It seems that Russia has shifted its military strategy in Ukraine, as reports of Russian bombings of civilian areas in Ukraine have increased recently.
Currently, Russian troops are advancing toward the capital city of Kyiv. Air strikes hit the town of Vasylkiv, which is just south of the city, on Saturday.
The town’s mayor Natalia Balassinovitch claimed on her Facebook account that rockets destroyed the local airport.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on Saturday that Russia has waged “a war of annihilation” by bombing cities and towns across the country.
He hinted that this shift toward civilian areas as a target may indicate that Russia is looking to demoralize the Ukrainian people, who have famously resisted the military invasion fiercely.
Considering that the invasion of Ukraine has not turned out to be a simple, quick military operation as Russia may have expected, a targeted bombing campaign may be an attempt to break down the will of Ukrainian troops.
For its part, Russia denies targeting civilians in Ukraine.
Reports of Russia targeting civilians in Ukraine with bombings of mosque, hospital
Yet reports from foreign media and Ukrainian officials indicate that Russia has bombed apartment buildings, hospitals, a mosque, and schools in the past week. Notably, Ukraine claimed that a Russian strike hit a children’s and maternity hospital in Mariupol, killing three people.
Russia argued that the hospital was under control of “Ukrainian radicals,” and that no patients were present there at the time of the bombing.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry claimed that Russia bombed a mosque and the 80 civilians seeking refuge within it in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Saturday.
“The mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxolana (Hurrem Sultan) in Mariupol was shelled by Russian invaders. More than 80 adults and children are hiding there from the shelling, including citizens of Turkey,” the Ministry wrote on Twitter.
The city of Mariupol has been under siege by Russian troops for around two weeks, with residents facing a lack of heating and water, as well as decreasing food supplies.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote in a tweet on Friday that “Besieged Mariupol is now the worst humanitarian catastrophe on the planet. 1,582 dead civilians in twelve days.”
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of “holding 400,000 people hostage” in Mariupol, as fresh efforts to evacuate civilians from devastated Ukrainian cities along safe routes agreed with Moscow made little progress.
Kuleba said on Wednesday that the city, where conditions are described as “apocalyptic”, was still being shelled by Russian troops despite an agreement to establish a safe evacuation corridor for civilians.
“Almost 3,000 newborn babies lack medicine and food,” Kuleba tweeted. “Russia continues holding hostage over 400,000 people in Mariupol, blocks humanitarian aid and evacuation. Indiscriminate shelling continues.”
The Red Cross itself has described conditions in Mariupol as “apocalyptic”, while Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the humanitarian situation in the besieged city was “catastrophic” and President Zelensky compared the levels of devastation and suffering there to those caused by the Nazis in the Second World War.
The UN refugee agency estimates that over two million Ukrainians have fled their homes for refuge in neighboring countries like Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, and Slovakia.