Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that he believed “tens of thousands” of people in Mariupol had been killed.
Speaking to South Korea’s National Assembly by video link, Zelensky said Russia had “completely destroyed” the besieged city in the southeast of the country.
“The Russians completely destroyed Mariupol and burned it to ashes. At least tens of thousands of Mariupol citizens must have been killed,” he said.
“But for Russia, Mariupol is just an example. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve seen a lot of destruction like this in the 20th century.”
Zelensky’s comments came as Ukrainian forces prepared for a “last battle” to control Mariupol, marines in the city said.
“Today will probably be the last battle, as the ammunition is running out,” the 36th marine brigade of the Ukrainian armed forces said on Facebook.
“It’s death for some of us, and captivity for the rest,” it added, saying it had been “pushed back” and “surrounded” by the Russian army.
Mariupol has seen the most intense fighting since the Kremlin launched its attack on Ukraine, with the city being virtually razed to the ground.
While southern cities such as Mariupol are preparing for battle in the south, Ukrainian authorities have begun to take stock of what has been left behind since Russian President Vladimir Putin called off his northern offensive to capture the capital of Kyiv.
The most shocking images so far emerged from the commuter town of Bucha, occupied for more than a month. It was there that Ukraine alleges Russian troops committed war crimes by shooting civilians in the street.
But other villages, towns and roads on the northwest flank of Kyiv have also seen alleged mass killings of civilians.
The mayor of Makariv told the Haaretz daily that so far the bodies of 132 civilians shot dead by invading Russian forces have been found around the town.
Mayor Vadim Tokar told the newspaper in a report Monday that most of those killed were shot by the road as they tried to flee. He said that 16 of the dead, including two children, had been buried but were later discovered.
In just one of many stories from the town, some 50 kilometers west of Kyiv, a man named Serhiy recounted how his uncle and cousin were killed by looting Russian soldiers.
“They looted, ripped the bars off the store and started taking everything out. My uncle stayed there. They shot him, in the leg and head. Then his son, my cousin, came to pick him up and they shot him. They laid them face down on the floor and shot them. In the chest,” he said.
His partner Ivanka said the two were buried in the yard.
“Where they lived, they are now buried,” she said.