Russia is targeting populated areas in Ukraine, British military intelligence said Sunday as Moscow’s invasion rumbles into a 11th consecutive day amid a mounting death toll and growing refugee crisis, talk of a third world war, and allegations of nuclear ‘dirty bombs’. British intelligence also told Reuters Russian forces remain frustrated in attempts to capture key cities and capital Kyiv because of resistance from local militia and Ukraine’s armed forces.
“The scale and strength of Ukrainian resistance continue to surprise Russia,” a British military update said, adding, Moscow had responded by targeting populated areas in cities like Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol, which have been bombarded over the past few days.
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British intelligence said Russia had used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, and that it is an attempt to break the morale of defending forces.
“Attacks on healthcare facilities or workers breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted, saying WHO had confirmed attacks on healthcare centres.
He did not, however, name Russia.
Russia has denied it is targeting civilian areas, but attacks like the destruction of a TV tower in Kyiv and a Holocaust memorial (in which 11 people died) contradict its claims.
An Indian student was among civilians killed in shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and a major target for Russian forces.
At least eight others were killed in an attack on a residential complex.
Residential areas in the city of Zhytomyr were hit by a Russian missile and at least four people were killed, the adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said.
The United Nations yesterday estimated at least 350 civilians have been killed, and over 700 injured, since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The global peace body has also cautioned that the actual numbers are likely much higher.
Civilian deaths, potentially in the hundreds, in the town of Volnovakha – where attempts were made to open an evacuation corridor past Russian forces – are yet to be corroborated.
Casualties have also been reported from the port city of Kherson, which on Wednesday became the first major Ukranian city to fall to Russian forces.
Most civilian deaths were caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, as well as from missile strikes, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
Ukraine emergency services told Reuters they estimated around 2,000 civilian deaths so far.
There has been international clamour for evacuation corridors and a ceasefire was announced on Saturday, but shelling resumed suddenly, hampering efforts.
The UN estimates well over 1.5 million have become refugees as a result of Russia’s attack, pouring into nearby nations like Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
Ukraine has also claimed that over 11,000 Russian soldiers have been killed so far. Russia yesterday said that only 498 of its troops had, in fact, been killed.
Russia President Vladimir Putin, who has steadfastly refused to bow to growing international pressure, today threatened Ukrainian statehood “if they continue to do what they are doing”.
With input from AFP, Reuters