Ukraine’s eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk now see the worst fighting since Russia’s invasion, when Moscow’s forces withdrew from around the capital Kyiv.
Gathering evidence of alleged Russian atrocities, officials continue to count civilian casualties around Kyiv and in Ukraine’s southeast.
Here’s the latest on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
Thousands of civilians killed in Mariupoli
The mayor of the besieged port city of Mariupol put the death toll at more than 5,000 as of Wednesday local time.
Mayor Vadim Boichenko said 210 of the civilians killed during weeks of Russian bombing and street fighting were children.
He said the Russian military bombed hospitals, including a hospital where 50 people died in burns.
Mr Boichenko said more than 90 percent of Mariupol’s infrastructure has been destroyed. Attacks on the strategic southern city on the Sea of Azov have cut off food, water, fuel and medicine, and shattered homes and businesses.
British defense officials said 160,000 people were trapped in Mariupol, which had a population of 430,000. A humanitarian relief convoy with the Red Cross has been trying to enter the city for several days, but without success.
Capturing Mariupol would allow Russia to secure a continuous land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia reportedly completed pullouts from Kyiv and Cherniv
A US defense official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Russia has completed the withdrawal of all of its estimated 24,000 or more troops from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions in the north, sending them to Belarus or Russia.
Ukrainian authorities continued to collect dead in scattered cities outside the capital amid signs that Moscow’s troops indiscriminately killed civilians before retreating for the past several days.
Soldiers on the outskirts of Kyiv were procuring heavy ammunition and spare parts from armored vehicles when Russian forces abandoned their attempt to encircle the city.
Meanwhile, police and rescue services checked on residents and warned them to stay away from areas believed to have been mined by abandoned Russian troops.
In the north, Ukrainian officials said bodies of at least 410 civilians had been found in cities around Kyiv, in what Zelensky portrays as a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment and torture.
Some of the victims were apparently shot at close range. Some hands were found tied.
The Kremlin has insisted that its troops have committed no war crimes, alleging that the images of dead civilians were staged by Ukrainians.
Ukraine ready for new offensive in the east
Failed in their attempts to capture Kyiv and forced to retreat, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are now moving east, where Ukrainian forces have said it is ready for a new attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Moscow is now making reinforcements in the country’s east, where the Kremlin has said it aims to “liberate” the Donbass, Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking industrial stronghold.
Ukrainian officials are urging people living in the Donbass to evacuate before an imminent Russian offensive, while there is still time.
“Later, people will come under fire, and we will not be able to do anything to help them,” said Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk.
A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence projections, said it would take a month for Russia’s war-damaged forces to regroup to make a big push on eastern Ukraine. It will take
The regional governor reported that in the Luhansk region of Donbass, Russian bombing set fire to at least 10 multi-storey buildings and a mall in the city of Svyarodonetsk. There was no immediate word on deaths or injuries.
Officials said Russian forces also attacked a fuel depot and a factory in the Dnipropetrovsk region, west of the Donbass.
The Ukrainian military has been fighting Russia-backed separatists in the Donbass since 2014. Before the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow recognized the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as independent states.
Russia accuses Ukraine of cross-border attack
Moscow continues to accuse Ukraine of attacking Russian targets across the border.
A Russian regional official said Wednesday local time that border guards had come under fire in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine, while schools in nearby Belgorod were evacuated after bomb threats, according to the city’s mayor. went.
“Yesterday … they tried to fire mortars at the positions of our border guards in Suzhansky district,” said Roman Starovit, governor of the Kursk region.
“The Russian border guards retaliated … there were no casualties or damage on our side.”
Responding to a question about the border incident, a spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said: “We have no such information.”
Russia’s claims are yet to be confirmed.