Explosions hit Kyiv during visit of UN chief, Ukraine blames Russian missiles
- Russia steps up offensive against eastern Ukraine
- US says Russia is planning fake independence votes in occupied areas
- Biden seeks $33 billion in military and economic aid for Kyiv
- Moscow to Kyiv Nato supporters: ‘Don’t test our patience’
- Protests against Russian occupation in southern Ukraine
KYIV, April 28 (Reuters) – Russia fired two missiles at the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Thursday during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and another hit the ground floor of a residential building , injuring at least three people, its mayor said.
Reuters could not independently verify the cause of the explosions. kyiv has enjoyed relative calm since invading Russian forces failed to capture it in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance and retreated several weeks ago, but remains vulnerable to longer-range Russian heavy weapons.
The explosions rocked Kyiv’s central Shevchenko district and the three injured were hospitalized, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a Twitter post.
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Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba both said the explosions were caused by Russian missiles. Reuters witnesses had previously reported the sound of two explosions.
The blasts came after UN chief António Guterres completed talks with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensiky, focused on efforts to evacuate civilians from the Russian-besieged southern port of Mariupol.
António Guterres told Portuguese TV channel RTP when asked about the explosions: “There was an attack on kyiv…it shocked me, not because I’m here, but because kyiv is a sacred city for Ukrainians and Russians.”
Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said the explosions were “proof that we need a quick victory over Russia… We need to act quickly – more weapons, more humanitarian efforts…because every day Ukraine pays a high price for the protection of democracy and freedom.”
Responding to repeated pleas from Ukraine to Western leaders for the provision of heavier weapons and equipment, US President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Congress for $33 billion to support Kyiv, a massive increase in US funding that includes over $20 billion for arms and ammunition and other military aid. .
The package, which also includes $8.5 billion in direct economic assistance and $3 billion in humanitarian and food security assistance, is part of a US effort to isolate and punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which leveled cities and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.
“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said at the White House after signing the request on Thursday. “The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but giving in to aggression will cost more.” Read more
Washington has said it hopes Ukrainian forces can not only repel Russia’s eastern assault, but also weaken its military so it can no longer threaten its neighbors. Russia says this amounts to a NATO “proxy war” against it and has made a number of unspecified threats of retaliation this week.
After being pushed back in its effort to capture kyiv in the north, Russia has moved its forces hundreds of miles east to capture two provinces in a battle the West says could be a turning point in the war.
Russian forces are now entrenched in the east, where Moscow-backed separatists have held part of the territory since 2014, and also hold part of the south which they seized in March.
The US mission to the OSCE security body said the Kremlin may attempt to “mock referendums” in the southern and eastern regions it has captured since the February 24 invasion, using “a well-worn playbook that steals the darkest chapters of history”.
“These falsified and illegitimate referendums will undoubtedly be accompanied by a wave of abuse against those who seek to oppose or undermine Moscow’s plans,” the US mission said.
Ukraine reported explosions overnight in the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital Russia has captured so far since the invasion. Russian troops there had used tear gas and stun grenades on Wednesday to quell pro-Ukrainian crowds, and were now shelling the entire surrounding area and attacking towards Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian officials said.
Russian state media quoted an official of a self-proclaimed pro-Russian “military-civilian commission” in Kherson on Thursday as saying the region would start using the Russian ruble from May 1.
Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia of stealing grain from the Kherson region, an act it said increased the threat to global food security posed by spring planting disruptions and the blockade of Ukrainian ports. during the war. Read more
Ukraine’s general staff said Russia was also stepping up its main military assault in the east, where Moscow now aims to seize all of the two provinces partially controlled by the separatists.
“The enemy is accelerating the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions,” he added.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the military fired missiles at six Ukrainian weapons and fuel depots and destroyed them, and that 76 Ukrainian military installations were also hit.
Reuters could not verify the latest battlefield reports.
President Vladimir Putin calls the Russian actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine, which became necessary as the United States used the country to threaten Russia and Moscow needed to defend Russian speakers from persecution.
Ukraine says it is fighting an imperial-style land grab and that Putin’s persecution claims are nonsense.
Western countries have stepped up arms deliveries to Ukraine in recent days as fighting in the east intensified.
More than 40 countries gathered this week at a US air base in Germany and pledged to send heavy weapons such as artillery in what is expected to be a massive battle of opposing armies along a line of heavily fortified front on flat, open ground.
Russia also reported what it says was a series of Ukrainian strikes on Russian regions bordering Ukraine, and warned that such attacks risked a significant escalation.
On Thursday, two large explosions were heard in the Russian town of Belgorod near the border with Ukraine, two witnesses told Reuters. It was not immediately clear 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 a reward, while Russia took umbrage at statements by NATO member Britain , that it is legitimate for Ukraine to target Russian logistics.
“In the West, they openly call on kyiv to attack Russia, including using weapons received from NATO countries,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow.
“I don’t advise you to test our patience any further.”
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Additional reporting by Reuters reporters; Written by Peter Graff and Mark Heinrich; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Toby Chopra
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