More than 900 civilians dead around Kyiv as Russia vows new attacks

Oksana Kolesnikova embraces the coffin of her son Anatoliy Kolesnikov, 30, a territorial defence soldier. Credit: AP

More than 900 bodies of civilians have been discovered in the Kyiv region following the withdrawal of Russian forces.

Most were shot dead, and police say that signals they were “simply executed.”

The jarring toll comes as Russian forces resumed scattered attacks on the capital, western Ukraine and beyond on Saturday in a reminder to Ukrainians that the whole country remains under threat despite Russia's pivot toward mounting a new offensive in the east.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online posting that Kyiv was struck early on Saturday in the Darnytskyi district in the eastern part of the capital, saying there were “explosions.”

He said rescuers and paramedics were on the scene and that victims’ details would be released later.

Klitschko urged residents to heed air raid sirens and warned those who have fled the capital not to return for now for their safety.

Thick smoke rising from the site on the eastern side of Kyiv could be seen from parts of downtown near the Dnipro River.

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It was not immediately clear from the ground what was hit in the attack. Darnytskyi is a sprawling district on the southeastern edge of the capital, containing a mixture of Soviet-style apartment blocks, newer shipping centres and big-box retail outlets, industrial areas and railyards.

The spokesman for Russia's Defence Ministry said Russian forces used “air-launched high-precision long-range weapons” to target an armoured vehicle plant in Kyiv. He didn’t specify where exactly the plant in Kyiv is located, but there is one in the Darnytskyi district.

The latest attack in Ukraine follows the stunning loss of Moscow’s flagship in the Black Sea, which a senior US official confirms was hit by at least one Ukrainian missile. Russia's military command had said it was now targeting military sites.

Russia continues preparations for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine, and fighting also continues in the pummelled southern port city of Mariupol and elsewhere.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday that negotiations to help Ukrainian troops in Mariupol were underway, but Russia had demanded they surrender. Mariupol locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies.

Boris Johnson spoke to President Zelensky on Saturday afternoon, receiving updates on the situation in Mariupol and discussing new sanctions from the UK.

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a factory after a Russian attack in the outskirts of Kharkiv. Credit: AP

Associated Press reporters documented civilian deaths in strikes this week on the eastern city of Kharkiv, and each day brings new discoveries of civilian victims in a war that has shattered European security.

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.

Kyiv was not the only target on Saturday, as in eastern Ukraine, an explosion believed to be caused by a missile struck Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, according to firefighters and AP journalists at the scene.

The strike near an outdoor market along with residential and industrial buildings killed one person and wounded at least 18, according to rescue workers who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information

The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine – far from the Russian border and an area long seen as a safe zone – reported airstrikes on the region by Russian Su-35 aircraft that took off from neighbouring Belarus. Maksym Kozytskyy didn’t provide details about possible casualties or damage.

Vadim Krikun is treated in the hallway of his apartment building after a Russian attack in Kharkiv on Friday. Credit: AP

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

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

Officials think 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have died in the war, Zelenskyy told CNN in an interview. He said about 10,000 have been injured and it’s “hard to say how many will survive.”

The United Nations' human rights office said it has confirmed the deaths of 1,982 civilians but cautioned that the figure does not include people killed in blockaded cities like Mariupol and the actual number is almost sure to be considerably higher.