Moscow/Kyiv | Reuters: Two Russian missiles struck Kyiv during a visit by the head of the United Nations, Ukrainian officials said, but the West believes the battles for the besieged port of Mariupol and other areas in the east and south may determine the war's outcome. Russia withdrew its forces from outside Kyiv last month after failing to take the capital and launched a massive attack on Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

But Thursday's blasts in Kyiv, heard soon after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres completed talks with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, highlighted concerns that the capital remains vulnerable. Zelenskyy said the blasts "prove that we must not drop our vigilance. We must not think that the war is over."

The rockets shook the central Shevchenko district of the city and one struck the lower floors of a 25-storey residential building, wounding at least 10 people, Ukrainian officials said. Russian forces are now entrenched in the east, where Moscow-backed separatists have held territory since 2014, and are holding onto a swathe of the south that they seized in March.

Meanwhile, Moscow's assault in the east drew new US pledges of military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine on Thursday. Heeding repeated Ukrainian pleas for heavier weaponry, US President Joe Biden asked Congress for USD 33 billion to support Kyiv, a massive jump in funding that includes over USD 20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military aid.

Ukraine dismisses Putin's claims of persecution and says it is fighting an imperial-style land grab that has flattened Ukrainian cities, forced more than 5 million to flee abroad and killed thousands since the invasion started on February 24.

Washington, which together with its allies has placed sweeping sanctions on Moscow, hopes Ukrainian forces can not only repel Russia's assault in the east but also weaken its military so that it can no longer menace neighbours. Russia regards NATO's actions as tantamount to waging a "proxy war" against it and has made a number of threats this week of unspecified retaliation.

It cut gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday after they refused to pay in roubles, marking Moscow's toughest response yet to Western economic sanctions. Russia has reported what it says has been a series of Ukrainian strikes on Russian regions that border Ukraine and has warned that such attacks risk significant escalation.

Russia has taken umbrage at statements by NATO member Britain that it is legitimate for Ukraine to target Russian logistics. "In the West, they are openly calling on Kyiv to attack Russia including with the use of weapons received from NATO countries," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow. "I don't advise you to test our patience further." Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian officials said.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan