‘God will not forgive, ‘ Zelensky says as Russian forces kill fleeing civilians

Ukrainian president lashes Western leaders for inaction after Russia threatens factories; Kyiv says shelling against cities intensifies, halting evacuation efforts

The dead bodies of people killed by Russian shelling lay covered in the street in the town of Irpin, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Diego Herrera Carcedo)
The dead bodies of people killed by Russian shelling lay covered in the street in the town of Irpin, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Diego Herrera Carcedo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed Western leaders and vowed no forgiveness for Russian “atrocities,” as its military intensified attacks on Ukraine’s cities and killed a group of civilians fleeing violence.

After Russia said it will attack Ukrainian defense industry facilities, some of which are in cities, Zelensky said early Monday morning, “It’s murder, simply murder, and I didn’t see any world leader react to it today, any Western politician.”

“The audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal for the West that the imposed sanctions aren’t enough,” he said in a video posted to his Facebook account.

He raged at Russian forces over a family of four that was killed by a mortar round while attempting to escape the city of Irpin, near Kyiv. About eight civilians were killed in total by Russian shelling in the town, according to Mayor Oleksander Markyshin.

Today is Forgiveness Sunday. But we will not forgive hundreds and hundreds of victims. Thousands and thousands of…

Posted by Володимир Зеленський on Sunday, March 6, 2022

Video footage showed a shell slamming into a city street, not far from a bridge used by people fleeing the fighting. New York Times journalists witnessed the attack, and said it took place in a residential area, where Ukraine’s military was not active, except for helping civilians flee.

“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war,” Zelensky said.

“We will find every scum who was shelling our cities, our people, who was shooting the missiles, who was giving orders. You will not have a quiet place on this earth – except for a grave,” he said. “God will not forgive. Not today. Not tomorrow. Never. And instead of forgiveness, there will be judgment.”

Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska, posted pictures online of children she said were killed by Russian forces.

Die Besatzer töten ukrainische Kinder. Bewusst und zynisch.Sofijka, 6 Jahre alt. Sie, ihr eineinhalbjähriger Bruder,…

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The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday announced that its forces intend to strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex with what it claimed were precision weapons. A ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, claimed in a statement carried by the state news agency Tass that Ukrainian personnel were being forced to repair damaged military equipment so that it could be sent back into action. Some of the facilities are inside cities, Ukraine said.

“We urge all personnel of Ukrainian defense industry plants… to leave the territory of their enterprises,” Russian ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement carried by the state news agency Tass.

An Ukrainian soldier looks at a civilian crossing a blown up bridge in a village east of the town of Brovary, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

“I didn’t hear even a single world leader react to this,” Zelensky said.

A Ukrainian official said Russian forces stepped up overnight shelling of cities in Ukraine’s center, north and south, as a second attempt to evacuate besieged civilians collapsed.

A Ukrainian man rides his bicycle near a factory and a store burning after it was bombarded in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

The outskirts of Kyiv, Chernihiv in the north, Mykolaiv in the south, and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, faced intense shelling. Heavy artillery hit residential areas in Kharkiv and shelling damaged a television tower, according to local officials.

“The latest wave of missile strikes came as darkness fell,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said on television.

The attacks dashed hopes that more people could escape the fighting in Ukraine. Food, water, medicine and almost all other supplies were in desperately short supply in the southern port city of Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11-hour cease-fire that would allow civilians and the wounded to be evacuated. But Russian attacks quickly closed the humanitarian corridor, Ukrainian officials said.

“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom,“ Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said.

Ukrainian soldiers carry a woman on an improvised path while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

Zelensky rallied his people to remain defiant on Saturday, especially those in cities occupied by Russians.

“You should take to the streets! You should fight!” he said on Ukrainian television. “It is necessary to go out and drive this evil out of our cities, from our land.”

Zelensky also asked the United States and NATO countries to send more warplanes to Ukraine, though that idea is complicated by questions about which countries would provide the aircraft and how those countries would replace the planes.

Russia’s plan to quickly overrun the country has been stymied by fierce resistance. Russia has made significant advances in southern Ukraine and along the coast, but many of its efforts have become stalled, including an immense military convoy that has been almost motionless for days north of Kyiv.

The war, now in its 11th day, has caused 1.5 million people to flee the country. The head of the UN refugee agency called the exodus “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”

Refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, form a line as they approach the border with Poland in Shehyni, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A senior US defense official said Sunday that the US assesses that about 95% of the Russian forces that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now in the country. The official said Russian forces continue to advance and are attempting to isolate Kyiv, Kharkhiv and Chernihiv, and are being met with strong Ukrainian resistance.

The official said Russia has fired around 600 missiles into Ukraine.

As he has often done, Putin blamed Ukraine for the war, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that the war could be halted “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities” and fulfills “the well-known demands of Russia.”

