Ukraine war: NATO fears Russia may be deliberately targeting civilians as Kyiv says 38 children have been killed | World News
The head of NATO has said Russian armed forces may be deliberately targeting civilians as they try to flee the military assault on Ukraine – as the eastern European country’s defence minister said 38 children had been killed by Moscow’s forces.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said there are “very creditable reports of civilians coming under fire as they try to evacuate” certain areas where humanitarian corridors have been agreed with Russia.
He continued: “Targeting civilians is a war crime, and it’s totally unacceptable.”
Mr Stoltenberg also told reporters in Latvia that the humanitarian impact of the almost two-week war “is devastating”, adding: “We need real humanitarian corridors that are fully respected.”
Asked what NATO can do to help, Mr Stoltenberg said: “We have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not spread beyond Ukraine.”
The alliance is boosting its defences to ensure that members near Russia and Ukraine are not next on Moscow’s target list.
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It comes as Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov has released new estimates of casualties and damage from the war, saying Russian military actions have killed 38 children and wounded more than 70.
Overall at least 400 civilian deaths have been recorded and 800 have been wounded, though “these data are definitely incomplete”, he said in a video address.
He said Russian strikes have destroyed more than 200 Ukrainian schools, 34 hospitals and 1,500 residential buildings.
Mr Reznikov also estimated 10,000 foreign students, notably from India, China and the Persian Gulf, are trapped by the fighting, and described attacks on British and Swiss journalists.
He claimed Ukrainian forces have killed more than 11,000 Russian troops.
The statements come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is “not hiding” and “not afraid of anyone” as he revealed his location in Kyiv on Monday night.
In a defiant video message from his office on Bankova Street, he said he is staying there “as long as necessary” and his team is with him.
“I stay here,” he said. “I stay in Kyiv. On Bankova Street. I’m not hiding. And I’m not afraid of anyone. As long as it’s necessary to win in our patriotic war.”
His official place of residence is the Mariinskyi Palace, located in the Pechersk District of Kyiv.
Russian President Vladimir Putin released a video on Tuesday saying conscripted soldiers will not be involved in combat operations, and told the mothers and wives of Russian soldiers to feel proud of their “loved ones”.
He said: “The set goals will be achieved only by professional soldiers.
“I am confident that they will reliably ensure security and peace for the Russian people.”
He added: “I’d like to address the mothers, wives, sisters, brides and girlfriends of our soldiers and officers who are in battle now to defend Russia as part of the special military operation.
“I know how worried you are for your loved ones.
“You can be proud of them, just as the whole country is proud and feels for them.”
Civilians flee eastern city through humanitarian corridor
Buses packed with civilians have begun leaving the eastern city of Sumy through one of five humanitarian corridors promised by the Russians.
Video posted by the Ukrainian state communications agency has showed people with bags preparing to leave the city.
Previous attempts to lead civilians to safety during the biggest ground war in Europe since World War Two have crumbled with renewed attacks.
However, the governor of Ukraine’s Sumy region has said a temporary ceasefire is holding there except for one incident.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Tuesday morning that 30 buses were on the way to the besieged city of Mariupol to collect evacuees via a humanitarian corridor to Ukraine-controlled territory.
There were signs Russian forces were firing in the direction of a route for humanitarian aid, she added, without providing further details.
Ukraine’s president has blasted Russian forces for having “no humanitarian sense” after 13 people were killed in a strike on a bread factory in Makariv near Kyiv and a church in Zhytomyr region on Monday, adding: “These are NOT people.”
“There was an agreement on humanitarian corridors,” he continued.
“Did it work? Russian tanks worked instead. Russian ‘Grads’. Russian mines.”
“At the same time, they are opening a small corridor to the occupied territory,” he said. “For several dozen people.
“Not so much to Russia, as to propagandists. Directly to their TV cameras. Like, that’s the one who saves. Just cynicism. Just propaganda. Nothing more.”
