Monday, May 16, 2022

Deadly wake-up calls traumatise Kyiv

At daybreak for each of the last four days, the Ukrainian capital has been hit by isolated strikes on apartment blocks, killing at least seven people in total.

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A distraught man crouches over a woman’s body draped in a bloodstained cloth, the latest victim of a new Russian tactic that is making Kyiv wake up to daily terror.

At daybreak for each of the last four days, the Ukrainian capital has been hit by isolated strikes on apartment blocks, killing at least seven people in total.

Kyiv has been bracing for a full-on Russian assault, but Moscow’s forces have stalled as they try to encircle the city with a pre-war population of 3.5 million people.

Instead the Russian invaders have launched a sudden but limited escalation in attacks, always at around the same time, in what Ukrainian authorities say is an attempt to break Kyiv’s will.

In the most recent attack, debris from a downed missile blew a huge chunk out of the top of a 16-storey apartment block at 5.04am, emergency services said.

“At five in the morning I heard a whistle, then my husband screamed, calling me,” Iryna Voinovska, a 55-year-old woman who lives on the bottom floor, told AFP sobbing.

“The main thing is that we are alive… Unfortunately, one woman died on the 16th floor, she was crushed by a concrete slab.”

‘Intimidation of the population’

Every day since Monday it has been the same in Kyiv: explosions echoing across the city as the sun rises and emergency services rushing out.

The targets have almost all been the same too, Soviet-era apartment blocks left badly damaged and in one case reduced to a charred husk by flames.

On Monday a shell hit a building in the capital’s Obolon district at 5.09am, killing at least two people. An attack later that morning killed one person.

On Tuesday a few minutes after 5.00am AFP journalists heard loud blasts in central Kyiv, and emergency services later said two residential buildings had been hit.

Four people died as flames swept through one residential block in the Sviatoshynsky district.

Dawn on Wednesday brought another strike at 6.16am, as the pattern of attacks was repeated.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko has visited the scenes of several of the early morning blasts to show solidarity, and warned residents to make preparations for more such attacks.

“I call on Kyivans to trust a warning siren and go down to a shelter. The air defence forces fight back the enemy’s air attacks and our army heroically resists the Orcs,” he said in a statement.

The city’s police chief said Russian forces may be seeking to scare Kyiv residents with attacks that were being carried out “chaotically”.

“Either it brings them pleasure, or it is intimidation of the population,” Andriy Nebitov, head of the Kyiv region police, told reporters on Thursday.

“But they will not intimidate our people. With each shelling, we become even more united.”

‘Make it stop!’

As in other Ukrainian cities hit by Russia’s invasion, it is civilians bearing the brunt.

At the wrecked building hit on Thursday, a 54-year-old resident who gave his name as Sergiy was recovering from the blast.

“I live on the 14th floor, I was sleeping, the blast wave pushed me off my bed,” Sergiy told AFP.

“Everything is ruined in the apartment, completely.”

Several residents tried to clean their balconies and apartments, throwing out shards of glass and debris, as other survivors gathered their belongings and rushed to leave the building.

Vlad, another inhabitant, said he had seen an initial explosion around five kilometres (three miles) away and seen smoke – perhaps the initial impact of a Ukrainian air defence missile hitting a Russian projectile.

Ten seconds later I heard “a hissing sound for five seconds and the explosion”, he said as he hurried out with two large shopping bags in his hands.

The traumatic toll of the attacks could be seen on the face of 32-year-old Anastasiya as she helped clean an apartment from debris.

Her parents live on the first floor of the block that was hit, while she and her husband live in a neighbouring building.

“Thank God they stayed alive. Please, make it stop!” she cried.

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