Russia seizes Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, besieges Mariupol and Kherson
And in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, Russian troops fired cluster munitions at at least three residential neighborhoods, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Friday.
The number of casualties caused by more than a week of fighting is impossible to verify. The UN human rights office said on Friday that at least 331 civilians had been killed, while Ukrainian emergency services put the number of civilians killed much higher, at more than 2,000. A UN statement said most of the casualties were caused “by the use of explosive weapons with a wide area of impact, including heavy artillery bombardments and multiple rocket launcher systems, as well as than missiles and air strikes”. Russia has acknowledged the death of around 500 of its soldiers, while Ukrainian officials say up to 10,000 Russian soldiers were killed or captured.
Russia’s seizure of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, came after a bombardment set fire to part of the complex, raising fears across Europe of a catastrophic accident. The UN’s nuclear watchdog said the blaze did not affect “essential” equipment and Ukraine’s regulator reported no changes in surrounding radiation levels. US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted that the Energy Department had also seen no elevated radiation readings.
“The plant’s reactors are protected by robust containment structures and the reactors are shut down safely,” Granholm wrote. Even so, the blaze sparked international alarm and underscored the dangers of war waged around nuclear sites.
In Mariupol, Russian forces were engaged in a “bombardment of critical civilian infrastructure” aimed at forcing the city to surrender, a senior Western intelligence official said.
The city’s mayor, Vadym Boychenko, said officials hoped the talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials would establish a “period of silence” to restore utilities such as electricity and water. “Our main task is to provide Mariupol residents with food and basic necessities,” he said in a message posted online by the city council.
Kherson, meanwhile, faces a “global catastrophe” if a humanitarian corridor is not opened quickly to allow the evacuation of civilians and the delivery of food and medicine, the city council secretary said.
“In Kherson, we are running out of food – literally, we can still hold out maybe three, four days,” city council secretary Galina Luhova said by phone. “We are running out of medicine, we are running out of baby food, we are running out of diapers and we are running out of first aid in hospitals.”
The Russian blitz to take Kherson may have revealed a broader strategy in southern Ukraine, where the Pentagon said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces had been most successful in gaining territory.
The clashes have spread to nearby Mykolaiv, a major city that feeds into the Black Sea. The Russians may want to capture Mykolain as a route to advance to Odessa, the strategic port farther west. The Russian military could use the city as a means to support and reinforce any future amphibious landings in Odessa, a senior US defense official said on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with ground rules set by the Biden administration.
With the conflict now in its second week and Russia sending almost all of its mustered military power to neighboring Ukraine, satellite images provide a glimpse of the scale of the invading force, as well as of the devastation caused by the fighting. Analysis of satellite images by US company Maxar Technologies shows damaged bridges and roads and destroyed homes in cities and towns across the country.
In Chernihiv, a strategic northern town on a highway that connects the Ukrainian-Belarusian border with Kiev and where a fierce battle has been fought in recent days, images show damaged roads, bridges and houses. Some factories seem to have been razed. On Friday, the Chernihiv regional authority said in a Facebook post that Russian strikes had killed 47 people, including nine women.
Footage also continues to show a long Russian armored column north of the capital, Kiev. This huge convoy has stalled due to what Western officials say are logistical challenges and fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces.
The column, made up of combat and logistics vehicles, “is now likely supporting attacks directly into the city from positions that Russian forces are maintaining in the northwestern outskirts of Kiev,” the senior Western intelligence official said Thursday. , adding that Russian forces were more likely to “prioritize”. encircling the city in the next few days rather than a direct assault on it.
Alarm over the plight of Ukrainian cities has intensified amid mounting evidence that Russian forces are indiscriminately targeting urban centers.
“We have seen the use of cluster bombs and we have seen reports of the use of other types of weapons which would be in violation of international law,” the NATO secretary general said on Friday. Jens Stoltenberg, to the press in Brussels.
In its report on Friday, Human Rights Watch said it documented the use of cluster munitions based on two interviews with witnesses and analysis of 40 videos and images. Some of these sources show “explosion signatures and rocket remnants” consistent with the delivery of cluster munitions from 9M55K Smerch rockets, the group added.
Due to the indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions – they scatter small bomblets over a wide area that could explode even after fighting has ended – Human Rights Watch has argued that Russia could have committed a war crime by using them. .
“The use of cluster munitions in populated areas shows a shameless and callous disregard for people’s lives,” said Steve Goose, armaments director at Human Rights Watch. “If these murderous acts were committed intentionally or recklessly, they would be war crimes.”
The United States, which is at odds with many of its allies in failing to sign a treaty banning cluster munitions, has said for days it cannot verify they were used by the Russians in Ukraine.
Fahim reported from Istanbul, Horton from Washington and Cheng from Seoul. Ellen Francis in London, and Hannah Knowles and Steven Mufson in Washington contributed to this report.