Chris Lange, FISM News
New satellite images show what appear to be mass graves near Mariupol, where Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory Thursday. Local officials have accused Russia of burying up to 9,000 Ukrainian civilians to conceal the slaughter taking place in the ruined port city that is now almost completely under Russian control, the Associated Press reports.
Maxar Technologies, which provided the satellite images, said they show more than 200 mass graves in Manhush outside of Mariupol, appearing to confirm accusations by Ukrainian officials that Russian soldiers have been taking the bodies of Ukrainian civilians killed in the brutal siege and burying them elsewhere to conceal their deaths.
NEW: Satellite imagery reveals a mass grave site about 12 miles west of Ukraine's besieged city of Mariupol.
Russian soldiers have been reportedly taking the bodies of people killed in Mariupol to this site in Manhush, Ukraine that contains more than 200 graves.
— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch) April 21, 2022
“The bodies of the dead were being brought by the truckload and actually simply being dumped in mounds,” Piotr Andryushchenkoan, an aide to Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko, said.
Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, the Kremlin remains resolute in its denial that its forces have intentionally killed any Ukrainian civilians.
Russia is now in control of Mariupol, though the Kremlin estimates that about 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 1,000 civilians remain trapped in the tunnels of the Azovstal steel plant, the last holdout in the city that has endured some of the worst suffering of the war. Putin told his forces not to storm the heavily-bombed, sprawling factory yesterday, citing an unnecessary risk to his troops. Instead, he ordered them to seal off the site until those who remain are forced to surrender, due to a lack of food, water, and ammunition.
Mariupol evacuee describes horror of siege
Russian attacks struck the city of Zaporizhzhya, a depot for people fleeing Mariupol. No one was wounded, according to the regional governor.
“What was happening there was so horrible that you can’t describe it,” said Yuriy Lulac, who fled Mariupol after spending nearly two months hiding in a basement with a dozen others. The group of civilians had no access to running water and scarce food.
Lulac said the Russians have been “killing people for nothing.”
“Mariupol is gone. In the courtyards there are just graves and crosses,” Lulac said.
The Red Cross had tried to evacuate 1,500 people by bus Thursday but said only a few dozen were able to escape. Rescue workers said the Russians stopped buses and pulled people off.
More than 100,000 people were believed to have been trapped with little or no food, water, heat, or medicine in Mariupol. Ukrainian authorities estimate that over 20,000 people have been killed in the port city which had a prewar population of roughly 430,000.
Zelenskyy berates Russia for refusing Holy Week ceasefire request
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lashed out at Russia for refusing a United Nations request for a four-day ceasefire during Holy Week in his nightly video address. Today marks Good Friday in Ukraine.
“This shows very well how the leaders of this state actually treat the Christian faith, one of the most joyful and important holidays,” the Ukrainian president said, as reported by Fox News. “But we keep our hope. Hope for peace, hope that life will overcome death.”
“Tomorrow is Good Friday for Eastern Christians,” the president continued. He called the holiday “the most sorrowful day of the year, a day when everything you can do in life will weigh less than prayer. Except for one [thing]… defending the homeland, defending brothers-in-arms in battle.”
U.S. to send another $800 million in aid to Ukraine
In Washington, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will travel to Ramstein Air Base in Germany to meet with his counterparts from a select group of nations where they will discuss Ukraine’s defense needs, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a press release Thursday.
“The goal [is] to bring together stakeholders from all around the world for a series of meetings on the latest Ukraine defense needs and — and this is critically important — ensuring that Ukraine’s enduring security and sovereignty over the long term is respected and developed,” Kirby said. The press secretary said that the military leaders will discuss a strategy for ensuring a “continued flow of security assistance” to Ukrainian troops defending against the Russian offensive in the east.
Kirby said the group will also discuss what Ukraine will likely need after the conflict ends.
“Part of the agenda will be to talk about Ukraine’s long-term defense needs in a postwar environment and what that might look like,” Kirby said. “The secretary … believes that it’s not too soon to begin to have a longer-term discussion with allies and partners about what Ukrainian sovereignty needs to look like going forward.”
As of the date of the release, Kirby said the Pentagon had not yet finalized a list of participants, though he indicated it will include “more than just NATO nations.”
The press secretary also announced another $800 million aid package for Ukraine that will include 72 howitzers and artillery rounds, 72 tactical vehicles, over 120 tactical unmanned aerial systems, and a variety of “field equipment and spare parts.” The U.S. thus far has provided Ukraine with $3.4 billion in security assistance since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
“This commitment, together with the 18 howitzers that were announced on the 13th of April, provide enough artillery now to equip five battalions for Ukraine for potential use in the Donbas,” Kirby said. “I want to stress again that what we’re providing is done in full consultation with the Ukrainians and that they believe that these systems will be helpful to them in the fight in the Donbas. Where and when they employ them and how they employ them, of course, is going to be up to them.”