Twenty-six bodies have been recovered from the rubble of two apartment buildings in Borodianka, northwest of Kiev, by Ukrainian rescuers, Ukrainian Attorney 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 Kiev on Friday and are expected to meet President Zelensky.
Evacuation by bus
But it is also in the east of the country, now a priority target for Moscow, that attention is being drawn. The Kremlin spokesman acknowledged on Thursday that Russian troops have already suffered “significant military losses” in the region, citing a “huge tragedy”. Fearing an offensive against these regions, the Ukrainian authorities have again appealed to the civilian population to leave them.
Russian troops “damaged the railway line at Shastya. From now on, the evacuation will only take place by bus,” said the governor of the Lugansk region, Sergei Gaïdaï. “All the horrors we’ve been through are likely to get worse. Don’t condemn yourself to death! To go! The coming 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 three evacuation trains had been temporarily halted after a Russian attack on a railway line.
In particular, another new call concerned the city of Severodonetsk, the easternmost city held by Ukrainian troops, shelled by Russian troops and where civilians could be evacuated by buses, while explosions regularly echoed in the suburbs. A “large number” of evacuees have already arrived in Dnipro, announced the mayor of this industrial city of a million inhabitants on the Dnieper, the river that marks the border of the country’s eastern regions.
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 Europeans hit Russia’s energy sector, on which they rely heavily. The EU imports 45% of its coal from Russia worth EUR 4 billion per year. This embargo will come into effect at the beginning of August.
Brussels plans to ban exports to Russia up to €10 billion, 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 EUR 500 million to finance arms for Ukraine.
The G7 countries, for their part, 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 by withdrawing their trade status through a vote in Congress on Thursday.
In a statement, Joe Biden said that “Russia’s lies do not outweigh the indisputable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine. The indications of rape, torture and executions are an “insult to humanity,” he added. These initiatives follow the wave of outrage following the discovery of dozens of dead, dressed in civilian clothes and some with their hands tied behind their backs, in the areas from which the Russian army withdrew, and in particular in Boutcha, near Kiev.
Ukraine and its supporters accuse Russian troops of being responsible for these “war crimes”. Russia denies any abuse and denounces a Ukrainian “provocation”.
5,000 dead in Mariupol
In Mariupol (southeast), a port city that has been besieged and devastated by the Russian army since late February and where about 100,000 inhabitants still hide, the “new mayor” proclaimed by pro-Russian forces announced on 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 on Wednesday by Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatists in Donetsk. The Ukrainian authorities have proposed much higher tolls.
On Thursday evening, a Russian missile hit infrastructure in the Odessa region, the city council of this southern Ukraine city said on Telegram, without causing any immediate casualties.
And to counter the expected offensive in the Donbass, Kiev asks for help from the West. Ukraine’s foreign minister went to Brussels to demand immediate arms deliveries to his colleagues in the Atlantic Alliance.
Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke of “considerable support” as he “prefers not to be too specific about the armaments that will be delivered”.
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 had made during talks in Istanbul in late March, which Russia had welcomed.