JURAS KARMANOV, ADAM SHREK and KARA ANNA

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – The mayor of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has said more than 10,000 civilians have been killed during the siege of his city by Russia and that the total death toll could exceed twice as much.

Speaking on the phone to the Associated Press on Monday, Mayor Vadim Boychenko said corpses had been “exiled” to the city streets. He said Russian forces had brought mobile cremation equipment to the city to get rid of the bodies, and accused Russian forces of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city in an attempt to hide the massacre.

THIS IS AN UPDATE OF NEWS. The previous history of the AP is given below.

Russia said on Monday that it had destroyed several Ukrainian air defense systems, which seemed to be a new impetus for gaining air superiority and disarmament, which Kyiv called crucial before the expected new broad offensive in the east.

In one of the strikes, Moscow said it had hit four S-300 launchers near the central city of Dnipro, which had been provided by a European country it did not name. Last week, Slovakia gave Ukraine just such a system, but denied that it had been destroyed. Earlier, Russia reported two strikes on similar systems elsewhere.

Moscow’s initial invasion came to a halt on several fronts when it met fierce resistance from Ukrainian troops, which prevented the Russians from capturing the capital and other cities. The inability to gain full control of Ukraine’s skies has prevented Moscow from providing air cover for troops on the ground, limiting their advance and possibly exposing them to greater losses.

After their offensive in many parts of the country was thwarted, Russian troops increasingly relied on the bombing of cities – a strategy that led to many urban areas being leveled and thousands killed. The war also destroyed Ukraine’s economy, according to World Bank estimates, this year it will shrink by more than 45%.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of atrocities, including the Bucha massacre near Kiev, airstrikes on hospitals and a rocket attack that killed at least 57 people at a train station last week.

In Bucha, the exhumation of bodies from the mass grave in the churchyard resumed on Monday.

Galina Feoktistova waited for hours in the cold and rain, hoping to recognize her 50-year-old son, who was shot more than a month ago, but eventually went warm. “He’s still there,” said her son Andrew.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Agency said nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children had fled their homes in the six weeks since the Russian invasion began, and the United Nations confirmed that 142 children had been killed and 229 injured, although real numbers are likely significant. above.

Elsewhere, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nechamer said he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday for talks that were “very direct, open and tough.”

In a statement issued by his office, Nehamer said his main message to Putin was “that this war must end because in a war both sides can only lose.” Nehamer said he also raised the issue of war crimes committed by the Russian military, and said the perpetrators “will be brought to justice”.

Austria is a member of the European Union and has supported the 27-nation bloc’s sanctions against Russia, although it has so far opposed a halt to Russian gas supplies. The country is militarily neutral and not a member of NATO.

In other events, the head of the separatist insurgent government in Donetsk said that Ukrainian forces had lost control of the port zone of the besieged port of Mariupol.

“As for the port of Mariupol, it is now under our control,” the president of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin told Russian state television, according to Russian news agencies. The statement could not be confirmed immediately.

Russia has appointed an experienced general to lead its new attack in the eastern Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014 and have declared independent states. Both sides are digging into what could be a devastating war of attrition.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for more help from the West, saying his forces need more firepower to withstand future pressure and push back Russian forces. Echoing his remarks in an AP interview, Zelensky said on Sunday that the coming week could be decisive and that support for the West – or lack thereof – could be decisive.

“Honestly, it depends on whether we will be able to (survive),” Zelensky said in an interview with “60 Minutes”. “Unfortunately, I have no confidence that we will get everything we need.” In a video message to South Korean lawmakers on Monday, he specifically asked for equipment that could shoot down Russian missiles.

But these weapons could be increasingly attacked as Russia seeks to change the balance in the 6-week war.

A spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Kanashenko, said the military had used cruise missiles to destroy four launchers on Sunday on the southern outskirts of the Dnieper. According to him, the military also affected such systems in Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions.

An independent verification of Russia’s claims failed.

The Pentagon said it had seen no evidence to support Russia’s claims. A senior U.S. defense official said Russia carried out an air strike on the Dnieper airport on Sunday, destroying some equipment, but the official said the U.S. saw no signs that the air defense system had been knocked out.

Lubica Janikova, a spokeswoman for the Slovak prime minister, denied on Monday that the S-300 system she had sent to Ukraine had been destroyed. She said any other allegations were untrue.

In recent months, Ukraine has specifically requested more S-300s, although it already had a number of Soviet-built systems and other long-range air defense systems. It has also received consignments of portable Western anti-aircraft weapons, like the Stinger, which are effective against low-flying aircraft.

Questions remain about the ability of exhausted and demoralized Russian troops to conquer much of the territory after their attack on Kyiv was repulsed by staunch Ukrainian defenders.

The UK Ministry of Defense said on Monday that Ukraine had already repulsed several attacks by Russian troops in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Donbass, which had destroyed Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery.

Western military analysts say Russia’s attack is increasingly focused on the arc of the territory, which stretches from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, in the north to Kherson in the south.

On Sunday, Russian troops fired on government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements toward Izyum to the southeast to try to break through Ukraine’s defenses, the Ukrainian military said.

A fire broke out in a residential district in Kharkiv on Monday afternoon. Associated Press reporters saw firefighters put out the fire and check the victims after the attack, and saw that at least five people were killed, including a child.

Earlier on Monday, Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleg Sinegubov said that 11 people had been killed in shelling by Russia over the past 24 hours.

Russia has deployed Chechen fighters in Mariupol, who are known to have been particularly brutal. The capture of the city on the Sea of ​​Azov will give Russia a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine and annexed eight years ago.

Residents of Mariupol have been short of food, water and electricity since Russian troops surrounded the city. Hundreds of thousands fled, although Russian attacks also thwarted evacuation missions.

Vladislav Usovich, an 18-year-old conscript who served in the Russian-backed separatist forces, was slowly advancing with other fighters through residential areas around the plant on Sunday in Mariupol.

“I thought it would be better. I thought it would be faster. Everything is going slowly, ”he said. “Ukrainians are trained fighters. NATO has prepared them well. “

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Anna reported from the Ukrainian Bucha. Robert Burns in Washington and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow the coverage of the AP war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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