Locals clean debris after new shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Updated May 27, 2022 at 9: 36 a.m. EDT|Published

May 27, 2022 at 2: 37 a.m. EDT

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President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of executing “an obvious policy of genocide” in eastern Ukraine as a mayor of one of the cities under attack warned it risked becoming a second Mariupol.

Russian forces shelled the northeastern city of Kharkiv on Thursday, killing nine civilians — including a 5-month-old baby — and wounding 19 more, the Ukrainian leader said during his nightly address.

The Russians’ goal is clear, Zelensky said — to raze more towns in Donbas to rubble, as they did in Mariupol.

“All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia,” Zelensky said. Ukrainian officials estimate thousands of residents have been forcibly relocated to Russia through separatist-controlled republics in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies that anyone from Ukraine is being forcibly relocated.

Around the same time Zelensky delivered his speech, the mayor of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine said that artillery fire and “fierce fighting” had broken out in the city. Although they have not yet taken over Severodonetsk, Russian forces are making steady gains in their strategy of surrounding key areas in the Luhansk oblast, where they control over 95 percent of the territory, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

When an interviewer asserted that the city had become “a second Mariupol” as part of the Russian offensive, Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk replied, “Almost.”

Here’s what else to know

  • While Russian forces have made some gains in their attempt to entrap key areas in eastern Ukraine, several decisions revealed “tactical failures,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said Friday.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced that a new military command will be formed to defend its southern border with Ukraine, Reuters reported.
  • Russia said it will let foreign ships through to Ukrainian seaports, but that Western governments must first lift certain sanctions. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss accused Russia of “weaponizing hunger.”
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.