A file photo of the runway at Odessa airport in Ukraine, which was destroyed by a Russian strike on Saturday. (Image: AFP PHOTO/ALEXEI KRAVTSOV)
Russian forces also kept up their relentless shelling on the east of Ukraine, killing at least one person and injuring 12 more
- AFP Kyiv, Ukraine
- Last Updated:April 30, 2022, 23:40 IST
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Ukrainian police on Saturday reported finding three bodies shot in the head with their hands tied near the town of Bucha, which has become synonymous with allegations of Russian war crimes.
The three bodies found in a pit were “brutally killed” by Russian soldiers — each shot in the head, the police said in a statement. “The victims’ hands were tied, cloths were covering their eyes and some were gagged. There are traces of torture on the corpses,” it said.
Russian forces also kept up their relentless shelling on the east of the country, killing at least one person and injuring 12 more.
In Odessa, meanwhile, regional governor Maxim Marchenko said a Russian missile destroyed the airport runway — as Russia targets infrastructure and supply lines deep in the west of the country. There were no victims from the airport strike.
On the front line in the east, Russian troops have advanced slightly in some areas but Ukrainian forces have also recaptured territory in recent days — particularly around the city of Kharkiv.
One of the areas taken back from Russian control was the village of Ruska Lozova which evacuees said had been occupied for two months. “It was two months of terrible fear. Nothing else, a terrible and relentless fear,” Natalia, a 28-year-old evacuee from Ruska Lozova, told AFP after reaching Kharkiv.
“We were in the basements without food for two months, we were eating what we had,” said Svyatoslav, 40, who did not want to give his full name, his eyes red with fatigue.
Thousands have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes since the Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbour began on February 24.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby on Friday briefly choked with emotion as he described the destruction in Ukraine and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “depravity”.
Ukrainian prosecutors said they had pinpointed over 8,000 war crimes carried out by Russian troops and were investigating 10 Russian soldiers for suspected atrocities in Bucha.
Russia earlier said it carried out an air strike on Kyiv in which a journalist was killed during a visit by United Nations chief Antonio Guterres the previous day, the first such attack on the Ukrainian capital in nearly two weeks. Russia’s defence ministry said it had deployed “high-precision, long-range air-based weapons” that “destroyed the production buildings of the Artyom missile and space enterprise in Kyiv”.
Russia is now intensifying operations in the eastern Donbas region, making some territorial advances, and tightening its stranglehold on the devastated southern port city of Mariupol. Ukrainian authorities have said they are hoping for an evacuation soon from the besieged Azovstal steel plant, the last holdout in Mariupol where hundreds are sheltering with Ukrainian troops.
But Denis Pushilin, leader of the breakaway eastern region of Donetsk, accused Ukrainian forces of “acting like outright terrorists” and holding civilians hostage in the steel plant. From Mariupol’s badly damaged port zone, AFP on Friday heard heavy shelling coming from Azovstal during a media trip organised by the Russian army, with explosions only a few seconds apart.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk, meanwhile, reported that 14 Ukrainians including a pregnant soldier had been freed in the latest prisoner exchange with Russian forces. She did not say how many Russians had been returned.
‘Not very fast’
Kyiv has said Russian forces had captured a string of villages in the Donbas region. “Even if there has been some advance by Russian troops on the ground, it is not very fast,” Russian military expert Alexander Khramchikhin told AFP.
But Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the “special military operation… is proceeding strictly according to plan”, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
More western armaments are due to arrive in Ukraine, with US President Joe Biden on Thursday seeking billions of dollars from Congress to boost supplies.
Following a conversation with Zelenskyy, President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday that France would also “intensify” military and humanitarian support.
Russia’s defence ministry in recent days has said its forces have struck Ukrainian military sites hosting western-supplied weapons and ammunition, a claim denied by a senior NATO official. Russia has warned Western countries against sending more military aid.
“If the US and NATO are really interested in resolving the Ukraine crisis, then first of all, they should wake up and stop supplying the Kyiv regime with arms and ammunition,” Lavrov said.
(Written by Joshua Melvin)