Ukraine: Russian warplanes storm Kiev after weeks of calm

by Barbara R. Abercrombie
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Russian airstrikes have bombed the Ukrainian capital Kyiv for the first time in weeks, smashing into an apartment building and a kindergarten and killing at least one person while others were trapped in destroyed buildings.

Up to four explosions shook the center of Kyiv in the early hours of Sunday.

“The Russians have hit Kyiv again. Missiles have damaged an apartment building and a kindergarten,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s government.

Deputy Mayor Mykola Povoroznyk said one person was killed and six injured. He said explosions later heard in other parts of Kyiv were air defenses destroying more incoming missiles.

There had been no major strikes in Kyiv since the beginning of June.

The city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on the Telegram messaging app that some people were trapped in the rubble of a nine-story apartment building.

“They took out a seven-year-old girl,” Klitschko said. “She is alive. Now they are trying to save her mother.”

A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said the attacks were carried out with long-range missiles fired by Russian bombers more than 1,000 km (620 mi) away in the southern Russian region of Astrakhan.

Ukrainian experts work outside a damaged residential building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv [Sergei Supinsky/AFP]

‘Symbolic attack’

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Klitschko said the missile fire on Kyiv was a “symbolic attack” ahead of a NATO summit set to take place on Tuesday.

Klitschko added that the airstrikes were reminiscent of the attacks during the late April visit of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who further described the conflict as a “pointless war”.

Russian missiles also hit the central city of Cherkasy, which had been largely untouched by bombing until now, according to regional authorities, who said one person was killed and five others injured.

The Russian defense ministry said it used high-precision weapons to attack Ukrainian army training centers in the Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, and Lviv regions — a clear reference to attacks reported by Ukraine on Saturday.

Russia denies targeting civilians, but Ukraine and the West accuse its troops of war crimes in a conflict that has left thousands dead, millions fleeing Ukraine, and devastated cities.

US President Joe Biden called the attacks “barbarity” after arriving in Germany for a Group of Seven (G7) summit.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the G7 countries should respond to the latest missile strikes by imposing more sanctions on Russia and supplying more heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Severodonetsk falls

The eastern battlefield city of Severodonetsk fell to pro-Russian forces on Saturday after Ukrainian forces withdrew, saying there was nothing left to defend in the devastated town after months of fierce fighting.

It was a major defeat for Kyiv as it seeks to retain control of two eastern provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, which make up the Donbas region, which Moscow is demanding that Kyiv cede to separatists.

The RIA news agency quoted a pro-Russian separatist official saying separatist forces had evacuated more than 250 people, including children, from the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk on Sunday.

The factory’s surrounding industrial area was the last part of the city to be held by Ukrainian troops.

The Russian news agency TASS quoted the same official saying that troops were now advancing towards Lysychansk across the river from Severodonetsk. Lysychansk is now the last major Ukrainian-owned city in Luhansk.

Ukrainian soldiers attend to a wounded fellow soldier during a medical evacuation on the road in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region [File: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP]

‘Must stay together.’

Biden condemned Russia’s actions and stressed that allies must remain steadfast even as the economic repercussions of the war worldwide take its toll, fueling inflation, food shortages, and more.

“We must stick together because Putin has counted from the start that NATO and the G7 would splinter one way or another. But we have not, and will not do that,” the US president said during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who holds the rotating G7 presidency and hosts the conference.

The leaders would announce new import bans on Russian gold, the latest in a series of sanctions that the Club of Democracies hopes will further isolate Russia economically.

Glenn Diesen, a professor at the University of Southeast Norway, told Al Jazeera that sanctions on gold could lead to “more problems” for Russia. Still, they could have the same effect on the global economy as on Russian energy resources.

“When the NATO countries started to… [implement] sanctions, oil, and gas prices rose significantly to the point where Russia could simply export less but still make much more money than in the past,” he said.

“This can also happen with gold.”

G7 leaders gather for dinner at Elmau Castle in Kruen, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany [Markus Schreiber via AP]

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