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IANS

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that Russian forces were collecting bodies in the besieged city of Mariupol, which has been virtually wiped out by weeks of heavy shelling, "to use them for propaganda purposes".

In his nightly video address, the President said: "More and more information is coming that Russian propagandists are preparing, so to speak, a 'mirror response' to the shock of all adequate people from what they saw in Bucha.

"They are going to show the victims in Mariupol as if they were not killed by the Russian military, but by Ukrainian defenders of the city. The invaders collect corpses on the streets, take them out. And then can use dead bodies somewhere else in accordance with the developed propaganda scenarios."

Zelensky went on to say that to justify the killings, the Russian troops take the bodies "simply as scenery, as propaganda props", reports Ukrayinska Pravda.

The President's remarks come amidst global outcry against the alleged civilian killing in Bucha in the Kiev region, which was liberated from Russian forces earlier this month.

Besides a mass grave with more than 300 bodies, the city's authorities have claimed that corpses lined the streets, some with their hands tied behind their backs and shot dead.

Zelenksy has termed the killings "genocide".

Russia has however denied that the country's troops had anything to do with the killings, saying that the photos and videos published of the carnage in Bucha had been faked by the Ukrainian government.

Meanwhile in Mariupol, more than 130,000 residents are still believed to be trapped amidst continued shelling, while 5,000 people have been killed so far.

The city is key to Russia's ongoing invasion. If Mariupol falls, it would give Russia control of one of Ukraine's biggest ports and create a land corridor between Crimea and the Russian-backed regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

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