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 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, most shot dead, after Russian troops retreated two weeks ago.
Smoke rose early Saturday from eastern Kyiv as Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported a strike on the the city’s Darnytski district. He said rescuers and paramedics were at the scene, and information about possible deaths would be provided later. The mayor advised residents who fled the city earlier in the war not to return for their safety.
It was not immediately clear from the ground what was hit in the attack. Darnytskyi is a sprawling district on the southeastern edge of the capital, containing a mixture of Soviet-style apartment blocks, newer shipping centers and big-box retail outlets, 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.
It was the second strike in the Kyiv area in two days. Another hit a missile plant on Friday as tentative signs of prewar life began to resurface in the capital after Russian troops failed to capture the city and withdrew to concentrate on lauching a full-scale assault in eastern Ukraine.
Kyiv was not the only target 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.
The strike near an outdoor market along with residential and industrial buildings killed one person and wounded at least 18, according to rescue workers who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to release the 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.
Fighting continued in the pummeled southern port city of Mariupol, where locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies. In the northeastern city of Kharkiv, the shelling of a residential area killed seven people, including a 7-month-old child, and wounded 34, according to regional Gov. 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. But they are very 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.”
Officials think 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have died in the war, Zelenskyy told CNN in 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. Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling.
Ukrainian officials have not confirmed striking targets in Russia, and the reports could not be independently verified.
However, Ukrainian officials did strike a key Russian warship with missiles earlier this week, in an important victory for Ukraine and symbolic defeat for Russia.
A senior U.S. defense official said the U.S. believes the Moskva was hit by at least one Neptune anti-ship missile. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence assessment.
The Moskva, named for 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.
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.
After the withdrawal, bodies were abandoned in the streets of towns around Kyiv or given temporary burials. 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.
More bodies are being found every day under rubble and in mass graves, he added, with the largest number found in Bucha, more than 350. According to Nebytov, utility workers gathered and buried bodies in the Kyiv suburb while it remained under Russian control. 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.
Mariupol has been blockaded by Russian forces since the early days of the invasion, and dwindling numbers of Ukrainian defenders have held out against a siege that has come at a horrific cost to trapped and starving civilians.
The mayor said this week that the city’s death toll could surpass 20,000. Other Ukrainian officials have said they expect to find evidence in Mariupol of atrocities like the ones discovered in Bucha and other towns outside Kyiv.
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.
Also Friday, a regional Ukrainian official said seven people were killed and 27 wounded when Russian forces fired on buses carrying civilians in the village of Borovaya, near Kharkiv. The claim could not 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.”