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Government Leader Tells Eastern Ukraine Residents to Flee Immediately


Emergency workers remove the body of a resident of a multistory building destroyed in a Russian air raid at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war in Borodyanka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, April 9, 2022.

Residents of eastern Ukraine were met Saturday by the sound of air raid sirens. The region’s governor is warning civilians to evacuate immediately as Russia increases shelling in the area. Governor Serhiy Gaidai told a public television station that Russia is “amassing an offensive” on the one-third of the population that remains in Ukraine’s Luhansk region.

Military analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin is redirecting the invasion to eastern Ukraine, after the military met stiff resistance and withdrew from areas around Kyiv in the north and west. The British Defense Ministry expects increased shelling to continue in the south and east as Russia attempts to create a route between Crimea and the Donbas region. Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Saturday in his nightly address that Russian aggression is “not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone. To the destruction of our freedom and our lives alone.” The president cautioned, “The whole European project is a target for Russia.”

In an interview scheduled to air on U.S. television Sunday on the CBS program 60 Minutes, Zelenskyy said, “We are defending the right to live. I never thought this right was so costly.”

Zelenskyy said in the interview that Ukraine has imprisoned Russian pilots who had maps with civilian targets designated for bombing.

Accusations of war crimes committed by Russia were made by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who spoke Saturday after seeing the devastation in Bucha, a town near Kyiv.

Mass graves of civilians were unearthed in Bucha after Russian forces left the area. Von der Leyen said, “If this is not a war crime, what is a war crime, but I am a medical doctor by training and lawyers have to investigate carefully.”

Russian officials have called the Bucha killings a “monstrous forgery.”

VOA in Bucha: makeshift graves in home gardens

VOA’s Heather Murdock is in Bucha, where she took video of new graves in the gardens and the backyards of houses and of the blood still in the streets. Neighbors told her of people dying at the hands of Russian soldiers as they were fleeing the town. Russian soldiers left the city a week ago, and the deaths are just now being discovered as journalists enter the region.

The Russian invasion has forced more than 10 million people from their homes in Ukraine or from the country and has killed and maimed thousands.

In an interview Saturday with The Associated Press, Zelenskyy seemed frustrated when asked whether his country had received enough weapons and other equipment from the West.

“Not yet,” he said, switching to English for emphasis. “Of course, it’s not enough.”

British PM visits Kyiv, bringing more aid

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Saturday in Kyiv with Zelenskyy, as first seen in a tweet by the British Embassy in Ukraine.

After Friday’s attack on the Kramatorsk railway station, Britain announced additional financial and military aid for Ukraine, to include anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles and nearly $130 million worth of high-tech equipment. Johnson called the shelling of the station “unconscionable” and said it is “a war crime indiscriminately to attack civilians.”

The city’s mayor estimated there were 4,000 women, children, and elderly inside the station trying to evacuate the vulnerable region when it was struck.

Before Johnson’s visit, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer also met face-to-face with Zelenskyy Saturday and promised more EU sanctions against Russia.

“As long as people are dying,” Nehammer said, “every sanction is still insufficient."

Nehammer also pledged to send Austrian Embassy staff back to Kyiv, now that Russian forces have retreated.

VOA’s Heather Murdock in Bucha, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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