A veteran Kremlin diplomat has resigned and sent a letter to foreign colleagues condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as heavy fighting raged in the Donbas region, where Moscow’s forces have stepped up their bombardment.
In a rare public expression of opposition to the war from the ranks of the Russian elite, Boris Bondarev said of the invasion: “Never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24.”
Mr Bondarev, a veteran diplomat at the UN office at Geneva, quit and sent a letter denouncing the “aggressive war unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He told the Associated Press: “It is intolerable what my government is doing now.”
Mr Bondarev said those who conceived the war “want only one thing — to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity”.
He also said Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is all about “warmongering, lies and hatred”.
On the battlefield, Russian forces increased their bombardment of the Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories that the Kremlin is bent on capturing.
Cities not under Russian control were constantly shelled, and one Ukrainian official said Moscow’s forces were targeting civilians trying to flee.
Donetsk’s regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said three civilians died in Russian attacks there on Monday and heavy fighting continued near the Luhansk region.
He said the Russians were devastating cities in their attempt to take over. Only about 320,000 people out of the region’s pre-war population of 1.6 million remain, and Russian forces are targeting evacuation efforts, he added.
“They are killing us. They are killing the locals during evacuation,” Mr Kyrylenko said.
In the Luhansk region, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said local authorities reported that a bridge leading to the administrative centre of Sievierodonetsk had been destroyed, leaving the partially encircled city reachable by just one road.
Some who fled the Donetsk region shared their suffering.
“We haven’t been able to see the sun for three months. We are almost blind because we were in darkness for three months,” said Rayisa Rybalko, who hid with her family first in their basement and then in a bomb shelter at a school before fleeing their village of Novomykhailivka.
“The world should have seen that.”
Her son-in-law Dmytro Khaliapin said heavy artillery pounded the village. “Houses are being ruined,” he said. “It’s a horror.”