Fresh strikes hit Kyiv, Lviv as UN says 5m Ukrainians fled war

Published April 17, 2022
Firefighters work to put out a fire at Lysychansk Oil Refinery after if was hit by a missile at Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine on Saturday. — Reuters
Firefighters work to put out a fire at Lysychansk Oil Refinery after if was hit by a missile at Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine on Saturday. — Reuters

KYIV: Russia’s warplanes bombed Lviv and its missiles struck Kyiv on Saturday, as Moscow followed through on a threat to launch more long-range attacks on Ukrainian cities after the sinking of its Black Sea Fleet flagship.

An explosion was heard and smoke seen in Kyiv’s southeastern Darnytskyi district, where Moscow said it had struck a military factory that repairs tanks. The capital’s mayor said rescuers and medics were working there but gave no further details.

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

Russia said it also struck a military vehicle repair factory in Mykolaiv, a city close to the southern front.

Putin appears determined to capture more Donbas territory

The attacks followed Russia’s announcement on Friday that it would intensify long-range strikes in retaliation for unspecified acts of “sabotage” and “terrorism”, hours after it confirmed the sinking of its Black Sea flagship, the Moskva.

Ukrainian troops are still holding out in the ruins of the besieged coastal city of Mariupol, scene of the war’s heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe, where tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped for seven weeks under bombardment.

“The situation in Mariupol is difficult... Fighting is happening right now. The Russian army is constantly calling on additional units to storm the city,” defence ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told a briefing.

Russia has been sending additional troops to try to drive Ukrainian forces out of the Donbas, two provinces in the south-east which Moscow demands be fully ceded to the separatists. Ukraine says it has so far held off Russian advances there.

One person was killed and three wounded in shelling in Luhansk, Governor Serhiy Gaidai said. A gas pipeline was damaged in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, Gaidai said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

“Evacuate, while it is still possible,” Gaidai said. Buses were ready for those willing to leave. However, Putin appears determined to capture more Donbas territory to claim victory in a war that has left Russia subject to increasingly punitive western sanctions and with few foreign allies.

Nearly 5m fled Ukraine

The UNHCR said on Saturday 4,836,445 million Ukrainians, a number up 40,200 on Friday’s total, had fled since the Russian invasion.

The UN’s International Organisation for Migration says nearly 215,000 third-country nationals have escaped to neighbouring countries. It is one of the fastest-growing displacement and humanitarian crises ever.

“People’s greatest wish is to go back home. But for so many, there is no home to return to since it’s been destroyed or damaged, or is located in an area that is not safe,” said Karolina Lindholm Billing, UNHCR’s representative in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Zelenskiy said the military situation in the south and east was “still very difficult”.

Zelenskiy appealed to US President to designate Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism,” joining North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Syria, the Washington Post reported. A White House spokesperson responded: “We will continue to consider all options to increase the pressure on Putin.”

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2022

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