Russian forces in Ukraine are bombing cities and killing civilians but making no progress overland, Western countries said on Thursday, as a war that Moscow hoped to win within days entered its fourth week.
Local officials said rescue workers in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol were searching the ruins of a theater where women and children were shelteredbombed by Russian forces the day before.
“The bomb shelter held up. Now the rubble is being removed. There are survivors. We still don’t know about (number of) victims,” municipal adviser Petro Andrushchenko told Reuters by telephone.
Russia denied hitting the theatre, which commercial satellite images showed had the word “children” etched into the ground before it blew up.
Mariupol suffers the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war, with hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in basements without food, water and power for weeks. Russian forces began releasing some people in private cars this week, but prevented aid convoys from reaching the city.
Viacheslav Chaus, governor of a region centered on the northern city of Chernihiv, which was heavily bombed, said 53 civilians had been killed in the past 24 hours. The data could not be independently verified.
In the capital Kiev, a building in the Darnytsky district was badly damaged by what authorities said was the wreckage of a missile fired early in the morning.
As residents removed the glasses and took the bags with their belongings, a man knelt crying next to the body of a woman who was near a door, covered by a bloody sheet.
While both sides acknowledged limited progress in peace talks this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion on Feb. 24, showed little sign of relenting.
In a televised speech, he criticized “traitors and scum” from within his country that they would be helping the West, and said that the Russian people would spit them out like mosquitoes.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Putin’s Security Council, said the United States had fueled “disgusting” Russophobia in an attempt to force Russia to its knees: “It won’t work — Russia has the power to put all our impetuous enemies instead.”
Kiev and its Western allies believe Russia launched the unprovoked war to dominate a neighbor Putin calls an artificial state. Moscow says it is carrying out a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces in large numbers have prevented Moscow from capturing any of Ukraine’s biggest cities so far, despite the biggest attack on a European state since World War II. More than 3 million Ukrainians fled and thousands of civilians and fighters died.
No truce and more bombing: see the images of the 22nd day of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia
Copyright © Thomson Reuters.