Russian missile barrage shatters four-month calm in Ukrainian capital
KYIV (Reuters) – Angelika Teranis sat on a small bag in the dank gloom of her Kyiv apartment block’s basement, her cat in a carrier beside her, as she waited for the all-clear to sound.
“This is terrorism and I do not understand why a terrorist country is not recognized as such,” the 52-year-old history teacher said of the Russian missile strikes that slammed into the Ukrainian capital during Monday’s morning rush hour.
The impacts shattered the feeling of relative security that Kyiv has enjoyed since the last missile attack four months ago, creating a wave of panic not felt since the first days of Russia’s invasion.
Kyiv’s broad avenues and narrow streets were all but deserted for several hours after the strikes on the downtown and in the outskirts, part of a wider Russian bombardment across Ukraine.
The fusillades came two days after an explosion damaged the only bridge from Russia to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Kyiv in 2014. Russia charged Ukraine with responsibility, while a Ukrainian presidential aide blamed the incident on infighting between Russian security bodies.
Two missiles landed in quick succession on the edges of Shevchenko Park in central Kyiv, one striking a busy intersection next to a major university. The second hit a children’s playground in a park about 20 metres away from apartment blocks.
Natalia Kostyuk, a 39-year-old neurosurgery institute employee, whose first floor apartment faces onto the playground at the eastern edge of the park, was at work when her neighbour called to tell her that her apartment was covered in debris from the explosion.
“Our neighbour called, said everything is covered in glass. To be honest, I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. I don’t know what we and our neighbours will do now, how to sleep in the cold,” she told Reuters while gazing at her ruined windows.
Kostyuk said she wanted to stay in Kyiv, but her husband now wanted to leave – like they did in February, after Russia began its invasion.
“At the start of the war, when my husband said ‘quick, the war is starting, we have to go’ – it was the same today, for a second time I felt that fear.”
After months of largely ignoring air raid sirens, the strikes prompted Kyivans who were outside to scramble for cover.
Panicked residents crowded the entrances of metro stations, ready to dash underground should more missiles strike, and clustered in basements, although a few people and some cars plied the streets.
Long queues formed at petrol stations, people fearful about fuel supplies, in scenes reminiscent of the first day of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.
Teranis, the teacher, was conducting an online history class for 10th graders in her seventh floor apartment when a missile slammed into a nearby row of shops opposite a power station in the Holosiivskyi district.
Her students urged her to pack up her laptop and get to the basement of her building. She discounted the idea that the barrages were Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to the Crimea Bridge blast.
“There was shelling before the bridge. There will be shelling after,” she said.
DEFIANCE IN THE DEBRIS
Even as panic spread around Kyiv, some residents remained defiant.
People began trickling back into Shevchenko Park around lunchtime, curiously examining the huge crater. Some even coasted on electric scooters. Elsewhere, vendors hawked apples, oranges and other goods on sidewalk stalls.
Denys Mykhailovskyi, 38, was studiously clearing glass from the floor of his basement bar, near the Shevchenko Park playground where a missile landed. The explosion set off the bar’s security alarms.
“When the security team arrived, the windows and doors were gone. So it’s clear the force of the blast was very significant,” he said, adding metal shutters on the windows saved the interior from being demolished.
“All the bottles are intact,” Mykhailovskyi said, pointing at the establishment’s well-stocked bar.
The owner rattled off plans to patch up the windows and get the bar running again in the near future, saying: “We’re already used to it! What is there to be afraid of?”
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