RZESZÓW, (Poland): US President Joe Biden came up-close to the war in Ukraine Friday after forging a new set of measures with Europe designed to place a tighter squeeze on Russia’s tottering, energy-rich economy.
Biden visited Poland as a clearer scale of the ruin emerged from Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol, which a month into the invasion now resembles World War II scenes of Russian cities razed by the Nazis.
Authorities said some 300 civilians may have died in a Russian air strike on a theatre-turned-bomb shelter in Mariupol last week, in what would be the invasion’s single bloodiest attack.
“I have escaped, but I have lost all my family. I have lost my house. I am desperate,” Oksana Vynokurova, 33, told AFP after finally escaping Mariupol by train to the western city of Lviv.
“My mum is dead. I left my mother in the yard like a dog, because everybody’s shooting,” she said.
Also disembarking from the train, Svetlana Kuznetsova said: “There is no water, light and electricity. We were living in cellars. We were cooking food on fires.
“I have never seen such horror. There is no Mariupol,” the middle-aged woman added. “Mariupol is like Grozny (in Chechnya). Everything is destroyed.”
Smaller-scale strikes continued without pause as Russia, suffering heavy losses and meagre progress against key targets, pursues a relentless campaign of bombardment against Ukraine’s cities.
Giving only its second death toll of the war, the Russian army said it had suffered 1,351 fatalities in the invasion. Ukraine and Western intelligence say it is many thousands more.
In the east, Russian strikes targeting a medical facility in Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv killed four civilians and wounded several others, police said.
“I had gone out looking for bread. There were explosions. When I came back there were four bodies lying there, with relatives crying by their side,” 71-year-old Mykola Hladkiy told AFP.
Several residents said cluster munitions were used in Kharkiv, spraying death indiscriminately.
After summits of NATO, the European Union and G7 in Brussels, Biden warned that the NATO alliance would “respond” if Russian President Vladimir Putin resorts next to chemical weapons.
En route to Poland, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Russia would pay a “severe price” — but stressed “the United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period, under any circumstance