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Leaders are renewing calls for an investigation into attacks on civilians

Kyiv – As Russian forces pressured their attack on Ukraine, world leaders called again for an investigation into the Kremlin’s repeated attacks on civilian targets, including air strikes on schools, hospitals and residential areas, prompting an official to complain that his city never has seen such a “nightmare”, colossal losses. “

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Thursday that U.S. officials are assessing potential war crimes and that if the deliberate attack on Russian civilians is confirmed, there will be “huge consequences.”

In city after city, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought refuge from the bombing were attacked. Rescuers were searching for survivors in the ruins of a theater that served as a refuge when it was blown up by a Russian air strike in the besieged city of Mariupol. And in Merefa, near the northeastern city of Kharkiv, at least 21 people were killed when Russian artillery destroyed a school and community center, a local official said.

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Dozens of bodies were brought to the morgue in the northern city of Chernihiv in just one day.

The UN’s political leader, Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, also called for an investigation into civilian casualties, reminding the UN Security Council on Thursday that international humanitarian law prohibits direct attacks on civilians.

She said many of the daily attacks hitting Ukrainian cities were “reportedly indiscriminate” and involved the use of “explosive weapons with a wide range of influence”. DiCarlo said that the devastation in Mariupol and Kharkov “raises serious concerns about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing increasing attacks.”

In Mariupol, hundreds of civilians reportedly took refuge in a large theater with columns in the city center when it was struck by Russian forces on Wednesday. More than a day after the air strike, no deaths were reported. As communications in the city were disrupted and traffic was hampered by shelling and other fighting, there were conflicting reports as to whether anyone had emerged from the rubble.

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Satellite imagery on Monday from Maxar Technologies showed huge white letters on the sidewalk in front of and behind the theater, reading “CHILDREN” in Russian – “CHILDREN” – to warn military aircraft about those inside.

“We hope and believe that some people who remained in the shelter under the theater could survive,” Petro Andrushchenko, a mayor’s office official, told the Associated Press. He said the building has a relatively modern basement bomb shelter designed to withstand Other officials said earlier that some people had come out.

Video and photos provided by the Ukrainian military show that at least the three-story building has been reduced to a roofless building, with some exterior walls collapsing.

Across the city, whirlwinds of snow poured around the skeletons of burned-out, windowless, shrapnel-dwelling apartment buildings as smoke rose above the skyline.

“We are trying to survive in some way,” said a Mariupol resident who gave only her first name, Elena. “My child is hungry. I don’t know what to give him to eat. “

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She was trying to call her mother, who was in a town 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. “I can’t tell her I’m alive, you know. There is no connection, just nothing, “she said.

Cars, some with the Russian “Z” symbol for invading windows, passed piles of boxes of ammunition and artillery shells in a neighborhood controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

The Russian military has denied bombing the theater or elsewhere in Mariupol on Wednesday.

In Chernihiv, at least 53 people were taken to the morgue in 24 hours, killed in heavy Russian airstrikes and ground fire, local Governor Vyacheslav Chaus told Ukrainian television on Thursday.

Ukraine’s emergency services say a mother, father and three of their children, including 3-year-old twins, were killed in a shelling of a dormitory in Chernihiv. Civilians hid in basements and shelters in the shattered city of 280,000.

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“The city has never had such nightmarish, colossal losses and destruction,” Chaus said.

Ukrainian authorities say 10 people were killed on Wednesday while waiting in line for bread in Chernihiv. Among them is an American, his sister said on Facebook.

The World Health Organization said it had confirmed 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, killing 12 and injuring 34.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for more help for his country in a video address to German lawmakers, saying thousands of people have been killed, including 108 children. He also referred to the difficult situation in Mariupol, saying: “Everything is a target for them.”

The address was delayed due to a technical problem caused by an attack near where Zelenski was speaking, said Bundestag Deputy Speaker Catherine Goring-Eckard.

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Zelensky’s office said Russian air strikes had hit the suburbs of the capital Kyiv, Kalinovka and Brovary. Emergency authorities in Kyiv said a fire had broken out in a 16-storey apartment building, destroying the remains of a downed Russian rocket, killing one person.

Speaking early Friday, Zelensky said he was grateful to US President Joe Biden for additional military assistance, but would not go into details about the new package, saying he did not want Russia to know what to expect. He said that when the invasion began on February 24, Russia expected to find Ukraine, as it did in 2014, when Russia took over Crimea without a fight and supported the separatists as they took control of the eastern Donbass region.

Instead, he said, Ukraine has much stronger defense than expected, and Russia “did not know what we had to defend or how we prepared to face the blow.”

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the G7’s leading economies accused Putin of waging an “unprovoked and shameful war” and called on Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice’s order to stop the attack and withdraw its forces.

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Both Ukraine and Russia reported some progress in the talks this week. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that some negotiators were breaking up into working groups.

Zelensky said he would not reveal Ukraine’s negotiating tactics.

“I work more in silence than on TV, radio or Facebook,” Zelenski said. “I think it’s the right way.”

While details of Thursday’s talks were not known, an official in Zelensky’s office told the AP that the main topic discussed Wednesday was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive talks, said Ukraine insisted on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the talks and on legally binding security guarantees for Ukraine.

In return, the official said, Ukraine is ready to discuss a neutral military status.

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Russia has asked NATO to commit itself to never allowing Ukraine into the alliance or forces there.

Fighting has forced more than 3 million people to flee Ukraine, according to UN estimates. The death toll remains unknown, although Ukraine says thousands of civilians have died.

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Associated Press writer Juras Karmanau of Lviv, Ukraine, and other PA journalists around the world contributed to the report.

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Follow the coverage of the war by the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Leaders are renewing calls for an investigation into attacks on civilians

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