Russia-Ukraine war: Over 350 civilians killed so far, UN confirms

Russian drone shot down by Ukrainian air force • Russian forces 'not respecting' agreed ceasefire

 Ukrainian refugees at an emergency shelter in Chisinau, Moldova, March 5, 2022. (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
Ukrainian refugees at an emergency shelter in Chisinau, Moldova, March 5, 2022.
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

At least 351 civilians are confirmed to have been killed in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded on February 24, and another 707 wounded, although the true numbers are probably "considerably higher," a UN monitoring mission said on Saturday.

The head of the Kyiv regional military administration, Oleksiy Kuleba, said that the Russian forces had seized a psychiatric hospital in the Kyiv region, where more than 600 patients are admitted. Kuleba also noted they are currently unable to evacuate the patients, 100 of which are bedridden.

Most of the civilian casualties were caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and from missile and airstrikes, monitors from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said. "OHCHR believes that the real figures are considerably higher, especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intensive hostilities have been going on was delayed and many reports were still pending corroboration," it said.

The mission said hundreds of civilian casualties alleged in the town of Volnovakha - where attempts were underway to open a safe evacuation corridor through encircling Russian forces - were yet to be corroborated.

Authorities in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol said an evacuation of civilians planned for Saturday had been postponed as Russian forces encircling the city were not respecting an agreed ceasefire.

In a statement, the city council asked residents to return to shelters in the city and wait for further information on evacuation. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a televised broadcast that Russia is not observing an agreed ceasefire in certain areas.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia was checking information that Ukrainian authorities may not be allowing civilians to be evacuated from the city of Mariupol via humanitarian corridors agreed earlier. Russia said earlier on Saturday that its troops, which have encircled the Azov Sea port city in Ukraine's south, would stop firing and allow civilians to pass.

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Fighting continues despite planned ceasefire

A Russian drone used for surveillance in northern Ukraine was shot down by the Ukrainian air force, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a Facebook post published on Saturday.

"The air defense specialists of one of the brigades of Operational Command "North" aptly neutralized the enemy Russian UAV," the Facebook post reads, adding the drone was "recording information for the enemy."

Russian troops have continued a broad offensive in Ukraine, RIA quoted the Russian defense ministry as saying on Saturday. The rate of Russian air and artillery strikes in Ukraine over the past 24 hours has been lower than in previous days but Russian forces were believed to be advancing in the south of the country, Britain said in an intelligence update.

"Ukraine continues to hold the key cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol," the British defense ministry said on Twitter early on Saturday. "There have been reports of street fighting in Sumy. It is highly likely that all four cities are encircled by Russian forces."

The ministry said Russian forces were probably advancing on the southern port city of Mykolaiv and there was a realistic possibility that some forces would attempt to circumvent the city to prioritize their advance towards Odessa.

Also on Saturday, the Ukrainian media outlet Espreso TV tweeted a video that claims to show that the Ukrainian military shot down a Russian combat helicopter.

Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Saturday that 66,224 Ukrainian men had returned from abroad to join the fight against Russia's invasion.

"That's how many men returned from abroad at this moment to defend their country from the horde," Reznikov said in an online post. "These are 12 more combat and motivated brigades! Ukrainians, we are invincible!"

In separatist-controlled Luhansk, Russian forces opened fire on unarmed civilians who "attempted to stop" Russian troops, head of the region's military administration Serhiy Haidai claimed in a Saturday Facebook post.

Three Ukrainians were injured in the clashes with Russian forces, Haidai added.

Evacuations from Mariupol, Volnovakha delayed

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it understood that evacuations of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha in Ukraine would not start on Saturday because of the conflict following Russia's invasion.

"We remain in dialog with the parties about the safe passage of civilians from different cities affected by the conflict," the ICRC said in a statement.

"The scenes in Mariupol and in other cities today are heart-breaking. Any initiative from the parties that gives civilians a respite from the violence and allows them to voluntarily leave for safer areas is welcome."

The Ukrainian government previously said the plan was to evacuate around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha and the ICRC is the ceasefire's guarantor.

NATO is being cowed by Russia, West "behaving like bandits"

Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday accused the NATO alliance of bending to Russian pressure after NATO members refused to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

NATO was not the force that Ukrainians had previously imagined, Kuleba added.

Speaking on Ukrainian television, Kuleba also said he was open to talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, but only if such negotiations were "meaningful."

The Kremlin said on Saturday that the West was behaving like bandits but that Russia was far too big to be isolated as the world was much larger than just the United States and Europe.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the West was engaged in "economic baditry" against Russia and that Moscow would respond. He did not specify what response there would be but said it would be in line with Russian interests.

"This does not mean Russia is isolated," Peskov told reporters. "The world is too big for Europe and America to isolate a country, and even more so a country as big as Russia. There are many more countries in the world."

Peskovsaid that if the United States imposed sanctions on Russia's energy exports then it would give a considerable jolt to energy markets.

A refugee crisis unfolding

The situation in Ukraine remains dire and the number of refugees fleeing the Russian invasion could potentially rise to 1.5 million by the end of the weekend from a current 1.3 million, the head of the UN refugee agency said on Saturday.

"This is the fastest moving refugee crisis we have seen in Europe since the end of World War II," UNHCR head Filippo Grandi told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Grandi also said most refugees at the moment were linking up with friends, family and other connections already living in Europe, but warned future waves would be more complex.