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