Zelenskyy urges evacuation of Ukraine's frontline Donetsk

Ukraine president renews calls to make Russia 'state sponsor of terrorism'

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Ukraine's president urged civilians on Saturday to leave the frontline Donetsk region, the scene of clashes with the Russian military, as Kyiv called on the Red Cross and UN to gain access to its soldiers being held by Moscow's forces.

The eastern Donetsk region has faced the brunt of Russia's offensive since its assault on Kyiv failed weeks into the invasion launched on February 24.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address that thousands of people, including children, were still in the region's battleground areas, where six civilians were killed and 15 were wounded on Friday, according to the Donetsk governor.

“There's already a government decision about obligatory evacuation from Donetsk,” Mr Zelenskyy said, underscoring authorities' calls to leave the besieged region in recent weeks.

“Leave, we will help,” Mr Zelenskyy said. “At this stage of the war, terror is the main weapon of Russia.”

Mr Zelenskyy, in his address, again pressed the international community, especially the US, to have Russia officially declared a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

He reiterated the call a day after a jail holding Ukrainian prisoners of war in Russian-controlled Olenivka was bombed, leaving scores dead, with Kyiv and Moscow trading the blame.

On Saturday, Ukrainian human rights official Dmytro Lubinets said on national television he had asked the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission to go to Olenivka.

The ICRC has made a request but has not yet obtained authorisation from the Russians, he said.

Russia's Ministry of Defence accused Kyiv of striking the Olenivka prison with US-supplied long-range missiles, in an “egregious provocation” designed to stop captured soldiers from surrendering.

It said on Saturday that the dead included Ukrainian forces who had surrendered after weeks of fighting Russian forces in the Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol.

The Ministry of Defence said 50 Ukrainian prisoners were killed and 73 were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

“All political, legal and moral responsibility for this bloody massacre of Ukrainians lies with Zelenskyy personally, his criminal regime and Washington, which backs them,” it said.

Mr Zelenskyy laid the blame squarely on Russia.

“This was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” he said.

Members of the Azov Battalion were among those who surrendered at Azovstal.

Commander Mykyta Nadtochiy said he considered the attack on the jail to have been “an act of public execution”.

Relatives of defenders of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol hold a rally demanding to recognise Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Reuters.

Russian strikes on Ukrainian towns and cities continued on Saturday.

Ukrainian authorities said Russian bombardments on the south and east of the country had left one dead in southern Mykolaiv and one dead in eastern Bakhmut.

The death toll from a strike on a Mykolaiv bus stop on Friday rose to seven after two men died in hospital, he added.

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, three Russian S-300 missiles struck a school, mayor Igor Terekhov said on Telegram, adding that the main building was destroyed.

A Ukrainian spokesman said his country's forces had set fire to grain fields around Mariupol so they could not be used by Russian forces.

“The Mariupol resistance forces set fire to the fields with grain so that it would not be stolen by the occupiers,” Sergiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration said.

Updated: July 31, 2022, 8:33 AM
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