Russia fires hypersonic missiles as Ukraine presses for peace deal

Several areas in Kyiv have been targeted

Russia on Saturday admitted using advanced hypersonic missiles for the first time in the Ukraine conflict as Kyiv’s embattled leader  Volodymyr Zelensky called for urgent peace talks.

Moscow also said its troops had broken Ukrainian defences to enter the strategic southern port city of Mariupol and destroyed radio and intelligence sites just outside Odessa.

Russia said it had on Friday used the Kinzhal (Dagger) high-precision hypersonic missile, which can elude most defence systems, to destroy an arms depot in Deliatyn, a village near the border with Romania.

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“The enemy targeted our depots” but “we have no information of the type of missile,” Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ignat told AFP.

– ‘Time to meet, talk’ –

“This is the time to meet, to talk, time for renewing territorial integrity and fairness for Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a Facebook video.

Ukraine claimed Saturday that a Russian general had been killed by strikes on an airfield outside Kherson, just north of Crimea, saying he was the fifth top-ranking officer killed since the invasion began on February 24.

Britain’s defence ministry said Russia was struggling to provide its forward troops “with even basic essentials such as food and fuel” because of Ukrainian attacks on their supply lines.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss accused Moscow of using the talks as a “smokescreen” as it carried out “appalling atrocities,” saying she was “very sceptical” they would produce a breakthrough.

As Putin’s ground offensive has met with fierce resistance, Moscow has increasingly turned to indiscriminate air and long-range strikes.

On Friday, Russian forces destroyed an aircraft repair plant near the airport of Lviv, where millions of people have fled as rockets and shelling continue to rain down on Kyiv.

At the time of the attack, Mariupol’s city council said that over 1,000 people were sheltering in the theatre’s basement when it was hit on Wednesday.

“This is no longer Mariupol, it’s hell,” said resident Tamara Kavunenko, 58. “The streets are full with the bodies of civilians.”

An ensign who gave his name as Yevgen said it was home to about 200 of them.

“We’re still counting but it’s impossible to know, given the state of the bodies,” one rescuer said.

More than 3.25 million refugees have fled Ukraine and countless others have sought havens in the country’s west, though Putin said his forces were doing “everything possible” to avoid civilian casualties during his latest call with Macron, according to the Kremlin.

“I escaped war to reach stability, only to find myself trapped in another war,” said Mazen Dammag, a Yemeni who fled his war-torn homeland nearly six years ago for Ukraine.

Russia’s ally China told US President Joe Biden on Friday that the war “in no one’s interest,” but showed no sign of giving in to US pressure to join Western condemnation of Russia.

Putin appears undeterred by further threats or sanctions, holding a triumphalist rally in Moscow mark eight years since Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, saying his goal in Ukraine was “to rid these people from their suffering and genocide.”

In a call to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin accused Ukrainian authorities of stalling talks by “putting forward more and more unrealistic proposals”.

Russia’s top negotiator said Friday that Moscow and Kyiv had brought their positions “as close as possible” on a proposal for Ukraine to become a neutral state.


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