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Editorial: With civilian casualties growing in Ukraine, Russia must withdraw troops now

The number of civilian victims of Russia's continuing invasion of Ukraine is rising and the humanitarian crisis there escalating. Homes, schools and hospitals have been attacked, and according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 516 civilians have died. There are concerns that the number could grow in the coming days.

    The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers have met for talks in Turkey, but the Russian side did not budge from its position, ending the talks in a stalemate. As Russia enters the third week of its invasion of Ukraine, we see no prospects of the fighting ending and the two countries moving toward peace.

    Russian troops surrounded the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, trapping its residents inside. Water, electricity and gas have been cut off, and amid the cold, people apparently have no access to food or medical supplies.

    A maternity and children's hospital was bombed by Russian forces, killing three people including a child. Many were injured, including at least one pregnant woman. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that Ukrainian forces had been using the hospital as a base. He did not touch on the civilian deaths.

    The Geneva Convention stipulates that even in war, non-combatants must be protected. Attacks on hospitals are morally unacceptable. It is clearly against international law.

    According to the U.N., there are some 1.9 million evacuees inside Ukraine, while another 2.3 million have fled to neighboring Poland and other countries. An initiative to set up humanitarian corridors to allow residents to escape safely from bloody battlefields began. But Russia established a route that would lead people to Russia, sparking international criticism.

    Russia has also targeted nuclear power stations and research institutes that handle radioactive material, and has thus far seized control of two of Ukraine's nuclear power plants. At the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Russia went so far as to sever all external power sources. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) criticized this, saying that military activity at the power station has brought about danger never before seen.

    And still, to justify what it is doing, Russia maintains that it is not attacking Ukraine, but that it is trying to save the Ukrainian people from a neo-Nazi government. This reasoning will clearly not fare well under international scrutiny.

    It is unacceptable for any more civilians to be killed. Russia must immediately stop its attacks, and withdraw all of its troops.

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