LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defense says that Russia’s armed forces are seeking to respond to mounting losses by increasing troop numbers with personnel who had been discharged from military service since 2012.
In an intelligence update on Twitter, the ministry also said Sunday that the Russian military’s efforts to “generate more fighting power” also include trying to recruit from Trans-Dniester, a breakaway region in Moldova that borders Ukraine.
Russia maintains some 1,500 troops in the region, which is not internationally recognized.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Zelenskyy: Russian aggression not limited to Ukraine alone
— Zelenskyy, in AP interview, says he seeks peace despite atrocities
— Poland-Ukraine ties seen as target of Russian disinformation
— War Crimes Watch: A devastating walk through Bucha’s horror
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
BORODIANKA, Ukraine — Firefighters continued searching Saturday for survivors or the dead in the debris of destroyed buildings in a northern Ukrainian town that was occupied for weeks by Russian forces.
Residents of Borodianka expect to find dozens of victims under the rubble of the several buildings destroyed during fighting between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops. The town is about 75 kilometers (47 miles) northwest of the capital of Kyiv and had more than 12,000 residents.
Russian troops occupied Borodianka while advancing towards Kyiv in an attempt to encircle it. They retreated during the last days of March following fierce fighting. The town is without electricity, natural gas or other services.
A 77-year-old resident, Maria Vaselenko, said her daughter and son-in-law’s bodies have been under rubble for 36 days because Russian soldiers would not allow residents to search for loved ones or their bodies. She said her two teenage grandchildren escaped to Poland but are now orphans.
“The Russians were shooting. And some people wanted to come and help, but they were shooting them,” she told The Associated Press. “They were putting explosives under dead people.”
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Shelling by Russian forces of Ukraine’s key port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov has collapsed several humanitarian corridors and made conditions seldom right for people to leave.
It was not clear Saturday how many people remained trapped in the city, which had a prewar population of 430,000. Ukrainian officials have put the number at about 100,000, but earlier this week, British defense officials said 160,000 people remained trapped in the city.
Ukrainian troops have refused to surrender the city, though much of it has been razed.
Resident Sergey Petrov said Saturday that recently two shells struck around him in quick succession, but neither exploded upon landing. He was in his garage at the time and said his mother later told him, “I was born again.”
“A shell flew in and broke up into two parts but it did not explode, looks like it did not land on the detonator but on its side,” he said.
He added that when another shell flew in and hit the garage, “I am in shock. I don’t understand what is happening. I have a hole in my garage billowing smoke. I run away and leave everything. I come back in several hours and find another shell lying there, also unexploded.”
ATHENS, Greece — A Ukrainian soccer club on Saturday opened a series of charity games on a government-backed “Global Tour for Peace” wearing the names of heavily bombarded cities on its jerseys.
The tour by the Shakhtar Donetsk club aims to raise money for Ukraine’s military in the war against Russia, and also help Ukrainian refugees displaced by the war.
Its first game Saturday was a 1-0 loss to Greek league leader Olympiakos.
Soccer clubs around Europe have been offering to play games against Ukrainian clubs and host youth players after soccer in the country was shut down when Russia invaded in February.
Shakhtar was already displaced from his home of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Playing in the Athens area on Saturday, Shakhtar players replaced their names on the back of their jerseys with those of cities bombarded by Russian forces, including Mariupol.
BUCHA, Ukraine — Civilians remaining in Bucha lined up Saturday for food donated by the local church in the battered Kyiv suburb where Ukrainian forces and journalists reported evidence of war crimes after Russian soldiers withdrew.
With other civilians fleeing in the wake of Russia’s invasion, most of the people remaining in Bucha were elderly, poor or unable to leave loved ones. Russian troops withdrew more than a week ago.
Volunteer Petro Denysyuk told The Associated Press that he and fellow church friends started providing food, with a wide array of basic foodstuffs and hot meals.
“We have gathered together with the youth from our church and prepared food for the needy,” Denysyuk said. “We prepared pilaf, boiled eggs, prepared meat, sausages, noodles.”
Ukrainian forces and journalists who went into Bucha saw bodies strewn in the streets, evidence of summary executions and the remains of people who could not have threatened soldiers. Russia has denied accusations of war crimes and accused Kyiv of staging them.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the leaders of Britain and Austria for their visits to Kyiv on Saturday and pledges of further support.
In his daily late-night video address to the nation, Zelenskyy also thanked European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a global fundraising event that raised more than 10 billion euros ($11 billion) for Ukrainians who have had to flee their homes.
Zelenskyy said democratic countries were united in working to stop the war. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer became the latest of several European rulers to meet Zelenskky in Kyiv.
“Because Russian aggression was not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone, to the destruction only of our freedom and our life,” he said. “The entire European project is a target for Russia.”
Zelenskyy repeated his call for a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas, calling them the sources of Russia’s “self-confidence and impunity.”
“But Ukraine does not have time to wait. Freedom does not have time to wait. When tyranny begins its aggression against everything that keeps the peace in Europe, action must be taken immediately,” he said.
He added: “And an oil embargo must be the first step. Moreover, by all democratic states, the entire civilized world. Then Russia will feel it. Then it will be an argument for them to seek peace, to stop the senseless violence.”