dreadful” than in Bucha. He offered no further detail or evidence that Russia was responsible for civilian deaths in the town.
As rescue teams there searched through the rubble of a charred apartment block with its middle section razed to the ground, families looking for relatives watched.
“My mother, my brother, brother’s wife, his mother and father-in-law, are still there, as well as other people who were there in the basement,” resident Vadym Zagrebelnyi told Reuters.
Russia has denied targeting civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions and derail peace negotiations. read more
Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said in televised comments on Friday both sides were “constantly” talking online, but the mood had changed since the events in Bucha.
The European Union agreed a fifth round of sanctions against Moscow, including a coal embargo with a 120-day wind-down period sought by Germany. read more
But Ukraine accused Hungary of undermining EU unity after Budapest said it was prepared to pay roubles for Russian gas, a Kremlin demand that most in the West had resisted.
On the battlefield, Ukraine says Russia is regrouping after withdrawing from Kyiv’s outskirts to try to gain full control of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, partly held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Ukraine said it aimed to establish up to 10 evacuation corridors on Friday for civilians in the east and south. But those trying to flee the southern port of Mariupol, where tens of thousands remain trapped without power and dwindling supplies, would have to use private vehicles.
Authorities in Dnipro, a city in east-central Ukraine, also urged women, children and the elderly to leave. read more
British military intelligence said Russian forces were shelling cities in the east and south and had advanced further south from the city of Izyum, which is under their control. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.
TRADING ACCUSATIONS OF ABUSE
Both sides have traded accusations of abuse, with Moscow opening a criminal investigation into a Russian soldier’s allegations that he was beaten and threatened with death while being held in Ukraine as a prisoner of war. read more
Separately, a social media video verified by Reuters and geolocated to an area west of Kyiv appears to show Ukrainian forces shooting and killing a captured and badly wounded Russian soldier. read more
Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said that in the Kyiv region, which includes Borodyanka, Bucha and other towns and villages such as Irpin, authorities had found 650 bodies, with 40 of them children.
Ukraine’s prosecutors said 169 children had been killed and 306 wounded in the country since the Feb. 24 start of the invasion.
Bucha’s mayor has said dozens were the victims of extra-judicial killings carried out by Russian troops. Reuters could not independently verify those figures.
Accounts by at least a dozen residents of one apartment complex in Bucha painted a picture of violence and intimidation by Russian soldiers.
Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Costas Pitas and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich