Ukraine needs more weapons to unblock siege of Mariupol, Zelensky says

A roundup of events on Day 76 of Russia's invasion of Ukraine: Official says bodies of 44 civilians found in rubble of building in northeastern city of Izyum; Lithuania votes to recognize genocide; and the United Nations estimates the civilian death toll is much higher than records show.

Bodies of 44 civilians found in rubble of building in northeastern city of Izyum: official

The site of a shopping centre destroyed by shelling is pictured in Odesa, Ukraine, on Tuesday. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at the crucial Black Sea port, hitting the shopping centre and a warehouse. (Igor Tkachenko

Latest political developments

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukraine hasn't received enough weapons to unblock Mariupol.

  • Lithuania joins Canada in recognizing Russia's actions as genocide.

  • The head of the UN human rights monitoring mission says the death toll in Ukraine is likely considerably higher than the official number, which sits at 3,381 civilians killed.

  • The website RuTube, essentially a Russian version of YouTube, is down for a second day after a cyberattack. 

  • German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock visits a mass grave in Bucha and pledges the international community would hold to account those responsible for "the worst crimes imaginable." 

Updates from the ground on Day 76 of the war

  • Fighters holed up inside a steel plant in Mariupol release photos of wounded comrades in a plea for their evacuation.

  • Ukrainian official say the bodies of 44 civilians have been found in the rubble of a building destroyed weeks ago in the northeastern city of Izyum.

  • Ukraine says its forces have recaptured villages from Russian troops north and northeast of Kharkiv.

  • 1 dead and 5 injured after Russia fired seven missiles at the port city of Odesa.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Maltese lawmakers on Tuesday that, despite pleas, Ukraine has not received the amount of weapons it would need to unblock the siege of Mariupol and free the city.

Zelensky said soldiers "continue their resistance" at the Azovstal steel plant, the last remaining stronghold in the city. 

"We are using all possible diplomatic instruments to rescue them, but Russia doesn't allow for any of the proposed options," he said in his latest video address to a Western parliament. "We have asked our partners to provide weapons in order to unblock Mariupol and rescue both civilians and military personnel."

But he said the amount of weapons needed has not been provided. Zelensky said Ukrainian cities and towns have been hit by 2,250 missiles over the two-and-a-half month invasion. "The bombardment doesn't stop, neither during the day, nor the night," he said.

A child and her family who fled Mariupol arrive at a reception centre for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Sunday. Thousands of Ukrainians continue to leave Russian-occupied areas. (Francisco Seco/The Associated Press)

The president also said Russia's blockade of ports on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov means Ukraine cannot export grains and sunflower, which will provoke a crisis in the global food market.

"If we cannot export wheat, barley, sunflower, sunflower seed oil, then it means that people in North Africa and Asia will be lacking food and the prices will go up," Zelensky said. "Later, there could be new chaos and a new migration crisis."

According to the UN, 14 million Ukrainians were forced from their homes by the end of April, including more than 5.9 million who have left the country.

After unexpectedly fierce resistance forced the Kremlin to abandon its effort to storm Kyiv more than a month ago, Moscow's forces have concentrated on capturing the Donbas, Ukraine's eastern industrial region.

But the fighting there has been a back-and-forth, village-by-village slog. Some analysts have suggested Putin might declare the fighting a war, not just a "special military operation," and order a nationwide mobilization and a call-up of reserves to fight an extended conflict.

Meanwhile, Zelensky said Tuesday that Ukraine's military was gradually pushing Russian troops away from the northeastern city of Kharkiv, which has been under sustained attack since early in the war. The Ukrainian military's general staff said its forces drove the Russians out of four villages to the northeast of Kharkiv as it tries to push them back toward the Russian border.

A cemetery worker takes a break from working at the graves of civilians killed in Bucha during the war with Russia, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, on April 14. (Rodrigo Abd/The Associated Press)

Mariupol defenders issue new plea for help

In Mariupol, Russians bombarded the Azovstal steel mill, the Azov regiment said, targeting the sprawling complex 34 times in the past 24 hours. Attempts to storm the plant also continued, it said. The regiment is a far-right armed group that was folded into Ukraine's National Guard after Russia's first invasion in 2014.

Fighters with the regiment released photos of their wounded comrades inside the plant, including some with amputated limbs.

They said the wounded were living in unsanitary conditions "with open wounds bandaged with non-sterile remnants of bandages, without the necessary medication and even food."

In this photo provided by Azov Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Press Office, a wounded serviceman is shown inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Dmytro 'Orest' Kozatskyi/Azov Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Press Office/The Associated Press)

In its statement on Telegram, the regiment appealed to the UN and Red Cross to evacuate the wounded servicemen to Ukrainian-controlled territories.

