A grave with dozens of civilians has been found in Buzova village near Kyiv, a Ukrainian official said, the latest reported mass grave to be discovered after Russian forces withdrew from areas north of the capital to focus their assault on the east.
Taras Didych, head of the Dmytrivka community that includes Bulova, said the bodies were found in a ditch near a petrol station. He said the number of dead had yet to be confirmed.
“Now we are returning to life but during the occupation we had our ‘hotspots’, many civilians died,” Didych told Ukrainian television late on Saturday.
Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the report.
Mounting civilian casualties have triggered widespread international condemnation and new sanctions, in particular over hundreds of deaths in the town of Bucha, to the northwest of Kyiv that until just over a week ago was occupied by Russian forces.
Russia has rejected allegations by Ukraine and Western countries of war crimes. It has denied targetting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarise and”denazify” its southern neighbour. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.
Russia has failed to take one major city since invading on February 24 but Ukraine says Russia is gathering its forces in the east for a major assault and has urged people to flee.
Russia is seeking to establish a land corridor from Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and the eastern Donbas region, which is partly held by Moscow-backed separatists, Britain’s defense ministry said.
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Russian armed forces are also looking to strengthen troop numbers with personnel discharged from military service since 2012, it said in a regular intelligence update on Sunday.
Some cities in the east are under heavy shelling with tens of thousands of people unable to evacuate.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s use of force was”a catastrophe that will inevitably hit everyone”.
In an address late on Saturday, he renewed his appeal to Western allies for a complete embargo on Russian energy products and more weapons for Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Saturday and pledged armoured vehicles and anti-ship missile systems, along with additional support for World Bank loans.
Britain will also ratchet up its sanctions on Russia and move away from using Russian hydrocarbons, Johnson said.
The European Union on Friday adopted new sanctions against Russia, including bans on the import of coal, wood, chemicals and other products. Oil and gas imports from Russia remain untouched.
Johnson, speaking to reporters with Zelenskyy, said support for Ukraine was intended to ensure it “can never be bullied again, never will be blackmailed again, never will be threatened in the same way again”.
Johnson was the latest foreign leader to visit Kyiv after Russian forces pulled back from the area, marking a return to some degree of normality for the capital. Italy said it planned to re-open its embassy this month.
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But in the east, calls by Ukrainian officials for civilians to flee were given a greater sense of urgency by a missile attack on Friday on a train station in the city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, crowded with women, children and the elderly trying to get out.
Ukrainian officials said more than 50 people were killed.
Russia has denied responsibility, saying the missiles used in the attack were only used by Ukraine’s military. The United States says it believes Russian forces were responsible.
Reuters was unable to verify the details of the attack.
Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksander Honcharenko said he expected just 50 000 to 60 000 of the city’s population of 220 000 to remain as people flee.
Residents of the region of Luhansk would have nine trains on Sunday to get out on, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, wrote on the Telegram message service.
He later said a school and a high-rise apartment building were shelled early on Sunday in the city of Sievierodonets.
“Fortunately, no casualties,” Gaidai wrote on Telegram.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.
Russia’s invasion has forced about a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, turned cities into rubble and killed or injured thousands.
Ukraine has banned all imports from Russia, a key trading partners before the war with annual imports valued at about $6billion.
“The enemy’s budget will not receive these funds, which will reduce its potential to finance the war,” Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko wrote on Facebook.