Live updates | Ukraine: Russian offensive continues in east
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukraine military’s general staff says that Russian forces continue their “offensive operations” in eastern Ukraine with the goal of defeating Ukrainian forces, establishing full control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and securing “a land route between these territories and the occupied Crimea.”
Ukrainian forces in the past 24 hours repelled eight Russian attacks in the two regions, destroying nine tanks, 18 armored units and 13 vehicles, a tanker and three artillery systems, the general staff said on its Facebook page on Saturday morning.
Russian forces continue to partially block and shell Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and are active in the area of Izyum, the update said.
In the strategic port city of Mariupol, Russian troops “continue to blockade” Ukrainian units in the area of the Azovstal steelworks, the last remaining stronghold, and “launch air strikes on the city, including with the use of long-range aircraft,” the post said, adding that an engineering unit arrived to Mariupol in order to demine the port infrastructure.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Possible mass graves near Mariupol shown in satellite images
— EXPLAINER: Why the battle for Mariupol’s steel mill matters
— EXPLAINER: Why Washington is boosting heavy arms for Ukraine
— UN rights chief sees ‘horror story’ of violations in Ukraine
— US to welcome Ukraine refugees but no longer through Mexico
— Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine — Another mass grave has been found outside Mariupol, the city council and an adviser to the mayor said Friday.
The city council posted a satellite photo provided by Planet Labs showing what it said was a mass grave 45 meters (147.64 feet) by 25 meters (82.02 feet) that could hold the bodies of at least 1,000 Mariupol residents.
It said the new reported mass grave is outside the village of Vynohradne, which is east of Mariupol.
Earlier this week, satellite photos from Maxar Technologies revealed what appeared to be rows upon rows of more than 200 freshly dug mass graves in the town of Manhush, located to the west of Mariupol.
The discovery of mass graves has led to accusations that the Russians are trying to conceal the slaughter of civilians in the city.
KYIV, Ukraine — At least three civilians died and seven more were injured in shelling attacks in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine on Friday, as Russian forces continue to roll into the country’s industrial east, the governor of the region said in a Telegram post.
Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko blamed the deaths of “three more peaceful residents” in a small town and two villages on Russian shelling.
In a separate Telegram post earlier, Kyrylenko said that as of Friday afternoon, Russians had opened fire at 20 settlements in the region and destroyed or damaged 34 civilian infrastructure facilities.
Also on Friday, the local prosecutor’s office in the northeastern region of Kharkiv said in a Telegram post that charred bodies of two residents were discovered near the city of Izyum that same day. The post accused Russian soldiers of torturing the residents and burning their bodies.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will convene a meeting next week in Germany of defense officials and military leaders from more than 20 countries to discuss Ukraine’s immediate and long-term defense needs.
The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said Friday that about 40 nations, including NATO members, were invited and that responses are still arriving for the session to be held Tuesday at Ramstein air base. He did not identify the nations that have agreed to attend but said more details will be provided in coming days.
The meeting comes as Russia gears up for what is expected to be a major offensive in eastern Ukraine.
The agenda will include an updated assessment of the Ukraine battlefield as well as discussion of efforts to continue a steady flow of weapons and other military aid, Kirby said. It will include consultations on Ukraine’s post-war defense needs but is not expected to consider changes in the U.S. military posture in Europe, he said.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that one serviceman died, 27 more went missing and 396 were rescued after a fire on the flagship missile cruiser Moskva last week.
The statement comes a week after the vessel sunk.
Shortly after the incident, the ministry said the entire crew of the ship, which was presumed by the media to be about 500 people, had been rescued. The ministry did not offer an explanation for the contradicting reports.
Ukraine said it hit the cruiser with a missile strike.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s security chief said Friday that the main battles in the country are taking place in the Donbas, the industrial heartland in the east, with Russia deploying more and more troops every day.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told The Associated Press that over 100,000 Russian troops are currently fighting in Ukraine, including mercenaries from Syria and Libya.
Some of Russia’s elite military units have left the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which was declared “liberated” by the Kremlin on Thursday, and are now moving to the east of the country to participate in the fighting there, Danilov said.
Danilov said a nighttime helicopter delivery brought weapons to Mariupol’s steel mill, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the city. He urged Ukraine’s Western partners to speed up the delivery of weapons to his country.