Russian commander orders soldiers to ‘take out’ Ukrainian civilians near besieged Mariupol: report
The Times of London reported Thursday about the obscenity-strewn recordings released by the Security Service of Ukraine. In one recording, an unidentified Russian soldier says he observed “two people coming out of the grove in civilian [clothing].” He also spotted a vehicle and states he cannot determine whether it’s a civilian vehicle or one operating by members of the Ukrainian military.
“Take them all f***ing out!” a Russian commander shouts in response, according to the intercepted call.
“Off them all, f***!” the superior shouted. The soldier accepts the command, saying, “Got it.”
The recording was said to have come from a village outside of Mariupol, a city on the northeast coast of the Sea of Azov that’s suffered near constant Russian bombardment since March 1. An estimated 120,000 civilians remained behind in the city with a pre-war population of half million. As Russians blocked humanitarian aid and food, drinking water and medical supplies have dwindled.
Ukrainian officials have estimated that thousands of civilians have perished as airstrikes have struck a maternity hospital, a theater where hundreds of civilians were sheltering, and residential buildings. They’ve also warned that Russians might be staging a “false flag” provocation by staging the corpses of slain Mariupol residents and falsely presenting them as the victims of Ukrainian troops who used them as human shields.
The Mariupol City Council on Wednesday accused Russian forces of relying on a mobile crematorium to cover up their war crimes against civilians, as the mayor of Mariupol said, “This the new Auschwitz.”
In another leaked recording, one soldier lamented to his colleagues how Ukrainians troops have “encircled” their smaller Russian group and that they’re receiving little support from Moscow.
Declining morale and panic among the Russian ranks have been a concern of Russian leadership, according to a military directive the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said it intercepted from the Russians.
The document states that “commanders of all ranks have faced opposition from personnel” who have been persuaded by the “internet and popular messengers.”
It adds that Russian “security services have become aware of numerous cases of soldiers being blackmailed through their personal data and cases of soldiers being deceived with false information communicated to them personally through messenger apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram, Vkontakte and others.”
In response, Russian military leadership ordered “increased control” on soldiers’ access to the internet and social media on their mobile devices and check-ups on their “moral-psychological state.”
The Times also reported that Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, who’s been dubbed the Butcher of Mariupol, also recently boasted about his forces having “liquidated” 93 alleged Ukrainian “deserters” last month as they abandoned their posts and sought to flee the besieged Mariupol. The group was wearing civilian clothes, but Mizintsev said they were Ukrainian fighters, Russian state-run RT reported.
In another audio recording made public by Ukraine, Mizintsev stated that Russian soldiers’ ears should be cut off as punishment for not wearing the correct uniform.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking remotely from Ukraine, addressed the Greek parliament Thursday and emphasized the destruction brought on Mariupol, which is home to a large Greek population and shares strong ethnic and cultural ties with Greece. After pulling back from Kyiv, Russian troops have recommitted to their offensive in southeastern Ukraine in recent days.
“I urge you to use the influence of Greece and opportunities as a member of the European Union to save Mariupol,” Zelenskyy said. “Russia is absolutely confident in its invincibility and that they could do whatever they want without going unpunished. We have to stop it. We must bring Russia to justice.”
“Russian troops have brought death and destruction to the land where for centuries both Ukrainians and Greeks have been enjoying peace and prosperity,” Zelenskyy said. “The Russians have started a new relocation of the people from southern Ukraine. At least tens of thousands of our citizens have already been taken away to the territory of Russia and to the temporarily occupied areas of Ukraine. Those are residents of Mariupol and other cities and communities hit hard by Russian troops.”
This week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations acknowledged “credible reports” about Russian forces moving tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians from Mariupol into “filtration camps” and then into Russian territory or into the rebel-controlled region of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Zelenskyy on Thursday warned the Greek parliament that another port city on the Black Sea could meet Mariupol’s same fate. Zelenskyy said that when the Greek foreign minister was in Odesa last week, the Ukrainian city, once an ancient Greek colony and now a large industrial hub, was experiencing Russian shelling and another missile attack. The Ukrainian president said Odesa is now again calm Thursday.
“This is forced relocation of people by Russia, and it is definitely not the first relocation by the Russians and both the Ukrainians and Greeks suffer from such relocation,” Zelenskyy said. “We must save Odesa from the same destruction Mariupol has suffered. We have to find all the people deported by Russia. We have to save those in Mariupol who are still alive and can be saved.”
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Ukraine had walked back its proposal that international guarantees of its security don’t apply to Crimea. Russian annexed the Black Sea peninsula in 2014 and wants Ukraine to acknowledge Moscow’s sovereignty over it.
Russian forces have pulled back from the capital region around Kyiv in recent days, and photos have emerged showing corpses in civilian clothing lying in the streets or outside homes in Bucha and other towns, some of them with their hands tied behind their backs and showing signs of rape and torture.
The German news magazine Der Spiegel recently reported that the German Federal Intelligence Service also claimed to have intercepted radio recordings from Bucha and presented the findings to the German parliament on Wednesday. The recordings purportedly captured Russian troops discussing killing civilians over the radio, with one soldier specifically mentioning shooting a man on his bicycle. Of the many graphic images that surfaced from the Bucha massacre, a dead man next to his bike was one that sent shockwaves through the West and prompted new sanctions to crush the Russian war machine.
Meeting in Brussels, G7 foreign ministers vowed Thursday to “sustain and increase pressure on Russia by imposing coordinated additional restrictive measures to effectively thwart Russian abilities to continue the aggression against Ukraine.” Considering allegations of war crimes in the city of Bucha, the ministers insisted “those responsible for these heinous acts and atrocities, including any attacks targeting civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure, will be held accountable and prosecuted.”
They also repeated warnings about the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, saying that “any use by Russia of such a weapon would be unacceptable and result in severe consequences.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.