KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The latest pre-dawn Russian missile attack on Kyiv killed at least three people Thursday, including a 9-year-old child and her mother, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukrainian air defenses shot down all 10 cruise and ballistic missiles launched by the Kremlin’s forces, but falling debris caused damage and casualties on the ground, wounding 16 people.
Russia has kept up a steady barrage on the Ukrainian capital and other parts of the country in recent weeks as Kyiv readies what it says is a counteroffensive to push back Moscow’s troops, 15 months after their full-scale invasion. Kyiv was the target of a reported 17 drone and missile attacks last month.
The attack using what Ukrainian officials said were short-range Iskander ground-launched missiles coincided with events scheduled in Kyiv to celebrate International Children’s Day. Those events were canceled.
Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska said one child was in hospital after the attack.
“Children’s Day has to be about safe childhood, summer, life,” she tweeted. “But today it is about new crimes of (Russia) against children.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the dead included a 9-year-old girl, her mother and another woman.
The casualty toll was the most from a single attack on Kyiv in the past month. The onslaught also damaged apartment buildings, a medical clinic, a water pipeline and cars. Earlier, the city government had said that two children were killed before revising the number to one.
One explosion sent missile fragments ripping through an apartment building in a leafy neighborhood. In the morning light, paramedics escorted an elderly woman gingerly away from the building as the bare feet of a person killed in the attack poked out from underneath a plastic tarpaulin in a roped-off area between the trees.
“Around 3 a.m. there was a strike over there. I woke up and saw the fire. My door was smashed, I woke up my mom and ran to the corridor,” said resident Nikita Maslun, peering through a broken window. “Then we went down and ran outside. We saw people running. Windows were shattered and balconies destroyed.”
Mayor Vitali Klitschko said authorities were investigating why a shelter at a medical facility was locked, preventing some people from taking shelter during the bombardment.
Russia has repeatedly targeted Kyiv with waves of drone and missile attacks since the start of the invasion, but attacks against the capital have significantly intensified over the past month. While most incoming weapons are shot down, many Kyiv residents are anxious and tired after weeks of sleepless nights listening to the sound of explosions.
Ukraine’s air defense has become increasingly effective at intercepting Russian drones and missiles, but the resulting debris can cause fires and injure people below.
In Desnianskyi district, debris fell on a children’s hospital and a nearby multistory building. Two schools and a police department were damaged.
In another district, Dniprovskyi, a residential building was damaged by burning debris and heavy smoke arose, the blast wave blew out the windows, parked cars caught fire, and debris fell onto the roadway and courtyards.
In Darnytskyi neighborhood, a water pipeline and a residential building were affected, and the explosive wave broke windows.
After a woman was killed watching an aerial attack from her balcony earlier this week, Kyiv authorities urged residents to heed warning sirens and stay in shelters or other safe locations. “You’ve got to be vigilant, as ballistic missiles fly at incredible speeds. From the moment the alarm is announced to the rocket’s arrival, you have only a few seconds!” they warned in a message to residents.
Ukraine also claimed last month to have downed some of Russia’s hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has touted as providing a key competitive advantage.
Elsewhere, a group that calls itself the Russian Volunteer Corps and purports to include Russians fighting on the Ukrainian side released a video claiming that they were on the border with Russia and about to launch a cross-border raid on the town of Shebekino in the Belgorod region.
A similar group that calls itself the Freedom of Russia Legion also announced a plan to launch a cross-border raid.
Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said that Ukrainian shelling left eight people wounded overnight but said there had been no incursion by enemy forces.
Some Russian media outlets said that Ukrainian forces made an attempt to cross the border but were repelled by Russian troops.
The two groups claimed responsibility for a cross-border raid last month, that marked one of the most serious such attacks on the Russian territory engaging in fighting with Russian forces that prompted authorities to evacuate residents of a town near the border.
Some observers saw the raids as part of Ukrainian efforts to probe Russian defenses and distract Moscow’s military resources ahead of a planned Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Associated Press writers Mstyslav Chernov and Vasilisa Stepanenko contributed in Kyiv, Ukraine.