Kyiv: Ukraine said on Monday it expects Russia to begin an offensive soon in the eastern Donbas region as Moscow shifts its focus to seizing territory thereafter its invasion force was driven from the gates of Kyiv this month.
This comes as fresh diplomatic efforts with Moscow to broker a peace offered little hope of de-escalation.
As per Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Russia's main target in Donbas is the port of Mariupol, where thousands are believed to have died under a near-seven week siege.
The mayor of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has said that more than 10,000 civilians have died in the Russian siege of his city, and that the death toll could surpass 20,000, with corpses that were "carpeted through the streets."
Speaking by phone to The Associated Press, Mayor Vadym Boychenko also said Russian forces brought mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the bodies, and he accused Russian forces of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city in an attempt to conceal the carnage.
Russian forces have taken many bodies to a huge shopping centre where there are storage facilities and refrigerators, Boychenko said. "Mobile crematoriums have arrived in the form of trucks: You open it, and there is a pipe inside and these bodies are burned," he said.
Russia is believed to be trying to connect occupied Crimea and Moscow-backed separatist territories Donetsk and Lugansk in Donbas and has laid siege to Mariupol, once a city of more than 400,000 people.
Appealing to South Korea's National Assembly for military assistance, Zelensky on Monday told lawmakers Russia had "completely destroyed" the city and "burned it to ashes".
"At least tens of thousands of Mariupol citizens must have been killed," he said.
Russian forces are turning their focus to the Donbas region in the east, where Zelensky said Russian troops were preparing "even larger operations".