The decomposing bodies of 200 people were found in the basement of a bombed-out apartment building in battered Mariupol, authorities said Tuesday, marking the latest in a series of dismal discoveries since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began three months ago.
Mayoral adviser Petro Andryushchenk said local residents had refused Russian demands to collect the bodies of the dead, so Russia’s Ministry of Emergencies left the bodies amid the rubble.
Mariupol has been left in ruins by weeks of missile attacks. Last week the last Ukrainian fighters surrendered, giving Russia complete control of the city that was home to 450,000 people before the war. An estimated 100,000 remain. Mayor Vadym Boychenko claims the Russian bombardment of the city killed thousands of civilians.
Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of attempting to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.
“There has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
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►Mariupol’s port has been cleared of mines and work is underway to restore operations, said Eduard Basurin, militia spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Mariupol is Ukraine’s largest port on the Azov Sea.
►Vladimir Saldo, installed by Russia as governor of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, said the area will have dual currency – Russian rubles and Ukrainian hryvnyas – starting Monday.
►Russian troops continue to block about 22 million tons of grain in the Ukrainian ports intended for export, an action that will aggravate the global food crisis, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
Russian leaders defend progress of war
The war reached the three-month mark Tuesday, and Russian leaders went public to make their case that all is well. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu brushed aside claims that his troops have made little headway, saying the offensive was slowed deliberately “to avoid civilian casualties.” This despite relentless shelling of cities that reportedly has killed thousands of civilians.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told Russian media that the Kremlin “is not chasing deadlines” tp end the war. He raised the Kremlin’s recurring theme that the war would end Nazism in Ukraine, although the government is democratically elected and led by a Jewish president.
“Nazism must either be 100% eradicated, or it will raise its head in a few years, and in an even uglier form,” he said.
Austin: ‘This is not the United States’ fight’
The United States has sent tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, some of it in military assistance. On Saturday, President Joe Biden signed a $40 billion aid package that included more than $20 billion for the Pentagon to provide weapons, intelligence and training to Ukraine.
But the U.S. has refrained from sending American troops to the war-torn country. Bringing American forces back to Ukraine would require “presidential decisions,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday at a press conference.
“I think this is Ukraine’s fight,” Austin said. “It’s not the United States’ fight. We are doing everything that we can to make sure that we are supporting them in their effort to defend their sovereign territory.”
Meanwhile, Biden told fellow Indo-Pacific leaders assembled for a four-country summit Tuesday that they were navigating “a dark hour in our shared history” because of Russia’s brutal war and he urged the group to make a greater effort to stop Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
“This is more than just a European issue. It’s a global issue,” Biden said as the “Quad” summit with Japan, Australia and India got underway. While he did not directly call out any countries, Biden’s message appeared to be pointed, at least in part, at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom differences persist over how to respond to the Russian invasion.
Blinken discusses food security with Ukraine foreign minister
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday, discussing the global food security crisis resulting from the war and potential means to export Ukraine’s grain to international markets. Blinken spokesman Ned Price said Blinken conveyed details on the $40.1 billion supplemental appropriations act signed by President Joe Biden on May 21.
“The Secretary again underscored the United States’ strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Moscow’s aggression,” Price said.
Navalny unbowed: Putin ‘will be defeated in … the stupid war”
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s nine-year prison sentence for fraud was upheld by an appeals court Tuesday, but the Vladimir Putin foil remained unbowed. Navalny was convicted of defrauding supporters by seeking donations to run for president even though he knew a previous sham conviction disqualified him from being a candidate.
Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on Twitter that the prison where Navalny will be transferred to is notorious for inmates being tortured and killed.
“But as Navalny said in his final words today, ‘Putin can break a lot of lives, but sooner or later he will be defeated in both this and the stupid war he is waging,'” Yarmysh wrote.
US, Britain accuse Russia of cyberattacks, spreading disinformation
The United States and Britain accused Russia of manipulating public opinion and spreading disinformation about the war in Ukraine by conducting cyberattacks and censoring content. Britain’s deputy ambassador James Roscoe said to a U.N. Security Council that Russia used cyberattacks and “an online troll factory to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion about their war.”
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Russian government “continues to shut down, restrict and degrade Internet connectivity, censor content, spread disinformation online and intimidate and arrest journalists for reporting the truth about its invasion.”
Russia has passed strong censorship laws, threatening individuals with up to 15 years of prison for publishing information that runs counter to Russia’s narrative about the invasion.
Contributing: The Associated Press