Ukraine says 1,200 bodies found near Kyiv as east braces for onslaught

“READY TO FIGHT”

The death toll rose as well in the east of Ukraine, where a missile strike on Friday killed 57 people at a railway station in the city of Kramatorsk, according to a revised tally issued by Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk region.

Residents in the east have been fleeing in their thousands as Ukraine prepares for “important battles” against Moscow’s forces, Zelenskyy said.

“We see the preparations for important battles, some people say decisive ones, in the east,” he said on Saturday at a press conference with visiting Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

“We are ready to fight and to look in parallel to end this war through diplomacy.”

Launching his own diplomatic initiative, Nehammer said he would meet Putin on Monday in a move his spokesman insisted was coordinated with “Berlin, Brussels and … Zelenskyy”. Austria is a member of the European Union, but not of NATO.

Nehammer will be the first European leader to visit the Kremlin since the invasion began on Feb 24.

The UN on Sunday said 4,232 civilian casualties had been recorded in Ukraine to date, with 1,793 killed and 2,439 injured.

Ukraine’s prosecutor Venediktova said 1,222 bodies had been found in the region around Kyiv alone so far.

At least two corpses were found inside a manhole at a petrol station on a motorway outside Kyiv on Sunday, an AFP reporter saw.

The bodies appeared to be wearing a mix of civilian and military clothing.

A distraught woman peered into the manhole before breaking down, clawing at the earth and wailing, “My son, my son”.

DIRE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

The war is taking a heavy toll on the region’s economy as well. The World Bank on Sunday issued a dire forecast, saying Ukraine’s economy would collapse by 45.1 per cent this year – a much bleaker outlook than it predicted even a month ago – while Russia would see an 11.2 per cent decline in GDP.

Ukraine on Sunday blamed Kremlin propaganda, with the complicity of the Russian media, for laying the groundwork for the bloody campaign.

“For many years, Russian political elites and propaganda have been inciting hatred, dehumanising Ukrainians, nurturing Russian superiority and laying ground for these atrocities,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Sunday.

But in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Kuleba said he remained open to negotiating with the Russians.

“If sitting down with the Russians will help me to prevent at least one massacre like in Bucha, or at least another attack like in Kramatorsk, I have to take that opportunity,” he said.

Bucha – where authorities say hundreds were killed, some with their hands bound – has become a byword for the brutality allegedly inflicted under Russian occupation.

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