Explosions hit Kyiv as UN chief visits, US promises new aid to Ukraine

  • UN chief António Guterres ‘shocked’ by blasts in Ukrainian capital
  • Biden seeks $33 billion in military and economic aid for Kyiv
  • Ukraine warns of new Russian attacks in eastern Donbass
  • Moscow to Kyiv Nato Supporters: ‘Don’t Test Our Patience’

KYIV, April 28 (Reuters) – Russia fired two missiles at Kyiv on Thursday during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow pressed an assault in the east that drew new US pledges of military and humanitarian aid.

The rockets rocked the central district of Shevchenko in the Ukrainian capital and one of them hit the lower floors of a 25-storey residential building, injuring at least 10 people, Ukrainian officials said.

Reuters witnesses reported hearing two explosions, but their cause could not be independently verified. There were no Russian comments on the explosions.

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Russia withdrew its invasion forces near kyiv in early April after failing to capture the city, which has since received visits from senior officials from the United States and its European allies.

But Thursday’s outbursts, heard shortly after talks between Guterres and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ended, highlighted concerns that kyiv still remains vulnerable to heavy Russian weapons.

“There was an attack on Kyiv…it shocked me, not because I’m here, but because Kyiv is a sacred city for Ukrainians and Russians alike,” António Guterres told the channel. Portuguese television RTP, questioned about the explosions.

Zelenskiy said the blasts “proved that we shouldn’t lower our vigilance. We shouldn’t think the war is over.”

Guterres’ talks with Zelenskiy focused in part on evacuating Ukrainian fighters and civilians trapped in a steel mill in the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol, Russia’s main target in the eastern region of the country. Donbass. Read more

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in principle to the involvement of the UN and the Red Cross in the evacuation of the factory during talks in Moscow with António Guterres on Tuesday. Ukrainian officials fear that Russia wants to capture those trapped inside, an allegation Moscow denies. Read more

The West believes that the battles for Mariupol and other eastern and southern regions could determine the outcome of the war. Russian forces are now entrenched in the east, where Moscow-backed separatists have held part of the territory since 2014, and also hold part of the south which they seized in March.

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russia was stepping up its military assault in Donbass.

“The enemy is accelerating the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions,” he added.

Putin calls Moscow’s actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine, defend Russian speakers from persecution and prevent the United States from using the country to threaten Russia.

Ukraine rejects Putin’s persecution claims, says it is fighting an imperial-style land grab that has leveled Ukrainian cities, forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad and killed thousands .

Heeding Ukraine’s repeated calls for heavier weapons, US President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Congress for $33 billion to support Kyiv, a massive increase in funding that includes more than $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military aid.

The package, intended to cover needs through September, builds on efforts by the United States and its allies to punish Russia for its Feb. 24 invasion.

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said Thursday. “The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but giving in to aggression will cost more.” Read more

Washington, which along with its allies has imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow, hopes that Ukrainian forces can not only repel Russia’s eastern assault, but also weaken its military so that it can no longer threaten its neighbors.

Russia says it amounts to NATO waging a “proxy war” against it and has made a number of unspecified threats of retaliation this week. It cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday after refusing to pay in roubles, marking Moscow’s toughest response to Western economic sanctions. Read more

Russia also reported what it says were a series of Ukrainian strikes on Russian regions bordering Ukraine and warned that such attacks risked a significant escalation.

On Thursday, two large explosions were heard in the Russian town of Belgorod near the border with Ukraine, two witnesses told Reuters. It is not known what caused them and whether there were any casualties or damage.

Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility for the strikes inside Russia, but says the incidents are a reward. Russia has taken umbrage at statements by NATO member Britain that it is legitimate for Ukraine to target Russian logistics.

“In the West, they openly call on kyiv to attack Russia, including using weapons received from NATO countries,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow.

“I don’t advise you to test our patience any further.”

Ukraine reported explosions overnight in the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital Russia has captured so far since the invasion.

Russian troops in Kherson on Wednesday used tear gas and stun grenades to quell pro-Ukrainian crowds, and were shelling the entire surrounding area and attacking towards Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian officials said. Read more

Russian state media quoted an official of a self-proclaimed pro-Russian “military-civilian commission” in Kherson on Thursday as saying the region would start using the Russian ruble from May 1.

The US mission to the OSCE security body said the Kremlin may attempt to “mock referendums” in the southern and eastern regions it has captured since the February 24 invasion, using “a well-worn playbook that steals the darkest chapters of history”.

“These falsified and illegitimate referendums will undoubtedly be accompanied by a wave of abuse against those who seek to oppose or undermine Moscow’s plans,” the US mission said. There was no immediate Russian comment.

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Additional reporting by Reuters reporters; Written by Peter Graff, Mark Heinrich and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Toby Chopra and Cynthia Osterman

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