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Ukraine’s president urged civilians on Saturday to evacuate the frontline Donetsk region, the scene of fierce clashes with the Russian military, as Kyiv called on the Red Cross and UN to gain access to its soldiers being held by Moscow’s forces.
The eastern Donetsk region has faced the brunt of Russia’s offensive since its assault on Kyiv failed weeks into the invasion launched on February 24.
“There’s already a governmental decision about obligatory evacuation from Donetsk,” Zelensky said, underscoring authorities’ calls to leave the besieged region in recent weeks.
Zelensky, in his address, again pressed the international community, especially the United States, to have Russia officially declared a “state sponsor of terrorism”.
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.
– ‘Egregious provocation’ –
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.
“All political, legal and moral responsibility for this bloody massacre of Ukrainians lies with Zelensky personally, his criminal regime and Washington, which backs them,” it said.
“This was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” he said.
Azov regiment commander Mykyta Nadtochiy said he considered the attack on the jail to have been “an act of public execution”.
Also on Saturday, Russian energy giant Gazprom suspended gas supplies to Latvia, in the latest tightening of gas provision to European Union states, which have accused Russia of squeezing supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Today, Gazprom suspended its gas supplies to Latvia… due to violations of the conditions” of purchase, the company said on Telegram.
Gazprom drastically cut gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline on Wednesday to about 20 percent of its capacity. It had reduced gas flows to Europe twice in June.
Gazprom cited the halted operation of one of the last two working turbines for the pipeline due to the “technical condition of the engine”.
The EU this week agreed a plan to reduce gas consumption in solidarity with Germany, where the Nord Stream pipeline runs to, warning of Russian “blackmail”.
Russian strikes continued to rain down on Ukrainian towns and cities on Saturday.
The death toll from a strike on a Mykolaiv bus stop on Friday climbed to seven after two men died in hospital, he added.
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.
Originally published as Zelensky urges evacuation of Ukraine’s frontline Donetsk