Two Ukrainian children killed ‘in front of my own eyes’ while trying to evacuate, official says

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Russian forces fired mortar shells on Sunday in a town in the outskirts of Kyiv, sending panicked residents running for their lives and killing at least eight people, including a family, according to a local government official.

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Irpin Mayor Alexandar Markushin said in a video Sunday that Russian troops shelled the town’s residents as they were preparing to evacuate by bus to nearby cities.

“The shell hit, and in front of my own eyes died two small children and two adults,” he said. “I want to emphasize these were peaceful residents.”

Photographs and videos from journalists on the ground showed harrowing images of several people – including two children – sprawled on the ground moments after the attack. A gray roller suitcase eerily stood next to the lifeless bodies.

The images were widely shared on social media and prompted outrage and condemnation by Ukrainian authorities, who have accused Putin of increasingly targeting residential neighborhoods across the country in recent days.

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“The whole family,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. “How many families have died like this in Ukraine! We won’t forgive you.”

A video verified by The Washington Post captured the moment of the shelling.

A man wearing a yellow arm band, usually worn by Ukrainian forces, and carrying a gun over his shoulder stood across from a church and sidewalk crowded with people carrying suitcases. He took a few steps toward an intersection before an explosion ripped through the middle of the street.

The camera operator ducked into a nearby building, emerging seconds later to a chaotic scene. The area was covered in smoke. Someone ran out of the building and dragged the man with the yellow armband out of the street. Soldiers sprinted across the intersection to help people collapsed on the ground and someone shouted “Medic!”

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The New York Times reported Sunday that a woman, her teenage son, a daughter and a family friend had been hit. Soldiers found the woman and children dead but the man still had a pulse. He later died, the newspaper reported.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians, but a growing number of Western officials are raising questions about possible war crimes. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the use of certain munitions on civilians already “fully qualifies” as a war crime. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday US officials have seen “credible reports” of intentional Russian attacks on civilians, and are documenting actions that would constitute a war crime.

Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022.
Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. Photo by ARIS MESSINIS /AFP via Getty Images

As of Saturday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had recorded 1,123 civilians killed or injured in Ukraine during the war. The 364 people killed include 25 children. At least 759 people have been hurt. The office said in a statement it believes the real figures are much higher, noting there had been unverified reports of hundreds of civilians killed or injured in the town of Volnovakha.

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More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have fled over the past 10 days, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said Sunday. In a tweet, he said the mass exodus is “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”

Right before the shelling, soldiers had been helping residents flee by assisting women and children onto buses offering rides to the western cities of Rivne and Lutsk, the Wall Street Journal reported. A video published by Reuters showed journalists and residents running for cover amid heavy shelling.

The attack in Irpin comes as Ukrainian authorities accuse Russians of violating agreements to establish humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians. On Sunday, Ukrainian officials said they were forced to halt evacuations from the southern city of Mariupol for the second day in a row after Russian resumed shelling the city.

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Aid workers said 200,000 people seeking to flee the violence were stuck as fighting raged on.

“People are living in terror Mariupol, desperate for safety,” the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is helping facilitate the evacuation efforts, said in a statement. “They are not a target.”

The ICRC said the failed evacuation attempts “underscore the absence of a detailed and functioning agreement between parties to the conflict.”

Zelensky warned that more civilian lives were at risk as Russian troops prepared to attack the major port city of Odessa, a move that he said would amount to a “historical crime.”

Markushin, the mayor of Irpin, said the city located about 16 miles northwest of the capital has seen intense fighting in recent days.

“Russian invaders have in fact taken a portion of the town,” he said, but “a part of Irpin continues to fight and doesn’t give up its position.”

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