Russian death toll reaches 20,000 as Ukraine retakes 'key terrain'

Almost 20,000 Russian troops have now been killed in battle, Kyiv claims as Ukraine retakes ‘key terrain’ amid fears Putin is plotting ‘full-scale’ attack in east where citizens have been told to flee their homes

  • Ukraine is continuing to push back Russian forces from Kyiv and Chernihiv but ‘low level fighting’ continues
  • Russia is refocusing its efforts on the Donbas and is preparing up to 60,000 reservists for reinforcements
  • A nitric acid tank was shelled in Luhansk, with residents told to wear masks, close windows and shelter inside 

The Russian death toll in Ukraine is nearing 20,000, Kyiv has claimed, as Ukraine continues to push back invading Kremlin troops and retake ‘key terrain’ around the capital and Chernihiv.

Putin’s forces continue to suffer losses and retreat from major cities in the west as they refocus their efforts on the Donbas, targeting Mariupol and shelling a nitric acid tank in Rubizhne, forcing civilians to remain inside their homes with their windows shut. 

Luhansk governor Sergiy Gaiday said Russia is planning a major attack in the region as he ordered a mass evacuation, with 60,000 Russian reservists expected to be called in to reinforce Moscow’s offensive in the east.

He said: ‘We understand that they are preparing for a full-scale big breakthrough. Please don’t wait for your homes to be bombed.’

Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces aimed to fully take over the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces claimed by Russian-backed separatists and encircle a group of Ukrainian forces.

‘Russian troops have attacked Mykolayiv with cluster munitions banned by the Geneva convention. Whole blocks of civilian buildings have come under fire, in particular, a children’s hospital,’ the general staff said in a daily update on Tuesday.

The air attack has killed at least 11 including children, and 61 people have been injured.

British defence officials said ‘low-level fighting is likely to continue in some parts of the newly recaptured regions, but diminish significantly over this week as the remainder of Russian forces withdraw’ from Kyiv and Chernihiv.

In an intelligence update posted online, the UK says many of the Russian units ‘are likely to require significant re-equipping and refurbishment before being available to redeploy for operations in eastern Ukraine.’ 

Russia has shelled a nitric acid tank in Rubizhne as the chairman of Luhansk ordered everyone to remain inside and close their windows

A view of the Mariupol theatre damaged during fighting in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that even though Ukraine is taking back the capital, he urged civilians not to return for ‘at least another week’, with explosives left around the city. Pictured: teams work to clear explosives

The wreckage of a car is seen at the central square of Borodianka, northwest of Kyiv, as Russian troops start to withdraw from the capital

A body is carried at a school in Bucha where Russia has been accused of carrying out war crimes after piles of corpses were found following Ukraine’s recapture

An estimated 5,000 civilians have died in Mariupol alone (pictured) which has been subjected to a brutal blockade

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that even though Ukraine is taking back the capital, he urged civilians not to return for ‘at least another week’, with explosives left around the city.

He described the situation in east of Ukraine as ‘critical’, saying 5,000 civilians alone had died in Mariupol which has been subjected to a brutal blockade, leaving residents stranded in shelters without food, power or water for weeks, as multiple evacuation efforts were halted.

In the crucial port city, a civilian ship is sinking today after it was struck during ‘shelling from the sea’ by Russia, causing a fire in the engine room, Ukraine said.

The crew was rescued, including one injured crew member, from the ship which was flying the flag of the Dominican Republic and posted a picture of a cargo vessel. 

Klitschko said the total death toll of Russians has now reached 20,000, although these claims have not been independently verified.

As Ukrainian troops recaptured towns devastated by nearly six weeks of war, including Bucha, dead civilians were found lining the streets. 

Grim images of a mass grave and the bound bodies of people shot at close range prompted an international outcry and pledges of more sanctions against Moscow. 

Klitschko described seeing the bodies of civilians, including an old woman, during visits to Bucha and other towns near Kyiv in the past two days, where Russians have been accused of horrific war crimes.  

