Budding gymnast, 10, killed as Mariupol becomes 'land of the dead'

A BUDDING Ukrainian gymnast reportedly died killed in a merciless Russian airstrike as Vladimir Putin turns besieged Mariupol into the "land of the dead".

Kateryna Dyachenko, 10, tragically died after her home was bombed in the southern port city as street fighting and bombardments rage.





The youngster's coach, Anastasia Meshchanenkova, confirmed her death in a post on Instagram.

In a sweet photo in December last year, Anastasia described "beautiful" Kateryna as her "favourite".

Tributes have poured in for the little girl from gymnastics organisations around the world.

Bulgarian gymnast Iliana Raeva, who is the president of the country's Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, said: "I can't believe it… our colleague from Ukraine shared this terrible tragedy.

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"This wonderfully tender creature is already an angel."

She added: "I can't believe we live in such a cruel world."

Swiss Rhythmic Gymnastics also paid tribute to the young star, writing: "RIP, Katya! The young, beautiful gymnast from Mariupol left this world far too early. 

"She is one of many victims of a senseless war."

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Since the invasion began, Russian troops have been pounding Ukrainian cities – but Mariupol has faced the worst of the war.

Hundreds of thousands are believed to be trapped inside buildings, with no access to food, water, power or heat.

Russian shells, bombs and missiles have struck a theatre, an art school and other public buildings – burying hundreds of women and children sheltering in cellars.

The city council said the relentless airstrikes are turning Mariupol into the "land of the dead".

Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov said the desperate city was under a full blockade and had received no humanitarian aid.

Orlov told CNN: "The city is under continuous bombing, from 50 bombs to 100 bombs Russian aircraft drops each day… a lot of death, a lot of crying, a lot of awful war crimes."

Russian forces and Russian-backed separatist units have now taken about half of the port city, normally home to around 400,000 people, Russia's RIA news agency said.

The situation in the city has been described as a “freezing hellscape riddled with dead bodies and destroyed buildings”, by Human Rights Watch.

'NOTHING LEFT'

"There is nothing left there," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address to Italy's parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said at least 100,000 people wanted to leave Mariupol but remained trapped.

Referring to Russia's demand for the city to surrender, Vereshchuk said: "Our military are defending Mariupol heroically. We did not accept the ultimatum. They offered capitulation under a white flag."

After failing to seize the capital Kyiv or any other major city with a swift offensive, Russia is waging a war that has reduced some urban areas to rubble.

It comes as Russia launched a salvo of cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities as Putin continues his relentless blitz of the country.

It is unclear where the footage was shot, but the images appear to show the Bastian mobile launch system pointing towards the sky while protected behind some low, coastal cliffs on what appears to be a sandy beach.

It's possible the location is in Crimea.

To the left of the footage, military camouflage appears to cover Russian military gear. A few seconds into the footage, a first missile is fired.

Within the 38 second clip, four missiles can be seen shot all in the same manner.

The Bastion mobile coastal defence system, officially the K-300 Bastion, is typically armed with anti-ship missiles and was designed to take out maritime vessels.

However, it can reportedly also be directed at other targets.

According to Russian state-owned media outlet Gazeta in 2015, the missile system had been deployed to Crimea in 2014.

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Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and has staged a large part of its invasion of Ukraine from the peninsula, allowing it to orchestrate a three-pronged land offensive.

Mariupol lies on the Sea of Azov and capturing the city would allow Russia to link areas in the east held by pro-Russian separatists with the Crimean peninsula.

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