The Ukraine war is far from over as Russia renews its attacks in Kiev

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian forces resumed widespread attacks on Kiev, western Ukraine and beyond on Saturday in an explosive reminder to Ukrainians and their Western supporters that the entire country remains threatened despite Russia’s focus on launching a new offensive in the east.

Worn by the loss of its flagship in the Black Sea and indignant at alleged Ukrainian aggression on Russian territory, Russia’s military command had warned a day earlier of renewed missile attacks on Ukraine’s capital. Officials in Moscow said they were targeting military sites.

But the burden of war goes much deeper. Every day brings new discoveries of civilian victims of a war that has shattered European security and thrown East-West relations to new lows. In the Kyiv region alone, Ukrainian authorities have reported finding the bodies of more than 900 civilians, most shot and killed since Russian troops withdrew two weeks ago.

Russia’s preparations for the expected Eastern offensive are producing more casualties. A mother cried over the body of her 15-year-old son in the partially blocked city of Kharkiv, where shelling rose this week. Nine civilians died and more than 50 people were injured Friday, the president’s office reported.

An explosion believed to be caused by a missile that struck Saturday near an outdoor market in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to firefighters and AP reporters at the scene. One person was killed and at least 18 people were injured, according to rescue workers.

In the capital, the smoke rose early Saturday from eastern Kyiv when Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported on a strike in the city’s Darnytski district. One person was killed and several were injured, he said. The mayor advised residents fleeing the city earlier in the war not to return for their safety.

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“Our air defense forces are doing everything they can to protect us, but the enemy is insidious and ruthless,” Klitschko said.

It was not immediately clear from the ground what was hit in the attack. Darnytskyi is a vast district on the southeastern outskirts of the capital, containing a mix of Soviet-style apartment blocks, newer shopping malls and large retail stores, industrial areas and railway stations.

Earlier this week, the Russian military said it would carry out attacks on Kiev, and Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday that an armored vehicle factory in the Ukrainian capital was targeted. He did not specify where the plant is located, but there is one in the Darnytskyi district.

He said it was among several Ukrainian military sites hit by “air-fired high-precision long-range weapons.” As the United States and Europe send new weapons to Ukraine, the strategy may aim to raise Ukraine’s defenses rather than what is expected to be a full-scale Russian attack in the east.

It was the second strike in the Kiev region in two days. Another hit a missile factory Friday as preliminary signs of pre-war life began to re-emerge in the capital after Russian troops failed to conquer the city and withdrew to concentrate on launching a full-scale attack in eastern Ukraine.

Kiev was not the only destination far from the eastern front on Saturday. The governor of the Lviv region of western Ukraine – an area that has long been seen as a safe zone – reported airstrikes on the region by Russian Su-35 planes taking off from neighboring Belarus. Governor Maksym Kozytskyy did not provide details on possible casualties or injuries.

Fighting continued in the battered southern port city of Mariupolwhere Russian forces have maintained a blockade since the early days of the invasion, and a dwindling number of Ukrainian defenders have endured the siege.

The capture of Mariupol would allow Russian forces in the south, which came up through the annexed Crimean peninsula, to fully connect with troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.

The struggle for control of the city has cost terrible captives and starving civilians. Locals reported seeing Russian troops dig up corpses from housing estates and ban new burials.

“Why the excavation is being carried out and where the bodies will be taken is unknown,” the city council said Friday on the Telegram announcement app.

The mayor said this week that the city’s death toll could exceed 20,000. Other Ukrainian officials have said they expect to find evidence in Mariupol of atrocities like those discovered in Bucha and other cities outside Kiev.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops occupying parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south of terrorizing civilians and hunting down anyone who served in Ukraine’s military or government.

‘The occupiers believe this will make it easier for them to control this area. But they are very wrong. They are fooling themselves, ”Zelenskyy said in his evening video. “Russia’s problem is that it is not accepted – and will never be accepted – by the entire Ukrainian people. Russia has lost Ukraine forever.”

He also warned in an interview with CNN that “all countries of the world” should be prepared for the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons in the war, an underlying fear ever since Putin launched on February 24.

Zelenskyy estimated that 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops died in the war and about 10,000 were wounded.

The Russians held about 700 Ukrainian soldiers and more than 1,000 civilians captured, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in television remarks on Saturday. Vereshchuk said that Ukraine has about the same number of Russian troops as prisoners and – intends to arrange a prey with Moscow, but demands the release of civilians “without any conditions.”

Russia’s warning of escalating attacks on the capital came after Russian authorities on Thursday accused Ukraine of injuring seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings with airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed attacking targets in Russia and the reports could not be independently verified.

But Ukrainian officials struck a central Russian warship with missiles earlier this week, in a major victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia.

Moscow, named after the Russian capital, sank while being towed to port Thursday after taking major damage. Moscow did not acknowledge any attack and said only that a fire had detonated ammunition on board.

The sinking reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea and seemed to symbolize Moscow’s fortunes in an eight-week invasion that is widely perceived as a historic blunder following Russia’s withdrawal from the Kyiv region and large parts of northern Ukraine.

After the retreat, corpses were left in the streets of cities around Kiev or given temporary burials. Andriy Nebytov, who heads the region’s police force, cited police data indicating that 95% died of gunshot wounds.

“As a result, we understand that during the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said.

Several bodies are found every day under rubble and in mass graves, he added, with the largest number found in Bucha, more than 350. According to Nebytov, supply workers gathered and buried corpses in the Kyiv suburb while it remained under Russian control. Russian troops, he added, had “tracked down” people who expressed strong pro-Ukrainian views.

It is not certain when Russia will launch a full-scale campaign.

The diplomatic gap between Russia and the West was further deepened on Saturday as Moscow prevented British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a dozen other British top officials from entering the country in response to British sanctions.

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Chernov reported from Kharkiv. Yesica Fisch in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Robert Burns in Washington and Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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