Russia-Ukraine war: 26 bodies found under two buildings in Kyiv region

Ukraine's Prosecutor General blames Russian airstrikes for deaths • Russia's goal is to conquer all of Ukraine - Deputy DM

 A Ukrainian service member patrols an area in a village near a frontline, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv Region, Ukraine March 31, 2022. (photo credit: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)
A Ukrainian service member patrols an area in a village near a frontline, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv Region, Ukraine March 31, 2022.
(photo credit: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)

The ruins in Kyiv

Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova on Thursday said 26 bodies had been found under two ruined buildings in the Kyiv region town of Borodianka, which is been being searched by the authorities after Russian troops occupying it withdrew.

In a televised briefing, Venediktova did not say if the authorities had established the cause of death, but she accused Russian troops of carrying out airstrikes on the town before they seized control of it.

"Borodianka is the worst in terms of destruction and in terms of the uncertainty about (the number of) victims," she said.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Russia's goal is to conquer all of Ukraine

Russia's long-term objective is to seize all of Ukraine even though the short-term focus of its invasion is now on the east of the country, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Thursday.

Russian forces were biding their time in Ukraine, she said, as Moscow stepped up intelligence operations there and learned how to best fight against Ukrainian troops. 

"The key objective of the Russian Federation was and is the capture of the entire territory of Ukraine," Malyar told a video briefing.

"Russia planned to do this quickly, but [President Vladimir] Putin's blitzkrieg failed," she said. "Even so, Russia has not abandoned its plan to take the entire territory of Ukraine."

Russia has repeatedly said that its "special military operation" is aimed at demilitarizing and "denazifying" Ukraine. The Kremlin's position has been consistently rejected by Ukraine and the West as a pretext for an unprovoked invasion.

Ukraine's military has specifically claimed that Moscow wants to entrench a land passage between two separatist, self-proclaimed people's republics in eastern Ukraine and the southern region of Crimea that Russia seized and annexed in 2014 — Donetsk and Luhansk. 

"The enemy is learning how to fight us. If in the first days [of the February 24 invasion] the Russian army was disorientated, they are now adjusting to our tactics and strategy, and taking time... in order to learn how to fight our strategy," said Malyar.

She said there were "signs" that an airfield in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestria, which borders Ukraine and is largely Russian-speaking, was being prepared to receive aircraft and used by Moscow to fly in Ukraine-bound troops.

Malyar gave no evidence for this assertion.

On Wednesday, Moldova's defense ministry said it had no information about the breakaway region preparing to receive Russian aircraft, noting that Moldovan armed forces controlled the airspace over the country. Authorities in Transdniestria also said Ukrainian allegations of military activity there were not correct.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus carried out a special operation in Ukraine to "liberate its citizens," during a meeting of the National Security Council of Belarus.

Resupplying weapons

Both Ukraine and Russia are seeking to resupply their soldiers in the field as the war reached its 43rd day.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kubela said that he had "met with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO HQ in Brussels. I came here today to discuss [the] three most important things: weapons, weapons, and weapons. Ukraine’s urgent needs, the sustainability of supplies, and long-term solutions which will help Ukraine to prevail."

Kubela also praised the US Senate "for passing the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act," saying that it was an "important first step towards a lend-lease program to expedite the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine. Looking forward to its swift passage in the House and signing by the US President."

"Pumping up Ukraine with weapons in various formats is not conducive to success in Russian-Ukrainian negotiations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said in response to Lend-Lease, TASS reported. "Of course, this will more likely have a negative effect."

The Biden Administration approved a further transfer of arms to Ukraine on Wednesday, including $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles, US Defense Department News reported.

"This $100 million is designed to help us meet an urgent Ukrainian need for additional Javelin anti-armor systems, which the United States has been providing to Ukraine," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said at a press briefing on Wednesday. "They've been used very effectively to combat the Russian attack on the Ukrainian homeland."  

According to Kirby, the US is also sending 100 Switchblade drones, which are also referred to as loitering munitions. He said that Ukrainian soldiers would need to be trained to use the weapon, and the US had already trained a few Ukrainian soldiers on the platform.

"We took the opportunity to... give them a couple of days' worth of training on the Switchblade so that they can go back – and they will be going back soon, back home – to train others in the Ukrainian military," Kirby said. "We'll look at other suitable opportunities if needed to provide more training on the Switchblades if it's necessary."  

According to Russian state media outlet TASS, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said his country was also considering supplying Ukraine with more weapons.

"Denmark and other allies are committed to continuing to make changes in terms of what needs to be [delivered]. This also applies to weapons," Kofod said, TASS reported.

The UK Defense Ministry noted on Thursday that "Russian strikes against infrastructure targets within the Ukrainian interior are likely intended to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian military to resupply and increase pressure on the Ukrainian government."

"Despite refocusing forces and logistics capabilities to support operations in the Donbas, Russian forces are likely to continue facing morale issues and shortages of supplies and personnel," the intelligence update continued.

Humanitarian conditions and casualties

Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko was told in a briefing on Thursday that more than 400 civilians were killed in the Kyiv region throughout the day.

Ten humanitarian corridors were agreed upon for the evacuation of civilians from regions in combat zones, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

More than 100,000 people still urgently need to be evacuated from Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on Thursday, describing the situation in the Russian-besieged Ukrainian port city as a humanitarian catastrophe.

"The remaining more than 100,000 people are praying for rescue - a full-scale evacuation is needed," he said on national television.

The Ukrainian military claimed on Thursday morning that 18,900 Russian soldiers have been killed since the war began, but Western intelligence estimates have put Russians killed in action at less than half of that. 

Ukraine has also claimed to have destroyed 698 tanks, 1,891 armored vehicles, 332 artillery pieces, 108 multiple launch rocket systems, 55 anti-air systems, 150 warplanes, 135 helicopters, 1,358 other ground vehicles, seven ships, 76 fuel tanks and 111 drones.  Open-source intelligence groups that visually identify destroyed, damaged, and abandoned vehicles put the losses lower.

Continued fighting on land and sea

"Progressing offensive operations in eastern Ukraine is the main focus of Russian military forces," the UK Defense Ministry assessed in a Thursday morning intelligence update. "Russian artillery and airstrikes continue along the Donbas line of control."

Ukraine's military claimed that it was repelled Russian attacks near the city of Kreminna.

In a meeting with other regional defense ministers on Black Sea security, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksei Rezinkov said that "Russia's attack has already caused a large-scale humanitarian crisis and posed a direct security threat to all Black Sea countries. 

"The safety of international shipping has been violated. Russia is creating provocations against civilian ships. Several of them are blocked in Ukrainian ports and have already been attacked by Russia; there are victims. The Russian Navy throws into the sea seized mines in Sevastopol, which belonged to the Ukrainian Navy until 2014. De facto, it is an attempt to commit terrorist acts against civilian vessels."

Eduard Basurin, spokesman for the People's Militia of the Donetsk People's Republic also claimed that Ukrainian forces were at fault for blocking ships in the Black Sea, specifically the Neo-Nazi Azov battalion.

"There are a lot of ships in the port," Basurin said, according to TASS. "Before the start of the military operation, the port worked, and when it started, the Azov people blocked the exit of these ships to the Sea of Azov. They are hostages; all these ships belong to foreign states."