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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to humiliate the United Nations by raining missiles on Kyiv during a visit to the city by the UN chief, an attack that upset weeks of relative calm and a tentative return to normal in the capital.

Ukraine’s forces, meanwhile, fought to hold off Russian attempts to advance in the south and east, Zelenskyy reported. And efforts continued to arrange safe passage for residents trapped in Mariupol, largely reduced to rubble in a 2-month-long siege. An official in the president’s office said an evacuation could happen as soon as Friday.

Russia pounded targets all over Ukraine on Thursday, hitting a residential high-rise and another building in Kyiv. US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said one of its journalists was killed.

Clean-up crews work at the explosion site in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

In an apparent reference to the attack, Russia’s Defence Ministry said it had destroyed “production buildings” at the Artem defence factory in Kyiv.

The bombardment came barely an hour after Zelenskyy held a news conference with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who toured some of the destruction in and around Kyiv and condemned attacks on civilians.

“This says a lot about Russia’s true attitude toward global institutions, about attempts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the UN and everything the organisation represents,” Zelenskyy said late Thursday in his nightly video address to the nation. “Therefore, it requires a correspondingly powerful response.”

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the attack was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s way of giving Guterres “his middle finger”.

The strikes were the boldest Russian attack on the capital since Moscow’s forces retreated weeks ago following their failure to take the city. Russia is now pushing into the Donbas, the country’s eastern industrial region, which the Kremlin says is its main objective.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, attend a news conference after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in the east has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around. Both Ukraine and the Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east also have introduced tight restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.

But so far, Russia’s troops and the separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains, and Britain’s Defence Ministry said those have been achieved at significant cost to the Kremlin’s forces.

One aim of Guterres’ visit was to secure the evacuation of people from the ruined southern port of Mariupol, including a shattered steelworks where an estimated 2000 Ukrainian defenders and 1,000 civilians were holed up in the last major stronghold of resistance in the city. Previous evacuation attempts fell through.

About 100,000 people are believed trapped in the city with little water, food, heat or electricity.

“I cannot confirm the exact details of the operation to make sure it is done with safety for our people and for civilians stranded in Mariupol” said Saviano Abreu, a spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office.

Clean-up crews prepare to work at the site explosion in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

An official in Zelenskyy’s office said negotiations were underway with UN mediation.

Two towns in Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region were hit by Russian rockets on Friday, the regional governor said. There was no immediate word on casualties or damage.

The governor of Russia’s Kursk region said that a border post came under mortar fire from Ukraine and that Russian border forces returned fire. He said there were no casualties on the Russian side.

Thursday’s explosions in northwestern Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky district shook the city. Flames poured out the windows of the buildings hit.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said the body of Vira Hyrych, a journalist who had worked for the broadcaster since 2018 and who lived in one of the buildings, was found in the rubble on Friday.

A woman walks at the site explosion in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

Radio Free Europe President Jamie Fly said the broadcaster was “shocked and angered by the senseless nature of her death at home in a country and city she loved.”

Ten people were wounded in the attack, including at least one who lost a leg, according to emergency officials.

Kyiv had been relatively unscathed in recent weeks, and cafes and other businesses have started to reopen, while a growing numbers of people have been out and about, enjoying the spring weather.

The terrible human cost of the war, which has driven more than 11 million Ukrainians from their homes, continues to climb.

In Lyman, a town in Donetsk, in the Donbas, shells rained on Tatiana Matsegora’s home this week. Matsegora’s 14-year-old grandson, Igor, was declared dead after rescue workers drove him to the hospital. Her daughter was in serious condition, and her son-in-law was also killed.

A liquor store owner looks at the damage to his shop at the site explosion in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

“Grandma, will I live?” she said Igor asked her when they were in the basement, waiting for help. “I said that he would live. But look what happened: I betrayed him.”

Source: 9News

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