Ukraine: 'Russian invasion has killed hundreds of children'
By Stefan J. Bos
Among the many victims of Europe's most significant conflict since World War Two are many for whom life had just begun.
The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general has confirmed that at least 423 children have been killed since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
It added that a further 810 children were wounded in the conflict. Investigators said most child casualties were suffered in the regions of Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Kyiv, the capital.
But it warned that the numbers were not final as work continues to collect the tallies of those killed and injured in areas still occupied by Russia or where fighting is ongoing.
Many children also lost their parents, including six-year-old Ilya Kostushevych. His parents were killed in the Russian attack on the city of Mariupol. Volodymyr and Maria Bespaliy offered to adopt him as their son.
"He said: My parents are dead. How can I be alone?" recalled his adopted mother, Maria Bespaliy, as he played nearby.
"I explained to him that there is a war going on, a cruel war, and that, unfortunately, things like this happen and that he is not alone. But I told him: We have taken you and will take care of you. We will love you. We will be your family. If you want, we will be your mum and dad. Your mother and father are in heaven. They look down on you and are happy for you."
More suffering reported
But more children and adults will become victims. Ukrainian authorities reported that at least six people were wounded this weekend due to rocket attacks from Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, where Russia has stationed its troops.
On both sides, casualties increase as fighting rages in eastern and southern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces continue their counter-offensive in several areas, including the eastern Donetsk region. Footage has emerged of Ukrainian troops using self-propelled artillery pieces that can reach up to 37.5 kilometers or just over 23 miles.
They say they attack Russian artillery, command posts, ammunition depots, electronic warfare stations, and other vital targets.
And Russian-installed officials have said Ukraine is responsible for a rocket attack that struck the mayor's office in separatist-controlled Donetsk.
Reporters saw plumes of smoke swirling around the building, with rows of blown-out windows and a partially collapsed ceiling. Cars nearby were burned out, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Russia enduring casualties
Russian forces are also suffering casualties closer to home.
The Russian Defense Ministry says it has opened a criminal investigation after gunmen shot dead 11 people at a military training ground near the Ukrainian border.
The ministry said two gunmen opened fire during a firearms training exercise on Saturday, targeting a group who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine. It claimed the attackers, which it called "terrorists," were shot dead.
The incident was the latest blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Last week, a blast damaged a bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia's defense ministry said the attackers were from a former Soviet republic without elaborating.
Yet, the British ministry of defense says that Moscow is rapidly running out of long-range cruise missiles to retaliate to these or other attacks after Ukraine shot down more than half in recent days.
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