Russia Intensifies Airstrikes On Ukraine Capital

Destruction in Ukraine PHOTO BY Anastasia Lapatina / The Kyiv Independent
AFP ||

Russia renewed airstrikes on Kyiv on Saturday, as President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that peace talks with Moscow will be scrapped if the last Ukrainian troops in the besieged port city of Mariupol are killed.

The fresh bloodshed in Ukraine’s capital and the mounting pressure on Mariupol came as Austria’s chancellor, the first European leader to meet with Vladimir Putin in person since the invasion began, said he thought the Russian president “believes he is winning the war”.

The attacks on Kyiv ended weeks of relative calm in the city. 

Smoke rose from the Darnyrsky district in the southeast of the capital after what Moscow said were “high-precision long-range” strikes on an armaments plant, killing one person and wounding several others.

A heavy police and military presence was deployed around the factory, which was badly damaged.

The strike came a day after a similar attack on a plant that produced Neptune missiles — the type which, according to Kyiv and Washington, sunk Russia’s Black Sea flagship Moskva on Thursday.

It was among the first attacks since Russian forces began withdrawing from that region last month, instead turning their focus on gaining control of the eastern Donbas region, for years controlled in part by pro-Russian separatists.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, in the northeast of the country, a Russian missile strike on a residential district killed at least two people on Saturday and wounded 18 others, the public prosecutor’s office said.

Russian officials now say they are in full control there, though Ukrainian fighters remain holed up in the city’s fortress-like steelworks.

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“Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender”, Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Saturday.

As the Russian forces close in, Zelensky issued a warning.

“The elimination of our troops, of our men (in Mariupol) will put an end to any negotiations,” Zelensky told the Ukrainska Pravda news website. 

“We don’t negotiate neither our territories nor our people.”

The peace talks already appeared moribund, having produced little since they began, and Putin said days ago he believed they were at a “dead end”.

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