Ukraine repels attack on Kiev amid new Mariupol . rescue operation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to humiliate the United Nations by raining missiles on Kiev during a visit to the city by the UN chief, an attack that disrupted weeks of relative calm and a tentative return to normal in the capital.

Ukraine’s troops, meanwhile, fought to repel Russian attempts to advance in the south and east, Zelenskyy reported. And efforts continued to secure safe passage for residents trapped in Mariupol, largely reduced to rubble during a 2-month siege. An official in the president’s office said an evacuation could take place as early as Friday.

Russia slammed targets across Ukraine on Thursday, hitting a residential tower and another building in Kiev. US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said one of its journalists was murdered.

Cleanup crews work at the explosion site in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP)

In a clear reference to the attack, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had destroyed “production buildings” at the Artem defense factory in Kiev.

The bombing came barely an hour after Zelenskyy held a press conference with UN Secretary General António Guterres, who toured some of the destruction in and around Kiev and condemned attacks on civilians.

“This says a lot about Russia’s true attitude to global institutions, to attempts by the Russian leadership to humiliate the UN and everything it represents,” Zelenskyy said in his overnight video address to the nation late Thursday night. “Therefore, it requires a correspondingly strong response.”

Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko said the attack was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s way of giving Guterres “his middle finger”.

The attacks were the most brutal Russian attack on the capital since Moscow forces withdrew weeks ago after failing to take the city. Russia is now invading the Donbas, the country’s eastern industrial region, which the Kremlin says is its main target.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres attend a press conference after meeting in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP)

It has been difficult to get a full picture of the unfolding battle in the east, as air raids and artillery shelling have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around. Both Ukraine and the Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have also imposed severe restrictions on reporting from the battle zone.

But so far, Russian and separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains, and the British Ministry of Defense said they have been achieved at a significant cost to the Kremlin’s armed forces.

One of the purposes of Guterres’ visit was to ensure the evacuation of people from the destroyed southern port of Mariupol, including a shattered steel factory where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders and 1,000 civilians were holed up in the last major resistance stronghold in the city. Previous evacuation attempts were unsuccessful.

It is estimated that about 100,000 people are trapped in the city with little water, food, heat or electricity.

“I cannot confirm the exact details of the operation to ensure it is carried out in safety for our people and for the civilians stranded in Mariupol,” said Saviano Abreu, a spokesman for the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Aid.

Cleaning crews prepare to work at the explosion in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP)

An official in Zelenskyy’s office said negotiations are underway with UN mediation.

Two towns in the central region of Dnipropetrovsk were hit by Russian missiles on Friday, the regional governor said. No information was immediately available about casualties or damage.

The governor of Russia’s Kursk region said a border post came under mortar fire from Ukraine and Russian border troops returned fire. He said there were no casualties on the Russian side.

Thursday’s explosions in the Shevchenkivsky district of northwestern Kiev shook the city. Flames shot from the windows of the affected buildings.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said the body of Vira Hyrych, a journalist who had worked for the broadcaster since 2018 and lived in one of the buildings, was found under the rubble on Friday.

A woman is involved in the explosion in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP)

Radio Free Europe president Jamie Fly said the broadcaster was “shocked and angry at the senseless nature of her death at home in a country and city she loved”.

Ten people were injured in the attack, at least one of whom lost a leg, emergency services said.

Kiev has been relatively unscathed in recent weeks and cafes and other businesses have reopened, while a growing number of people are out enjoying the spring weather.

The terrible human costs of the war, which has displaced more than 11 million Ukrainians from their homes, continue to rise.

In Lyman, a town in Donetsk, in the Donbas, grenades fell on the house of Tatiana Matsegora this week. Matsegora’s 14-year-old grandson, Igor, was pronounced dead after rescuers took him to hospital. Her daughter was in serious condition and her son-in-law was also killed.

A liquor store owner examines the damage to his shop in the explosion in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP)

“Grandma, shall I live?” she said Igor asked her when they were in the basement waiting for help. “I said he would live. But look what happened: I betrayed him.”

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