Zelensky says Russia turning Ukraine into hell as child dies from dehydration in besieged city

‘Listen to me carefully, in 2022, a child died from dehydration,’ says president

Ukraine turning into 'hell' as first child dies of dehydration since World War II, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Vladimir Putin of turning his country into “hell” as he said a child had died of dehydration in the besieged southern city of Mariupol after water outages caused by Russia’s brutal invasion.

In a video briefing, Mr Zelensky said the child’s death was “probably the first such case since the Second World War”, adding: “Listen to me carefully, in 2022, a child died from dehydration.”

The child’s death could not immediately be confirmed independently. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour and arrest leaders it calls “neo-Nazis”. It denies targeting civilians.

During his address, Ukraine’s president also accused the Kremlin of having launched a bombing campaign against the northeastern city of Sumy which was “turning it into hell”.

Civilians have been trapped by fighting since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February, and officials say food, water and other supplies have been running low in some cities.

Russian aircraft bombed cities in eastern and central Ukraine overnight, Ukrainian officials said. Shelling pounded suburbs of the capital, Kyiv. Bombs also hit oil depots in two other towns. 

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry reported on Tuesday that nine people, including two children, were killed in a Russian airstrike in Sumy a day earlier. 

A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen in Sumy

People remove debris at the site of a military base building that, according to the Ukrainian ground forces, was destroyed by an air strike, in the town of Okhtyrka in the Sumy region

After 12 days of fighting, Russian troops have made significant advances in parts of Ukraine, notably the south, but stalled in other regions and have failed to make advances on Kyiv.

Mr Zelensky has said Ukrainian forces are showing unprecedented courage but that they were facing an enemy with much greater reserves. “The problem is that for one soldier of Ukraine, we have 10 Russian soldiers, and for one Ukrainian tank, we have 50 Russian tanks,” he said, but noted that the gap in strength was closing.

Ukrainian occupation will be 'Putin's end' and an 'impossible task', says Ben Wallace

Buses filled with people fleeing the invasion began carrying people out of Sumy and Mariupol on Tuesday.

Previous attempts to lead civilians to safety have crumbled with renewed attacks, but video posted by Ukrainian officials showed packed coaches moving along a snowy road from the eastern city of Sumy and yellow buses with a red cross on them in southern port of Mariupol.

“The Ukrainian city of Sumy was given a green corridor, the first stage of evacuation began,” the Ukrainian state communications agency tweeted.

The buses are heading to other cities in Ukraine, but many people have chosen to flee the country. Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the UN’s International Organisation for Migration, announced that 2 million have now fled the country, including at least 100,000 who are not Ukrainian.

Additional reporting by agencies

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