A third mass grave has been found near the embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol, and the mayor says Russian occupiers have forced residents to work on the burials.
The trench, seen on satellite images, stretches more than 200 yards – and contains thousands of civilian bodies, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said.
“We know about these mass graves because these fascists – and I have no other words – involve the local population for burial,” Boychenko told Radio Svoboda. “They told us that you need to work hours (for) food, water. … People are forced to do so.”
Weeks of Russian bombardments have devastated the community and shrunk the once-bustling city of more than 400,000 to a small fraction of that number. Russian forces control most of the city; holdouts are centered in and around the sprawling Azovstal steel plant. The British Defense Ministry says Russia’s decision to besiege rather than attack the plant means many Russian units cannot be redeployed elsewhere in the country.
“Ukraine’s defense of Mariupol has also exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness,” the British assessment says.
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►The European Union intends to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas by two-thirds by year’s end and to zero by 2028, European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni told the Messaggero daily.
►Mariupol is drawing global notice, but local officials said at least nine people were killed and several more wounded by Russian attacks on other towns and cities in eastern and southern Ukraine. Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, said Russian forces “continue to deliberately fire at civilians and to destroy critical infrastructure.”
►German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said her government has cleared delivery of self-propelled armored anti-aircraft guns. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced mounting pressure to approve sending heavy weapons to Ukraine.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde lashed out at Russia officials for expelling four Swedish diplomats, calling the action “unjustified and disproportionate.” By expelling Western diplomats, Russia is intensifying its international isolation, she said on Twitter. Three Russian diplomats were expelled from Sweden earlier this month.
“Sweden will respond appropriately to Russia’s unwarranted actions,” Linde said.
On Monday, media outlets in Finland and Sweden reported that both nations will apply next month to join NATO. One of Russia’s stated reasons for its invasion of Ukraine was concern over NATO expansion.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby on Tuesday reiterated the Defense Department’s interest in seeing Russia weakened so it cannot threaten its geographic neighbors.
“Russia continues to isolate itself, its economy is in tatters, its military has been depleted in many ways … they are a weaker military, they are a weaker state right now,” Kirby said in an interview with CNN. “We don’t want to see Russia able to conduct this kind of invasion again in the future.”
Kirby also responded to comments made by Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on raising the specter of nuclear war, calling them “obviously unhelpful, not constructive and certainly not indicative of what a responsible nuclear power ought to be doing in a public sphere.”
– Ella Lee
The U.S. and its allies “will keep moving heaven and earth” to support Ukraine’s efforts to repel the Russian invasion, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday. Austin met with officials from dozens of countries at the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany to work out ways to aid to Ukraine’s military. Guests included Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.
“Russia’s invasion is indefensible,” Austin said. “So are Russian atrocities.”
He said the invasion was an effort to “indulge the ambitions of one man” – Russian President Vladimir Putin. More than 30 allies and partners have joined the U.S. in sending security assistance to Ukraine, committing more than $5 billion worth of equipment.
“All of us have your back. And that’s why we’re here today – to strengthen the arsenal of Ukrainian democracy,” he said. “Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.”
A top Russian diplomat said the danger of a nuclear conflict is “serious” and “real” during an interview on Russian television.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to become involved in the conflict. NATO has provided support for Ukraine since the invasion two months ago but has steadfastly declined to institute a no-fly zone for Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance.
NATO forces are “pouring oil on the fire” by providing weapons to Ukraine, he said.
“Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III,” Lavrov said.
Contributing: The Associated Press