Russia fires 31 missiles at Kyiv

A firefighter gestures as he prepares to enter a building at the site after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 21, 2024. /
A firefighter gestures as he prepares to enter a building at the site after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 21, 2024. / AP

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia fired more than two dozen missiles at Kyiv before dawn on Thursday, attacking the Ukrainian capital for the first time in six weeks and sending panicked residents flooding into the relative safety of the subway system in a scene reminiscent of the first weeks of the war.

Air defenses shot down all 31 of the missiles, though the falling wreckage still damaged apartment buildings and injured 13 people, including a child, officials said.

An estimated 25,000 people, including about 3,000 children, took shelter in the city’s subway stations as air raid sirens wailed for about three hours, officials said.

Survivors, some in tears as emergency workers treated them in the streets, recounted narrowly escaping from their homes after being jolted awake by loud bangs at around 5 a.m.

Raisa Kozenko, a 71-year-old whose apartment lost its doors and windows in the blast, said her son jumped out of bed just in time. “He was covered in blood, in the rubble,” she said, trembling from shock. “And all I can say is ... the apartment is completely destroyed.”

Russia has attacked civilian areas since the war started in February 2022 in an apparent effort to demoralize Ukrainians and break their will to fight. But the attack Thursday hardened Kozenko’s will to prevail.

“I believe in our victory. We will prevail no matter what,” she told The Associated Press.

Russia launched two ballistic missiles and 29 cruise missiles against the capital, and they arrived at roughly the same time from different directions, Ukrainian authorities said.

The attack occurred hours after a visit to Kyiv by President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Kyiv has better air defenses than most other Ukrainian cities and regions, including sophisticated systems provided by Western allies. The missile interception rate is frequently high, rendering Russian attacks on the capital significantly less successful than early on in the war. Other places, including the port city of Odesa, are more vulnerable and have sustained heavy damage from Russian missiles.

Stretched thin

Ukrainian officials warn that their resources are stretched thin and that they need considerably more Western weapons if they are to keep fighting Russia’s invasion.

The heavy attack on Kyiv came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to “respond in kind” to recent Ukrainian aerial attacks on the Russian border region of Belgorod, which have embarrassed the Kremlin and which Russian officials say have killed civilians.

At a Wednesday event at the Kremlin, Putin said Russia “can respond in the same way regarding civilian infrastructure and all other objects of this kind that the enemy attacks. We have our own views on this matter and our own plans. We will follow what we have outlined.”

Five people were injured in an attack Thursday on the Belgorod region that damaged homes and a sports stadium, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said. Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it stopped 10 rockets over the region. / AP


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