This content was published on June 26, 2022 – 23:18
By Tom Balmforth and Marko Djurica
KYIV/POKROVSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russian missiles hit an apartment building and near a kindergarten in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Sunday in attacks that U.S. President Joe Biden called “barbarism” as that world leaders were meeting in Europe to discuss new sanctions against Moscow.
Up to four explosions rocked central Kyiv in the early hours of the morning, in the first such attack on the city in weeks.
“The Russians hit Kyiv again. Missiles damaged a building and a kindergarten,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential administration.
A Reuters photographer saw a large blast crater near a playground in a kindergarten that had broken windows.
Deputy Mayor Mykola Povoroznyk said one person was killed and six injured. He said explosions were heard later in other parts if Kyiv was air defenses destroying other incoming missiles.
Russia stepped up its airstrikes on Ukraine over the weekend, which also saw the fall of a strategic eastern town to pro-Russian forces.
“It’s more their barbarism,” Biden said, referring to missile strikes on Kyiv, as leaders of wealthy Group of Seven (G7) democracies gathered for a summit in Germany.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said G7 countries should respond to the latest missile strikes by imposing new sanctions on Russia and supplying more heavy weapons to Ukraine.
As Europe’s biggest ground conflict since World War II entered its fifth month, the Western alliance supporting Kyiv began to show signs of strain as leaders worried about the mounting economic cost.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the West must maintain a united front against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The price to pay for backing down, the price to pay to allow Putin to succeed, to hack huge parts of Ukraine, to continue his agenda of conquest, that price will be much, much higher,” he said. he told reporters.
At Sunday’s G7 meeting, Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States proposed a ban on gold imports from Russia.
MISSILES FIRING DOWNTOWN
Life had returned to normal in Kyiv after fierce resistance that halted Russian advances early in the war, although air raid sirens sounded regularly across the city.
There had been no major strikes in Kyiv since early June.
In his evening speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said an injured seven-year-old girl had been pulled from the rubble of a nine-story building. The girl’s father was killed in the strike, he said.
“She was not threatened by anything in our country. She was completely safe, until Russia itself decided that everything was now equally hostile to them – women, children, kindergartens, houses, hospitals, railways,” Zelenskiy said.
A Ukrainian air force spokesman said the strike was carried out with 4-6 long-range missiles fired by Russian bombers more than 1,000 kilometers away in the southern Astrakhan region of Russia.
Zelenskiy said on Sunday that Ukrainian defenses had managed to shoot down only some of the 62 missiles Russia had fired in the past 24 hours and reiterated Kyiv’s request for partners to provide modern air defense systems.
Russian missiles also hit the central city of Cherkasy, which so far had been largely spared from shelling, according to regional authorities, who said one person was killed and five others injured.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the attack also hit a strategic bridge connecting western Ukraine and eastern battlefields. “They are trying to limit the transfer of our Western reserves and weapons to the East,” he said in a message to Reuters.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it used high-precision weapons to strike Ukrainian army training centers in Chernihiv, Zhytomyr and Lviv regions, an apparent reference to strikes reported by Ukraine on Saturday. There was no immediate comment on Sunday’s strikes on Kyiv or Cherkassy.
Russia denies targeting civilians, but Ukraine and the West accuse Russian forces of war crimes in conflict that has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing Ukraine and destroyed cities .
The eastern battlefield town of Sievierodonetsk fell to pro-Russian forces on Saturday after Ukrainian troops withdrew, saying there was nothing left to defend in the ruined town after months of fierce fighting.
It was a major defeat for Kyiv as it seeks to retain control of two eastern provinces, Lugansk and Donetsk, which form the Donbass region, which Moscow is demanding Kyiv cede to the separatists.
The army is now concentrating on Lysychansk, the twin city of Sievierodonetsk and the last major Ukrainian-held city of Lugansk.
Tass news agency quoted a pro-Russian separatist official as saying Moscow forces entered Lysychansk from five different directions on Sunday and were moving towards the city center, isolating the Ukrainian defenders.
Reuters could not confirm the report. Ukrainian officials said nothing about Lysychansk on Sunday.
RIA quoted a pro-Russian separatist official as saying separatist forces evacuated more than 250 people, including children, from the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk on Sunday. The industrial area surrounding the plant was the last part of Sievierodonetsk held by Ukrainian forces.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, said on the Telegram app that one civilian was killed and eight injured in Russian shelling on Sunday.
In the Ukrainian Donbass city of Pokrovsk, Elena, an elderly Lysychansk woman in a wheelchair, was among dozens of evacuees who arrived by bus from frontline areas.
“Lysychansk was horrible last week. Yesterday we couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “I already told my husband that if I died, please bury me behind the house.”
WORLD FOOD SUPPLIES
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what the Kremlin called a “special military operation” it said was needed to rid the country of dangerous nationalists and ensure Russian security. Kyiv and the West dismiss this as a baseless pretext for land grabbing.
The war had a huge impact on the global economy and European security, driving up gas, oil and food prices, pushing the European Union to reduce its dependence on Russian energy and prompting Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who plans to visit Russia and Ukraine this week, said he would urge his counterparts to start a dialogue and ask Putin to order a ceasefire.
“War must be stopped and global food supply chains must be reactivated,” he said before heading to the G7 summit.
The United Nations has warned that a protracted war in Ukraine, one of the world’s leading grain exporters, threatens to trigger a hunger crisis around the world.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Michael Perry, Alex Richardson and James Oliphant; Editing by Edmund Klamann, David Clarke, Raissa Kasolowsky, Peter Graff, Nick Zieminski and Daniel Wallis)