KYIV/POKROVSK (AP) — Russian missiles struck Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Sunday, a day after a key eastern city fell to pro-Russian forces in a major setback for Ukraine and as world leaders gathered in Europe. to discuss new sanctions against Moscow.
As many as four explosions rang out in central Kyiv in the early hours, in the first such attack on the city in weeks. Two more explosions were heard on the southern outskirts of the city later that day, a Reuters reporter said.
“The Russians attacked Kyiv again. The missiles damaged an apartment building and a kindergarten,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s administration.
Ukraine’s police chief Ihor Klymenko said on national television that five people had been injured.
As Europe’s largest territorial conflict since World War II entered its fifth month, the Western alliance supporting Kyiv has begun to show signs of strain as leaders worry about the mounting economic toll, including rising of food and energy prices.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking as Group of Seven leaders gathered for a summit in Germany, said the West needed to maintain a united front against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“To protect that unity, to make it work, you have to have very, very honest discussions about the implications of what’s going on, the pressures being felt by individual friends and associates,” he told reporters.
“But the price of backing down, the price of allowing Putin to succeed, loot huge parts of Ukraine, continue his program of conquest, that price will be much, much higher.”
STRATEGIC CITY FALLS
Life had returned to normal in Kyiv after fierce resistance halted Russian advances in the early phase of the war, though air raid sirens sound regularly throughout the city.
There have been no major strikes in Kyiv since June.
The city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on the Telegram messaging app that Sunday’s strike partially destroyed a nine-story apartment building and started a fire.
“There are people under the rubble,” Klitschko said. “They have taken a seven-year-old girl. She is alive. Now they are trying to rescue their mother.”
Explosions were also heard on Sunday in the central city of Cherkasy, which has so far been largely untouched by shelling, regional governor Oleksandr Skichko said on Telegram.
Russia denies targeting civilians, but Ukraine and the West accuse Russian forces of war crimes in a conflict that has killed thousands, driven millions to flee Ukraine and destroyed cities.
The strategic 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.
The fall of Sievierodonetsk is a major defeat for Kyiv, which is seeking to maintain control of the eastern Donbas region, a key military target for the Kremlin.
Moscow says the Donbas, Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, where it has backed uprisings since 2014, are independent countries. It demands that Ukraine cede the entire territory of the two provinces to the separatist administrations.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to ensure Russian security and de-Nazify Ukraine. Kyiv and the West say the invasion was nothing more than a land grab.
The war has had a major impact on the global economy and European security, raising gasoline, oil and food prices, pushing the European Union to reduce dependence on Russian energy and prompting Finland and Sweden to seek membership in NATO.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he would urge his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts to start a dialogue during a peacebuilding mission in the countries at war and ask Putin to order an immediate ceasefire.
“The war must be stopped and global food supply chains must be revived,” said Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, before leaving to attend the G7 summit.
The United Nations has warned that a protracted war in Ukraine, one of the world’s leading grain exporters, threatens to spark a global hunger crisis.
Seeking to further tighten the screws on Russia, the G7 countries announced an import ban on new gold from Russia as they began their summit in the Bavarian Alps.
NATO leaders will hold a summit on June 29-30 in Madrid.
‘IT WAS HORRIBLE’
The fall of Sievierodonetsk, once home to more than 100,000 people but now a wasteland, transforms the battlefield in the east after weeks in which Moscow’s huge advantage in firepower had produced only slow gains. .
The Russian Interfax news agency quoted a representative of the pro-Russian separatist fighters as saying that Russian and pro-Russian forces had also entered Lysychansk via the river.
The two cities were the last major cities held by Ukrainian forces in the east.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised in a video address on Saturday that Ukraine would take back the cities it lost, including Sievierodonetsk.
“We have no idea how long it will last, how many more hits, losses and efforts it will take before we see victory on the horizon,” he said.
In the Ukrainian-controlled Donbas city of Pokrovsk, Elena, an elderly woman from Lysychansk in a wheelchair, was among dozens of evacuees who arrived by bus from frontline areas.
“Lysychansk, it was a horror, the last week. Yesterday we couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “I already told my husband that if I die, please bury me behind the house.”
(Reuters Office Reporting; Writing by Michael Perry and Alex Richardson; Editing by Edmund Klamann and David Clarke)