LVIV, Ukraine — The bodies of more than 900 civilians were discovered in the Kyiv region following the withdrawal of Russian forces, the regional police chief said in a briefing Friday.
Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, said the bodies had been abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95% of the casualties had died from sniper fire and gunshot wounds. He added that more bodies were being found every day, under the rubble and in mass graves.
“Consequently, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said. “The number of killed civilians has surpassed 900 — and I emphasize, these are civilians, whose bodies we have discovered and handed over for forensic examination.”
He added: “The most victims were found in Bucha, where there are more than 350 corpses.”
According to Nebytov, utilities workers in Bucha had been gathering up and burying bodies in the Kyiv suburb while it remained under Russian control. Nebytov added that Russian troops were “tracking down” people who expressed strong pro-Ukrainian views.
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►Russians’ view of the U.S. dramatically deteriorated last month, according to polling by the Levada Center, an independent Russian research nonprofit organization. Some 72% of Russians viewed the U.S. badly in March, compared to 55% in February. Just 17% of Russians viewed the U.S. favorably in March, compared to 31% in February, the poll says.
►President Joe Biden is not set to visit Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told the podcast “Pod Save America” Thursday.
►International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the consequences of Russia’s invasion were contributing to economic downgrades for 143 countries.
►Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said his nation had “made considerable efforts to de-escalate the situation, defuse the crisis and rebuild peace.” China has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine by strategic partner Russia, or even refer to the conflict as a war.
Vatican gives Russian woman a Good Friday role, angering Ukrainians
ROME — The war in Ukraine loomed over the traditional Good Friday procession at the Colosseum in Rome because the Vatican’s choice of a Russian woman as one of the cross-bearers angered Ukrainians.
Participants in the solemn torchlit procession in the ancient arena Friday night took turns carrying a plain, tall and slim cross as part of the commemoration of Jesus’ suffering and death by crucifixion.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican and the archbishop of Kyiv earlier this week denounced the Vatican’s plan to have a Ukrainian woman and a Russian woman carry the cross together during the procession. They objected to projecting what they saw as the idea of reconciliation while Ukraine is ravaged by war unleashed by Russia.
The Vatican didn’t respond to the protests. Pope Francis has denounced the Feb. 24 invasion and attacks on Ukraine as a “sacrilege,″ but has refrained from naming Russia as the aggressor.
Other faithful applauded the decision to pair the two women. They work together in a palliative care section of a Rome hospital and are friends.
-The Associated Press
Shelling in Kharkiv kills 7, injures 34
The governor of the Kharkiv region says seven people, including a seven7-month-old child, were killed in shelling of a residential neighborhood in the city.
Oleh Sinehubov said Friday in a Telegram post that 34 other people were wounded.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been heavily hit by shelling and rocket attacks during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The city’s position about 25 miles south of Russia and 100 miles north of the separatist eastern regions of Ukraine gives it significant strategic importance.
— Associated Press
Two Ukrainian Neptune missiles struck the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, which later sank, according to a senior U.S. Defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Pentagon officials had previously said they could not confirm the Ukrainian claim, but they also did not refute it.
The warship Moskva, which has a history that goes back to days of the Cold War, sank into the Black Sea on Thursday in the latest blow to Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine.
Losing the vessel, built in Ukraine during the Soviet era and named after the Russian capital, represents a military setback and symbolic defeat for Russia as its troops regroup for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine after stumbling in the north.
-Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Report: Ukraine is scanning faces of dead Russian soldiers, notifying family
Ukrainian officials are using facial recognition technology to scan the faces of Russian troops who have died in Ukraine and notify their families, according to a report from The Washington Post.
Ukraine has scanned more than 8,600 faces and notified hundreds of families since Russia invaded the country using software from the U.S. firm Clearview AI, according to the Post. The country’s IT Army, which comprises volunteer hackers and activists, told the outlet they also sometimes send photos of the abandoned bodies of soldiers to their families.
The aim is to cause dissent from Russians and discourage other fighters, the Post reported. But critics said it could be a form of psychological warfare.
“If it were Russian soldiers doing this with Ukrainian mothers, we might say, ‘Oh, my God, that’s barbaric,'” said Stephanie Hare, a London-based surveillance researcher, told the Post. “And is it actually working? Or is it making them say: ‘Look at these lawless, cruel Ukrainians, doing this to our boys?'”
