While his army was still trying to seize Mariupol, whose last defenders ignored an ultimatum to lay down arms, the Russian President yesterday honored a brigade that Ukraine accuses of involvement in the slaughter of the town of Boutcha.
• Also read: Ukraine: Seven dead in airstrikes on Lviv, Russia claims British captured
• Also read: Ukraine: Putin honors brigade accused of abuses at Boutcha, ‘destroyed’ weapons depot in west
“No, the city didn’t fall. Our soldiers are still there. They will fight to the end,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmyhal said yesterday.
Diplomacy chief Dmytro Kuleba went further, accusing the Russian army of “wanting to raze the city at any cost.”
According to the American Institute for the Study of War, “groups of isolated Ukrainians are likely to remain active outside the Azovstal factory,” the main pocket of resistance, but will last only a few days.
“The last attacks will be expensive” for the Russian armed forces, the institute assures.
Capturing this port city would be a major victory for the Russians as it would allow them to connect the Donbass region, partially controlled by their supporters, to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
According to the World Food Program, more than 100,000 civilians in Mariupol are on the verge of starvation, even without water and heating.
Yesterday still could not establish a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of civilians from combat zones, especially in Mariupol, the authorities announced for the second day in a row, accusing Russia of “blocking”.
Russian public TV channel VGTRK yesterday broadcast a video showing two British prisoners after fighting on the Ukrainian side in Mariupol.
With contorted faces, Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin turned to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who they expect will negotiate his release against that of Viktor Medvedchuk, who was recently arrested in Ukraine.
Aiden Aslin, a British fighter captured in Mariupol, on Russian TV.
At the same time, his compatriot Shaun Pinner was kidnapped.
They do not say who is currently holding them, Russian forces or their separatist allies in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
Shaun Pinner is “neither a volunteer nor a mercenary, but officially serves in the Ukrainian army,” his family says. After serving in the British Army, he moved to Ukraine, where he married a Ukrainian woman.
For its part, Kyiv broadcast a video of businessman Medvedchuk saying he wants to be exchanged “for the defenders of Mariupol and its residents.” The 67-year-old pro-Russian MP had been arrested while fleeing the country’s special services since the Russian invasion.
Russian soldiers honored
Vladimir Putin yesterday gave an honorary title of “heroism” to a brigade that has accused Ukraine of complicity in the abuses committed in Boutcha near Kyiv.
The discovery of the bodies of civilians in its streets after the withdrawal of Russian soldiers had sparked a wave of outrage. Ukrainian investigators are still working there to collect elements of “war crimes”.
Bodies of Boutcha victims are trucked to a morgue.
For its part, Russia assured that the Ukrainian authorities and Western media staged the massacre.
– With Camille Payant