KYIV: Russia fired a barrage of missiles at Kyiv on Monday sending panicked residents running for shelter in an unusual daytime attack on the Ukrainian capital following overnight strikes.
A series of explosions rang out in Kyiv on Monday as Russia targeted the city for the second time in 24 hours.
The latest barrages hit the pro-Western country as the Ukrainian capital was still recovering from an overnight on Saturday drone attack, the biggest since Russia’s invasion began in February last year.
AFP journalists heard at least 10 explosions from around 11:10am (local time) in Kyiv, starting just a few minutes after an air raid warning sounded.
Heavy barrage sparks panic as people run for shelter in a metro station
Authorities later said Ukrainian air defences had downed all the Russian missiles launched against the Kyiv region. One injured man was hospitalised, they said.
“A total of 11 missiles were fired: ‘Iskander-M’ and ‘Iskander-K’ from a northerly direction,” Ukraine’s armed forces chief Valery Zaluzhny said.
“All the targets were destroyed by air defences.”
Sergiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s city administration, said that Russians struck in the morning when “most residents were at work and on the streets”.
“The Russians are clearly demonstrating that they are aiming to destroy the civilian population,” he said on Telegram.
Heavy barrage sparks panic
People running for shelter in a metro station in central Kyiv as volleys of explosions were heard.
A witness video showed a group of schoolchildren screaming as they ran down the street. Many residents have become used to ignoring air raid sirens but the heavy barrage prompted a panicked reaction. City authorities said 41,000 people hid in the metro.
Down on the platform of the Khreshchatyk metro station, people waited on the steps checking their mobile phones.
“I saw six, seven or eight... explosions in the sky. That’s why I came here with my work colleagues,” said Maksym, a plumber, sitting on the steps. “I’m waiting for the air raid to end.” “Everyone is used to the night (attacks) when we sleep at home. But the daytime is something new, it has not happened in a long time,” said Yevgeny, a 39-year-old programmer.
“They want to intimidate and scare us, so that we say this war must be stopped. That is what they are probably trying to achieve,” said Volodymyr, an entrepreneur.
The Kyiv city administration said air defences were at work during the air raid, which was the 16th attack on the city this month. Also, missile fragments scattered on the road in Kyiv’s northern Obolonskiy district.
“At first, they started shooting down missiles as usual. Then one of them fell on the road, as you can see, just the tail of it. Some people said it set a car on fire,” said Dmytro, a young man in a plaid shirt.
Kyiv had been relatively spared from attacks since the beginning of the year, but has faced almost nightly aerial raids this month.
Authorities said early on Monday that Kyiv had repelled another large number of overnight air strikes, with no casualties.
Zaluzhny said “up to 40 missiles” and “around 35 drones” had been launched, almost all of which were downed.
Russia on Monday shelled a small town in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, killing one woman, local authorities said. A 61-year-old man was also killed by shelling in the southern Kherson region.
A missile attack in the eastern Kharkiv region last night pounded a small settlement, wounding seven people including a pregnant woman and children aged 10 and 14, the authorities said.
In the western region of Khmelnytsky, Russian forces struck a military facility overnight, officials said.
In a rare admission of damage to a military installation, they said “five aircraft have been put out of action.” Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had attacked Ukrainian airfields and “all the assigned targets have been destroyed”.
Moscow has warned the West against escalating the conflict after the United States agreed to greenlight deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Kyiv has been preparing an offensive although its timing and focus have been the subject of months of speculation. Ukrainian authorities have said almost nothing except that they need more weapons from the country’s backers.
Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said on Monday that in the frontline hotspot of Bakhmut “the intensity of the enemy’s offensive has significantly decreased” as Russian mercenary group Wagner was handing over its positions to Moscow’s regular troops.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2023