Ukrainian prime minister says Russia committing "terrible war crimes"
As the death toll mounts in Mariupol — the key port city in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has focused its efforts since failing to capture the capital of Kyiv — Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal accused the invading forces of committing "terrible war crimes" in the city.
In an exclusive interview on "Face the Nation," Shmyhal said "small children and babies" have died of dehydration in Mariupol since the war began two months ago. More than 100,000 people are believed to remain in the city with little access to water, food or heat. About 430,000 people lived in the city before the war.
"So there are terrible atrocities, terrible war crimes on the Mariupol territory," Shmyhal said at the end of his trip last week to Washington, where he met with President Biden and top lawmakers.
Ukrainian officials estimate that more than 20,000 civilians have been killed in Mariupol since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military to invade Ukraine in February. After failing to capture the capital city of Kyiv, Russian forces have shifted their focus to Mariupol and other strategic towns and cities in the east and south of the country.
On the eve of Orthodox Easter, Russia launched new attacks in the region, including in the Black Sea port city of Odesa, where Ukrainian officials said Russian missile strikes killed a 3-month-old baby and at least five other people.
Shmyhal said Mariupol is like a "symbol of brave Ukrainian soldiers and civilians" who have tried to protect the city amid heavy Russian bombardment. But the only part of the city that remains under Ukrainian control is a steel plant where an estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering with some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.
"We will protect our cities. And Mariupol will stay till the end," Shmyhal said, adding that Ukrainian soldiers would fight as long as it takes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin were heading to Kyiv on Sunday to meet with Ukraine's leaders. Shmyhal told "Face the Nation" that it would be a "very important political symbol" to have U.S. officials visit Ukraine so they can see with "their own eyes what's happened, which atrocities and war crimes" Russia has allegedly carried out.
The prime minister said he was grateful for the support the U.S. and other Western nations have provided Ukraine, but he said his country needs more weapons, ammunition and financial assistance, and urged the West to impose additional sanctions on Russia.
He also suggested using seized Russian assets, including yachts, to pay for the estimated $600 billion it would take to rebuild Ukraine.
"All of this should be paid by Russia. Absolutely," Shmyhal said.