A Clearview AI executive told the Post that Ukrainians are also using the software to confirm the identities of people at military checkpoints and make sure no Russians infiltrate. Hoan Ton-That, the chief executive, told the outlet that it could deter Russian troops from committing war crimes if they fear being identified by the software.
Moscow on Friday said it will expel 18 members of the European Union’s delegation from Russia, a retaliation for the EU’s decision to expel Russian diplomats from Belgium earlier this month.
“As a response to the unfriendly actions of the European Union, 18 employees of the EU Delegation to Russia have been declared ‘persona non grata’ and will have to leave the territory of the Russian Federation in the near future,” reads a statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In response to the move, the EU said Friday it “deplores” Russia’s “unjustified, baseless decision” to remove its diplomats, calling the decision a “pure retaliatory step.”
The EU on April 5 designated 19 Russian diplomats as personae non gratae for “engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status,” and ordered them to leave Belgium, where they were being hosted, according to Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised his country’s bravery late Thursday and said Ukraine should be proud of having survived 50 days under Russian attack when the Russians “gave us a maximum of five.”
In a video address, Zelenskyy called it “an achievement of millions of Ukrainians, of everyone who on Feb. 24 made the most important decision of their life – to fight.” He added: “But they didn’t know us either. And they did not know how brave Ukrainians are, how much we value freedom. Our opportunity to live the way we want.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized European countries that continue to purchase Russian oil in an interview with the BBC.
“We don’t understand how you can make money out of blood,” Zelenskyy said. “Unfortunately, this is what some countries have been doing – European countries.”
Zelenskyy called out Germany and Hungary in particular for not participating in the Russian oil embargo many other countries, including the U.S., have put in place. He added that while countries like the U.K. and U.S. have been helpful in providing weapons, Ukraine “needs them sooner and more of them.”
“The priority word is ‘sooner,’” he said. “The priority word’s ‘quickly,’ the priority word’s ‘now.’ Because we are fighting now.”
The BBC’s full interview with Zelenskyy will air April 16 on the BBC News Channel.
Some 2.7 million people with disabilities are at “grave risk of harm” due to the war in Ukraine, the United Nations warned Friday.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities said it received reports that people with disabilities, including children, are stranded in homes, residential care institutions and orphanages without necessary medication, food, water or other basic needs. Many have been separated from their support networks, making it more difficult to navigate their surroundings, the committee said.
The group also warned that women with disabilities are at a greater risk of sexual violence that has been reported across Ukraine.
The group called on Russia to “immediately” end the war and “observe and respect the principles of international human rights and humanitarian law.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday promised to ramp up “the scale of missile attacks” on Kyiv in response to Ukraine’s “diversions on the Russian territory.”
The statement comes a day after Russian authorities accused Ukrainian forces of launching airstrikes on residential buildings in one of the country’s regions on the border with Ukraine, in which seven people sustained injuries.
According to Russian officials, some 100 residential buildings were damaged in Thursday’s attack on the Klimovo village in the Bryansk region. The Defense Ministry said that the Russian forces in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region shut down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter that was allegedly involved in the attack on the Bryansk region.
Authorities in another border region, Belgorod, also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.
— Associated Press
Britain’s defense ministry says the loss of Russia’s naval flagship will likely force Moscow to change the way its naval forces operate in the Black Sea.
The Moskva sank after being damaged in disputed circumstances. Ukraine says it struck the vessel with missiles, while Moscow acknowledged a fire on board but not any attack.
In an update posted Friday on social media, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said the Soviet-era ship, which returned to operational service last year after a major refit, “served a key role as both a command vessel and air defence node.”
It said the sinking “means Russia has now suffered damage to two key naval assets since invading Ukraine, the first being Russia’s Alligator-class landing ship Saratov on 24 March. Both events will likely lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea.”
— Associated Press
The entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO would force Russia to strengthen its northwestern borders and place nuclear weapons in the region, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday. Medvedev noted on his Telegram channel that the length of Russia’s land border with the NATO alliance would more than double. One of Russia’s explanations for its invasion of Ukraine was concern over possible NATO expansion there.
“Naturally, these borders will have to be strengthened. The grouping of ground forces and air defense will be seriously strengthened, and significant naval forces will be deployed in the waters of the Gulf of Finland,” Medvedev wrote, adding that keeping the region’s non-nuclear status is “out of the question.”
Contributing: The Associated Press