Fleeing Russians use children as human shields as death toll hits 18,000

Russian troops in Ukraine have been accused of using Ukrainian children as human shields – even positioning buses full of kids in front of their tanks in a heartless attempt to prevent Ukraine’s defenders from using their anti-tank weaponry.

“Cases of using children as cover are recorded in the Sumy, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhia regions,” said Lyudmila Denisova, Ukraine ’s human rights ombudsman.

Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for Ukraine’s ministry of defence, said: “Enemies have been using Ukrainian children as a living shield when moving their convoys, moving their vehicles.

“Russian soldiers have used Ukrainian children as hostages, putting them on their trucks. They’re doing it to protect their vehicles when moving”.

The shocking news comes as reports are emerging of newly-liberated areas around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv that the retreating Russians had carried out summary executions on unarmed Ukrainian civilians.

Reports are also emerging that some Ukrainian children have been forcibly relocated to Russia. Ukraine's foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikoleno said that over 2,300 children from the eastern Donbas region had been taken to Russia on just one day.

He pointed out that "Abducting civilians is strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law”.

Colonel Motuzyanyk says that the numerous cases of “brutal behaviour” against Ukrainian children had been collected and “in each and every case will be given to the national criminal courts and the occupiers will be brought to justice for each and every military and war crime they commit.”

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Some 5,000 residents have also been reportedly taken at gunpoint from the besieged city of Mariupol and shipped to Taganrog in south-western Russia.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the mass abduction brought back memories of “the horrific events of World War Two, when the Nazis forcibly captured people”.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk regional administration, says that the Russians had been “sending the residents of Mariupol to filtration camps, checking their phones and seizing their Ukrainian documents.”

Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun told Times Radio people were being taken to “very distant parts of Russia” and “forced to sign papers saying that they will stay in that area for two or three years and they will work for free in those areas”.

She said the conditions the civilians were under were akin to slave labour.

Russia's use of human shields reflects the catastrophic failure of its "special military operation" in Ukraine. Russian ground forces are retreating and regrouping as brutally efficient Ukrainian anti-aircraft fire is prevents close support from the Russian air-force.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine claims that current Russian losses to date include 18,000 men, 630 tanks and over 1,700 other armoured vehicles.

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Despite strict Kremlin control of Russian media, reports of the scale of the losses are filtering back home through western media reports and calls from desperate young Russian conscripts.

PM Boris Johnson said Putin’s increasing brutality is a sign that the Russian leader is trying to “snuff out the flame of freedom in Ukraine” because he fears an uprising in Moscow.

“If Putin succeeds in crushing Ukraine, it will be the green light for autocrats everywhere in the Middle East, in the Far East,” he said. “This is a turning point for the world. It’s a moment of choice. It’s a choice between freedom and oppression.”

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