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 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 Saturday drone attack, the biggest since Russia’s invasion began in February last year.
AFP journalists heard at least 10 explosions from around 11:10 am local time (0810 GMT) in Kyiv, starting just a few minutes after an air raid warning sounded.
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.”
Kyiv’s parliament also adopted a sanctions package against Russia’s ally Tehran, a day after Ukraine said Moscow used Iranian Shahed drones in the largest UAV attack on the capital since the start of the invasion.
President Volodymyr Zelensky called Monday “a very long day” in an evening address to Ukrainians, saying “Russia wants to go to the end on the path of evil” with its attacks.
“The world must see that terror loses. When the Patriots in the hands of Ukrainians ensure a hundred percent shooting down of any Russian missiles, terror loses,” Zelensky said.
Kyiv received its first shipments of the American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system in April, and US President Joe Biden on Monday suggested more aid was to come.
Asked about Russia’s fierce attacks on Kyiv, Biden told reporters, “It’s not unexpected,” adding: “That’s why we’ve got to continue to give Ukraine all that it needs.”
Kyiv has been preparing an offensive, although its timing and focus have been the subject of months of speculation.
– Heavy barrage sparks panic –
AFP reporters saw 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 subway.
Down on the platform of the Khreshchatyk metro station, people waited and checked 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.
City administration said air defences were at work during the raid, which was the 16th attack on Kyiv this month.
AFP journalists also saw missile fragments 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 early this year, but has faced almost nightly aerial raids in May.
Authorities said early Monday that Kyiv had repelled another large number of overnight air strikes, with no casualties.
Ukraine’s general staff said late Monday that 40 cruise missiles and 38 “attacking UAVs” had been launched, almost all of which were downed.
– Strike on western Ukraine –
Russia also 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 southern Kherson region.
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”.
Across the border in Russia’s western Belgorod region authorities said Ukrainian shelling killed one person in Grafovka village.
The Belgorod region has seen nearly daily attacks in recent days and last week was the scene of a dramatic incursion from Ukraine.
“The man was doing housework when a shell flew into the courtyard of a residential building,” Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram.
“He died on the spot from his injuries.”