The photos could not be independently verified.

Meanwhile, two Ukrainian officials said around 100 civilians still remain trapped at the steel mill, despite earlier reports that all the women, children and older adults had been rescued. However, others said that was impossible to confirm.

Calls to prosecute suspected war crimes

Meanwhile, Lithuania's parliament has voted unanimously to describe Russia's actions in Ukraine as "genocide" and "terrorism," two weeks after a similar move by Canadian lawmakers.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte co-sponsored the motion, which listed off evidence of suspected war crimes, including the deliberate killing of civilians, mass rape, forcible relocation of Ukrainian citizens to Russia and the destruction of economic infrastructure and cultural sites.

Lithuania also called for an international tribunal, modelled after the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War.

The United Nations' top human rights body is expected to hold a special session on Thursday to discuss the worsening human rights situation on the ground. 

U.S. President Joe Biden has previously said he believed the invasion of Ukraine amounted to genocide but that he would leave it up to lawyers to make a final determination.

Moscow denies targeting civilians during its invasion, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed on the West, NATO and hostilities from Ukraine.

An Ukrainian firefighter works near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa on Tuesday. (Max Pshybyshevsky/The Associated Press)

Vital port of Odesa pummelled 

On Monday, a barrage of attacks slammed Ukraine's strategically placed port city of Odesa after Putin marked his country's biggest patriotic holiday without being able to boast of any major battlefield successes.

The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles at Odesa, hitting a shopping centre and a warehouse. One person was killed and five were wounded.

The Centre for Defence Strategies, a Ukrainian think-tank tracking the war, said Moscow used some precision weapons against Odesa: Kinzhal, or "Dagger," hypersonic air-to-surface missiles.

But a senior U.S. defence official said on Tuesday that the U.S. has seen no indication that any hypersonic missiles were fired at Odesa in recent days. During the entire war, the Russians have fired 10 to 12 hypersonic missiles, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment.

Ukrainian, British and U.S. officials say Russia is rapidly using up its stock of precision weapons, raising the risk of more imprecise rockets being used as the conflict grinds on.

UN says death toll considerably higher 

According to the latest update from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 3,381 civilians have been killed and 3,680 injured in Ukraine since the invasion began at 4 a.m. on Feb. 24.

But the head of the UN human rights monitoring mission, Matilda Bogner, said the death toll is believed to be considerably higher. 

Bogner said the mission had received reports that more than 300 men, women and children were unlawfully killed in Bucha during the Russian occupation.

The European chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) has also released sobering numbers, reporting some 200 attacks in Ukraine on health-care facilities and estimating that at least 3,000 people have died in the country due to a lack of access to treatments for chronic diseases. 

WATCH | WHO calls for ceasefire: 

Ukraine health system hit by 200 direct attacks, says WHO

2 months ago
Duration 1:15
The World Health Organization is urging an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to stop the suffering from Russia's widespread assault on Ukraine's health systems, its workers, and sick and wounded people.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian official said that authorities have found the bodies of 44 civilians in the rubble of a building in Izyum that was destroyed by Russia in March. Russia has been holding Izyum, an eastern Ukrainian city in the Kharkiv region, as a key front-line node.

Oleh Synehubov, the head of Kharkiv's regional administration, made the announcement Tuesday via a message on social media. He said the five-storey building had collapsed with the civilians inside and called it "another horrible war crime of the Russian occupiers against the civilian population."

German diplomat describes Bucha horrors

On Tuesday, German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock visited a mass gravesite in Bucha. 

She pledged that the international community would hold to account those responsible, saying that "the worst crimes imaginable" had been perpetrated in Bucha.

Witnesses have described how Russian soldiers targeted civilians seemingly at random, leaving their bodies lying on the street after their withdrawal from the region on March 31.

Speaking to reporters at a damaged church, Baerbock said she heard accounts from those who had lost loved ones during the occupation, including people killed in a supermarket while they were shopping, and the story of how a woman and her two children were shot dead while trying to flee.

Tetyana Boikiv, right, meets and hugs her neighbour, Svitlana Pryimachenko, during a funeral service for her husband, Mykola Moroz, near Bucha, Ukraine, on April 26. (Emilio Morenatti/The Associated Press)

In Russia, the websites of state-owned companies and news websites have fallen under sporadic hacking efforts since Russia invaded Ukraine.

RuTube, a Russian video platform similar to YouTube, is down for a second day following a cyberattack.

Separately, Russian satellite television menus were on Monday hacked to show messages to viewers in Moscow about events in Ukraine, including, "You have blood on your hands," according to screenshots obtained by Reuters.

With files from Reuters and CBC News