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Smoke billows into the sky over Novomoskovsk, south of Kharkiv, coming from an oil depot that was bombed early Wednesday.

Smoke billows into the sky over Novomoskovsk, south of Kharkiv, coming from an oil depot that was bombed early Wednesday. (Wojciech Grzedzinski/The Washington Post)

Officials in Ukraine began urging people living in the eastern part of the country to evacuate Wednesday as new attacks on civilians were reported in areas where Russia is expected to step up offensives after withdrawing from Kyiv.

A 10-story building in Severodonetsk caught on fire amid mass shelling and at least five civilians died in the Donetsk region, local officials said. In a television broadcast, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, “You have to evacuate, if this is possible. And this is possible.”

The attacks came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded a tougher E.U. response Wednesday and criticized leaders who “still think war crimes are not as horrific as financial losses.” The Biden administration announced new sanctions that will target two of Russia’s largest banks and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adult daughters. NATO foreign ministers are gathering in Brussels for discussions on Ukraine.

To the south of Donetsk, in the city of Mariupol, a grim account of the fighting came into sharper focus.

At least 5,000 residents have died in the month since Russian forces laid siege to and heavily bombarded Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said on Telegram, citing preliminary estimates. Boychenko said that about 210 children are among the dead.

The Washington Post was unable to confirm those tallies.

Boychenko cited a hospital that had been bombed and the shelling of the port city’s drama theater, where hundreds of people were hiding - attacks he called the “deliberate destruction of the civilian population of Mariupol.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Wednesday suspended efforts to evacuate residents after days of unsuccessful attempts, saying security conditions had made entering the city “impossible.” The ICRC, however, reported that it helped 1,000 Mariupol residents escape on their own to the town of Zaporizhzhia.

In his Telegram update, Boychenko said about 90% of Mariupol’s infrastructure had been destroyed.

Earlier Wednesday, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update that as many as 160,000 people remain trapped in Mariupol, surrounded by Russian forces. Many beleaguered residents are without electricity, food or water as humanitarian conditions deteriorate.

It is unclear how many people were injured or killed during the strike in Severodonetsk, regional military governor Serhii Haidai wrote Wednesday afternoon on Facebook. Volunteers working in a nearby storage area for humanitarian cargo were injured, Haidai later said in an interview with the Ukrainian TV channel Inter.

He shared a video, which was verified by The Post, showing a small crowd of pedestrians on Tankistiv Street crouching and running for cover in a grocery store. Seconds later, an onslaught of shelling kicks up dirt and damages a business in view of the camera.

The strike comes as Ukrainian officials have warned of a Russian offensive in the eastern region and told people in the Luhansk region to escape while they can.

In nearby Papasnoye, people have been unable to evacuate amid intense artillery fire, Haidai told Inter. Strikes in Rubezhnoye on Wednesday killed one, while seven people remain missing.

Apple has resumed allowing Russians to download an app run by supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after criticism that it was acceding to unreasonable government demands for censorship.

Law enforcement agents had repeatedly threatened the top Apple and Google officials in Russia with arrest in September unless they removed Navalny’s Smart Voting app, which included more than 1,000 endorsements of candidates for seats in Russia’s legislature.

Those demands came as voting was about to begin, and both companies complied. Google later reinstated the app for Android phones soon after the election, while Apple did not.

That changed this week, according to independent researchers and Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov.

Apple spokesmen declined to comment on the decision.

The reversal comes amid escalating tensions between Russia and outside companies, many of which have withdrawn from the market or curtailed activities there since Russia invaded Ukraine. But civil liberties groups and American officials are pushing the other way, arguing that Apple and other tech companies provide ordinary Russians with the means to find independent news sources and to connect to activists and nonprofit organizations opposed to the war in Ukraine.

Apps are an especially critical form of communication in Russia now because the country’s censorship apparatus has not been able to block or modify content flowing from installed apps to users’ phones.

In other developments:

- The U.S. Justice Department has indicted Konstantin Malofeyev, the first criminal charges against an oligarch since the invasion of Ukraine began.

- Greece and Norway said Wednesday that they would expel Russian diplomats, and Moscow vowed to retaliate - the latest sign of a tit-for-tat downgrading of diplomatic relations between Russia and its European neighbors.

- The Kremlin described the withdrawal of troops from around Kyiv as “a gesture of goodwill” for negotiations, while its forces shifted to eastern Ukraine, where officials reported intensifying attacks.

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