Russia has broken weeks of relative calm in the Ukrainian capital with long-range missiles fired at Kyiv, a prominent display of Kremlin power as Western leaders meet in Europe to bolster their military and economic support for Ukraine.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said the rockets hit at least two residential buildings, killing one and injuring six others, including a seven-year-old girl and her mother. Associated Press journalists watched rescuers battle flames and rescue civilians from the buildings.
The strikes also damaged a nearby kindergarten, where a crater poked into the courtyard. US President Joe Biden called the attacks “barbarity” after arriving in Germany for a Group of Seven summits.
Later on Sunday, a local official reported a second death and told the Unian news agency that a railway worker had been killed and several others injured in the attacks while maintaining the railway infrastructure.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said the first air-launched weapons to successfully target the capital since June 5 were Kh-101 cruise missiles fired from warplanes over the Caspian Sea, more than 1,500 kilometers away.
The mayor of Kyiv told reporters he thought the airstrikes were “perhaps a symbolic attack” ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid starting Tuesday. A former commander of US forces in Europe said the attacks also sent a signal to the leaders of the G-7 countries meeting in Germany on Sunday.
““Russia says, ‘We can do this all day long. You are powerless to stop us,'” said retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the former commander of US forces in Europe. “The Russians humiliate the leaders of the West.”
The G-7 leaders were to announce the latest in a long series of international economic moves to pressure and isolate Russia over its war in Ukraine: new import bans on Russian gold.
Besides German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who hosted the three-day meeting, Biden said of the rocket attacks on Kyiv: “It’s more of their barbarity.”
A Ukrainian MP, Oleksiy Goncharenko, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that preliminary information indicated that Russia launched 14 missiles at the capital and Kyiv itself, suggesting some were intercepted.
In a telephone interview, retired US General Hodges told The Associated Press that Russia has a limited supply of precision missiles and that “if they use them, it will be for a special purpose”.
Russia has denied targeting civilians during the four-month-old war. Hodges said it was difficult to know whether the missiles launched Sunday were intended to hit the apartment buildings.
Russian forces tried to seize control of Kyiv early in the war. After Ukrainian forces repelled them, the Kremlin largely shifted its focus to southern and eastern Ukraine.
A Russian rocket attack in Cherkasy, about 160 km southeast of Kyiv, killed one person and injured five, regional governor Ihor Taburets said on Sunday.
In the east, Russian forces fought to consolidate their gains by fighting to engulf the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk province. On Sunday, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said that Russia is carrying out intense airstrikes on the city of Lysychansk, destroying the television tower and seriously damaging a road bridge.
“There is a lot of destruction. Lysychansk is almost unrecognizable,” he wrote on Facebook.