KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces resumed scattered attacks on Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond Saturday in an explosive reminder to Ukrainians and their Western supporters that the whole country remains under threat despite Russia’s pivot toward mounting a new offensive in the east.
Stung by the loss of its Black Sea flagship and indignant over what it alleged were 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 recorded civilian casualties in the strikes on Kharkiv this week. Every day brings more victims to civilian suffering in a war which has shattered European security. Ukrainian authorities reported that they found more than 900 bodies in the Kyiv area, many of them shot to death by Russian troops.
Smoke rose early Saturday from eastern Kyiv as Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported a strike on the the city’s Darnytski district. Paramedics, rescuers and paramedics responded to the call and more information on possible victims would follow. He advised those who fled earlier during wartime to not return home for safety.
From the ground, it was not clear what had been hit during the attack. Darnytskyi lies in a large district at the capital’s southeastern border. It contains a variety of Soviet-style apartment blocks as well as newer shipping centers, big-box retail outlets and larger-box stores. There are also industrial areas and railyards.
The spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry said Russian forces used “air-launched high-precision long-range weapons” to target an armored vehicle plant in Kyiv. He didn’t specify where exactly the plant in Kyiv is located, but there is one in the Darnytskyi district.
The strike was the second in Kyiv’s area within two days. One more strike was made on Friday at a missile facility as there were signs that prewar life is beginning to emerge in Kyiv.
Kyiv was just one of the targets on Saturday. In eastern Ukraine, an explosion believed to be caused by a missile struck Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to firefighters and AP journalists at the scene.
According to rescue workers, one victim was killed in the strike at an outdoor market. At least 18 others were injured. They requested anonymity as they weren’t authorized to disclose this information.
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 airstrikes on the region by Russian Su-35 aircraft that took off from neighboring Belarus. Maksym Kozytskyy didn’t provide details about possible casualties or damage.
The fighting continued in Mariupol’s southern port, which was ravaged by the Russian army. Locals claimed to have seen Russian soldiers digging up corpses. A residential area in Kharkiv was shelled, resulting in seven deaths, one of which being a 7-month old child. Oleh Sinehubov.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops occupying parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south of terrorizing 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. They are wrong. They are fooling themselves,” Zelenskyy 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.”
Zelenskyy stated that official estimates range from 2,500 to 3,000 deaths of Ukrainian troops during the conflict. He spoke with CNN via an interview. He said about 10,000 have been injured and it’s “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 airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine. Ukrainian shelling was also reported by authorities in another Russian border region.
Officials from Ukraine haven’t confirmed that Russian targets were hit, so the information could not independently be verified.
But, Ukrainian officials were able to strike an important Russian warship using missiles this week. This was a symbolic victory for Ukraine, and a win for Russia.
According to a senior U.S. defense officer, the U.S. thinks the Moskva was struck by at least one Neptune antiship missile. An intelligence assessment was discussed by the official, who spoke under anonymity.
Named for Moscow, the Moskva sank as it was being town back to port on Thursday. Moscow denied any attacks, stating only that an explosion of ammunition had occurred onboard.
The sinking reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea and seemed to symbolize Moscow’s fortunes in an eight-week invasion widely seen as a historic blunder following the Russian retreat from the Kyiv region and much of northern Ukraine.
The bodies of the victims were either left in Kyiv’s streets or given temporary burials after the withdrawal. Andriy Nebytov, who heads the region’s police force, cited police data indicating 95% died from gunshot wounds.
“Consequently, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said.
He said that more bodies are being discovered under rubble or in mass graves every day. The largest amount was found in Bucha with over 350. Nebytov claims that utility workers dug up bodies and placed them in the Kyiv suburb, while Russian troops were still controlling it. Russian troops, he added, had been “tracking down” people who expressed strong pro-Ukrainian views.
In Mariupol, the city council said Friday that locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies buried in residential courtyards and not allowing new burials “of people killed by them.”
“Why the exhumation is being carried out and where the bodies will be taken is unknown,” the council said on the Telegram messaging app.
Fighting continued in industrial areas and the port, and Russia for the first time used the Tu-22М3 long-range bomber to attack the city, said Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Russia, Mariupol was under Russian control. The dwindling number of Ukrainian defenders has fought back against the siege at great cost to the civilians who are now starving and trapped.
The mayor said this week that the city’s death toll could surpass 20,000. Others from Ukraine have stated that they are expecting to see evidence at Mariupol of crimes similar to those found in Bucha, Kyiv and in other cities.
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 and the target of the looming offensive.
It’s not certain when Russia will launch a full-scale campaign.
A regional Ukrainian official also claimed that seven civilians were killed and 27 others were injured when Russian troops fired upon buses transporting them in Borovaya near Kharkiv. However, the claim couldn’t be independently verified.
Dmytro Chubenko, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office, told the Suspilne news website that authorities had opened criminal proceedings in connection with a suspected “violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with premeditated murder.”
Chernov reported in Kharkiv. Yesica Fisch from Kramatorsk in Ukraine and Robert Burns from Washington contributed to this article.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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