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Kyiv hit by Russian air strikes as UN Secretary General visits

Antonio Guterres urged Russia to cooperate with the International Criminal Court investigations into possible war crimes.

A man stands in a crater of a Russian shell that brought down a section of an apartment building in Borodianka.
A man stands in a crater of a Russian shell that brought down a section of an apartment building in Borodianka.
Image: DANIL

Updated Apr 28th 2022, 8:00 PM

RUSSIAN AIRSTRIKES HAVE hit Kyiv as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting, in the first bombardment of the Ukrainian capital since mid-April.

There was no immediate information about casualties from the strikes, which hit a western part of the city centre, but a close aide to the UN chief sent a message to journalists confirming they were safe.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said there had been “two hits in the Shevchenkovsky district” in a post on Telegram and said they were clarifying details about casualties.

AFP correspondents saw black smoke pouring into the air and a building in flames with a heavy presence of police and rescuers in the area.

“Missile strikes in the downtown of Kyiv during the official visit of Antonio Guterres,” tweeted Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“The day before he was sitting at a long table in the Kremlin, and today explosions are above his head,” Podolyak said referring to Guterres’ visit to Moscow where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned the attack, calling it a “heinous act of barbarism”.

“By this heinous act of barbarism Russia demonstrates once again its attitude towards Ukraine, Europe and the world,” said Kuleba in a tweet.

Bucha investigation

It comes as Ukrainian prosecutors said today they were investigating 10 Russian soldiers for alleged war crimes in Bucha, as the Guterres urged Russia to cooperate with a probe into atrocities.

The discovery of bodies in civilian clothes, found on the street or buried in shallow graves in the Kyiv suburb after a Russian retreat shocked the world and prompted allegations of war crimes.

Some of the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs. Ukrainian officials accused Russian troops of massacring hundreds of civilians, but Moscow denied any involvement and claimed the images were fakes.

The prosecutor general’s office in Ukraine said the servicemen of Russia’s 64th motorised infantry brigade are suspected of “premeditated murder”, cruel treatment and other violations of the laws and customs of war during their occupation in March of Bucha, northeast of Kyiv.

Making his first visit to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on 24 February, earlier today Guterres toured Bucha and two other places where the alleged war crimes occurred, decrying war as “an absurdity in the 21st century” and “evil”.

“I imagine my family in one of those houses that is now destroyed and black. I see my granddaughters running away in panic,” the UN chief said in Borodianka, another ruined town, as he backed an International Criminal Court investigation into the accusations.

“I appeal to the Russian Federation to accept, to cooperate with the ICC,” he implored the Kremlin.

The UN head was also to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On Tuesday, he met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, repeating calls for both countries to work together to set up “safe and effective” humanitarian corridors in war-torn Ukraine.

Nearly 5.4 million Ukrainians have fled their country since the invasion, according to the United Nations, and more than 12 million others are displaced internally.

‘One hope’

“We feel bad, we shouldn’t be standing here,” said Svitlana Gordienko, a nurse forced to relocate to the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, as she queued for food at a humanitarian hub.

“We’re left with only one hope: to return home,” added pensioner Galina Bodnya.

Today, the White House proposed using assets seized from Russian oligarchs to compensate Ukraine for war-time damage, part of a US attempt to ratchet up economic punishment on the Kremlin.

europe-russia-gas A view of the business tower Lakhta Centre, the headquarters of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom in St. Petersburg, Russia. Source: AP/PA Images

US President Joe Biden announced that he would be introducing a $33 billion package to further arm and support Ukraine.

In a statement, the White House said that the US is “not attacking Russia” but instead helping Ukraine “defend itself against Russian aggression”.

Washington has already provided more than $3 billion worth of weaponry to Ukraine since 24 February, with the White House now eyeing funding sufficient to last until October.

With the war into a third month and claiming thousands of lives, Kyiv has admitted Russian forces are making gains in the east, capturing a string of villages in the Donbas region.

The first phase of Russia’s invasion failed to reach Kyiv or overthrow Zelenskyy’s government after encountering stiff Ukrainian resistance reinforced with Western weapons.

The Russian campaign has since refocused on seizing the east and south of the country while using long-range missiles against west and central Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov warned of “extremely difficult weeks” as Moscow tries “to inflict as much pain as possible”.

‘Unacceptable threats’

Senior presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak insisted Kyiv has the “right” to strike Russian military targets, suggesting direct attacks on facilities inside Russia.

The defence ministry in Moscow said its forces had destroyed two arms and ammunition depots in eastern and southern Ukraine overnight with “high-precision missiles”.

Russia has targeted Western-supplied arms, as the United States and Europe increasingly heed Zelenskyy’s call for heavier firepower.

In a defiant speech yesterday, Putin said if Western forces intervene in Ukraine and create “unacceptable threats”, they will face a “lightning-fast” military response.

The Kremlin reiterated the warnings today, saying Western arms deliveries “threaten” Europe’s security.

Western allies remain wary of being drawn into war with Russia but have stepped up military support.

The German parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of providing Kyiv heavy weapons, a major shift in policy.

It drew praise from Podolyak, Zelenskyy’s senior aide, as marking “the return of (German) leadership” in Europe.

Meanwhile the civilian and military administrator of the Russian-controlled region of Kherson in southern Ukraine was quoted as saying that the ruble will soon be introduced in areas under Moscow’s control.

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‘Blackmail’

Ukraine’s ombudsman condemned the move as “act of annexation” and “gross violation” of UN Charter articles.

russia-ukraine-war-un UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visiting Borodyanka, Ukraine. Source: AP/PA Images

In its economic standoff with the West, Russia cut gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland, both EU and NATO members, yesterday.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov today urged Europe to be “stronger” and wean itself off Russian gas as he also visited Ukraine, arguing “everybody in Europe should be able to”.

Bulgaria and Poland are since receiving gas from EU neighbours, as Brussels warned it will not waver in its support for Kyiv, accusing the Kremlin of attempted “blackmail”.

European powers have imposed massive sanctions on Russia since Putin’s invasion but have moved slowly on hitting Moscow’s vast exports.

Last year, Russia supplied 32% of the total gas demand of the European Union and Britain, according to the International Energy Agency, although Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, is particularly reliant on Russian energy.

Tensions have also risen in Transnistria, an unrecognised breakaway region of Moldova that borders southwestern Ukraine.

Authorities there have reported several explosions and incidents this week that it called “terrorist attacks”, leading Kyiv to accuse Moscow of seeking to expand the war further into Europe.

“We are alarmed by the escalation of tensions in Transnistria,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, saying Moscow expected “a thorough and objective investigation”.

© AFP 2022

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