Following various bombardment campaigns by the invading Russian forces on civilian infrastructure in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Chernihiv, and other Ukrainian cities, the Russian forces have now fired mortar shells on Ukrainian evacuees running for their lives near a bridge located in Irpin, Ukraine. The Russian forces had no reason to fire on the bridge located at Irpin river as the Ukrainian forces had earlier blown it up in an effort to slow down the Russian advance. However, two artillery shells had hit a checkpoint where soldiers were helping evacuees escape the Russian onslaught.
Irpin, which is located just 16 miles northwest of Kyiv, had been the subject of Russian aggression the past few days of fighting. As a result, hundreds of people tried to flee the city to Kyiv in the hopes of finding safety. Small groups were said to be formed, with soldiers assisting the civilians with their luggage and children as they knew Russian forces were also within the immediate area.
Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn stated that a family had died in front of his eyes. It was said that this family was comprised of two young children and two adults trying to evacuate from the city. The colorful backpack of the children, along with their bodies, was photographed amidst their blood splattered on the road. Another report confirms that a woman and her two children (possibly around 8 to 15 years of age) and their friend were also hit by a mortar and later died. Three volunteers from this area were also shot and killed on March 5. Sources say that eight civilians were killed. However, this number could be higher.
“In front of my eyes, two small children and two adults died,” said the Mayor.
Mortar shells were reportedly fired close to the bridge at around 100 yards. Multiple mortar shells were then fired, each one getting closer to the grouped civilians. A report from the New York Times’s Lynsey Addario and a freelance journalist verifies this incident as their team witnessed the civilians who were killed by the Russian forces. Their video showed a Ukrainian soldier talking to reporters when suddenly, an explosion was seen to hit near the soldier that left him being dragged to cover by The New York Times’ Security Adviser. A reporter or a cameraman was heard cursing as they thought the mortar had hit the Ukrainian soldier. When the dust settled, the family was seen to be hit, with people calling for medics; their dog, however, survived the blast and was heard barking.
Ukrainian forces were said to be repelling the Russians in the area, but the fact that the mortar rounds were “walked” to the checkpoint for civilians suggests they were guided to their target by a human observer. Recent reports claim that Russian forces have been deliberately targeting civilian populations as they have been bombing civilian areas without military installations as Russian units advance to cities like Hostomel, Bucha, and the aforementioned Irpin in an effort to surround the capital of Kyiv.
Last week February 27, Kyiv Mayor and boxing legend Vitali Klitschko stated that Kyiv had been surrounded and that there was no way to evacuate civilians. “We can’t do that because all ways are blocked,” he explained. “Right now, we are encircled,” he continued. He also admitted that they do not have 100% control of the city, but he praised the people living in Kyiv as their resolve was admirable. “We show our character, our knowledge, our values.”
“With extreme rage, the enemy is destroying Bucha, Hostomel, Vorzel, Irpin. They deliberately kill civilians,” said Klitschko reporting about the situation on the ground.
In light of the recent killings of civilians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky published a video vowing vengeance toward the Russians for killing innocent Ukrainians, calling the gruesome act a “deliberate murder.”
“They were just trying to get out of town. To escape. The whole family. How many such families have died in Ukraine. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war,” he vowed. “We will find every bastard, which shot at our cities, our people,” he continued.
“There will be no quiet place on this earth for you. Except for the grave,” said Zelensky in a fiery speech.
These reports come after the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, announced that they will be investigating Russia for war crimes such as genocide and other related crimes against humanity amid multiple reports of non-combatant targeting. Thirty-nine states have submitted their referrals for the investigation to be opened, thereby expediting the process. Recent reports state that the civilian death toll is around 360 civilians, as reported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), with more than 1,123 civilians wounded and 759 more injured. This number may significantly be larger as the reporting of the number of casualties in a warzone is difficult to keep track of.
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