Putin launched his invasion with a string of false accusations against Kyiv, including that it is led by neo-Nazis intent on undermining Russia with the development of nuclear weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony via video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on March 4, 2022. (Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP)

Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke about the nuclear situation in Ukraine, which has 15 nuclear reactors at four power plants and was the scene of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The two leaders agreed in principle to a “dialogue” involving Russia, Ukraine and the UN’s atomic watchdog, according to a French official who spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with the presidency’s practices. Potential talks on the issue are to be organized in the coming days, he said.

Putin also blamed the fire last week at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which Ukrainian officials said was caused by Russian attackers, on a “provocation organized by Ukrainian radicals.”

“Attempts to shift responsibility for this incident onto the Russian military are part of a cynical propaganda campaign,” he said, according to the French official.

The body of a civilian killed in a Russian rocket attack in a car in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)

International leaders, as well as Pope Francis, appealed to Putin to negotiate.

In a highly unusual move, the pope said he had dispatched two cardinals to Ukraine to try to end the conflict.

“In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing,” the pontiff said in his traditional Sunday blessing.

After the ceasefire in Mariupol failed to hold Saturday, Russian forces intensified their shelling of the city and dropped massive bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said.

The handful of residents who managed to flee Mariupol before the humanitarian corridor closed said the city of 430,000 had been devastated.

“We saw everything — houses burning, all the people sitting in basements,” said Yelena Zamay, who fled to one of the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists. “No communication, no water, no gas, no light, no water. There was nothing.”

People hide from Russian artillery in a school basement in the village of Horenka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

British military officials compared Russia’s tactics to those Moscow used in Chechnya and Syria, where surrounded cities were pulverized by airstrikes and artillery.

“This is likely to represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale,” the UK Ministry of Defense said.

Zelensky reiterated a request for foreign protectors to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which NATO so far has ruled out because of concerns such an action would lead to a far wider war.

“The world is strong enough to close our skies,” Zelensky said Sunday in a video address.

The day before, Zelensky pleaded with American lawmakers in a video call to help get more warplanes to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video address posted to Facebook, on March 4, 2022. (Screenshot)

US officials say Washington is discussing ways to get the planes to Ukraine in a complex scenario that would include sending American-made F-16s to former Soviet bloc nations, particularly Poland, that are now members of NATO. Those countries would then send Ukraine their own Soviet-era MiGs, which Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly.

But because of production backlogs on the US warplanes, the Eastern European nations would essentially have to give their MiGs to the Ukrainians and accept US promises that they would get F-16s as soon as that was possible. Adding to the difficulties is the fact that the next shipment of F-16s is destined for Taiwan, and the US Congress would be reluctant to delay those deliveries.

The Russian military has warned Ukraine’s neighbors against hosting its warplanes, saying that Moscow may consider those counties part of the conflict if Ukrainian aircraft fly combat missions from their territory.

Ukrainian troops walk past a body, following fighting against Russian forces and Russia-backed separatists near the village of Zolote, Lugansk region, March 6, 2022. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP)

The death toll remains lost in the fog of war. The UN says it has confirmed just a few hundred civilian deaths but also warned that the number is a vast undercount.

Ukraine’s military is greatly outmatched by Russia’s, but its professional and volunteer forces have fought back with fierce tenacity. In Kyiv, volunteers lined up Saturday to join the military.

Even in cities that have fallen, there were signs of resistance.

Onlookers in Chernihiv cheered as they watched a Russian military plane fall from the sky and crash, according to video released by the Ukrainian government. In Kherson, hundreds of protesters waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and shouted, “Go home.”

Russia has made significant advances in southern Ukraine as it seeks to block access to the Sea of Azov. Capturing Mariupol could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move that most of the world considered illegal.

A factory and a store burn after being bombarded in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

The West has broadly backed Ukraine, offering aid and weapon shipments and slapping Russia with vast sanctions, but no NATO troops have been sent to Ukraine, leaving Ukrainians to fight Russian troops alone. A Ukrainian official said 20,000 foreign volunteers from 52 countries have signed up to fight for Ukraine.

Russia has become increasingly isolated in the days since the invasion began, closing itself off to outside sources of information as sanctions bite deeply into its economy. The ruble has plunged in value, and dozens of multinational companies ended or dramatically scaled back their work in the country.

On Sunday, American Express announced it would suspend operations in Russia, as well as in Russian-allied Belarus. A few hours later, TikTok said Russian users would not be able to post new videos or see videos shared from elsewhere in the world. The company blamed Moscow’s new “fake news” law, which makes it illegal, among other things, to describe the fighting as an invasion. Netflix also cut its service to Russia but provided no details.

Facebook and Twitter have already been blocked in Russia, along with access to the websites of a number of major international media outlets. TikTok is part of the Chinese tech company ByteDance.

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