Twenty-six bodies have been extracted by Ukrainian rescue workers from the rubble of two apartment buildings in Borodianka, northwest of kyiv, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova announced on Facebook on Thursday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell are expected in kyiv on Friday and are expected to meet President Zelensky.
Evacuation by bus
But it is also to the east of the country, now a priority target for Moscow, that attention is focused. The Kremlin spokesman acknowledged Thursday that Russian forces had already suffered “significant military losses” in this region, citing a “huge tragedy”. Fearing an offensive against these regions, the Ukrainian authorities have again called on the civilian population to leave them.
Russian forces “damaged the railroad at Shastya. From now on, the evacuation will take place only by bus, ”said the governor of the Lugansk region, Sergei Gaïdaï. “All the horrors we have experienced are likely to get worse. Do not condemn yourselves to death! Go! The next few days will be the last chance” for an evacuation, he posted on Facebook.
And in Donestk, the head of the regional military administration Pavel Kirilenko said that three evacuation trains had been temporarily immobilized after a Russian strike against a railway line.
Another new call concerned in particular the city of Severodonetsk, the easternmost held by Ukrainian forces, shelled by Russian troops and where civilians were able to be evacuated by buses, while explosions regularly resounded on its outskirts. A “large number” of evacuees have already arrived in Dnipro, announced Thursday the mayor of this industrial city of one million inhabitants on the Dnieper, the river which marks the limit of the eastern regions of the country.
Russian coal embargo
Accused of “war crimes” in Ukraine, Russia was the subject of a European Union embargo on its coal on Thursday, the first time that the Europeans have hit the Russian energy sector, on which they are very dependent. The EU imports 45% of its coal from Russia for a value of 4 billion euros per year. This embargo will come into force at the beginning of August.
Brussels plans to ban exports to Russia up to 10 billion euros, new sanctions against Russian banks and the closure of European ports to Russian ships. At the same time, the EU is ready to release an additional €500 million to fund arms for Ukraine.
For their part, the G7 countries have announced new sanctions, including a ban on all new investment in key sectors of Russia. Washington paved the way for punitive tariffs against Russia and Belarus, revoking their trade status on Thursday by a vote in Congress.
In a statement, Joe Biden said that “Russia’s lies do not hold up against the indisputable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine. The indications of rape, torture, executions are an “insult to humanity”, he added. These initiatives follow the wave of indignation after the discovery of dozens of dead, wearing civilian clothes and for some with their hands tied behind their backs, in the areas from which the Russian army withdrew and in particular in Boutcha , near Kyiv.
Ukraine and its supporters accuse Russian troops of being responsible for these “war crimes”. Russia denies any abuse, denouncing a Ukrainian “provocation”.
5,000 dead in Mariupol
In Mariupol (south-east), a port city besieged and devastated by the Russian army since the end of February and where some 100,000 inhabitants are still hiding, the “new mayor” proclaimed by the pro-Russian forces announced Thursday that “about 5,000 people” had died among the civilian population.
“About 60 to 70% of the housing stock has been destroyed or partially destroyed,” added Konstantin Ivashchenko, appointed head of the city on Wednesday by Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk separatists. The Ukrainian authorities have put forward much heavier tolls.
Thursday evening, a Russian missile hit infrastructure in the Odessa region, the municipal council of this city in southern Ukraine said on Telegram, without immediately causing any casualties.
And to prepare to counter the expected offensive in the Donbass, kyiv is asking for help from the West. The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs went to Brussels to request immediate deliveries of arms to his counterparts in the Atlantic Alliance.
The Secretary General of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, spoke of “significant support”, considering “preferable not to be too specific on the armaments which will be provided”.
The diplomatic aspect of the crisis shows no signs of progress. Russia said on Thursday that Ukraine had backtracked on some of the proposals it made during talks in late March in Istanbul that Russia said it welcomed.