Russian forces have resumed scattered attacks on Kyiv and western Ukraine in a reminder to Ukrainians and their western supporters that the whole country remains under threat despite Russia’s pivot towards a new offensive in the east.
Stung by the loss of its Black Sea flagship and alleged Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory, Russia’s military command had warned a day earlier of renewed attacks on Ukraine’s capital and said it was targeting military sites.
Associated Press reporters documented civilian deaths in strikes this week on the eastern city of Kharkiv, and each day brings new discoveries of civilian victims in a war that has shattered European security.
In the Kyiv region alone, Ukrainian authorities have reported finding the bodies of more than 900 civilians, mostly shot dead, in towns such as Bucha after Russian troops retreated two weeks ago.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that one person died and several more were wounded in the Saturday morning air strikes on the Darnytski district of the capital.
“Our air defence forces are doing everything they can to protect us, but the enemy is insidious and ruthless,” Mr Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app.
He urged Ukrainians not to return to Kyiv just yet, warning that strikes on the capital are likely to continue and its suburbs are rigged with explosives.
“We’re not ruling out further strikes on the capital,” Mr Klitschko said. “We can’t prohibit, we can only recommend. If you have the opportunity to stay a little bit longer in the cities where it’s safer, do it.”
A spokesman for Russia’s defence ministry said forces used “air-launched high-precision long-range weapons” to target an armoured vehicle plant in Kyiv.
It was the second strike in the Kyiv area in two days. Another hit a missile plant on Friday as tentative signs of pre-war life began to resurface in the capital after Russian troops failed to capture the city and withdrew to concentrate on launching a full-scale assault in eastern Ukraine.
An explosion believed to be caused by a missile struck Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to firefighters.
The strike near an outdoor market killed one person and wounded at least 18, rescue workers said.
Meanwhile, the governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine – far from the Russian border and an area long seen as a safe zone – reported air strikes on the region by Russian Su-35 aircraft that took off from neighbouring Belarus. Maksym Kozytskyy did not provide details about possible casualties or damage.
In south-eastern Ukraine, the pummelled southern port city of Mariupol is holding out, but the situation is critical, the Ukrainian president’s office said. Russian troops have maintained a blockade there since the early days of the invasion.
Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukrainian forces have been driven out of most of the city and remain only in the huge Azovstal steel mill.
Mariupol’s capture would allow Russian forces in the south, which came up through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.
The battle for control of Mariupol has come at a horrific cost to trapped and starving civilians.
Locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies from residential courtyards and prohibiting new burials. It is unclear why.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian troops occupying parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south of terrorising civilians and hunting for anyone who served in Ukraine’s military or government.
“The occupiers think this will make it easier for them to control this territory. But they are very wrong. They are fooling themselves,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “Russia’s problem is that it is not accepted — and never will be accepted — by the entire Ukrainian people. Russia has lost Ukraine forever.”
Officials think 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have died in the war, Mr Zelenskyy told CNN in an interview. He said about 10,000 have been injured and it is “hard to say how many will survive”.
The United Nations’ human rights office said it has confirmed the deaths of 1,982 civilians but cautioned that the figure does not include people killed in blockaded cities like Mariupol and the actual number is almost sure to be considerably higher.
Russia’s warning of stepped-up attacks on the capital came after Russian authorities accused Ukraine on Thursday of wounding seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings with air strikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials also hit a key Russian warship with missiles earlier this week, in an important victory for Ukraine and symbolic defeat for Russia.
A senior US defence official said the US believes the Moskva was hit by at least one Neptune anti-ship missile.
The Moskva, named after the Russian capital, sank while being towed to port Thursday after taking heavy damage. Moscow did not acknowledge any attack, saying only that a fire had detonated ammunition on board.