More than 5,000 civilians have been killed in the besieged city port of Mariupol since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, a senior official claimed.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said that among the thousands of civilians killed during weeks of Russian airstrikes and street fighting, 210 were children.
He claimed Russian troops had bombed hospitals, including one that burned 50 people, adding that more than 9 percent of the city’s infrastructure had been completely destroyed.
The city has been encircled by Russian forces for more than a month, cutting off the city of food, water, fuel and medicines.
Almost 160,000 people remained trapped in the city, which had a pre-war population of 430,000, according to British defense officials.
A humanitarian aid convoy accompanied by the Red Cross has been trying unsuccessfully to enter the city since Friday.
In other developments, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Moscow is now mobilizing reinforcements and trying to advance deeper into the east of the country.
“The fate of our country and our people is being decided. We know what we are fighting for. And we will do everything to win,” said Zelensky.
His comments came after a US defense official said Russian forces had completed the withdrawal of all of their estimated 24,000 or more troops from the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas in the north of the country.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were being sent to Belarus or Russia to resupply and reorganize.
US and Western allies have imposed further sanctions on the Kremlin in response to scenes of atrocities uncovered as Russian troops evacuated the city of Bucha, northwest of the capital Kyiv, last week.
Biden vows to ‘amplify the pain’ for Putin to increase economic isolation
The UK government has frozen assets of Russia’s biggest bank Sberbank and “completely banned” foreign investments in the country worth £11 billion in 2020.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed directly at the families of Mr Putin and Secretary of State Sergei Lavrov, and also blocked further new investments in Russia.
“There is nothing less than serious war crimes happening,” Biden said in a speech to union leaders, referring to the Ukrainian city of Bucha, which was retaken by Russian forces, where civilians were shot at point blank range.
“Responsible nations must come together to hold these perpetrators accountable,” he said. “And together with our allies and our partners, we will continue to increase the economic cost and exacerbate the pain for Putin.”
Moscow has insisted its troops did not commit war crimes and said the pictures from Bucha were staged by Ukrainians.
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Additional reporting by agencies