Ukraine reports deaths of 24 more children in Mariupol

At least 287 children have died since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24. PHOTO: REUTERS

KYIV (REUTERS) - The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general said on Saturday (June 11) that it has learned about the deaths of 24 more children in Mariupol, the south-eastern port that was besieged for weeks before Russian forces captured it in mid-May.

In total, the office said at least 287 children have died since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24. More than 492 have been wounded.

"During the recording of criminal offences, it has become known that 24 more children died in Mariupol, Donetsk region, as a result of the indiscriminate shelling by the Russian military," the office said on the Telegram messaging app.

"These figures are not final, as work is underway to establish them in places of active hostilities, in the temporarily occupied and liberated territories," it added.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.

The mayor of Mariupol - reduced to ruins by the siege - said there was an outbreak of cholera in the city, as sanitation systems were broken and corpses were rotting in the streets.

Russia has denied targeting civilians and has rejected allegations of war crimes in what it calls a "special military operation" aimed at demilitarising and "denazifying" Ukraine.

Kyiv and its allies say Ukraine was invaded without provocation.

Early in June, the United Nations said that more than 250 children have been killed since the war began and five million remain at risk of violence and abuse.

Meanwhile in Sievierodonetsk, governor Serhiy Gaidai of the Luhansk region partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists said Ukraine remains in control of the Azot chemical plant in that industrial city where hundreds of civilians are sheltering.

He said this after a Russia-backed separatist claimed 300 to 400 Ukrainian fighters were also trapped there.

“The information about the blockade of the Azot plant is a lie,” Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday.

“Our forces are holding an industrial zone of Sievierodonetsk and are destroying the Russian army in the town,” he wrote.

Sievierodonetsk, a small city in the region, has become the focus of Russia’s advance in eastern Ukraine and one of the bloodiest flashpoints in a war now into its fourth month.

Ukraine has said some 800 people were hiding in several bomb shelters underneath the Azot plant, including about 200 employees and 600 residents of Sievierodonetsk.

Rodion Miroshnik, a Russian-backed representative of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, said on Saturday that 300 to 400 Ukrainian fighters were blockaded on the grounds of the plant along with civilians and had tried to negotiate their passage to the city of Lysychansk.

“Such demands are unacceptable and will not be discussed,” Miroshnik said, adding that negotiations with fighters about civilians at the plant were under way.

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