News from Ukraine: Russian forces have resumed isolated attacks on Kyiv

Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian forces resumed isolated attacks on Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond on Saturday in an explosive reminder to Ukrainians and their western backers that the whole country persisted despite Russia’s focus on a new offensive in the east is threatened.

Struck by the loss of its Black Sea flagship and outraged by alleged Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory, Russia’s military command had warned a day earlier of renewed attacks on the Ukrainian capital and said it was targeting military installations.

Associated Press reporters documented civilian deaths in strikes in the eastern city of Kharkiv this week, and each day brings new discoveries of civilian casualties in a war that has shattered European security. In the Kyiv region alone, Ukrainian authorities have reported finding the bodies of more than 900 civilians, most of them shot, after Russian troops withdrew two weeks ago.

Smoke billowed from eastern Kiev early Saturday as Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported a strike in the city’s Darnytski district. He said rescuers and paramedics were at the scene and information about possible fatalities would be provided later. The mayor advised residents who fled the city at the start of the war not to return for safety reasons.

It was not immediately apparent from the ground what was hit in the attack. Darnytskyi is a sprawling district on the south-eastern edge of the capital containing a mix of Soviet-style apartment blocks, newer shipping centers and large retail outlets, industrial areas and railway yards.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said Russian forces had used “long-range, highly accurate aerial weapons” to attack an armored vehicle plant in Kyiv. Where exactly the plant is located in Kyiv, he did not say, but there is one in Darnytskyi district.

It was the second strike in the Kyiv region in two days. Another hit a missile factory on Friday as tentative signs of pre-war life in the capital resurfaced after Russian troops failed to capture the city and retreated to focus on a full-scale attack in eastern Ukraine.

Kyiv wasn’t the only goal on Saturday. In eastern Ukraine, an explosion believed to be caused by a missile hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to firefighters and AP journalists at the scene.

The strike near an outdoor market and residential and industrial buildings killed one person and injured at least 18, according to rescue workers, who asked not to be known because they were not authorized to release the information

Meanwhile, the governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine — far from the Russian border and an area long thought to be a safe zone — reported airstrikes on the region by Russian Su-35 planes launched from neighboring Belarus. Maksym Kozytskyy did not provide any information on possible casualties or damage.

Fighting continued in the devastated southern port city of Mariupol, where locals said they saw Russian troops digging up bodies. In the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, shelling in a residential area killed seven people, including a seven-month-old child, and wounded 34, according to regional governor Oleh Sinehubov.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian forces occupying parts of the southern Kherson and Zaporizhia regions of terrorizing civilians and hunting down anyone who served in Ukraine’s military or government.

“The occupiers think this makes it easier for them to control this area. But they are very wrong. You’re fooling yourself,” said Zelenskyy in his nightly video speech. “Russia’s problem is that it is not accepted by the entire Ukrainian people – and will never be accepted. Russia has lost Ukraine forever.”

Officials estimate that 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in the war, Zelenskyy said in an interview with CNN. He said about 10,000 were injured and it is “difficult to say how many will survive”.

The United Nations Human Rights Office said it had confirmed the deaths of 1,982 civilians but warned that the figure does not include those killed in blocked towns such as Mariupol and the real number will almost certainly be significantly higher.

Russia’s warning of increased attacks on the capital 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. Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling.

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed targets in Russia, and the reports have not been independently verified.

However, earlier this week Ukrainian officials launched missile attacks on a key Russian warship, marking a key victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia.

A senior US defense official said the US believes the Moscow River was hit by at least one Neptune anti-ship missile. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence assessment.

The Moscow River, named after the Russian capital, sank on Thursday after being badly damaged while being towed into port. Moscow did not concede an attack, saying only that a fire detonated ammunition on board.

The sinking reduced Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea and appeared to symbolize Moscow’s fortunes in an eight-week invasion widely viewed as a historic blunder following Russia’s withdrawal from the Kyiv region and much of northern Ukraine.

After the withdrawal, bodies were left in the streets of cities around Kyiv or given temporary burials. Andriy Nebytov, who heads the region’s police force, cited police data that 95% died from gunshot wounds.

“Consequently, we understand that people under the (Russian) occupation were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said.

More bodies were being found under rubble and in mass graves every day, he added, with the largest number found in Bucha, more than 350. According to Nebytov, utility workers gathered and buried bodies in the Kyiv suburb while it was under Russian control stayed. Russian troops, he added, had “tracked down” people who had expressed strong pro-Ukrainian views.

In Mariupol, the city council said on Friday that locals reported that Russian troops had dug up bodies buried in courtyards and not allowed new burials of “people they killed.”

“Why the exhumation is being carried out and where the bodies are being taken is unknown,” the council said via news app Telegram.

Fighting continued in the industrial areas and in the port, and Russia used the Tu-223 long-range bomber for the first time to attack the city, said Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

Mariupol has been blockaded by Russian forces since the early days of the invasion, and a dwindling number of Ukrainian defenders have held out against a siege that has come at a terrible cost in trapped and starving civilians.

The mayor said this week the death toll in the city could top 20,000. Other Ukrainian officials have said they expect to find evidence of atrocities in Mariupol, like those found in Bucha and other towns outside of Kyiv.

The capture of Mariupol would allow Russian forces in the south, advancing through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully ally with troops in the Donbass region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and the target of the forthcoming offensive.

It is not certain when Russia will launch a full-scale campaign.

Also on Friday, a regional Ukrainian official said seven people were killed and 27 wounded when Russian forces fired on buses carrying civilians in the village of Borovaya, near Kharkiv. The claim could not be independently verified.

Dmytro Chubenko, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office, told the Suspilne news website that the authorities had opened a criminal case related to an alleged “violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with premeditated murder.”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. News from Ukraine: Russian forces have resumed isolated attacks on Kyiv

Dais Johnston

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