Kyiv expresses defiance after Russian missile strike in center of capital

KYIV, Ukraine – The first explosions of the day hit a central intersection during the downtown rush hour, killing a policeman on his way to work and leaving several cars mutilated and in flames near a historic university complex and the country’s Ministry of Education.

Another hit one of the Ukrainian capital’s most popular parks, leaving a crater next to a playground that only the day before was filled with children and families enjoying a balmy autumn weekend.

Later, there was an explosion next to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge popular with tourists. A huge orange fireball followed by a cloud of white and black smoke briefly enveloped but did not destroy the glass-bottomed walkway, which offers views of the city and the Dnieper.

The wave of Russian airstrikes that rocked Kyiv on Monday morning shattered months of calm, pushing the city back to the center of a nearly eight-month-old war.

Many of the city’s normal rhythms had resumed after Russia’s failed efforts to invade the capital and overthrow the Ukrainian government in the spring.

And across the city on Monday, Ukrainians expressed anger and fear over strikes that hit civilian sites in retaliation for an explosion on Saturday that damaged the Crimean Bridge, a highly strategic link between mainland Russia and the region. of illegally annexed Crimea.

Russia hits Kyiv and cities across Ukraine after Crimean Bridge attack

The bridge is a key logistical conduit for the Russian military and of great symbolic value to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine did not take official responsibility for the attack on the bridge, but Putin accused Ukrainian special services of organizing it.

Many Kyiv residents also expressed defiance at the likelihood of continued attacks, which Putin threatened by boasting of a “massive strike” on Ukraine in retaliation for the bridge attack.

In central Kyiv, Ekateryna Puzanova was unloading morning deliveries at the grocery store where she works when a giant explosion shook the building, shaking her so hard that the contents of her pockets spilled onto the floor.

Some colleagues rushed into a windowless kitchen; others were thrown to the ground.

Puzanova, 46, had fled to Kyiv at the start of the war from the eastern region of Donetsk, an area that Russia illegally annexed last month. Puzanova, increasingly emotional as she thought of her husband and son, was resolved: she would stay.

“I already left my place once,” she said. “Kyiv is our home now.”

Across Kyiv, residents said they were better prepared after the first months of the war, more accustomed to the routine of sheltering, cleaning up and getting on with their lives.

After Putin’s February 24 invasion, much of the city slept in shelters or subway stations for weeks as residential areas came under regular Russian fire, until invading forces eventually forced to retreat after their failed assault on the capital.

But Monday’s attack appeared to cross borders set by Russia, as the missile strike struck for the first time in the very heart of Kyiv, near ministries, pedestrian streets and shopping areas.

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Kyiv residents who for months had ignored the sirens of the air raids rushed into basements, rooms or protected corridors, and in particular deep underground metro stations, considered the safest places to wait. the attacks.

Vokzalna metro station, adjacent to Kyiv’s central passenger rail station, was packed with hundreds of people in the hours after the first explosions in Kyiv, some of them carrying suitcases or pets in small carriers.

Olesya Rogatynska, 39, had just arrived in Kyiv by train on Monday morning after seven months in Georgia, where she and her family had sought refuge after the war. With Kyiv seemingly peaceful for months, Rogatynska decided to return with her 61-year-old mother and 4-year-old son. But as soon as his train arrived in Kyiv, they were rushed into the metro station.

Tears fell from Rogatynska’s eyes as she spoke. “I feel terrified now. I really couldn’t stay longer in another country, but now it’s risky to stay in Kyiv again,” she said. what to do next.”

Rogatynska raised her hands in uncertainty, thinking about her choices ahead. She said her family would meet her at her home in Kyiv and see what the night would bring. If more strikes occur, she said, “I’ll just jump in the car with my son and drive to Poland.”

At a bicycle shop in central Kyiv, Oleksiy Milkovskiy was among those clearing rubble caused by a strike which, as Putin suggested, appeared to target a major power plant across the road.

The blast blew out the windows of adjacent apartment buildings and offices.

A large office building nearby was badly damaged, with almost an entire facade of windows missing and the interior of offices and building materials hanging in the open. Rescuers and military personnel quickly cordoned off the area.

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Milkovskiy, 27, said the morning attacks gave him flashbacks to February, but he said he would not consider leaving. His face hardened when asked if the Crimean Bridge explosion was worth it considering the price Kyiv was now paying.

He said he did not believe the Ukrainian government carried out the attack – some Ukrainian officials say it was done by Russia itself. For his part, Milkovskiy said he believed Russia was doomed no matter what.

“Actually, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “No matter what we Ukrainians do here or on the front line, they are just terrorists, attacking civilians with missiles.”

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