Ukraine: 136 children were killed from the start of invasion

In the month since they launched their invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops have failed to capture any major city.

 Rescuers carry the body of a person who was killed by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 17, 2022.  (photo credit: Press service of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service/Handout via REUTERS)
Rescuers carry the body of a person who was killed by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 17, 2022.
(photo credit: Press service of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service/Handout via REUTERS)

The war in Ukraine has killed 136 children in the 31 days since the start of the Russian invasion, Ukraine's office of the prosecutor general said on Saturday in a message on the Telegram app.

Of the total, 64 children have been killed in the Kyiv region, the office said. A further 50 children have died in the Donetsk region, it said.

A total of 7,331 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday, a senior official said, more than double the 3,343 who managed to escape the previous day.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an online post that 2,800 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol using private transport.

The governor of Ukraine's Donetsk region on Friday said Ukrainian forces still controlled the besieged southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.

Speaking on national television, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said around 65,000 people had so far fled the city in private vehicles or on foot although official efforts to organize mass evacuations under temporary ceasefires have mostly failed.

Moscow signaled on Friday it was scaling back its ambitions in Ukraine to focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists as Ukrainian forces went on the offensive, recapturing towns on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv.

In the first big sign that Western sanctions on Russia were impacting investment from China, sources told Reuters state-run Sinopec Group, Asia's biggest oil refiner, had suspended talks on a petrochemical investment and a venture to market Russian gas. Read full story

In the month since they launched their invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops have failed to capture any major city. Their assault has met stiff resistance from President Volodymyr Zelensky's forces and been halted at the gates of Kyiv.

The Russians instead have been bombarding and encircling cities, laying waste to residential areas and driving around a quarter of Ukraine's 44 million people from their homes.

More than 3.7 million of them have fled abroad, half to Poland, which US President Joe Biden was visiting on Friday.

Battlelines near Kyiv have been frozen for weeks with two main Russian armored columns stuck northwest and east of the capital. A British intelligence report described a Ukrainian counter-offensive that had pushed Russians back in the east.

"Ukrainian counter-attacks, and Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, has allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 km east of Kyiv," the report said. Britain has provided Ukraine with weapons and military training.

In an announcement that appeared to indicate more limited goals, the Russian Defence Ministry said a first phase of its operation was complete and it would now focus on two eastern regions claimed by Russian-backed separatists. Read full story

"The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished," said Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff's Main Operational Directorate.

"The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which ... makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbass."


Volodymyr Borysenko, mayor of Boryspol, an eastern suburb where Kyiv's main airport is located, said 20,000 civilians had evacuated the area, answering a call to clear out so Ukrainian troops could counter-attack. Ukrainian forces recaptured a nearby village the previous day and would have pushed on but halted to avoid putting civilians in danger, he said.

On the other main front outside Kyiv, to the capital's northwest, Ukrainian forces have been trying to encircle Russian troops in the suburbs of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, reduced to ruins by heavy fighting over the past few weeks.

In Bucha, 25 km (15 miles) northwest of Kyiv, a small group of Ukrainian troops armed with anti-tank missiles was digging foxholes. Andriy told Reuters he had enlisted to defend the town as soon as the invasion began.

"I told my wife to grab the children and to hide in the basement, and I went to the drafting station and joined my unit straight away," he said. "My wife and children were under occupation for two weeks, but then they managed to escape through a humanitarian corridor."

Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation" to demilitarize and "denazify" Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

Unable to capture cities, Russia has resorted to pounding them with artillery and air strikes.

Worst hit has been the eastern port of Mariupol, a city of 400,000 under siege since the war's early days. It is the biggest Ukrainian-held city in the territory Russia demands be ceded to the separatists.

Tens of thousands of people are still believed trapped inside with scant access to food, power or heat, while the city around them has been reduced to ruins.

Waiting in line for food in a district captured by the Russians, Alexandra told Reuters her diabetic husband had slipped into a coma and died.

He was buried in a flowerbed. Read full story

"We are planning on leaving but it's very difficult at the moment," she said. "I can't leave my husband in a flowerbed."

European Union leaders urged Russia on Friday to fully respect its obligations under international law and abide by recent order by international court of justice under which told Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.

"Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians," the leaders of the 27-nation EU said in a joint statement.

"Russia is directing attacks against the civilian population and is targeting civilian objects, including hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters. These war crimes must stop immediately," they said.


Mariupol's city council for the first time gave an estimated death toll for the bombing of the main theater on March 16, saying witnesses now said 300 people had been killed among many hundreds sheltering in the basement. Russia denies blame.

The United Nations said it was looking into reports of mass graves inside Mariupol, including one with at least 200 corpses.

The cities of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy in the east have also endured devastating bombardments. Chernihiv was effectively surrounded by Russian forces, its governor said.

In Kharkiv, officials said six people had been killed by the shelling of an aid distribution site at a supermarket. Video posted on the internet showed a blast striking a car park where scores of people were queuing. People fled in terror after the explosion. Reuters was able to confirm it was filmed outside a supermarket in Kharkiv.

Western sanctions have isolated Russia from global trade to a degree never before visited on such a large economy. China is the biggest power not to have condemned the Russian invasion.

The Reuters report that Sinopec had suspended discussions about investments potentially worth $500 million was the first concrete sign that sanctions are interfering with trade between Moscow and Beijing.

Beijing has repeatedly voiced opposition to the sanctions, insisting it will maintain trade links. But behind the scenes, the government is pressing Chinese companies to tread carefully.

"Companies will rigidly follow Beijing's foreign policy in this crisis," said an executive at a Chinese state oil company. "There's no room whatsoever for companies to take any initiatives in terms of new investment."

Ukraine posts video of Russian nuclear workers criticizing Moscow

Ukraine's nuclear energy authority on Friday published a video of what it said were four Russian guards who had accompanied delivery of fuel elements, visibly uncomfortable as they made statements criticizing Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

The authority, Energoatom, said on its Telegram channel that the men had accompanied a shipment of Russian fuel rods to Ukraine's Rivne nuclear plant last month.

Russia's nuclear power body, Rosatom, issued a statement demanding "the employees' speedy and safe return home," according to the Russian news agency RIA.

The video, which has obvious cuts, shows the four employees sitting behind a table, speaking haltingly in low voices to identify themselves as Rosatom employees.

They explain that they arrived in Ukraine on February 22 with the fuel elements for the Rivne plant, and say they finished their contracted work on March 17.

Three of the men make statements criticizing Russia's incursion into Ukraine, one looking repeatedly to the side of the camera as he speaks.

One says the men have seen for themselves how their compatriots have killed children and mothers. Another says the men do not understand how Russian officers could give orders to fire on nuclear plants.

"We do not want to participate in this or have anything to do with it," says the last to speak. "After everything we have seen, we are afraid to return."

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a "special operation" to weaken its southern neighbor's military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

It says it does not target civilians, and that fighting and apparent shelling around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were the results of a Ukrainian "provocation."

Rosatom said the men had made the delivery on February 23, and that Energoatom had said they were being escorted back to Russia by Ukrainian SBU intelligence officers. Rosatom said that by Friday, they had not returned.

Energoatom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russians who spread fake news about officials abroad face jail

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday formally approved a law which says people found guilty of spreading fake news about the work of officials abroad can be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail, Interfax news agency said.

The penalties are similar to those allowed under a law adopted earlier this month which aims to punish those who spread false information about the Russian armed forces, the agency said. The law was enacted after the invasion of Ukraine.

Interfax cited a senior legislator as saying the new law was needed because people were spreading false news about Russia's embassies and other organizations operating abroad.

US to sanction Russian firms providing tech to Moscow's military

The Biden administration is preparing sanctions targeting Russian companies it says provides goods and services to Moscow's military and intelligence services, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The US Treasury Department sanctions could be announced as early as next week, the report said, citing US officials.

The Treasury Department declined to comment on the report.

Most of the companies that are expected to come under the reported sanctions - including Serniya Engineering and equipment maker Sertal - were earlier added to a US list banning exports of sensitive technologies to them, according to the report.

While that blackballs the firms, it does not ban all business dealings, the report added.

The United States and its allies on Thursday ramped up pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Washington imposed fresh sanctions on dozens of Russian defense companies, hundreds of members of its parliament and the chief executive of the country's largest bank.