Moscow confirms attack on Kyiv during UN chief’s visit


Moscow has confirmed it carried out an airstrike on Kyiv during a visit by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, as Ukraine acknowledged heavy losses from Russia’s attack in the east but said the invader’s casualties were “colossal”.

The defence ministry said in its daily briefing in Moscow on Friday that two “high-precision, long-range air-based weapons” had destroyed the production buildings of the Artyom missile and space enterprise in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday night.

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, however, said a 25-storey residential building in the capital’s Shevchenkivskyi district was hit in the strike, which Guterres’s spokesperson described as “shocking”. Klitschko said one body had been recovered.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the US-funded media organisation, said one of its staff, the journalist and producer Vera Gyrych, had died “as a result of a Russian missile hitting the house where she lived” during Guterres’s visit.

The missile attack, which came a day after Guterres met the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow and soon after his talks with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy, drew international criticism and a furious response from Kyiv.

The Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, on Friday described the strikes – denounced by the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, as a “heinous act of barbarism” – as “an attack on the security of the secretary general and on world security”.

Germany said the strike was “inhumane”, adding that Berlin “strongly condemns the Russian missile attack on Kyiv while … Guterres was in talks”. A government spokesperson, Wolfgang Büchner, accused Russia of having “no respect whatsoever for international law”.

Mark Malloch-Brown, the former UN deputy secretary general, said the international community “will recognise they cannot have their UN secretary general treated in this disrespectful, casual and frankly, dangerous way, by Putin”.

Zelenskiy said in an overnight address that the attack was aimed at “humiliating” the UN, adding: “It says a lot about Russia’s true attitude to global institutions, about the efforts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the UN and everything that the organisation represents. It requires a strong response.”

A day after the US president, Joe Biden, called on Congress to send up to $33bn (£26bn) to help Kyiv, Ukraine acknowledged that it was taking heavy losses as Moscow’s forces, having failed to seize the capital, redoubled their efforts to fully capture the eastern Donbas region.

But it said casualties in the invading army were even worse. “We have serious losses, but the Russians’ losses are much much bigger … They have colossal losses,” a Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, said on Friday.

Britain’s defence ministry on Friday backed up that assessment, saying Donbas remained Russia’s strategic focus but due to strong Ukrainian resistance, “Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces”.

Zelinskiy’s office said Russia was pounding the entire frontline in Donetsk, one of the two Donbas provinces, with rockets, artillery, mortar bombs and aircraft, while Ukraine’s general staff said Russia was shelling positions along the line of contact.

The governor of the eastern city of Kharkiv, Oleg Sinegubov, said on Friday five civilians had been killed on Thursday in what he described as almost continuous shelling, with more than 2,000 buildings damaged or destroyed since the start of Russia’s invasion on 24 February.

Zelenskiy’s office also said an operation was planned on Friday to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, the devastated south-eastern port city that has been the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting and the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war.

The sprawling steel plant is the site of Ukrainian troops’ last stand in the besieged city but is also sheltering hundreds of civilians. Russia last week said it had gained full control of Mariupol except for the huge industrial area.

A Ukrainian commander inside the facility, Serhiy Volyna from the 36th separate marine brigade, told CNN the situation was “beyond a humanitarian catastrophe”. He said hundreds of people, including 60 young children, were inside the steel works, many of them injured.

“All the operating equipment, everything that is necessary to perform surgery has been destroyed so right now, we cannot treat our wounded, especially those with shrapnel wounds and with bullet wounds,” Volyna said. “Also, we are in dire need of medication. We have almost no medication left.”

Guterres said on Thursday the UN was doing “everything possible” to ensure the evacuation of civilians from the “apocalypse” in Mariupol and Osnat Lubrani, a UN representative to Ukraine said on Friday she was travelling to nearby Zaporizhzhia to prepare for a “hopeful” evacuation.

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Britain’s government said on Friday it was sending experts to help Ukraine with gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes, with a team due to arrive in Poland in early May to investigate what the UK’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, called Russian “barbarity … and vile atrocities, including against women”.

The bodies of 1,150 civilians have been recovered in the region around Kyiv since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the area earlier this month, with 50-70% of the corpses displaying bullet wounds from small arms, the Kyiv police force said.

Ukrainian prosecutors said they had identified 10 Russian soldiers suspected of committing war crimes – including premeditated murder, cruel treatment and other violations – in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha during their occupation of the town in March.

The UN said on Friday more than 5.4 million Ukrainians had fled their country, including nearly 57,000 in the previous 24 hours alone. The organisation recently forecast that the war could produce 8.3 million refugees by the end of the year.

The UK is also deploying about 8,000 troops as well as 72 tanks and 120 armoured fighting vehicles, artillery guns, helicopters and drones for exercises across eastern Europe, defence officials said in a statement.

“The security of Europe has never been more important,” the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said, calling it “one of the largest shared deployments since the cold war”.

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