He said Russian soldiers even mined the road which had been agreed to transport food and medicine for people and children in Mariupol – and destroyed buses that were supposed to help civilians evacuate.
Russia outlined its proposal for humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave five Ukrainian cities including Kyiv from 9am local time (7am GMT) – but most of the routes would travel through Russia or Belarus, which Mr Zelenskyy has previously rejected as “immoral”.
The evacuations come as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned attacks on hospitals, ambulances and other health care facilities in Ukraine have increased rapidly in recent days.
The WHO also warned the country is running short of vital medical supplies.
The UN agency has confirmed at least nine people have died in 16 attacks on health care facilities since the start of the Russian invasion on 24 February.
‘We will insist on negotiations with Russia’
In his video message, President Zelenskyy promised not to give up on peace negotiations, despite little apparent progress in the talks on Monday.
“We will talk,” he said. “We will insist on negotiations until we find a way to tell our people: this is how we will come to peace. Exactly to peace.”
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He said the Ukrainian army is holding positions that are inflicting “extremely painful losses on the enemy” and praised Ukrainians for protesting against Russian forces.
“Every Ukrainian man and woman who protested against the invaders yesterday, today and will protest tomorrow are heroes,” he said.
“We shout at the invaders together with you. We stand in the squares and streets with you. We are not afraid with you when the invaders open fire and try to drive everyone away.
“YOU do not back down. WE do not back down.”
The comments came before French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted to say he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had discussed the Ukraine war with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Mr Macron tweeted: “The German Chancellor and I spoke to the Chinese President this morning about the tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine. President Xi supported our action towards reaching a ceasefire and ensuring the people have access to humanitarian aid.”
The German Chancellor and I spoke to the Chinese President this morning about the tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine. President Xi supported our action towards reaching a ceasefire and ensuring the people have access to humanitarian aid.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 8, 2022
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov set out Moscow’s position on the conflict in Ukraine to Vatican State Secretary Pietro Parolin in a call on Tuesday, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Vatican’s Secretary of State told Mr Lavrov the Holy See wants armed attacks in Ukraine to stop and humanitarian corridors to be guaranteed.
A Vatican statement said Cardinal Pietro Parolin also repeated the Vatican’s willingness “to do anything” to help
bring about peace.
Visa applications to be sped up for Ukrainians fleeing to the UK
It comes as British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said he would support Poland if it decided to donate MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
The US has urged Poland to supply the Soviet-era planes, offering to provide replacement US jets instead.
Mr Wallace told Sky News: “Poland will understand that the choices it makes will not only directly help Ukraine, which is a good thing, but also may bring them into direct line of fire from countries such as Russia or Belarus.
“They will have to calibrate that. That’s a really big responsibility on the shoulders of the President of Poland and, indeed, defence minister.”
Around 1.2 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland since the Russian invasion on 24 February, including 141,500 on Monday, the Polish Border Guard service has said.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR has said the number of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine has increased to two million.
Mr Wallace has said the Ministry of Defence will help the Home Office process visa applications from Ukrainians fleeing to the UK, acknowledging that the process could be sped up.
On Monday night, the Home Office said 300 visas had been issued from a total of 17,700 family scheme applications which have been started, 8,900 of which have been submitted.
Home Office minister Kevin Foster said the figure for visas issued has now risen to more than 500.
‘Dogs are pulling apart dead bodies’
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine now well into its second week, the mayor of the Kyiv suburb of Bucha said artillery fire there had been so relentless that people are unable to gather their dead.
Anatol Fedoruk said: “We can’t even gather up the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn’t stop day or night.
“Dogs are pulling apart the bodies on the city streets. It’s a nightmare.”
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden sent a letter of thanks to South Korean President Moon Jae-in for joining financial sanctions and export controls against Russia, saying the move sent a strong message of support for Ukraine, Mr Moon’s office said on Tuesday.