Explosions shook Kiev during a visit by the UN chief, the United States promises new help to Reuters

Explosions shook Kiev during a visit by the UN chief, the United States promises new help to Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pictured is a gas installation at the Gaz-System gas compressor station in Rembelszczyzna, outside Warsaw, Poland, April 27, 2022. REUTERS / Kacper Pempel

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Natalia Zinets

KIEV (Reuters) – Russia fired two rockets at Kiev on Thursday during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow launched an attack in the east that drew new US promises of military and humanitarian aid.

The rockets shook the central district in the capital of Ukraine, and one of them hit a residential building, injuring at least three people, said the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko. Reuters witnesses said they heard two explosions, but their cause could not be confirmed immediately.

Russia withdrew its invasion forces from near Kiev in early April after failing to capture the city, which has since hosted visits by top US officials and their European allies.

But explosions on Thursday, shortly after Guterres ended talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, highlighted concerns that Kiev remains vulnerable to Russian heavy weapons.

“There was an attack on Kiev … it shocked me, not because I’m here, but because Kiev is a holy city for both Ukrainians and Russians,” Guterres told Portuguese television RTP when asked about the explosions.

There was no immediate comment from Russia on the explosions. Zelenski said that they “prove that we must not give up vigilance. We must not think that the war is over.”

Guterres’ talks with the Green Party focused on the evacuation of Ukrainian fighters and civilians hidden in a steel plant in the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol, Russia’s main target in the eastern Donbas region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in principle with the participation of the UN and the Red Cross in the evacuation of the factory during separate talks in Moscow with Guterres on Tuesday. Ukrainian officials worry that Russia wants to capture those trapped inside, which Moscow denies.

The West believes that battles for Mariupol and other eastern and southern areas could determine the outcome of the war. Russian forces are now buried in the east, where Moscow-backed separatists have held part of the territory since 2014, and also hold part of the south they occupied in March.

The Ukrainian General Staff announced that Russia is intensifying its military attack on Donbas.

“The enemy is intensifying the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are showing intense fire in almost all directions,” it is stated.

‘NOT CHEAP’

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

Ukraine rejects Putin’s claims of persecution and says it is fighting the seizure of imperial-style land that has leveled Ukrainian cities, forced more than 5 million to flee abroad and killed thousands.

Acknowledging repeated requests from Ukraine for heavier weapons, US President Joe Biden asked Congress for $ 33 billion in support of Kiev on Thursday, a huge jump in funding that includes more than $ 20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military aid.

The package, intended to cover needs by September, is based on efforts by the United States and its allies to punish Russia for its February 24 invasion.

“We need this law to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said on Thursday. “The price of this fight – it’s not cheap – but stopping aggression will be more expensive.”

Washington, which along with its allies has imposed extensive sanctions on Moscow, hopes Ukrainian forces can not only repel Russia’s attack to the east, but also weaken its military so it can no longer threaten neighbors.

Russia says it means NATO is waging a “proxy war” against it, and has launched a series of threats this week with indefinite retaliation. He cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday after they refused to pay in rubles, Moscow’s most difficult response to Western economic sanctions so far.

CROSS-BORDER STRIKES

Russia has also reported, he says, a series of Ukrainian strikes on Russian regions bordering Ukraine, and warned that such attacks risk significant escalation.

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

Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility for the attacks inside Russia, but says the incidents are a return. Russia is indignant at the statements of the NATO member of Britain that it is legitimate for Ukraine to target Russian logistics.

“The West is openly calling on Kiev to attack Russia, including the use of weapons obtained from NATO countries,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharov told reporters in Moscow.

“I do not advise you to further test our patience.”

Ukraine reported explosions overnight in the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital Russia has occupied since the invasion.

Russian troops in Kherson used tear gas and shock bombs on Wednesday to quell pro-Ukrainian crowds, shelling the entire surrounding region and attacking Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian officials said.

Russian state media quoted an official from the self-proclaimed pro-Russian “military-civilian commission” in Kherson on Thursday as saying the area would start using Russian rubles on May 1st.

The U.S. mission to the OSCE security body said the Kremlin could try “fake referendums” in the southern and eastern areas it has occupied since the February 24 invasion, using a “worn-out manual that steals the darkest chapters in history.”

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



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