Destruction in the city of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine Destruction in the city of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine 

Ukraine's President expresses fear Russia may resort to nuclear attack

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky says the world should be prepared for Russia targeting Ukraine with a nuclear weapon. His comments came as new strikes hit the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, while explosions were heard in the western city of Lviv.

By Stefan J. Bos

Stung by the loss of its Black Sea flagship and indignant over what it alleged were Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory, Russia's military hit back Saturday.

Air raid sirens reverberated throughout the city as new strikes have rocked the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where Russian forces had earlier withdrawn.

Russia's Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces used "air-launched high-precision long-range weapons" to target an armored vehicle plant in Kyiv.

Smoke rose from the area, and there was a heavy police and military presence after Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said there had been explosions in the capital's Darnyrsky district.

It came a day after Russian forces bombed a  military factory outside Kyiv that produced missiles allegedly used to hit Russia's Moskva warship. Earlier, Russia announced it had used Kalibr sea-based long-range missiles to hit the factory, which Ukraine's state weapons manufacturer Ukroboronprom says produced Neptune missiles. "People lived here... Three people were hurt," said Andrei Sizov, a 47-year-old owner of a nearby wood workshop.

More blasts

There were also blasts heard Saturday in the western city of Lviv.

Russia's stepped-up attacks came as Moscow accused Ukraine this week of wounding seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings with airstrikes in Bryansk, a Russian region bordering Ukraine. Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling.

Ukraine hasn't confirmed striking targets in Russia, but it did claim hitting the key Russian warship with missiles earlier this week.

A senior U.S. defense official said the U.S. believes the Moskva, named after the Russian capital, was hit by at least one Neptune anti-ship missile. Russia said a fire on board caused the sinking of the ship. It was seen as a significant victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia as it reduced its firepower.

But with Russia suffering setbacks, there is mounting concern Moscow could use nuclear and chemical weapons born out of desperation to overcome its losses in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has already warned that the world should be prepared for the possibility Russia will target Ukraine with a nuclear strike. In an interview with CNN television he said "We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think."

The Kremlin previously said it would only resort to nuclear weapons if faced with an "existential threat."

West worried

However, in a statement worrying the West, Moscow warned of "unpredictable consequences" if the United States and allies keep supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Russia also banned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently visited Kyiv, and other senior ministers from entering Russia due to Britain's alleged "hostile" stance on the war.

With fighting continuing, the death toll keeps rising, including among civilian men, women, and children.

Reporters documented more civilian deaths in strikes this week in the eastern city of Kharkiv. And each day brings discoveries of civilian victims. In the Kyiv region alone, Ukrainian authorities have reported finding the bodies of more than 900 civilians, most shot dead, after Russian troops retreated two weeks ago.

Many more bodies are reportedly seen in the besieged city of Mariupol as Russia prepares a significant offensive in eastern Ukraine in a war that has already caused tens of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

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16 April 2022, 17:27