Russian rockets hit Kyiv as UN chief visits, but Mariupol main target

Soldiers and first responders at the site of a missile strike in Kyiv, on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Fire burns in a building after shelling in Kyiv, on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Soldiers and first responders at the site of a missile strike in Kyiv, on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Rescuers work at a site of a building damaged by a missile strike, in Kyiv, on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Kyiv, on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a meeting in Kyiv with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (just seen, left), on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (left) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky give a joint press conference in Kyiv, on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky exit a news conference in Kyiv, on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

KYIV (AFP, REUTERS) - Russia’s defence ministry on Friday (April 29) confirmed it had carried out an air strike on Kyiv during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“High-precision, long-range air-based weapons of the Russian Aerospace Forces have destroyed the production buildings of the Artyom missile and space enterprise in Kyiv,” the ministry said in its daily briefing on the conflict in Ukraine. 

Russia withdrew its forces from outside Kyiv last month after failing to take the capital and launched a massive attack on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

The West believes the battles for the besieged port of Mariupol and other areas in the east and south may determine the war’s outcome.

But Thursday’s blasts in Kyiv, heard soon after Mr Guterres completed talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, highlighted concerns that the capital remains vulnerable.

Mr Zelensky said the blasts “prove that we must not drop our vigilance. We must not think that the war is over.”

The rockets shook the central Shevchenko district of the city and one struck the lower floors of a 25-storey residential building, wounding at least 10 people, Ukrainian officials said.

A photograph shows smoke above Kyiv after strikes on April 28, 2022, on the 64th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. PHOTO: AFP

Reuters witnesses heard two explosions, but their cause could not be independently verified. 

Russian forces are now entrenched in the east, where Moscow-backed separatists have held territory since 2014, and are holding onto a swathe of the south that they seized in March.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russia was stepping up its military assault in the Donbas.

“The enemy is increasing the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions,” it said.

Britain's defence ministry said the "Battle of Donbas" remains Russia’s main strategic focus in Ukraine.

Moscow regards winning the “Battle for Donbas” as crucial if it is to achieve its stated aim of securing control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Britain’s defence ministry said.

“Fighting has been particularly heavy around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, with an attempted advance south from Izium towards Slovyansk,” the ministry said on Twitter.

Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost, the ministry added in the regular bulletin. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.

Moscow’s assault in the east drew new US pledges of military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine on Thursday.

Heeding repeated Ukrainian pleas for heavier weaponry, US President Joe Biden asked Congress for US$33 billion (S$45.6 billion) to support Kyiv, a massive jump in funding that includes over US$20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military aid.

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Mr Biden said.

“The cost of this fight - it’s not cheap - but caving to aggression is going to be more costly.”

Mr Putin calls Moscow’s actions a “special military operation”to disarm Ukraine, defend Russian-speaking people from persecution and prevent the US from using the country to threaten Russia.

Ukraine dismisses Mr Putin’s claims of persecution and says it is fighting an imperial-style land grab that has flattened Ukrainian cities, forced more than 5 million to flee abroad and killed thousands since the invasion started on Feb 24.

Washington, which together with its allies has placed sweeping sanctions on Moscow, hopes Ukrainian forces can not only repel Russia’s assault in the east but also weaken its military so that it can no longer menace neighbours.

Russia regards the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (Nato) actions as tantamount to waging a“proxy war” against it, and has made a number of threats this week of unspecified retaliation.

It cut gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday after they refused to pay in roubles, marking Moscow’s toughest response yet to Western economic sanctions.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres visits a destroyed area of the city of Borodyanka, Ukraine, on April 28, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Russia has reported what it says have been a series of Ukrainian strikes on Russian regions that border Ukraine and has warned that such attacks risk significant escalation.

On Thursday, two big explosions were heard in the Russian city of Belgorod near the border with Ukraine, two witnesses told Reuters. It was unclear what caused them and whether there were any casualties or damage.

Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility for strikes inside Russia but says the incidents are payback.

Russia has taken umbrage at statements by Nato member Britain that it is legitimate for Ukraine to target Russian logistics.

“In the West, they are openly calling on Kyiv to attack Russia including with the use of weapons received from Nato countries,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow.

“I don’t advise you to test our patience further.”

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The US mission to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation said the Kremlin might attempt “sham referenda” in southern and eastern areas it had captured since the Feb 24 invasion, using “a well-worn playbook that steals from history’s darkest chapters”.

“These falsified, illegitimate referenda will undoubtedly be accompanied by a wave of abuses against those who seek to oppose or undermine Moscow’s plans,” the US mission said. There was no immediate Russian comment.

 

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