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UN head condemns attacks on civilians during Ukraine visit

The head of the United Nations has described Ukraine as “an epicentre of unbearable heartache and pain” shortly before Russia’s first strike on the capital since Moscow’s forces retreated weeks ago (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
The head of the United Nations has described Ukraine as “an epicentre of unbearable heartache and pain” shortly before Russia’s first strike on the capital since Moscow’s forces retreated weeks ago (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

The head of the United Nations has described Ukraine as “an epicentre of unbearable heartache and pain” shortly before Russia’s first strike on the capital since Moscow’s forces retreated weeks ago.

Russia pounded targets all over Ukraine on Thursday, including the attack on Kyiv that struck a residential high-rise and another building and wounded 10 people, including at least one who lost a leg, according to Ukraine’s emergency services.

The bombardment came barely an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a news conference with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who toured some of the destruction in and around Kyiv and condemned the attacks on civilians.

Meanwhile, explosions were reported across the country, in Polonne in the west, Chernihiv near the border with Belarus, and Fastiv, a large railway hub southwest of the capital. The mayor of Odesa, in southern Ukraine, said rockets were intercepted by air defences.

Ukrainian authorities also reported intense Russian fire in the Donbas — the eastern industrial heartland that the Kremlin says is its main objective — and near Kharkiv, a north-eastern city outside the Donbas that is seen as key to the offensive.

In the ruined southern port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters holed up in the steel plant that represents the last pocket of resistance said concentrated bombing overnight killed and wounded more people. And authorities warned that a lack of safe drinking water inside the city could lead to outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

In Zaporizhzhia, a crucial way station for tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Mariupol, an 11-year-old boy was among at least three people wounded in a rocket attack that authorities said was the first to hit a residential area in the southern city since the war began.

The fresh attacks came as Mr Guterres surveyed the destruction in small towns outside the capital that saw some of the worst horrors of the first onslaught of the war.

He condemned the atrocities committed in towns like Bucha, where evidence of mass killings of civilians was found after Russia withdrew in early April in the face of unexpectedly stiff resistance.

“Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians,” the UN chief lamented.

Russia Ukraine War
Firefighters put out a fire after a Russian rocket attack in Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

In the attack on Kyiv, explosions shook the city and flames poured out of the windows of the residential high-rise and another building. The capital has been relatively unscathed in recent weeks since Moscow refocused its efforts on the Donbas.

The explosions in north-western Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky district came as residents have been increasingly returning to the city. Cafes and other businesses have reopened, and a growing numbers of people have been out and about, enjoying the spring weather.

It was not immediately clear how far away the attack was from Mr Guterres.

Western officials say the Kremlin’s apparent goal is to take the Donbas by encircling and crushing Ukrainian forces from the north, south and east.

But so far, Russia’s troops and their allied separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains, taking several small towns as they try to advance in relatively small groups against staunch Ukrainian resistance.

Biden
US President Joe Biden has asked Congress for 33 billion dollars to help Ukraine (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Ukraine’s military said that Russian troops were subjecting several places in the Donbas to “intense fire” and that over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces had repelled six attacks in the region.

Four civilians were killed in heavy shelling of residential areas in the Luhansk region of the Donbas, according to the regional governor.

Columns of smoke could be seen rising at different points across the Donetsk region of the Donbas, and artillery and sirens were heard on and off.

Ukraine has urged its allies to send even more military equipment to fend off the Russians. US President Joe Biden asked Congress for an additional 33 billion dollars (£26.4 billion) to help Ukraine.

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