Russia confirms Kyiv airstrike coinciding with UN chief visit

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Russia confirmed late Friday it undertook an airstrike on Kyiv against a missile factory, which killed a journalist, coinciding with a visit by the U.N. secretary general, making it the first attack on the Ukrainian capital in nearly two weeks.

Vera Hyrych, a producer for the U.S. state-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was killed when a Russian missile hit the building where she lived in Kyiv, the media group said. Hyrych was found dead under the rubble of her apartment block which was hit on Thursday, the Prague-based broadcaster said. She had worked for the Ukrainian Service of RFE/RL since February 2018. Hyrych would be remembered for her “professionalism and dedication,” the broadcaster wrote in a statement.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had deployed “high-precision, long-range air-based weapons” that “destroyed the production buildings of the Artyom missile and space enterprise in Kyiv.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed the strikes, which immediately followed his talks with United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, were an attempt by Russia “to humiliate the U.N. and everything that the organization represents.”

Earlier that day, Guterres had toured Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs where Moscow is alleged to have committed war crimes. Russia denies killing civilians.

Germany said the “inhumane” attack showed Russian President Vladimir Putin has “no respect whatsoever for international law.”

The powerful blast had ripped out walls and doors, leaving piles of rubble on the ground.

“I think Russians aren’t afraid of anything, not even the world’s judgment,” Anna Hromovych, deputy director of a heavily damaged clinic, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) as she and others were cleaning up the devastation on Friday.

However, the U.N. chief does not see the Russian missile strikes on Kyiv during his visit to the Ukrainian capital as a personal message.

“Antonio Guterres doesn’t see this attack as about him … He took it really as a sign. Not a disrespect for him but for the people of Kyiv,” U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said in New York on Friday. The U.N. also offered condolences for the family of Vira Hyrych, the journalist killed in the attack.

Russian troops fired several missiles at the Ukrainian capital on Thursday during Guterres’ visit to Kyiv. According to Ukrainian reports, 10 people were also injured.

Putin is nevertheless due to attend November’s G-20 summit, President Joko Widodo of host nation Indonesia said. Zelenskyy also has been invited.

‘Terrorists’ jibe

Ukrainian prosecutors said they had pinpointed more than 8,000 war crimes and were investigating 10 Russian soldiers for suspected atrocities in Bucha, where dozens of bodies in civilian clothes were found following Moscow’s retreat.

Britain said it would send a team of war crimes experts in May to help Ukrainian investigators.

Three months into an invasion that arguably failed in its short-term aim of capturing Kyiv, Russia is now intensifying operations in the eastern Donbass region and tightening its stranglehold on the devastated southern port city of Mariupol, which the Russians have appeared to have captured except for the steel plant.

Ukrainian authorities said they planned to evacuate civilians on Friday from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, the last holdout in Mariupol where hundreds of civilians are sheltering with Ukrainian troops.

But Denis Pushilin, The leader of the breakaway eastern region of Donetsk, accused Ukrainian forces of “acting like outright terrorists.”

He said Ukraine was holding civilians hostage in the steel plant, but claiming that people were free to leave any time.

‘Minor’ advances

With the war claiming thousands of lives, Kyiv has admitted that Russian forces have captured a string of villages in the Donbass region. But Ukrainian forces, armed by Western allies, also reported small victories along the front line.

A senior NATO official said Russia had made only “minor” and “uneven” advances in their attempt to encircle enemy positions as Ukrainian forces counterattacked. Similarly, a Pentagon official on Friday said the Kremlin’s eastern offensive was “behind schedule” as airstrikes were failing to facilitate lightning ground offensives.

In the region of Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces said they had recaptured a “strategically important” village, Ruska Lozova. But in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, civilians continued to live in fear. One resident, Antonina, told AFP she returned home to find a rocket had smashed through her building and lodged in her bathroom.

“When I came home, everything was destroyed … It was scary,” she told AFP.

More Western armaments are due to arrive in Ukraine, with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday seeking billions of dollars from Congress to boost supplies. A senior U.S. official said the package would keep Ukraine’s government and military going through to the start of October.

Russia’s Defense Ministry in recent days has said its forces have struck Ukrainian military sites hosting Western-supplied weapons and ammunition, but a senior NATO official denies this.

‘We will leave’

Britain said it was deploying about 8,000 troops for exercises across eastern Europe in a show of Western allies’ resolve against Russian aggression.

Fears of the conflict spilling over into neighboring Moldova’s pro-Kremlin breakaway region of Transnistria have soared this week after explosions, shots and a drone sighting were reported.

“I don’t know what to do, I’ve never lived through a situation like this,” Victoria, a 36-year-old medical assistant who works in Transnistria, told AFP.

“If things change we will leave, obviously,” she added.

A NATO official said the presence of 1,500 to 2,000 Russian troops in Transnistria was a “concern” as they could distract Ukrainian forces and had stronger capabilities than Moldova’s army.

The cost of the war has reverberated across Europe, with Brussels publishing data showing that output growth for the eurozone has slowed to 0.2%, while consumer prices have leaped by a record 7.4% in April.

But that pales in comparison to the plight of Ukrainians, more than 5.4 million who have fled their country since the invasion, according to U.N. estimates. Another 7.7 million others are displaced internally, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, appealing for $514 million to help.

“We’re left with only one hope: to return home,” said pensioner Galina Bodnya in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.

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