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Zelensky calls to evacuate civilians from Donetsk frontline amid Russian ‘terror’

Ukrainian leader warns thousands in danger after 6 civilians killed in strikes on Friday in key battleground area

A wheat field burns after Russian shelling a few kilometres from the Ukrainian-Russian border in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, July 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A wheat field burns after Russian shelling a few kilometres from the Ukrainian-Russian border in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, July 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

KYIV — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Saturday for the evacuation of civilians from the eastern Donetsk region which has seen fierce clashes between his country’s forces and the Russian military.

The governor of the eastern Donetsk region, where Moscow is focusing the brunt of its offensive, said that six civilians were killed and 15 wounded by strikes on Friday.

“There’s already a governmental decision about obligatory evacuation from Donetsk region,” Zelensky said in his daily address. “Please, follow evacuation. At this phase of the war, terror is a main weapon of Russia.”

Zelensky warned that thousands of people, including children, were still in the battleground areas of the Donetsk region.

“The decision to leave should be taken at some point. The more people who leave Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will kill,” he said.

Logistics and support operations were being handled by the authorities “from A to Z,” he added.

A view of a school destroyed in a rocket attack outside of Kramatorsk in Donetsk region on July 25, 2022. (BULENT KILIC / AFP)

“We will help you. We are not Russia. We will do everything possible to save the maximum number of human lives and to maximally limit Russian terror,” he said.

Zelensky, in his address, again pressed the international community, especially the United States, to have Russia officially declared a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

He reiterated the call a day after a jail holding Ukrainian prisoners of war in Kremlin-controlled Olenivka was bombed, leaving scores of Ukrainians dead, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame.

On Saturday, Ukrainian human rights official Dmytro Lubinets said on national television he had asked the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission to go to Olenivka.

The ICRC has made a request but has not yet obtained authorization from the Russians, he said.

A destroyed barrack at a prison in Olenivka, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, eastern Ukraine, July 29, 2022. (AP Photo)

Russia’s defense ministry accused Kyiv of striking the Olenivka prison with US-supplied long-range missiles, calling it an “egregious provocation” designed to stop captured soldiers from surrendering.

It said Saturday that the dead included Ukrainian forces who had surrendered after weeks of fighting off Russia’s brutal bombardment of the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol.

Zelensky laid the blame squarely on Russia.

“This was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” he said.

Also on Saturday, Russian strikes continued to rain down on Ukrainian towns and cities.

Ukrainian authorities said Russian bombardments targeting the south and east of the country had left one dead in southern Mykolaiv and one dead in eastern Bakhmut.

The death toll from a strike on a Mykolaiv bus stop on Friday climbed to seven after two men died in a hospital, he added.

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, three Russian S-300 missiles struck a school, mayor Igor Terekhov said on Telegram, adding that the main building was destroyed.

A Ukrainian spokesman said his country’s forces had set fire to grain fields around Mariupol so they could not be used by Russian forces.

“The Mariupol resistance forces set fire to the fields with grain so that it would not be stolen by the occupiers,” Sergiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration said.

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