Live: Moscow presses offensive in eastern and southern Ukraine

Russian forces intensified their assault Friday in Ukraine’s southern and eastern Donbas region, a day after strikes in the heart of Kyiv during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wounded at least five people. Follow FRANCE 24's liveblog for all the latest. All times are in Paris time [GMT+2].

9:45am: UK deploys troops to eastern Europe for joint exercises

The UK government has said it is deploying around 8,000 troops for exercises across eastern Europe in a show of strength after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The months-long drills in countries stretching from Finland to North Macedonia also involve allies including France and the US, defence officials said in a statement.

Britain is deploying 72 Challenger 2 tanks and 120 armoured fighting vehicles along with artillery guns, helicopters and drones for the exercises, some of which are already under way.

"The security of Europe has never been more important," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, calling it "one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War".

9:06am: Clean-up operation starts at Kyiv building hit by Russian strike

Reporting from Kyiv, near the site of an apartment building that struck by Russian missiles while UN chief Antonio Guterres was in town, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg said there was a clean-up operation under way. At least five people were wounded in the attack, according to emergency workers.

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“The only reason the casualty figures were not higher was because it was a new apartment building, not all of the apartments had yet been sold or rented out. So there were fewer people there than there are in other parts of Kyiv,” said Cragg.

8:53am: Two British aid workers held by Russian forces in Ukraine: UK NGO

Two British volunteers working to provide humanitarian aid in Ukraine have been captured by the Russian military there, according to the non-profit Presidium Network.

The two men, who were working for the Presidium Network, were detained by Russian forces at a check point south of Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine on Monday.

There was no immediate comment from the British foreign ministry.

"The foreign office is doing all it can to support and identify these two people," British trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told Sky News.

The Presidium Network said the men, both civilians, were working as part of a Joint Humanitarian Operations Centre project in Ukraine to help provide food and medical supplies and evacuation support.

On Thursday, the British government confirmed that a British national had been killed and another was missing in Ukraine, with media reporting that the dead man was a former British army veteran who was believed to have been fighting with Ukrainian forces.

8:12am: Operation ‘planned’ for civilian evacuations from Mariupol steel plant

Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians holed up, along with Ukrainian fighters, in the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol, according to the presidential office.

"An operation is planned today to get civilians out of the plant," President Volodymyr Zelensky's office said in a statement. There were no details of the planned evacuation operation.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed "in principle" to UN and Red Cross involvement in evacuating the Azovstal plant.

Around 100,000 residents across the city are "in mortal danger" due to the Russian shelling and unsanitary conditions, according to the Mariupol city council. The city is also suffering a "catastrophic" shortage of drinking water and food, according to the council.

7:21am: Russian strikes in Kyiv wound 10 people, Ukraine emergency services say

A Russian bombardment in the Ukrainian capital during the UN chief’s visit wounded 10 people when strikes hit a residential high-rise and another building in western Ukraine, according to Ukraine's emergency services.

The explosions in northwestern Kyiv's Shevchenkivsky district shook the city and burned out windows of a residential building. It came as residents have been increasingly returning to the city.

6:51am: 'Battle of Donbas' remains Russia’s main strategic focus, UK says

The "Battle of Donbas" remains Russia’s main strategic focus in order to achieve its stated aim of securing control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, according to Britain's defence ministry.

"In these oblasts fighting has been particularly heavy around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, with an attempted advance south from Izium towards Slovyansk," the ministry said on Twitter.

Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces, the ministry added in the regular bulletin.

1:47am: Pentagon says it's analysing Kyiv strikes

The US is analysing strikes on Kyiv that the Ukrainian authorities blamed on Russian missiles, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday.

"We're still trying to analyse this and figure out what happened here, what was struck and with what kind of munition," he told CNN.

01:04am: IAEA is looking into a Ukrainian report about a missile flying over a nuclear power station

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Thursday it was probing a Ukrainian report that a missile had flown directly over a nuclear power station, saying this would be "extremely serious" if true.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said Kyiv had formally told it on Thursday the missile flew over the south Ukraine plant on April 16. The facility is near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk, some 350 km (220 miles) south of Kyiv.

10:46pm: Russian strikes on Kyiv aimed 'to humiliate' the UN, Zelensky says

Russian strikes on Kyiv on Thursday aimed "to humiliate" the UN, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"Today, immediately after the end of our talks in Kyiv, Russian missiles flew into the city. Five rockets. And this says a lot … about the Russian leadership's efforts to humiliate the UN and everything that the organisation represents," Zelensky said, adding that it required "a correspondingly powerful reaction".

10:04pm: UN chief, team 'shocked' by proximity of Russian strikes on Kyiv

UN chief Antonio Guterres and his team were "shocked" by the proximity of the Russian strikes, which hit central Kyiv as they were visiting the capital. However, a spokesman has confirmed that they are all "safe".

"It is a war zone but it is shocking that it happened close to us," Saviano Abreu, spokesman for the UN's humanitarian office told AFP, without saying how close they were to the point of impact.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there had been "two hits in the Shevchenkovsky district", with one hitting "the lower floors of a residential building".

He said three people had been taken to hospital but the extent of their injuries was not immediately clear.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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