A woman carries her bicycle past destroyed buildings in the town of Borodianka, northwest of Kyiv

Broken: A visibly emotional President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday stood motionless as he surveyed the scene of utter devastation he encountered in the town of Bucha, with dozens of bodies shot at close range laying on the empty streets

A van with ‘children’ written on it – intended as a warning to Russian troops – is seen riddled with bullet holes in Bucha 

A car with multiple signs saying ‘children’ in Russian as a warning to Putin’s forces not to shoot is shown shot to pieces

A satellite image taken of a street in the city of Bucha on March 19 – when Russian forces were in full control of the city – shows dark objects in the road that exactly match where civilian corpses were later discovered by Ukrainian troops

Ukrainian officials have warned that the slaughter of hundreds of civilians by Russian troops on the outskirts of Kyiv could just be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as more allegations of atrocities emerge. Pictured: A destroyed building in Borodyanka, Ukraine

A car with a white flag and the letters ‘children’ on the outside had been shot up and had blood inside, he said, adding that officials were looking for the occupants’ bodies.

Russia has denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians and said it would present ’empirical evidence’ to a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday proving its forces were not involved.

Moscow is facing more Western sanctions in retaliation for the civilian killings, as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for a thorough investigation, saying more dead could be found in areas seized from Russian invaders.

Moscow accused the West of staging the deaths to discredit its troops, denied that they had carried out any atrocities and threatened to expel more Western diplomats. 

U.S. President Joe Biden called for a war crimes trial against Putin and Washington will ask the U.N. General Assembly to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and a close Putin ally who now serves as deputy head of his security council, said the reports of civilian killings in Bucha were ‘fakes’ aimed at discrediting Russia.

Pictured: Locals carry a coffin on a wheelbarrow as the city was hit by shelling in the small city of Borodyanka near Kiev

A view of a burned apartment amid the ongoing conflict in the city of Mariupol under the control of the Russian military

Russia launched what it calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine on February 24, saying it aimed at demilitarizing and ‘denazifying’ its neighbour

Mariupol residents have been stranded in shelters without food, power or water for weeks, as multiple evacuation efforts were halted

Pictured: Parts of a destroyed aircraft at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine

Moscow said it would present ’empirical evidence’ to a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday proving its forces were not involved.

In an early morning video address, Zelenskiy said he would also speak to the Security Council on Tuesday as he builds support for an investigation into the killings in Bucha and other actions of the Russian military. 

‘And this is only one town. One of many Ukrainian communities which the Russian forces managed to capture,’ he said, adding there were reports of more deaths in other liberated towns.

Reuters saw several bodies apparently shot at close range, along with makeshift burials and a mass grave in Bucha, but could not independently verify the number of dead or who was responsible.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said he spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about Bucha and stressed ‘that Ukraine will use all available UN mechanisms to collect evidence and hold Russian war criminals to account.’

Kuleba also had a call with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Monday, with Beijing again calling for talks to end the conflict.

Destroyed Russian military vehicles are seen on the streets of Bucha after it was recaptured by Ukrainian forces 

Moscow said it would present ’empirical evidence’ to a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday proving its forces were not involved in the tragedy at Burcha

Grim images of a mass grave and the bound bodies of people shot at close range prompted an international outcry and pledges of more sanctions against Moscow

A residential building destroyed by shelling, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Borodyanka in the Kyiv region

Atrocities: Burned buildings which was hit by shelling is seen in small city of Borodyanka near Kyiv at the start of the conflict

Pictured: A satellite image taken on March 31 shows the mass grave – a 45ft-long pit – dug behind the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints in Bucha, during the time that Russian forces were in control of the region

Pictured: Burned cars and warehouses near the Antonov airport in Hostomel, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday April 4

The call, which Beijing said was made at Ukraine’s request, was the first reported high-level conversation between the countries since March 1, when, according to Kyiv, Kuleba asked Beijing to use its ties with Moscow to stop Russia’s invasion. 

Russia launched what it calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine on Feb. 24, saying it aimed at demilitarizing and ‘denazifying’ its neighbour, Ukraine and the West say the invasion was illegal and unjustified. 

Both Germany and the Biden administration said new sanctions against Moscow were due to be announced in coming days.

The U.S. State Department also said it was supporting an international team of prosecutors and experts in their work collecting and analysing evidence of atrocities.

France and Germany said they would expel Russian diplomats and Medvedev said Moscow would respond in kind and ‘slam shut the door on Western embassies’.

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said the European Union must discuss banning Russian gas, though other officials urged caution around measures that could touch off a European energy crisis.

Russia supplies about a third of Europe’s gas, and Putin has tried to use energy as a lever to fight back against Western sanctions. So far, however, Moscow has kept its gas flowing into Europe, despite uncertainty over Putin’s demands for payments in roubles.

In the latest effort to pile pressure on Moscow, United States stopped the Russian government from paying holders of its sovereign debt more than $600million from reserves held at U.S. banks.  

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