Russia renews strikes in Ukrainian capital and hits other cities


Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Russian forces accelerated isolated attacks in Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond on Saturday as a reminder to Ukrainians and their western supporters the whole country remains under threat despite Moscow’s turn to a new offensive in the east.

Stung by the loss of his Black Sea flagship and outraged by the alleged Ukrainian aggression on Russian territory, Russia’s military command had warned of renewed rocket attacks on the Ukrainian capital. Officials in Moscow said they were targeting military sites, a claim repeated and contradicted by witnesses throughout 52 days of the war.

The toll goes much deeper. Every day brings new discoveries from civilian casualties an invasion that has shattered European security. As Russia prepares for the expected offensive, a mother cried over the body of her 15-year-old son after rockets hit a residential area in Kharkiv, a city in north-eastern Ukraine. An infant and at least eight other people died, officials said.

In the Kyiv region, authorities have reported finding the bodies of more than 900 civilians, most of whom have been shot since Russian troops withdrew two weeks ago. Smoke rose again from the capital early Saturday when Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported a strike that killed one person and injured several.

The mayor advised residents who fled the city at the start of the war not to return.

“We are not ruling out further strikes in the capital,” said Klitschko. “If you have the opportunity to stay a little longer in the cities where it’s safer, do it.”

It was not immediately clear what was struck in the strike in Darnytskyi district of Kyiv. The sprawling area on the south-eastern edge of the capital contains a mix of Soviet-style apartment blocks, newer shopping malls and large retail outlets, industrial areas and railroad yards.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said an armored vehicle plant was attacked. He did not say where the factory was located, but there is one in the Darnytskyi district.

He said the facility is among several Ukrainian military sites hit with “long-range air-launched high-precision weapons.” As the US and Europe send new weapons to Ukraine, the strategy could aim to weaken Ukraine’s defenses against an expected all-out Russian attack in the east.

It was the second attack in the Kyiv region since the Russian military vowed this week to step up rocket attacks on the capital. Another hit a missile factory on Friday as residents showed up for walks, foreign embassies were due to reopen and others preliminary signs of the city’s pre-war life began to resurface after the failure of Russian troops to capture Kiev and retreat.

Kyiv was one of many goals on Saturday. The Office of the President of Ukraine reported rocket attacks and shelling in eight regions across the country in the past 24 hours.

The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, which was only sporadically affected by the violence of the war, reported airstrikes on the region by Russian Su-35 planes from neighboring Belarus.

In apparent preparations for its attack on the east, the Russian military has intensified shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in recent days. The attack on Friday killed civilians and injured more than 50 people, the Ukrainian president’s office said.

On Saturday, an explosion believed to be caused by a missile sent rescue workers near an outdoor market in Kharkiv, according to AP journalists at the scene. According to rescue workers, one person was killed and at least 18 people were injured.

“All windows, all furniture, everything destroyed. And the door too,” said the amazed resident Valentina Ulianova.

Nate Mook, a member of the NGO World Central Kitchen, which is run by celebrity chef José Andrés, said in a tweet that four workers in Kharkiv were injured in a rocket attack. Jose Andres tweeted that the staff were unnerved but safe.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who met Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week – the first European leader to do so since the invasion began on February 24 – said the Russian president was “in his own logic of war” towards Ukraine.

In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Nehammer said he believed Putin believed he was winning the war and “we have to look him in the eye and confront him with what we’re seeing in Ukraine.”

Nehammer also said he confronted Putin about what he saw during a visit to the Kiev suburb of Bucha, where more than 350 bodies were found along with evidence of killings and torture under Russian occupation, and “it wasn’t a friendly conversation.” .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with Ukrainian media that the prolonged siege of the south-eastern city of Mariupol, which has cost a terrible price for trapped and starving civilians, could thwart attempts to negotiate an end to the war.

“The destruction of all our people in Mariupol – which they are doing now – can put an end to any negotiation format,” he said.

The besieged port city is holding out, but the situation is critical, the Office of the President of Ukraine said earlier.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Saturday that Ukrainian forces have been driven out of most of the city and remain only at the huge Azovstal Steel Plant.

The capture of Mariupol would allow Russian forces in the south, advancing through the annexed Crimea peninsula, to ally themselves fully with troops in the Donbass region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.

Zelenskyy estimates that 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in the war and around 10,000 were injured. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office said Saturday that at least 200 children were killed and more than 360 injured.

Russian forces have also captured around 700 Ukrainian soldiers and more than 1,000 civilians, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday. Ukraine holds about the same number of Russian troops as prisoners and intends to arrange an exchange, but demands the release of civilians “unconditionally,” Vereshchuk said.

Russia’s warning of increased attacks on Kyiv came after Russian authorities on Thursday accused Ukraine of injuring seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings in airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed targets in Russia. However, they claimed responsibility for destroying a key warship with missiles earlier this week.

The Moskva sank Thursday after being badly damaged. Russia did not concede an attack, saying only that a fire detonated ammunition on board, but the loss appeared to symbolize Moscow’s fortunes in an eight-week invasion widely viewed as a historic blunder.

Russian Major General Vladimir Frolov, whose troops were among those besieging Mariupol, was buried in St Petersburg on Saturday after dying in combat, Governor Alexander Beglov said. Ukraine said several Russian generals and dozens of other senior officers were killed in the war.

The diplomatic rift between Russia and the West widened further on Saturday when Moscow barred British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a dozen other senior British officials from entering the country in response to British sanctions.

At the Vatican on Saturday, Pope Francis called for “peace gestures in these days marked by the horror of war” in an Easter Vigil homily in St. Peter’s Basilica attended by the mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol and three Ukrainian parliamentarians. Francis was not directly referring to the Russian invasion, but apparently in vain called for an Easter peace in order to achieve a negotiated peace. Russia renews strikes in Ukrainian capital and hits other cities

John Verrall

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