KYIV, UKRAINE: Russian strikes hit a residential building in Kyiv on Sunday, the first attack on the capital in almost three weeks, sparking calls by Ukraine for more support from G7 leaders meeting in Germany.
Four people, including a seven-year-old girl, were taken to hospital following the early morning strikes on a neighbourhood that includes a weapons factory, said city mayor Vitali Klitschko.
Moscow meanwhile said its forces had carried out strikes against three military centres in northern and western Ukraine, including one near the border with Poland.
The high-profile attacks, just over four months since Russia invaded its neighbour, come ahead of a week of Western diplomacy focused around the G7 and NATO summits.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address both gatherings, where allies including US President Joe Biden will take stock of their support for Kyiv and of sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Biden on Sunday condemned the attack on Kyiv as “more of their barbarism”, referring to Russia. The G7 talks opened Sunday with the announcement of a ban on imports of Russian gold, but Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for more.
He posted on Twitter a photo of an injured child being carried on a stretcher, who he said was “sleeping peacefully in Kyiv until a Russian cruise missile blasted her home”.
The “G7 summit must respond with more sanctions on Russia and more heavy arms for Ukraine. Russia’s sick imperialism must be defeated”, he said.
The European Union this past week offered a strong show of support when it granted Ukraine candidate status, although the path to membership is long.
– ‘Intimidate Ukrainians’ –
Russian forces sought to encircle Kyiv in the first few weeks after the February 24 invasion, but Sunday’s attack was the first strike on the capital since early June.
Klitschko said the attack was a Russian missile strike intended to “intimidate Ukrainians” ahead of the NATO summit.
It was the third time since the invasion that this northwest neighbourhood had been hit. A weapons factory nearby produces air-to-air and anti-tank rockets among others.
An AFP team said there was a fire on the top three floors of the building and its stairwell was completely destroyed.
Afterwards, residents gathered at the bottom of the building, many of them in tears. One woman was still wearing a bathrobe.
“I woke up at the first explosion, went to the balcony and saw missiles falling and heard a huge explosion — everything vibrated,” 38-year-old Yuri told AFP, declining to give his surname.
Edward Shkuta, who lives next door, said there had been four missiles since 6:30am. A building “was directly hit on the top floors and I saw wounded people coming out”.
‘Fully occupied’ –
In recent months, the fighting in Ukraine has focused on the eastern Donbas region, which has been partially under the control of pro-Moscow separatists since 2014.
The Russians made a strategic breakthrough Saturday when they took the industrial hub of Severodonetsk, the scene of weeks of fierce battles that have left it largely destroyed.
Severodonetsk’s mayor said it had been “fully occupied” by Russian troops after Ukrainian forces retreated to better defend the neighbouring city of Lysychansk.
Pro-Moscow separatists on Saturday said Russian troops and their allies had entered Lysychansk, which faces Severodonetsk on high ground across the Donets river.
Its capture would give Russia control of the entire Lugansk region in the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland.
At talks on the sidelines of the G7, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron said they saw an “opportunity to turn the tide” in Ukraine, a Downing Street spokesman said.
But Johnson also cautioned Macron — who has maintained a dialogue with Putin, unlike the British leader — that “any attempt to settle the conflict now will only cause enduring instability”.
STRIKES HIT UKRAINE MILITARY TRAINING CENTRES
Russia said Sunday that its forces had carried out strikes against three military training centres in northern and western Ukraine, including one near the Polish border, just days before a NATO summit.
The bombings were carried out with “high-precision weapons of Russia’s aerospace forces and Kalibr missiles,” Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
Among the targets was a military training centre for Ukrainian forces in the Starychi district of the Lviv region, around 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border with NATO member Poland.
The other two training centres were in the central Zhytomyr region and northern Chernihiv region. Konashenkov did not say when or from where the missiles were fired.