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Explosions in Kiev as UN chief Guterres visits site of atrocities

UN Secretary General António Guterres was shocked by blasts during a visit to Kiev on Thursday, where he went to the site where atrocities were committed and discussed humanitarian efforts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

UN Secretary General António Guterres was shocked by blasts during a visit to Kiev on Thursday, where he went to the site where atrocities were committed and discussed humanitarian efforts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“In the evening, the enemy shelled Kiev: Two explosions in the Shevchenkivskyi district,” Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.

A residential building was hit and six people were injured, according to the Ukrainian disaster control organization.

Guterres visited several Kiev’s suburbs that have been widely destroyed. Speaking in Borodyanka, north-west of the Ukrainian capital, he said: “I am imagining my family in one of these houses, which are now destroyed and blackened. And I see my granddaughters flee in panic.”

Pressure is growing on Guterres to assume a more active role in resolving the conflict. Attempting to help broker a peaceful solution to the war, he visited Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow earlier this week and demanded that humanitarian corridors be set up for civilians.

Guterres and Zelensky also discussed humanitarian escape corridors from Mariupol, which the UN chief described as a “crisis within a crisis.” He said thousands of civilians needed life-saving assistance and a route to escape the “apocalypse.”

After their meeting, Zelensky was optimistic, saying he believed the siege of the Azovstal steel plant could be ended and a successful outcome achieved in Mariupol.

Russia, however, rejected calls for negotiations on a humanitarian corridor for all those trapped in the plant.

“President [Vladimir Putin] has said it very clearly: the civilians can go and they can go in any direction, the military must come out and lay down their weapons,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state news agency TASS. Their lives and medical care are guaranteed, but nothing more, he said.

On the ground, Russia intensified its attacks on eastern and southern Ukraine.

In the south, Odessa and Mykolayiv were shelled by Russian troops, the regional military authorities said. “Mykolayiv was hit again by strikes from multiple Smerch rocket launchers,” the military command of the Military District of Southern Ukraine said in a Facebook post, adding that dozens of homes, cars and shops had been damaged.

Blasts were also reported from Odessa but military administration chief Serhiy Bratschuk said that local air defence units had the situation under control.

A Russian military spokesperson also confirmed further airstrikes. “The tactical air force of the Russian Armed Forces has shelled 76 military targets,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said. He said two ammunition depots and a number of troop concentrations and military convoys had been hit and placed enemy losses at more than 320 soldiers.

Russia fired missiles at a further 38 military targets, he said, claiming six ammunition depots had been destroyed and several Ukrainian Tochka-U missiles had been shot down. His report could not be independently verified.

Earlier, the general staff of Ukraine’s military warned that Russian forces had significantly increased the pace of attacks in eastern Ukraine.

A large part of the fighting has been focused on the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which are in part controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Shortly before the invasion, Putin said he recognized these areas as independent of Kiev.

So far, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they have captured more than 3,000 Ukrainian fighters since the war began.

Moscow also appeared to double down in areas where it has seized control. Russian troops have almost completely occupied the Kherson region and the newly installed pro-Russian administration said it would never rejoin Ukraine.

“The idea of Kherson rejoining Nazified Ukraine is out of the question,” said one of the new officials, Kirill Stremousov, who is loyal to Moscow. Russia has repeatedly alleged that the Ukrainian government is controlled by Nazis, a claim for which there is no evidence.

“I believe that it is impossible and will not be possible to annex one or another part of our territories by force,” Zelensky said, adding that the prospect of Ukrainian areas being annexed through a referendum would only complicate things.

“If they want to complicate all this for the whole of Europe and the world, they can continue to play with these referendums, which will not yield any results,” he said.

The Ukrainian government is also closely watching developments in the south-west, after reports of explosions in the pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova.

Amid fears that Moscow’s attacks are expanding, Western powers are sending military aid to Ukraine to bolster its troops.

Faced with repeated appeals, US President Joe Biden announced plans to ask Congress to approve a further $33 billion dollars for Ukraine, a senior official said. Of the latest sum, $20 billion would be used for military aid while $8.5 billion would be provided for economic aid.

“President Biden rightly said today that this step is not cheap,” Zelensky said in his daily video address.

“But the negative consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and against democracy are so large-scale for the whole world that, in comparison with them, this support from the United States is necessary.”

At the same time, Biden rejected Moscow’s claim that NATO is fighting a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. Biden referred to what he described as “disturbing rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin,” saying, “We are not attacking Russia.”

He was commenting on assertions by Lavrov who said NATO is waging a proxy war, given the arms deliveries to Kiev, which Moscow said were legitimate targets for attack. Lavrov also spoke of a real danger of World War III.

Biden called the remarks irresponsible. He said Washington was helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. “Russia is the aggressor,” he said, adding that the world must hold Russia accountable.

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