PUCHA, Ukraine (AB) – The Ukrainian military on Tuesday said Russian forces were preparing for an offensive in southeastern Ukraine, amid outrage over evidence that Moscow’s soldiers were deliberately killing civilians.
The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin is mobilizing troops to seize control of an industrial hub in the eastern part of Ukraine known as the Donbass. This led to the discovery of bodies following Russia’s evacuation of cities around the capital, Kiev, which sparked allegations of war crimes and calls for tougher sanctions on Moscow.
On its Facebook page, civil servants said that Russian forces were focusing on capturing the cities of Bobasna and Rubisne in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as the Black Sea port of Mariupol. Donetsk and Luhansk are controlled by pro-Russian separatists and recognized by Moscow as independent states. Public servants say access to Kharkiv, east of Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been blocked.
“The enemy is concentrating its efforts on reorganizing troops and preparing for offensive operations in the east of our country,” the statement said. “The goal is to establish full control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”
Speaking from Ukraine, Zelenskyy planned to speak with Security Council diplomats on Tuesday amid calls for an investigation into possible war crimes.
Germany and France expelled dozens of Russian ambassadors, claiming they were spies. President Joe Biden said Putin should be investigated for war crimes.
“This guy is brutal, and what’s happening in Pucha is outrageous,” Biden said, adding that there had been some horrors about the city northwest of the capital.
Before Zelenskyy speaks, the most powerful UN organization is to be explained by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; His political leader, Rosemary Dicarlo; And Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian leader, is trying to organize a ceasefire. Griffiths is scheduled to meet with Russian officials in Moscow on Monday and visit Ukraine.
The Associated Press in Pucha counted dozens of corpses in civilian clothes and without weapons, many shot at close range, and some with their hands tied or their flesh burned.
Zhelensky, who toured the vicinity of Pucha and spoke to survivors of starvation queuing for bread, promised in the video address that Ukraine would work with the European Union and the International Criminal Court to identify Russian militants involved in any atrocities.
“The time will come for every Russian to learn the whole truth about who killed, who commanded, and who is blind to the killings of their fellow citizens,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has dismissed the footage outside Kiev as “anti-Russian provocation managed on stage”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the pictures contained “signs of video fraud and various imitations.”
Russia has denied previous allegations that the atrocities were fabricated by Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials say the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in cities around Kiev that have been recovered from Russian forces.
The Ukrainian Attorney-General’s Office described a room found in Pucha as a “torture chamber.” In one report, the bodies of five men were found with their hands tied in the basement of a children’s health center where civilians were tortured and killed.
Among the bodies seen by Andhra journalists in Pucha were at least 13 people in and around a building where locals said Russian troops had used it as a base. The other three bodies were found on a staircase, and a group of six people were cremated together.
Bodies wrapped in black plastic piled up at one end of a mass grave in Pucha Church are also included. Many of the victims were shot in cars or killed in grenades trying to leave the city. Father Andre Kalavin said the church was the only place to keep the dead because the morgue was full and the grave was inaccessible.
Tanya Nedashkivska said she was buried in the garden outside their apartment building after being arrested by Russian troops. His body was one of the bodies piled up on a staircase.
“Please, I beg you, do something!” She said. “I speak, a Ukrainian woman, a Ukrainian woman, a mother of two children and a grandchild. For all wives and mothers, bring peace on earth so that no one will grieve again.
Volodymyr Pilhutskyi, another Pucha resident, was taken away by Russian soldiers to his neighbor Pavlo Vlachenko because the military-style trousers he was wearing and the uniforms that Vlasenko claimed belonged to his bodyguard son appeared suspicious. When Vlachenko’s body was later found, his neighbor said it contained burns from a flamethrower.
Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzia told a news conference on Monday that “not a single local person has been harmed in any way by the violence.”
However, high-resolution satellite images from commercial provider Maxar Technologies showed several bodies lying in the open while Russian forces were in Pucha for several weeks. The New York Times first reported on satellite images showing the dead.
Western and Ukrainian leaders have previously accused Russia of war crimes. The lawyer for the International Criminal Court has already begun an investigation. But recent reports have sparked outrage.
Pucha’s pictures show the “incredible brutality of the Russian leadership and its campaign followers,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbach.
French President Emmanuel Macron Bucha has “clear evidence of war crimes” that call for new punitive measures.
“I am in favor of a new round of sanctions, especially on coal and petrol. We must act,” he told France-Inter radio.
Despite uniting in anger, European allies were divided over how to respond. While Poland has urged Europe to give up Russia’s power quickly, Germany has said it will stick to a gradual approach to gradually reducing coal and oil imports over the next few months.
Russia has withdrawn several of its forces from the area around Kiev after a failed attempt to seize the capital quickly. Instead it has concentrated forces in southeastern Ukraine.
A senior U.S. defense official, who spoke anonymously to discuss the intelligence assessment, said two-thirds of the Russian troops surrounding Kiev had left and were on their way to Belarus or there, possibly with additional supplies and reinforcements.
More than 1,500 civilians were able to escape from Mariupol on Monday, taking advantage of the declining number of private vehicles available for exit, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vareshchuk. The besieged southern port city has seen some fierce fighting of the war.
But in the midst of the fighting, a convoy of buses with the Red Cross was stopped for several days in an attempt to deliver supplies and evacuate residents, unable to get back into the city, Vareshuk said.
Elsewhere, 11 people were killed in a Russian shelling attack in the southern city of Mykolayiv, regional governor Vitaly Kim said in a video message on social media.
Zelenskyy demanded more weapons as Russia prepared for new attacks.
“If we already had what we needed – these planes, tanks, artillery, anti-missile and anti-ship weapons – could have saved thousands of lives,” he said.
Yuras Karmanov, Liv in Ukraine; Edith Letter at the United Nations; Journalists Lolita Baldor in Washington and the Associated Press around the world contributed to the report.
Follow AP’s information on the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine