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Tens of thousands dead in Mariupol, Zelenskyy says amid plea to South Korea for arms

WATCH: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says tens of thousands of people had likely been killed in Russia’s assault on the southeastern city of Mariupol.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday asked Seoul for any military aid it could provide as he said Russia could only be forced to make peace.

Speaking in a video address to South Korean lawmakers, Zelenskyy said his country needed more help, including weapons, if it is to survive the war.

“You have something that can be indispensable for us … armored vehicles, anti-aircraft, anti-tank, anti-ship weapons,” he said.

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Zelenskyy said South Korea had many weapons that could not only help save the lives of ordinary Ukrainians but help prevent Russia from attacking other nations.

“There is and cannot be a hope that Russia will stop on its own,” Zelenskyy said. “Russia can only be forced to do this, can only be forced to seek peace.”

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He said tens of thousands of people had likely been killed in Russia’s assault on the southeastern city of Mariupol alone. Reuters could not verify the accuracy of his estimate.

Click to play video: 'Family escapes besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol'
Family escapes besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol

Later Monday, the mayor of Mariupol told The Associated Press more than 10,000 civilians have died to date. In Mariupol, corpses were “carpeted through the streets of our city” and the death toll could be more than 20,000, he said.

Mayor Vadym Boychenko also said Russian forces have brought mobile crematoria to the city to dispose of the bodies, and accused Russian forces of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city in an attempt to disguise the carnage.

The mayor had previously claimed 5,000 dead. He explained that these data were on March 21, but “thousands more people were lying on the streets, it was just impossible for us to collect them.”

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About 120,000 civilians remain in Mariupol in dire need of food, water, warmth and communications, the mayor said.

Boychenko said that about 150,000 people have been able to leave the city in private vehicles for other parts of Ukraine and that at least 33,000 were taken to Russia or to separatist territory in Ukraine.

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Russia appoints new commander in Ukraine after setbacks

Russia, which calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation,” invaded Ukraine in late February.

Seoul’s defense ministry on Monday said it had rejected a request by Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov for anti-aircraft weapons.

In a phone call on Friday, South Korean defense minister Suh Wook told his Ukrainian counterpart that any support of lethal weapons would be limited in light of South Korea’s security situation and its potential impact on military readiness, ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan said at a briefing.

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Click to play video: 'Zelenskyy calls for support as Ukraine prepares for “hard battle” in the east'
Zelenskyy calls for support as Ukraine prepares for “hard battle” in the east

Zelenskyy did not mention that rejection, but said “the usual rules for supplying weapons must be reviewed and acted upon quickly.”

Kim Jong-dae, a defense expert who oversees military reform at the liberal minor opposition Justice Party, on Saturday said the U.S. Embassy in Seoul had also asked the South Koreans to send surface-to-air weapons, namely the KM-SAM missile system with a range up to 40 kilometres and an altitude of 15 kilometres, citing unnamed sources.

South Korea has provided humanitarian assistance worth US$10 million to Ukraine and pledged last week to send another US$30 million, while shipping some 20 types of non-lethal items including bulletproof helmets and medical kits, totaling 1 billion won (US$811,000).

The U.S. Embassy did not immediately have a comment on Kim’s remarks.

— with files from The Associated Press.

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