WRAPUP 5-Ukraine says Russia taking 'colossal losses' in eastern battle
Adds scene detail, quotes from devastated city of Mariupol
By Natalia Zinets
KYIV, April 29 (Reuters) - Ukraine acknowledged on Friday it was taking heavy losses in Russia's assault in the east, but said Russia's losses were even worse, as U.S. President Joe Biden called on Congress to send as much as $33 billion to help Kyiv withstand the attack.
The body of a journalist from U.S.-backed broadcaster Radio Liberty was found in rubble in the Ukrainian capital, killed in a Russian missile attack during a visit by the U.N. secretary-general.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised Biden's offer of help, which amounts to nearly 10 times the aid Washington has sent so far since the war began on Feb. 24.
Having failed in an assault on Kyiv in the north of Ukraine last month, Russia is now trying to fully capture two eastern provinces known as the Donbas.
Ukraine has acknowledged losing control of some towns and villages there since the assault began last week, but says Moscow's gains have come at a massive cost to a Russian force already worn down from its earlier defeat near the capital.
"We have serious losses but the Russians' losses are much much bigger...They have colossal losses," presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.
By pledging tens of billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine, Biden has dramatically increased U.S. involvement in the conflict. The United States and its allies are now sending heavy weapons including artillery, with what Washington says is an aim not just to repel Russia's attack but to weaken its armed forces so it cannot menace its neighbours again.
"We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom," Biden said. "The cost of this fight - it's not cheap - but caving to aggression is going to be more costly." nL2N2WQ1NL
Zelenskiy tweeted: "Thank you @POTUS and the American people for their leadership in supporting Ukraine in our fight against Russian aggression. We defend common values - democracy and freedom. We appreciate the help. Today it is needed more than ever!"
Russia has said the arrival of Western arms into Ukraine means it is now fighting a "proxy war" against NATO. President Vladimir Putin threatened unspecified retaliation this week, while his foreign minister warned of a threat of nuclear war.
JOURNALIST FOUND IN RUBBLE
Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) said the body of producer Vira Hyrych had been found on Friday morning after Thursday's missile attack destroyed the bottom two floors of a residential building. It said Hyrych had worked for Radio Liberty since 2018.
"She was going to bed when a Russian ballistic missile hit her apartment in central Kyiv. Russia’s barbarism is incomprehensible," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said. "We call on media organizations to condemn the murder of Vira and all other innocent Ukrainians."
U.S.-funded RFE/RL, which has covered the former Soviet Union since the Cold War, is one of the main remaining Russian-language sources for news outside Kremlin control, since Moscow effectively shut all independent media following its invasion.
"Kyiv is still a dangerous place and Kyiv is still the target of Russians, of course. The capital of Ukraine is the goal and they want to occupy it," Mayor Vitali Klitschko said, supervising the cleanup in the rubble-strewn street before the body was found.
The missiles hit the capital during a visit on Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov called it "an attack on the security of the Secretary-General and on world security".
Zelenskiy's office said Russia was pounding the entire front line in the eastern Donetsk region with rockets, artillery, mortar bombs and aircraft. The Ukrainian general staff said Russia was shelling positions along the line of contact to prevent the Ukrainians from regrouping.
Britain said fighting had been particularly heavy around the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, the main part of the Donbas that Russia is still trying to capture, with an attempted advance south from Russian-held Izium towards Sloviansk.
"Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces," the British defence ministry said in an update.
The bloodiest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war have been in Mariupol, an eastern port reduced to a wasteland by two months of Russian bombardment and siege.
Ukraine says 100,000 civilians remain in the city, which is mostly occupied by Russia. Hundreds of civilians are holed up with last remaining defenders in underground bunkers beneath a huge steel works.
Zelenskiy's office said an operation was planned on Friday to get civilians out of the plant, giving no details. nL2N2WR0B5
In parts of Mariupol now held by Russian troops, emergency workers were gathering up bodies from the streets. Residents among the blasted ruins recounted the horror they had survived.
"We were hungry, the child was crying when the Grad (multiple rocket launcher) shells were striking near the house. We were thinking, this is it, the end. It can't be described," Viktoria Nikolayeva, 54, who survived the battle with her family in a basement, told Reuters, weeping. nL2N2WR0WV
"It was a massacre," said Vitaliy Kudasov, 71. "It was the scariest thing when the shells were flying overhead. Shells, rounds and all such, you couldn't survive it. And yet we did."
Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right nownL5N2WJ2MY
TIMELINE-Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters third monthnL5N2WI2ER
Graphic on Russian invasionhttps://graphics.reuters.com/UKRAINE-CRISIS/zdpxokdxzvx/
(Additional reporting from Russian-held Mariupol
Writing by Peter Graff
Editing by Mark Heinrich)