UN to ‘redouble’ efforts in Ukraine after missile strike on Kyiv

Call for powerful international response to attack while Russia takes ‘colossal losses’

The secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, has said it will "redouble" efforts to save lives in Ukraine, as Kyiv accused Russia of trying to "humiliate" the UN by launching a deadly missile strike on the city during his visit.

Ukraine said the rocket strike deserved a “powerful response” from the international community, amid fierce fighting in the eastern Donbas region that Kyiv said was inflicting “colossal” damage on Moscow’s forces and “serious” losses on its own military.

There was no obvious progress on Friday in efforts by Ukraine, backed by Mr Guterres, to evacuate civilians from the devastated southern city of Mariupol, which is now almost entirely in Russian hands. About 1,000 civilians are holed up with the last Ukrainian soldiers in the city in its vast Azovstal metalworks, where conditions are dire.

Journalist Vira Hyrych, who worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was killed when a Russian missile hit her apartment block in Kyiv on Thursday evening, shortly after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy met Mr Guterres just a few kilometres away.

“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,” Mr Zelenskiy said. “Therefore, it requires a correspondingly powerful response.”

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said the rocket strike, which Moscow said targeted a missile factory in the city, was Russian president Vladimir Putin's way of showing "his middle finger" to the UN secretary general.

“I was moved by the resilience and bravery of the people of Ukraine,” Mr Guterres said on Friday, a day after he visited sites of alleged Russian war crimes outside Kyiv. “My message to them is simple: we will not give up. The UN will redouble its efforts to save lives and reduce human suffering.”

Food security

Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed and more than 10 million displaced since Mr Putin launched his all-out invasion on February 24th, fuelling fears of a refugee crisis in Europe and of a potential threat to global food global security, due to disruption to farming and shipping in one of the world's biggest grain-exporting nations.

As footage on social media purportedly showed a long convoy of trucks taking grain to Russia from the occupied Ukrainian region of Kherson, Kyiv's foreign ministry demanded that Moscow "stop the illegal theft of grain, unblock Ukrainian ports, restore freedom of navigation and allow the passage of merchant ships".

A number of foreigners are helping humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, and two British aid workers are believed to have been detained by Russian soldiers. Moscow denies striking civilian buildings in Ukraine and insists it is only targeting military installations.

Donbas offensive

After suffering heavy losses and being forced to abandon a bid to seize Kyiv, Moscow is now concentrating its forces in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region while increasingly portraying the conflict as proxy war in which Russia is actually fighting hostile Nato states.

A Pentagon official said on Friday that Russia’s Donbas offensive was making “slow and uneven progress” and its forces were “at least several days behind where they wanted to be” and remained “a little wary of getting out ahead of their supply lines. They don’t want to make the same mistakes that they’ve made in Kyiv.”

Neither side gives updates of its military casualties, and their claims about each other's losses are difficult to verify. "We have serious losses but the Russians' losses are much, much bigger . . . They have colossal losses," said Oleksiy Arestovych, a senior adviser to Mr Zelenskiy.