Live: Kyiv and other cities hit by missile strikes during UN chief’s visit

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Police officers and Army members inspect the area following an explosion in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

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The head of the United Nations said on Thursday that Ukraine has become “an epicentre of unbearable heartache and pain” — a description underscored a short time later by the first Russian strike on the capital since Moscow’s forces retreated weeks ago.

Russia pounded targets all over Ukraine on Thursday. Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities also reported intense Russian fire in the Donbas — the eastern industrial heartland that the Kremlin says is its main objective in the fighting.

Read about Friday’s events as they unfolded in our blog below.

06:18

    Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians from Mariupol steel facility on Friday. 

    However, Russia is preventing wounded Ukrainian fighters from being evacuated from Mariupol because it wants to capture them, according to the local governor.

    US President Joe Biden has signed a request to Congress for $33 billion in security, economic, and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

    The OSCE is being forced to leave eastern Ukraine after Russia vetoed an extension to its mission there.

    Russia launches wave of missile attacks on Ukraine on Thursday evening, including on the capital, Kyiv. 

    This came barely an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a news conference with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who said Ukraine has become “an epicentre of unbearable heartache and pain.”

08:16

Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Friday

Ukraine hopes on Friday to evacuate civilians who are holed up in a vast steel works with the last fighters defending the southern city of Mariupol.

“An operation is planned today to get civilians out of the plant,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said, without giving details.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after meeting Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Thursday that intense discussions were under way to enable the evacuation of the Azovstal steel plant, which has been pounded by Russian forces occupying Mariupol.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed “in principle” to UN and International Committee for the Red Cross involvement in evacuating the Azovstal plant.

The Mariupol city council has said about 100,000 residents across the city are “in mortal danger” because of Russian shelling and unsanitary conditions, and described a “catastrophic” shortage of drinking water and food.

(Reuters)

08:11

OSCE to leave eastern Ukraine

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world’s largest security body, announced yesterday that it was ending its deployment in eastern Ukraine following a veto by Russia, one of the group’s members, over an extension to the mission.

The Vienna-based organisation has been operating in eastern Ukraine since 2014, after Russia-backed separatists launched an insurgency there.

“This is not an easy decision to take… but the position of the Russian Federation left us with no choice but to take steps to close down the Mission,” Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, said. Poland currently holds the rotating OSCE chairmanship.

“The mission played a crucial role in providing objective information on the ground, facilitating ceasefires and working to ease the effects of the conflict on the civilian population,” he added.

07:38

Battle for Donbas remains key for Russia, says British defence ministry

The battle for Donbas remains Russia’s main strategic focus, in order to achieve its stated aim of securing control over the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, says the British Ministry of Defence in its latest update on the fighting in Ukraine. 

In an update Friday morning, the British military said that heavy fighting had been seen around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, with Russia attempting to advance south from Izium toward Slovyansk.

However, “due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces,” it writes.

The British military has been offering daily public reports on the fighting in Ukraine.

07:25

US goes after assets of Russian oligarchs, money could help rebuild Ukraine

President Joe Biden doesn’t want to just seize the yachts, luxury homes and other assets of Russian oligarchs, he wants to sell off the pricey goods and use the money to help rebuild Ukraine, writes the Associated Press.

On Wednesday the US House of Representatives passed the Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act, with only four lawmakers voting against the measure. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would allow the president to confiscate and liquidate property owned by sanctioned individuals. The money could only be used for specific purposes.

The package that Biden sent to Congress goes further to create a new criminal offence, making it unlawful for anyone to knowingly own proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government. Additionally, property used to facilitate sanctions violations would also be eligible for seizure.

The White House says the new tools make sanctions more difficult to evade and the administration said it wants to use the money “to remediate harms of Russian aggression toward Ukraine.”

(AP)

06:57

Russia preventing wounded Ukrainian fighters from being evacuated from Mariupol, says local governor

Russia is preventing wounded Ukrainian fighters from being evacuated from a vast steel works in the southern city of Mariupol because it wants to capture them, the local governor said on Thursday.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the eastern region of Donetsk, said Russia was also blocking efforts to arrange humanitarian corridors elsewhere in Donetsk but that Russian forces were being held back across his region.

Hundreds of fighters and some civilians are holed up in the Azovstal steel works, their last redoubt in Mariupol. Russian forces have been pummelling the factory after laying siege to Mariupol for weeks, but President Vladimir Putin has said the plant need not be stormed.

“They (want to) use the opportunity to capture the defenders of Mariupol, one of the main (elements) of whom are the… Azov regiment,” Kyrylenko told a briefing, referring to a group of fighters that Moscow has vilified.

“Therefore the Russian side is not agreeing to any evacuation measures regarding wounded (Ukrainian) troops.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had been quite clear that while civilians could leave the plant, the defenders had to lay down their arms, TASS news agency said.

(Reuters)

06:52

Three million have entered Poland from Ukraine since the fighting began on 24 February 

Poland’s border guard agency says that it has recorded 3 million crossings into Poland from neighbouring Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, while there have been 904,000 crossings into Ukraine.

Border guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska said Thursday that the number includes people who cross a number of times because, for example, they regularly do shopping in Poland and then go back.

Polish authorities say some 1.6 million refugees have applied for and received special ID numbers that will allow them to work and receive free health care and education in Poland.

(AP)

06:46

Donbas subjected to “intense fire” over the past 24 hours

Ukraine’s military said that Russian troops were subjecting several places in the Donbas to “intense fire” and that over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces had repelled six attacks in the region, according to the Associated Press.

Four civilians were killed in heavy shelling of residential areas in the Luhansk region of the Donbas, according to the regional governor. Meanwhile, columns of smoke could be seen rising at different points across the Donetsk region of the Donbas, and artillery and sirens were heard on and off.

Many of the Russian troops who were in Mariupol have been leaving and moving to the northwest, a senior US defence official said Thursday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the US military assessment, didn’t have exact numbers but said a “significant number” of the roughly one dozen battalion tactical groups that were in the city were moving out.

Russian forces are making slow, incremental progress in the Donbas — gaining only several kilometres on any given day, the official said. As of Thursday, Russia had launched about 1,900 missiles into Ukraine – the vast majority fired from outside Ukraine’s borders. Most are strikes on Mariupol and the Donbas.

06:43

Biden signs new request to US Congress for $33 billion in Ukrainian assistance

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden said he had signed a request to Congress for critical security, economic, and humanitarian assistance to help Ukraine continue to “counter Putin’s aggression” at what he described as a “very pivotal moment”.

The $33 billion budget extension would deliver further military aid to Kyiv, with the country already delivering 10 anti-tank weapons for every Russian tank, the American president said during a speech at the White House.

“The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” Biden said. “We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.” 

06:16

Russia launches wave of missile attacks, including on the capital, Kyiv

Russia pounded targets from practically one end of Ukraine to the other Thursday, including Kyiv, bombarding the city while the head of the United Nations was visiting in the boldest attack on the capital since Moscow’s forces retreated weeks ago.

Ukrainian emergency services said 10 people were wounded when a Russian missile hit a 25-story apartment building in Kyiv on Thursday evening and set off a fire, which partially destroyed the first and second floors.

The bombardment came barely an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a news conference with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who said Ukraine has become “an epicentre of unbearable heartache and pain.”

A spokesperson said Guterres and his team were safe.

Meanwhile, explosions were reported across the country — in Polonne in the west, Chernihiv near the border with Belarus, and Fastiv, a large railway hub southwest of the capital.

The mayor of Odesa, in southern Ukraine, said rockets were intercepted by air defences.

(AP)

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