The bodies of more than 900 civilians have been discovered in the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital following Russia’s withdrawal, police said on Friday.
Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, said the bodies were abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95% died from gunshot wounds.
“Consequently, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Mr Nebytov said.
More bodies are being found every day, under rubble and in mass graves, he added.
“The most victims were found in Bucha, where there are more than 350 corpses,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defence Ministry promised to ramp up missile attacks on the Ukrainian capital in response to Ukraine’s alleged aggression on Russian territory.
That ominous warning followed the stunning loss of Moscow’s flagship in the Black Sea, which a senior US defence official said on Friday was indeed hit by at least one Ukrainian missile.
The threat of intensified attacks on Kyiv came after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of wounding seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings with airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine. Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.
“The number and the scale of missile attacks on objects in Kyiv will be ramped up in response to the Kyiv nationalist regime committing any terrorist attacks or diversions on the Russian territory,” Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Russia issued the warning while it continues to prepare for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, locals in the pummelled south-eastern city of Mariupol reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies.
In Kyiv, a renewed bombardment could mean a return to the steady wail of air raid sirens heard during the early days of the invasion.
Ukrainian officials have not confirmed striking targets in Russia, and the reports could not be independently verified.
However, Ukrainian officials said their forces did strike a key Russian warship with missiles. A senior US defence official backed up the claim, saying the US now believes the Moskva was hit by at least one, and probably two, Neptune missiles. Earlier, the Pentagon said it could not confirm the cause of the large fire aboard the guided-missile cruiser. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence assessment.
The Neptune is an anti-ship missile recently developed by Ukraine based on an earlier Soviet design.
The Moskva, named for the Russian capital, then sank while being towed to port on Thursday after suffering heavy damage. Though Moscow did not acknowledge any attack, saying only that a fire had caused ammunition on board to detonate, the loss of the ship represents an important victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia.
The Moskva had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles.
In his nightly address on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians they should be proud of having survived 50 days under Russian attack when the invaders “gave us a maximum of five”.
Russia’s warning of renewed air strikes did not stop Kyiv residents from taking advantage of a sunny and slightly warmer spring day as the weekend approached. More people than usual were out on the streets on Friday, walking dogs, riding electric scooters and strolling hand in hand.
In one central park, a small group of people including a woman draped in a Ukrainian flag danced to the music of a portable speaker.
Residents reported hearing explosions in parts of Kyiv overnight, but it was not clear what sites were targeted.
News about the Moskva overshadowed Russian claims of advances in the southern port city of Mariupol, which Moscow’s forces have blockaded since the early days of the invasion.
Mariupol’s mayor said this week that more than 10,000 civilians had died and the death toll could surpass 20,000.
Mariupol’s capture would allow Russian forces in the south, which came up through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and the target of the looming offensive.
Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine. Russia has recognised the independence of two rebel-held areas of the region.
Although it is not certain when Russia will launch the full-scale campaign, a regional Ukrainian official said on Friday that seven people died and 27 were injured after Russian forces opened fire on buses carrying civilians in the village of Borovaya, near the north-eastern city of Kharkiv. The claim could not be independently verified.
A large explosion also struck the eastern city of Kramatorsk, where a missile strike on a train station a week earlier killed more than 50 people as thousands heeding warnings to evacuate the Donbas area waited to leave.
Associated Press journalists in Kramatorsk heard the sound of a rocket or missile and then the blast, followed by sirens wailing on Friday. It was not immediately clear what was hit or whether there were casualties. A day earlier, a factory in the same city was hit by an air strike.