Russian forces pick through the remains of destroyed Ukrainian towns

Russian forces loomed over the ghostly ruins of Mariupol, removing bodies while preparing to besiege Ukrainian holdouts in a fortified steel plant. Ukrainian officials claim Russian troops are redepolying from the southern port city to reinforce their onslaught in the east. Willem Marx reports

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Russia has admitted for the first time that last week's sinking of its flagship cruiser the Moskva left dozens missing and one dead, although it still denies Ukraine attacked the ship.

    On the battlefront, Ukrainian officials claim Russian troops are redeploying from the southern port city of Mariupol to reinforce their new onslaught in the east. In the meantime, Ukraine says it sent a nighttime helicopter to deliver arms to the last Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, who are holed up inside a giant steel facility.

    Willem Marx begins our coverage.

  • Willem Marx:

    In the city of Mariupol, ghostly remnants of a relentless war. This is what Russia calls liberation, apartment blocks battered by shelling, devoid of residents, the only signs of life pro-Russian rescue workers locating the dead.

    They load remains onto trucks marked with Z, a symbol of Vladimir Putin's brutal invasion, the dead's destination, for now, unknown. Today, a Ukrainian regional governor still seemed optimistic about Mariupol's future.

  • Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko, Donetsk, Ukraine (through translator):

    I unequivocally believe that Russians can be defeated. They are not taught to lose, but they overestimate themselves.

  • Willem Marx:

    The last few Ukrainian fighters are bunkered down in a steel plant by the sea. Russian forces say they will no longer try to storm that facility, but instead will besiege it.

    British officials say it's likely Russia prefers simply to surround it to free up their forces for operations elsewhere. On social media channels, pro-Kremlin propagandists embedded with the Russian army publish videos they say show troops moving east, away from Mariupol. But military analysts say Russian forces in the city suffered substantially, and Moscow may struggle to redeploy rapidly to other battle fronts.

    One Russian commander talked of fresh territorial ambitions in the south of Ukraine, suggesting a new access route to Transnistria, a pro-Russian enclave in neighboring Moldova. It's unclear if these comments reflect official Kremlin policy.

    Back east, meanwhile, Russian troops continue their assault on the Donbass, overnight, a hospital near Donetsk damaged under direct shell fire. In the city of Rubizhne, broken boulevards bear the scars of conflict, a cultural center crushed by artillery. In a basement beneath it, a dozen of the city's residents shelter together.

    Liudmila said she fled her home after the shells began to fall.

    Liudmila , Rubizhne Resident (through translator): It was raining. The roof was leaking. The plaster and wallpaper fell off, a constant draft. It is impossible to live in our houses, no gas, no light, no water.

  • Willem Marx:

    To the north, in Kharkiv, emergency workers on scene at a public market smashed and torched. The city remains a top target for Russian rockets, leaving residents to deal with the daily damage.

    Yuriy Guropaev said two civilians charred to death inside this vehicle.

  • Yuriy Guropaev, Kharkiv Resident (through translator):

    How is it different from Bucha or Gostomel? And we are told it's quiet here? How is it possible? Here are people burning. Here are two people are burning. Look, bodies. How is it possible?

  • Willem Marx:

    Despite the bombing, thousands of Ukrainians plan to return this weekend to celebrate Orthodox Easter, like Mariia Litokh, who arrived today in Kyiv from Poland to meet her family.

  • Mariia Litokh, Ukrainian Student (through translator):

    I am now confident that the world is aware that we are strong. It is important because just a few people knew about Ukraine. Now almost every person can show the city of Kharkiv on a map.

  • Willem Marx:

    Home for the holidays, but for how long, unclear.

    Tonight, Amna, despite advances by Russian forces on multiple fronts in the south and east, in cities like Kyiv, it's not so much about clearing up, as pushing back against that military aggression. The national flag is still fluttering behind me. Traffic has returned to the city center.

    And with the evening curfew pushed back until late, restaurants and bars remain open for customers, but just an hour or two from where we're standing, awful scenes of devastation and destruction in many directions throughout surrounding towns and villages — Amna.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And the "NewsHour"'s coverage of the war in Ukraine is supported in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

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