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Russia beat Kyiv, Lviv; attack on the ruins of Mariupol According to Reuters

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© Reuters. Photo: Graves of Ukrainian soldiers killed during the Joint Operation in the eastern regions of the country are seen damaged, as a local Orthodox priest said, by a shell of a Russian tank, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, at a cemetery in Chernihiv

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By Pavel Polityuk

KYIV/MARIUPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russian warplanes bombed Lviv and their missiles hit Kyiv and Kharkiv on Saturday, as Moscow continued to threaten to launch longer-range strikes on Ukrainian cities after their Black Sea fleet was sunk.

In besieged Mariupol, the site of the fiercest fighting and the worst humanitarian disaster, Russian troops have been pushing for recent advances, hoping to make up for their failure to capture Kyiv with how to win the first grand prize of the war.

Moscow said its planes hit a tank repair plant in the capital, where an explosion was heard and smoke was seen in the southeastern Darnytskyi district. The mayor of Kyiv said at least one person had died and that medics were fighting to save others.

The Ukrainian military said that Russian warplanes that took off from Belarus also fired missiles at the Lviv region near the Polish border, where four cruise missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.

In Mariupol, Reuters journalists in Russian-held parts of the city had access to the Ilyich steel works that Moscow claimed to have captured on Friday, one of two huge metal plants where forces The defenders organized underground tunnels and bunkers.

The factory became a quiet ruin of twisted steel and exploding concrete, with no sign of a guard. Outside, at least half a dozen civilian bodies littered the nearby streets, including a woman wearing a pink parka and white shoes.

Someone “tapped” spray paint on the fence of a gas station that had been wiped out in front. In a rare sign of life, a red car drove slowly down another deserted road, the word “kids” scrawled on a tag stuck to the windshield.

The governor of Kharkiv province in the east of the country said at least one person was killed and 18 injured in a rocket attack. In Mykolaiv, a city close to the southern front, Russia said it attacked a military vehicle repair factory.

The attacks follow Russia’s announcement on Friday that it will step up long-range strikes in retaliation for unspecified acts of “sabotage” and “terrorism”, hours after the country This confirms the sinking of the ship Moscow in the Black Sea.

Kyiv and Washington say the ship was hit by a Ukrainian missile. Moscow says it sank after a fire.

A month and a half after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia is trying to capture territory in the south and east after withdrawing from the north after a major offensive on Kyiv was repulsed on the outskirts of the capital.

Russian troops withdrew from the north, leaving towns littered with the bodies of civilians, evidence of what US President Joe Biden this week called genocide – an attempt to erase Ukrainian national identity.

Russia denies targeting civilians and says the purpose of the “special military operation” is to disarm the neighboring country, defeat nationalists and protect separatists in the country. southeast.

‘SURPRISE WHEN IT’S STILL POSSIBLE’

Ukraine says its troops are still holding out in the ruins of Mariupol, which has concentrated its defenses around Azovstal, another giant steel structure that remains dormant.

“The situation in Mariupol is very difficult. Currently, the Russian military is constantly calling for additional units to enter the city,” Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said on television.

The owner of both giant steel mills in Mariupol, Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov, has vowed to rebuild the city.

“Mariupol is a global tragedy and an example of global heroism,” Akhmetov told Reuters. “For me, Mariupol was, is and will always be a Ukrainian city.”

If Mariupol falls, it will be Russia’s biggest prize of the war to date. It is the main port of the Donbas, an area of ​​two provinces in the southeast that Moscow demands all ceded to the separatists.

Ukraine says it has so far thwarted Russian advances elsewhere in the Donbas. Governor Serhiy Gaidai said one person was killed and three wounded in shelling in Luhansk, one of the Donbas provinces.

Gaidai said a gas pipeline was damaged in the frontline towns of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, which were without gas and water. Buses were available for those willing to leave. “Evacuate, while it’s still possible.”

Ukraine gained the upper hand in the early stages of a war that many Western military experts predicted would soon lose. The country has successfully deployed mobile units armed with Western-supplied anti-tank missiles to counter massive Russian armored convoys limited on the roads by muddy terrain.

However, Putin proved determined to take more Donbas territory to claim victory in a war that has left Russia exposed to increasingly harsh Western sanctions and with few allies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that so far, between 2,500-3,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed, compared with 20,000 Russian troops.

Moscow has given no updates on military casualties since March 25, when it said 1,351 people had been killed. Western estimates of Russian losses are many times higher, while there are few independent estimates of Ukrainian losses.

Ukraine says the death toll is uncountable, with an estimated tens of thousands of people killed in Mariupol alone.

Overall, about a quarter of Ukrainians have been evicted from their homes, including a tenth of the population who have fled abroad.

“The successes of our troops on the battlefield are really important, of historical significance. But they are still not enough to wipe out the land of the occupiers. We will defeat them a number of times more. more,” Zelenskiy said in a video speech late Friday night.

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