Forty-four people have been severely wounded by Russian air raids in Ukraine’s northern city of Chernihiv, the city’s mayor has said, including three children.
The injured could not be evacuated to safer areas for emergency treatment since the city had been cut off by Russian forces, Vladyslav Atroshenko said on national television on Saturday.
“They can’t survive here due to the severity of their wounds, they need urgent evacuation,” he said, adding that discussions were being held on “how to get the seriously injured out by any means”.
Authorities in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv said they hoped to agree on a humanitarian corridor for Saturday but warned that negotiations with Russia were difficult.
The mayor added that 200 residents were estimated to have been killed and that up to 130,000 people were without heating, electricity or water in Chernihiv, which has come under heavy bombardment by Russian forces.
The city near the Belarusian border has been effectively surrounded, local authorities said on Friday, warning that it had become impossible to evacuate civilians or bring in humanitarian aid. More than half of the 280,000 inhabitants are estimated to have fled.
Earlier this week, city officials accused Russian troops of deliberately targeting a vital bridge linking the northern town with Kyiv, severing the main route out of the city.
Viacheslav Chaus, governor of the surrounding Chernihiv region, said the city was under fire from Russian artillery and war planes. It had been “operationally surrounded by the enemy”, he said on national television.
Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had “blocked” Ukrainian cities, including Chernihiv, to tie down the Ukrainian military while Russia focused on taking control in the eastern Donbas region.
Refugees from Chernihiv who reached Poland this week spoke of broad destruction, with bombs flattening at least two schools in the city centre and strikes also hitting the stadium, museums, kindergartens and many homes.
Previous bombings of hospitals and other non-military sites, including a theatre in the besieged southern city of Mariupol where Ukrainian authorities said a Russian air strike is believed to have killed some 300 people last week, have given rise to war crime allegations.
Similar efforts to help thousands of residents trapped for weeks in Mariupol mostly failed after Russian and Ukraine blamed each other for not observing temporary ceasefire agreements.
Russia has denied targeting civilians since it launched its invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a “special military operation”.
Ukrainian authorities on Saturday said they could not trust statements from the Russian military suggesting that the Kremlin planned to concentrate its remaining strength on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, which has been partially controlled by Russia-backed separatists since 2014.
“We cannot believe the statements from Moscow because there’s still a lot of untruth and lies from that side,” Markian Lubkivskyi, an adviser to the Ukrainian defence minister, told the BBC. “That’s why we understand the goal of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin still is the whole of Ukraine.”