Ukraine: Russia Shelled Mosque Sheltering 30-Plus Children

Mariupol, other Ukrainian cities continue to withstand relentless attacks
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 12, 2022 5:30 AM CST
Ukraine: Russia Shelled Hospital Here, Now a Mosque
A building damaged by shelling is seen in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)

Russian forces pounding the port city of Mariupol shelled a mosque sheltering more than 80 people, including children, the Ukrainian government said Saturday, as fighting also raged on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv. There was no immediate word of casualties from the shelling of the mosque, per the AP. The Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey said that a group of 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, were among the people who'd sought safety in the mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife, Roksolana. Mariupol has seen some of the greatest misery from Russia's war in Ukraine as unceasing barrages have thwarted repeated attempts to bring in food and water and to evacuate trapped civilians.

As of Friday, the death toll in Mariupol passed 1,500 during 12 days of attack, the mayor's office said. A strike on a maternity hospital in the city of 446,000 this week that killed three people sparked international outrage and war crime allegations. The ongoing bombardment forced crews to stop digging trenches for mass graves, so the "dead aren't even being buried," the mayor said. An AP photographer captured the moment when a tank appeared to fire directly on an apartment building, enveloping one side in a billowing orange fireball. Russian forces have hit at least two dozen hospitals and medical facilities since they invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to the World Health Organization. Ukrainian officials reported Saturday that heavy artillery damaged a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in Mykolaiv, a city 300 miles west of Mariupol.

Elsewhere, air raid sirens rang out across the capital region, and artillery barrages sent residents scurrying for shelter. Fighting erupted in multiple areas around Kyiv. Russia's slow, grinding apparent attempt to encircle the city and the bombardment of other population centers with artillery and air strikes mirror tactics that Russian forces have previously used in other campaigns, notably in Syria and Chechnya, to crush armed resistance. Artillery pounded Kyiv's northwestern outskirts. To the city's southwest, two columns of smoke rose in the town of Vasylkiv after a strike on an ammunition depot. The strike on the depot caused hundreds of small explosions from detonating ammunition.

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The invading Russian forces have struggled far more than expected against determined Ukrainian fighters. But Russia's stronger military threatens to grind down the defending forces, despite an ongoing flow of weapons and other assistance from the West for Ukraine's Western-looking, democratically elected government. The conflict has already sent 2.5 million people fleeing the country. Thousands of soldiers on both sides are believed to have been killed, along with many Ukrainian civilians. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared on video to encourage his people to keep fighting. "It's impossible to say how many days we will still need to free our land, but it is possible to say that we will do it," he said from Kyiv.

(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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