KYIV, Ukraine — Russia pounded targets across Ukraine on Thursday, including Kyiv, shelling the city as the United Nations chief visited in the boldest attack on the capital since forces from Moscow withdrew weeks ago.
Several people were injured in the attack on kyiv, including one who lost a leg and others who were trapped in rubble when two buildings were hit, relief officials said.
The bombardment came barely an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a press conference with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who said Ukraine had become “the epicenter of a heartbreaking and unbearable pain”. A spokesperson said Guterres and his team were safe.
Meanwhile, explosions were reported across the country, in Polonne in the west, in Chernihiv near the border with Belarus and in Fastiv, a major railway junction southwest of the capital. The mayor of Odessa in southern Ukraine said the rockets were intercepted by air defenses.
Ukrainian authorities have also reported intense Russian fire in Donbass – the eastern industrial heartland which the Kremlin says is its main target – and near Kharkiv, a northeastern city outside Donbass which is considered as the key to offense.
In the ruined port city of Mariupol, in the south of the country, Ukrainian fighters have holed up in the steel works which represent the last pocket of resistance. And authorities have warned that a lack of clean water inside the city could lead to outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
In Zaporizhzhia, a crucial stopover for tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Mariupol, an 11-year-old boy was among at least three people injured in a rocket attack that authorities say was the first to hitting a residential area in the south of the city since the war began. Shards of glass cut the boy’s leg to the bone.
Vadym Vodostoyev, the boy’s father, said: “It only takes a second and you have nothing left.”
The new attacks came as Guterres surveyed the destruction in small towns outside the capital which have seen some of the worst horrors of the war’s first onslaught. He condemned atrocities in towns like Bucha, where evidence of civilian massacres was found after Russia withdrew in early April in the face of surprisingly stiff resistance.
“Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians,” the UN chief lamented.
In addition, the Ukrainian prosecutor accused 10 Russian soldiers of being “involved in the torture of peaceful people” in Bucha. Attorney General Iryna Venediktova did not say her office had filed criminal charges and appealed to the public to help gather evidence. Russia denies that it targets civilians.
During his nightly video address, Zelenskyy renewed his commitment to holding Russian soldiers accountable for the crimes they commit and said of the 10 identified earlier Thursday: “Some of them may not live, after all, until they are tried and fairly punished. But for one reason only: this Russian brigade was transferred to the Kharkiv region. There, they will receive the reward of our soldiers.
During the attack on kyiv, explosions rocked the city and flames poured from the windows of at least two buildings – including one residential – in the capital, which has been relatively spared in recent weeks. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least three people were hospitalized after the strike and plumes of smoke were visible above the city.
The blasts in the Shevchenkivsky district of northwestern Kyiv came as residents increasingly returned to the city.
Cafes and other businesses reopened, and increasing numbers of people strolled, enjoying the spring weather.
It was not immediately clear how far the attack was from Guterres.
Getting a full picture of the battle unfolding in the east has been difficult as airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for journalists to travel.
Several journalists have been killed during the war, which is now in its third month.
In addition, Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have introduced strict restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.
Western officials say the Kremlin’s apparent goal is to take Donbass by encircling and crushing Ukrainian forces from the north, south and east.
But so far Russian troops and their allied separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains, taking several small towns as they attempt to advance in relatively small groups against fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Russian military units were crippled in the failed attempt to storm kyiv and had to regroup and refit. Some analysts say the delay in launching a full-fledged offensive may reflect a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to wait until his forces are ready for a decisive battle, instead of rushing and risking another failure that could undermine his rule amid deteriorating economic conditions. home because of Western sanctions.
Many observers suspect Putin wants to claim a big victory in the East by Victory Day on May 9, one of the proudest holidays on the Russian calendar, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
As Russia continues its offensive, civilians are once again the most affected.
“It’s not just scary. It’s when your stomach constricts from pain,” said Tatiana Pirogova, a resident of Kharkiv. “When they’re spinning during the day it’s still fine, but come evening I can’t describe how scary it is.”
The Ukrainian military said Russian troops were subjecting several locations in Donbass to “intense fire” and that in the past 24 hours Ukrainian forces had repelled six attacks in the area.
Four civilians were killed in heavy shelling of residential areas in the Luhansk region of Donbass, according to the regional governor.
Columns of smoke could be seen rising from different places in the Donetsk region of the Donbass, and artillery and sirens sounded intermittently.
Many Russian soldiers who were in Mariupol left and moved northwest, a senior US defense official said on Thursday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the US military assessment, did not have exact figures but said a “significant number” of the battalion’s dozen battle groups that were in the city were leaving.
Russian forces are advancing slowly and gradually into the Donbass – gaining only several kilometers each day, the official said. As of Thursday, Russia had launched around 1,900 missiles at Ukraine – the vast majority fired from outside Ukraine’s borders. Most are strikes on Mariupol and Donbass.
In Mariupol, video uploaded by the Ukrainian Azov regiment inside the steelworks shows people combing through the rubble to remove the dead and help the injured. The regiment said the Russians hit a makeshift underground hospital and its operating room, killing an unknown number of people. The video could not be independently verified.
About 100,000 people remained stranded in Mariupol.
“Deadly epidemics could break out in the city due to the lack of centralized water supply and sewage,” the city council said on the Telegram messaging app. She reports decomposing bodies under the rubble and a “catastrophic” shortage of drinking water and food.
Ukraine has urged its allies to send even more military hardware to push back the Russians. US President Joe Biden has asked Congress for an additional $33 billion to help Ukraine.
This story has been corrected to remove reference to a man killed in the kyiv attack. He lost a leg in the attack.
Associated Press reporters Jon Gambrell and Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Yesica Fisch in Sloviansk, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine