Russia strikes Kyiv as western leaders meet in Europe

Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital early Sunday, hitting at least two apartment buildings and killing one person, the mayor of Kyiv said. The attack came as Western leaders met in Europe this week to reiterate their support for Ukraine and their condemnation of Russia.

Associated Press journalists in Kyiv saw emergency services battling blazes and rescuing civilians. The strikes also damaged a nearby kindergarten, whose yard was cratered. Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat said the missiles were Kh-101 cruise missiles fired from planes over the Caspian Sea, more than 1,500 kilometers away.

According to conflicting early casualty reports, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed and six injured, including a 7-year-old girl and her mother, whose condition he described as moderate.

Klitschko told reporters he believed the airstrikes were “perhaps a symbolic attack” ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid that begins Tuesday. Leading politicians from the Group of Seven industrialized nations, including US President Joe Biden, were in Germany on Sunday for a meeting of the world’s largest economies.

Leaders were poised to announce fresh import bans on Russian gold, the latest in a series of sanctions they hope will further isolate Russia economically. Biden, standing next to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the host of the three-day meeting, was asked about his reaction to the recent rocket attacks on Kyiv.

“It’s more their barbarism,” he replied.

The early-morning Russian airstrikes were the first since June 5 to successfully target the capital. Two more explosions were later heard in Kyiv, but their cause was not immediately clear.

A member of Ukraine’s parliament, Oleksiy Goncharenko, wrote on the messaging app Telegram that preliminary information indicated that Russia had fired 14 missiles at the capital region and Kyiv itself, suggesting some were intercepted.

In the city of Cherkassy, ​​around 160 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, two Russian rockets hit one person and injured five, said regional governor Ihor Taburets.

A former commander of US forces in Europe said the attacks on Kyiv were intended to humiliate Western leaders as they gathered for G-7 and NATO summits.

“Russia says: ‘We can do this all day. You are powerless to stop us,'” said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of US Army Europe forces. “The Russians are humiliating the leaders of the West.”

In a telephone interview, Hodges said Russia has no inexhaustible supply of precision missiles and “when they use them, it’s for a special purpose.”

He said it was difficult to say for sure whether apartment buildings were deliberately attacked or whether rockets had strayed.

Meanwhile, Russian troops struggled to consolidate their gains in the east of the country, struggling to engulf the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk province. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Sunday that Russia was conducting intensive airstrikes on the city of Lysyhansk, destroying its TV tower and badly damaging a road bridge.

“There’s a lot of destruction. Lysychansk is almost unrecognizable,” he wrote on Facebook.

Lysyhansk and the nearby city of Sievierodonetsk were the focus of a Russian offensive aimed at seizing all of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and destroying Ukrainian troops defending areas not already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

Haidai confirmed on Saturday that Russian and Separatist militants had killed Sievierodonetsk, including a chemical plant where hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians were holed up.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said late Saturday that Russian and Moscow-backed separatist forces now control Sievierodonetsk and surrounding villages. He said the Ukrainian armed forces’ attempt to turn the Azot plant into a “stubborn center of resistance” had been thwarted.

The capture of Lysychansk would give Russian forces control of every major settlement in the province, a significant step towards Russia’s goal of conquering all of Donbass. The Russians and separatists control about half of Donetsk, the second province in Donbass.

On Saturday, Russia also fired dozens of rockets at several areas across the country, far from the center of the eastern battles. Some of the missiles were fired from Russian long-range Tu-22 bombers, deployed from Belarus for the first time, Ukraine’s air command said.

The bombing preceded a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, at which Putin announced Russia plans to supply Belarus with the Iskander-M missile system. Russia strikes Kyiv as western leaders meet in Europe

Joshua Buckhalter

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