In week eight of fighting, the war between the war between Russia and Ukraine has entered a new phrase as Russia changed tactics, turning to launch attacks in eastern Ukraine and targeting the port city of Mariupol.
The increasing numbers of civilians fleeing Ukraine, Russian exposure to radiation and an additional $800 million in aid to Ukraine are among some consequences of the ongoing conflict in Europe.
Here’s what happened this past week:
Ukraine refugee crisis exceeds 5 million
Over 5 million Ukrainians have fled the country as Russia forces continue to attack, with the majority of refugees fleeing to Poland. Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Russia and Moldova are also each housing more than 300,000 refugees.
The pace of the increasing number of refugees fleeing from Ukraine is starling to Filippo Grandi, the high commissioner of the United Nations’ refugee agency.
“I have worked in refugee crises for almost 40 years, and I have rarely seen such an incredibly fast-rising exodus of people,” Grandi said.
Putin claims victory in Mariupol
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol after a military attack left the city to rubble. Both Ukraine and President Joe Biden rejected Putin’s claims of success. Putin shifted his focus to eastern Ukraine after a failed effort to conquer Kyiv, including hopes to capture Mariupol.
Local authorities provide evidence of mass near Mariupol
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko and members of the city council accused Russian forces of burying as many as 9,000 civilians killed in Manhush, a neighboring city 12 miles west of Mariupol, in a mass grave. Satellite photos from Maxar Technologies revealed what appeared to be rows of more than 200 recently dug mass graves in Manhush.
On Saturday, the Mariupol City Council shared a satellite photo provided by Planets Labs showing what the council said was another mass grave, which could hold bodies of at least 1,000 Mariupol residents.
Russian attacks in Eastern Ukraine
Russia’s recent attacks in eastern Ukraine mark a new phase of the war, and U.S. officials see these attacks as a prelude to a major assault in the Donbas region, according to a senior U.S. Defense Department official. Russia is increasing forces in Ukraine as well as resupplying current forces as it continues its ongoing attacks in the eastern region of the country.
More aid, weapons sent to Ukraine from allies
As the United States predicts a major offensive in eastern Ukraine, Biden sent additional $800 million in military aid to the Ukrainian government. This latest installment of aid brings the total U.S. aid to the ravaged country to about $4 billion. The aid includes 72 howitzers, 121 Phoenix Ghosts drones, 144,000 rounds of ammunition as well as other forms of heavy artillery.
Russians exposed to radiation in Chernobyl
After seizing Chernobyl – one of the world’s most radioactive places – Russian troops exposed themselves to radiation when they dug trenches, churning up highly contaminated soil. Russian troops stayed in the trenches for over a month, within sight of the structure built to contain the radiation from the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Chernobyl is the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, causing significant health and economic consequences for the region.
More coverage of the war in Ukraine from USA TODAY
- From Potemkin to Putin: What a centuries-old myth reveals about Russia’s war against Ukraine
- Retired Gen. Wesley Clark: ‘As Mariupol is destroyed, NATO must make it clear to Putin that he will not win.’
- Zelenskyy’s path from comedy to tragedy: Can he save Ukraine from Russian war invaders?
- A mad dash to rescue refugees: From the frontlines of the Ukraine invasion by Russia
- Ukraine war diary: ‘I would never imagine this and I will never forgive Russia.’