The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Russian missiles hit Kyiv, shattering the capital’s relative calm

Residents clean debris in a damaged residential building after Russian airstrikes in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 26. (Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

KYIV, Ukraine — A series of strikes hit Kyiv early Sunday, shattering a sense of relative calm since Russia’s withdrawal from the capital in early April, as the Group of Seven nations began their annual summit in Germany with the war in Ukraine the front-and-center topic.

The attack, which hit an apartment building and a kindergarten playground, killed at least one person and injured several others, authorities say. It came after the country experienced an “abnormally large series of missile strikes against Ukrainian rear areas” the day before, according to the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War, a think tank.

The morning blasts were fired from Russian bombers flying over the Caspian Sea, a Ukrainian air force spokesperson said.

Amid the lingering smell of smoke and under a dark cloud hanging above the hit area, rescue workers dug through rubble in the apartment building for hours after the blasts. A first responder told The Washington Post that she saw a man’s hand sticking out from a pile of rubble. A badly injured woman, who had been trapped for several hours under concrete slabs, was carried by stretcher to an ambulance. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, said a 7-year-old girl was also pulled out of the rubble. Her father was the person killed.

Gerashchenko showed journalists a damaged Russian passport he said belonged to the rescued woman — proof, he said, that Russian President Vladimir Putin was wounding his own citizens. “Russians shoot Russians,” he tweeted.

Oleksii Brazytsky, 55, woke up to the sound of two explosions around 6 a.m. As he was looking from his apartment, trying to assess the damage, a third blast shattered his windows and sprayed glass onto his face.

A nearby factory may have been the strikes’ target, Brazytsky said, but he also suspected Russian forces of intentionally hitting civilians. In his hometown in Donetsk, which he fled eight years ago to avoid the expanding conflict in eastern Ukraine, “Russians shoot civilian buildings. They are probably doing the same thing here.”

President Biden called the strikes an example of Russia’s “barbarism” during his first day at the G-7 summit in Germany. Summit leaders are moving to further isolate Moscow financially with a ban on new imports of Russian gold, which could amount to a penalty of tens of billions of dollars.

Russia was set to enter its first foreign default of the century at the end of the weekend, with a deadline for an overdue $100 million interest payment on government debt. Though Russia has the resources, sanctions cutting the nation out of international payment systems keep the nation from sending the money to creditors. Russia’s finance minister has accused the West of forcing Moscow into an “artificial debt.”

In eastern Ukraine, Russia continued carrying out airstrikes on the city of Lysychansk, the governor said Sunday. The capture of what Serhiy Haidai called the “final fortress” would give Russia almost complete control of the region.

“Lysychansk is almost unrecognizable,” Haidai said, noting widespread destruction from Russian bombardment.

The country’s Defense Ministry also warned that Russia planned to send military aircraft to bases in Belarus and draw that country more directly into the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke directly to Belarusians in his nightly address on Sunday. “The Kremlin has already decided everything for you — your lives are worth nothing to them,” he said. “But you are not slaves or cannon fodder. You do not have to die. And you can prevent anyone from deciding for you what awaits you next.”

O’Grady reported from Kyiv. Sammy Westfall reported from Miami. Kostiantyn Tatarchuk, Julian Duplain, Matt Viser and Ashley Parker contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an apparent answer to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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