Strikes in Kyiv: Residents angry after strikes devastate civilian homes


KYIV, Ukraine — The sidewalks were covered in broken glass and bloodstains. A green tram was crumpled, a taxi crashed on its side. Next to a crashed car lay what appeared to be a body, covered with a tarp.

In a park opposite, Irina Kostiuk, 38, stared at the scene, clutching her bloodied hand. She was inside one of the buildings damaged in Monday morning’s attack in Kyiv’s Podilskyi district, volunteering at a humanitarian aid center to help disabled civilians. Around 11 a.m., she heard a loud boom and felt the windows shatter.

“The shock wave knocked me over and the shards of glass kinda grabbed me,” she said. “I lay on the ground for a few minutes, waiting to see what would happen next.”

City officials later described the attack as a missile or rocket strike that hit near a checkpoint near residential buildings. It killed at least one person and injured several others.

As at many other temporary checkpoints in the capital, the tram damaged in the attack served as a barricade, dragged down the street to slow traffic.

The strike came just hours after apparently Russian shells hit a nine-storey residential building in Kyiv’s Obolon district at around 6 a.m. Residents fled the badly damaged building as firefighters tried to douse the flames and rescue those trapped inside. At least one person was also killed in the incident, according to Red Cross volunteers at the scene.

Both attacks have left Kyiv residents on edge, with growing fears that if Russian forces continue to close in on the capital, it could soon face immense damage and civilian casualties, comparable to what happened in the besieged cities of Kharkiv and Mariupol.

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By mid-morning, the second building was no longer on fire, but the damage had rendered much of it unlivable. One area was badly burned. Most of the windows were smashed, exposing the interior of the apartments to winter weather.

Shattered windows offered views into lives that until Monday morning had been peaceful. Through one, a tapestry hung on a wall fluttered in the wind. Through another, shelves of tapes appeared intact.

On a damaged balcony with a small Ukrainian flag planted on the ledge, several residents stood, gazing solemnly at the journalists gathered below.

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Rescuers helped evacuate residents and pets. A family grabbed a pet turtle while leaving the scene. Others drove in and out of the destroyed building, carrying plastic bags containing clothes and other personal effects in their cars.

The strikes have sparked fears about what might happen next for the city. Kyiv has been bombarded, but so far has been spared some of the worst fighting seen elsewhere in northern and eastern Ukraine. Half of the city’s 4 million residents have fled, officials say. Those who remained are preparing for a Russian offensive to take the capital.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and key advisers stayed there, posting provocative videos of themselves to rally Ukrainians. On Sunday, Zelensky visited a hospital in Kyiv to present medals of honor to wounded soldiers.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special military operation”, despite evidence of such attacks verified by The Washington Post and others.

Tamara Tylchik, 64, who lives around the corner from buildings in Kurenivka that were badly damaged, stared in disbelief at the cordoned off area on Monday.

“It’s a nice residential area,” she says. “I could never have imagined in my worst nightmare that Russia would invade us.”

Volodymyr Borysovich, 54, stood to the side, staring at the shattered balconies above.

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His friends Serhiy and Natalia and their daughter, Alina, who has a disability, live on the third floor of the building. “Now they don’t pick up their phones,” he said, drawing anxiously on a cigarette.

Casualties in Kyiv on Monday added to the war’s devastating toll on civilians, who have borne the brunt of Russian bombardment, sieges and indiscriminate violence since the February 24 invasion.

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Arkady Bogdnovych, 85, was in his kitchen when an explosion rocked his house. “It was like a huge wave,” he said.

An hour later, as his daughter helped clean the panes of his shattered windows, he stood outside inspecting the damage. Even with the glass blown, he said, it wouldn’t go away. “I’m not moving,” he said. “I want to stay here.”

But he pleaded for NATO to close the skies over Ukraine to prevent further airstrikes – a request Zelensky has made repeatedly since the start of the war.

“If you closed the sky, we wouldn’t be going through this,” he said.

Western officials fear that enforcing a no-fly zone, which would mean shooting down Russian planes, could turn into an all-out conflict between nuclear powers.

The UN has confirmed the death of more than 600 civilians so far in Ukraine – although the real number, he warns, is likely to be much higher. Ukrainian officials say the Russian attacks have killed thousands: in the port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine alone, more than 1,500 people have died, according to its mayor.

Kostiuk, who had volunteered for the aid organization whose office was damaged on Monday, said she did not know why the area was hit.

“There were checkpoints here, and I guess our humanitarian office is also a strategic object. It’s hard to say,” she said.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who came to inspect the scene, said in a video he released that “this is what Russia’s war on civilians looks like: destroyed buildings, destroyed infrastructure.”

“Lives are being lost,” he said. “This is the war that Russia has started.”

Hassan reported from London and Berger from Washington.

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