Russia hits Kyiv during UN chief’s visit, Biden demands $33 billion for Ukraine


Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian capital on Thursday evening during a visit by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who denounced the “absurdity” of war in the 21st century, as US President Joe Biden demanded 33 billion additional dollars to support Kyiv.

At least three people were injured in the strikes in the western part of the city, which were the first in the capital in nearly two weeks, and came after Guterres visited Bucha and other suburbs where Moscow allegedly carried out war crimes.

Ukrainian prosecutors said they were investigating 10 Russian soldiers for alleged atrocities in Bucha, where dozens of plainclothes bodies were found after the retreat from Moscow, and had identified more than 8,000 suspected cases of war crimes.

The cases involve “murders of civilians, shelling of civilian infrastructure, torture” and “sex crimes” reported during Russia’s occupation of various parts of Ukraine, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told a German television channel.

In Washington, Biden urged U.S. lawmakers to approve his massive aid package, as well as propose new laws to use luxury assets stripped from Russian oligarchs to compensate Ukraine for damages inflicted since the invasion. of Moscow on February 24.

“The cost of this fight is not cheap. But giving in to aggression will cost more if we let it happen,” Biden said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Biden’s proposal as an “important” and “necessary step.”

‘Shocking’

In a residential district of kyiv, AFP correspondents saw a burning building and black smoke billowing in the air.

“I heard the sound of two rockets and two explosions. It was a sound like an airplane in flight, then two explosions with an interval of three to four seconds,” Oleksandr told AFP. Stroganov, 34 years old.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there were “two hits in the Shevchenkovsky district”, one of which hit “the lower floors of a residential building”. Three people were taken to hospital, but the extent of their injuries was not immediately specified.

“It’s a war zone but it’s shocking that it happened near us,” Saviano Abreu, spokesman for the UN humanitarian office who was traveling with António Guterres, told AFP, adding that the delegation was safe.

Zelensky said the strikes, immediately after his talks with Guterres, were an attempt by Russia “to humiliate the UN and everything the organization stands for”.

A Russian military spokesman told reporters that the Moscow military had carried out airstrikes against 38 military targets, destroying seven ammunition depots, but made no immediate mention of Kyiv or the wider region around it. the capital.

Guterres, who arrived in Kyiv after talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, called the war “evil” after visiting Bucha and demanded the Kremlin cooperate with an International Criminal Court investigation into the charges.

Prosecutors say the 10 servicemen under investigation were suspected of ‘premeditated murder’, cruel treatment and other violations of the laws and customs of war during their occupation of Bucha, northwest of kyiv, in March.

In a joint press conference with Zelensky, Guterres admitted that the UN Security Council “did not do everything in its power to prevent and end this war.”

“It is the source of great disappointment, frustration and anger,” he added.

“Useless comments”

In Washington, Biden pushed back against increasingly strident claims by Russian officials and state media that Moscow is fighting the entire West, rather than just Ukraine.

“We are not attacking Russia. We are helping Ukraine defend against Russian aggression,” Biden said.

The US leader also lambasted Moscow for its “vain comments” on the possible use of nuclear weapons.

The $33 billion package sought by Biden represents a significant increase from previous demands.

The bulk – $20 billion – would be arms and other security aid, while $8.5 billion would be economic aid to help the Ukrainian government respond to the crisis.

Russia has targeted weapons supplied by the West, as the United States and Europe increasingly heed Zelensky’s call for heavier firepower, despite fears of being drawn into a conflict with Moscow.

The German parliament on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor of equipping kyiv with heavy weapons, a major shift in policy.

In its economic standoff with the West, Russia on Wednesday cut gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland, members of the European Union and NATO. Both now receive gas from EU neighbors.

On Thursday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov urged Europe to be “stronger” and wean itself off Russian gas during his visit to Ukraine, saying “everyone in Europe should be able to do this”.

Biden said the West would not allow Russia “to use its oil and gas to avoid the consequences of its aggression.”

‘A hope’

With the war claiming thousands of lives, kyiv admitted Russian forces were advancing east, capturing a series of villages in the Donbass region.

The first phase of the Russian invasion failed to reach kyiv or overthrow Zelensky’s government after encountering strong Ukrainian resistance reinforced by Western weapons.

The Russian campaign has since refocused on seizing the east and south of the country while using long-range missiles against western and central Ukraine.

Guterres said the United Nations was doing all it could to evacuate “apocalypse” civilians in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol.

A Russian official said on Thursday that the ruble would soon be introduced into Ukrainian areas under Moscow’s control, although Russia had previously insisted it was not seeking to occupy captured territory.

The Ukrainian mediator condemned this decision as “an act of annexation” and a “flagrant violation” of the articles of the United Nations Charter.

Nearly 5.4 million Ukrainians have fled their country since the invasion, according to the United Nations, and more than 12 million others are internally displaced.

“We feel bad, we shouldn’t stay here,” Svitlana Gordienko, a nurse forced to move to the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, told AFP as she waited in line for food at a humanitarian center .

“We have only one hope left: to return home,” added retired Galina Bodnya.


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