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Russian missiles target Kyiv as troops consolidate gains in the east

Smoke billows from a residential building following explosions in Kyiv, Ukraine (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)
Smoke billows from a residential building following explosions in Kyiv, Ukraine (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

Russia has attacked the Ukrainian capital Kyiv for the first time in weeks, with missiles striking at least two residential buildings.

The general prosecutor’s office said preliminary information indicated one person was killed and four injured; Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said four people were taken to hospital with injuries and a seven-year-old girl was pulled alive from the rubble.

Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Goncharenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app that “according to prelim data, 14 missiles were launched against Kyiv region and Kyiv”.

In the city of Cherkasy, about 100 miles south-east of Kyiv, one person was killed and five injured in strikes by two Russian rockets, regional governor Ihor Taburets said.

Before the attack, Kyiv had not faced any Russian air strikes since June 5.

Mr Klitschko said he believes it may have been “a symbolic attack” by Russia ahead of this week’s Nato summit in Madrid.

Two more explosions were later heard in Kyiv, but their cause and possible casualties were not immediately clear.

Meanwhile, Russian troops are attempting to consolidate their gains in the east, swallowing up the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk region following the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the charred ruins of Sievierodonetsk.

The military said Moscow-backed separatists are now in full control of the chemical plant that was the last Ukrainian holdout in the city.

Russia launched dozens of missiles on several areas across the country far from the heart of the eastern battles on Saturday.

Damaged builing
Debris on the ground after a residential building in Kyiv was struck by Russian missiles (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

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 bombardment preceded a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, during which Mr Putin announced that Russia planned to supply Belarus with the Iskander-M missile system.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said late on Saturday that Russian and Moscow-backed separatist forces now control Sievierodonetsk and the villages surrounding it.

He said the attempt by Ukrainian forces to turn the Azot plant into a “stubborn centre of resistance” had been thwarted.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk province, confirmed on Friday that Ukrainian troops were retreating from Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and house-to-house fighting.

On Saturday, he said the city had fallen to Russian and separatist fighters, who he said are now trying to blockade Lysychansk from the south. The city lies across the river just to the west of Sievierodonetsk.

Capturing Lysychansk would give Russian forces control of every major settlement in the province, a significant step towards Russia’s aim of capturing the entire Donbas. The Russians and separatists control about half of Donetsk, the second province in the Donbas.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, as saying Russian troops and separatist fighters had entered Lysychansk and that fighting was taking place in the heart of the city.

The ruins of the sports complex of the National Technical University in Kharkiv, Ukraine
The ruins of the sports complex of the National Technical University in Kharkiv, Ukraine (Andrii Marienko/AP)

There was no immediate comment on the claim from the Ukrainian side.

Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk have been the focal point of a Russian offensive aimed at capturing all of the Donbas and destroying the Ukrainian military defending it – the most capable and battle-hardened segment of the country’s armed forces.

Russian bombardment has reduced most of Sievierodonetsk to rubble and cut its population from 100,000 to 10,000.

In southern Ukraine along the Black Sea coast, nine missiles fired from Crimea hit the port city of Mykolaiv on Saturday, the Ukrainian military said.

In the north, about 20 missiles were fired from Belarus into the Chernihiv region.

A boy removes broken glass from a window’s frame after shelling in Donetsk
A boy removes broken glass from a window’s frame after shelling in Donetsk (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said the Russian bombers’ use of Belarusian airspace for the first time for Saturday’s attack was “directly connected to attempts by the Kremlin to drag Belarus into the war”.

Belarus hosts Russian military units and was used as a staging ground before Russia invaded Ukraine, but its own troops have not crossed the border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address that as a war that Moscow expected to last five days moved into its fifth month, Russia “felt compelled to stage such a missile show”.

He said the war was at a difficult stage, “when we know that the enemy will not succeed, when we understand that we can defend our country, but we don’t know how long it will take, how many more attacks, losses and efforts there will be before we can see that victory is already on our horizon”.