World leaders have issued fresh calls for an investigation of the Kremlin’s attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that American officials were evaluating potential war crimes and that if the intentional targeting of civilians by Russia is confirmed, there will be “massive consequences”.
Areas in cities, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety from the bombardment have been attacked. Rescue workers searched for survivors in the ruins of a theatre that served as a shelter when it was blown apart by a Russian airstrike in the besieged city of Mariupol. In Merefa, near the northeast city of Kharkiv, at least 21 people were killed when Russian artillery destroyed a school and a community centre, a local official said.
The United Nations political chief Rosemary DiCarlo, also called for an investigation into civilian casualties, reminding the UN Security Council on Thursday that international humanitarian law bans direct attacks on civilians.
She said many of the daily attacks battering Ukrainian cities “are reportedly indiscriminate” and involve the use of “explosive weapons with a wide impact area”. Ms DiCarlo said the devastation in Mariupol and Kharkiv ”raises grave fears about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing intensifying attacks”.
The World Health Organisation said it has verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, with 12 people killed and 34 injured.
Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for more help for his country in a video address to German lawmakers, saying thousands of people have been killed, including 108 children. He also referred to the dire situation in Mariupol, saying: “Everything is a target for them.”
The address began with a delay because of a technical problem caused by an attack close to where Mr Zelensky was speaking, Bundestag deputy speaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt said.
In remarks early on Friday, Mr Zelensky said he was thankful to US President Joe Biden for additional military aid, but he would not get into specifics about the new package, saying he did not want Russia to know what to expect. He said when the invasion began on February 24, Russia expected to find Ukraine much as it did in 2014, when Russia seized Crimea without a fight and backed separatists as they took control of the eastern Donbas region.
Instead, he said, Ukraine had much stronger defences than expected, and Russia “didn’t know what we had for defence or how we prepared to meet the blow”.
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading economies accused Mr Putin of conducting an “unprovoked and shameful war,” and called on Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice’s order to stop its attack and withdraw its forces.
Both Ukraine and Russia this week reported some progress in negotiations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that some negotiators were breaking into working groups.