Busy streets of Kyiv empty as Russia’s capital
KYIV, Ukraine – The Ukrainian capital feels almost empty, its wide streets mostly deserted except for soldiers at sand-filled posts at the main square.
But it is a sprawling city with an estimated two million people still living – half its population – in miles of residential areas and apartment blocks spread on both sides of the Dnieper River.
Many residents were put to sleep when an artillery shell struck an apartment building in the Obolone district north of the city early Monday. After more than two weeks of bombardment of the capital, they had become used to the sound of artillery strikes – but they never thought their building would be a target.
“We don’t have any military targets for us,” said 30-year-old Yuri Yurchik. “We didn’t think we’d be a target ourselves.”
In a jiffy, at 5 am a single shell hit the apartment block killing one person, injuring 10 others and leaving 70 others shaken and homeless.
Hours later, just a few miles from the Kurenivka neighborhood, the remains of a rocket hit a road, when shoppers lined up outside a kiosk for sausage and milk and a taxi was carrying a customer. There one person died and six were injured.
Russian forces have been continuously attacking the northern suburbs since the first day of the offensive, when the advancing units managed to reach the city centre, only to be killed in a gunfight.
In some outlying districts, the two sides are fighting closely as Russian forces investigate Ukrainian security. An American journalist was killed and another injured when his car caught fire in the Irpin district on Sunday. Three Ukrainian soldiers were also killed in the same area.
As Russia intensifies its air strikes across the country, and the Ukrainian air defense system is shooting down incoming missiles, people on the ground sometimes find themselves caught between a frightening array of sudden explosions. .
In the apartment building in Kyiv’s Obolon district early Monday, it was an artillery shelling, city officials said. Later that morning in the Kurenivka neighborhood, it was the remains of a rocket. And in a shopping center in the western part of the city, it was another artillery shell.
Yet when explosions were heard in the middle distance and the roar of rocket launches spread through the air, people in the Obolon district in northern Kyiv went to shops and gathered outside a bank hoping to collect their pensions.
Yuri Yurchik, 30, was sleeping at home when the apartment building struck. He was awakened by a white glow, before the sky suddenly filled with orange light and a loud explosion shook the building. He hid under his blanket as the windows were smashed and the glass blown across the room.
“I looked outside and saw the left side of the building was burning, and people on the ground were running and screaming,” he said.
His grandparents were sleeping throughout the hall, and the explosion blew the door of their bedroom from its frame and entered their room. “You sleep with your ears open,” said 69-year-old Tatyana Fedun, his grandmother. “I was thrown in the air.”
After the blast, the family gathered their belongings and started hitting the road. Ms Fedun’s husband, 74-year-old Yuri Fedun, a former welder, is partially paralyzed from a stroke and has difficulty walking. But he seemed unfazed by the explosion.
“I was as calm as a snake,” he said
Ms. Fedun collected her medicines. His grandson, a computer scientist pursuing his doctorate, saw the flames and Family documents, his laptop and his Ph.D. Essay.
“We had some things ready, but we had to take more,” said Mr. Yurchik.
Firefighters outside were dousing the fire and carrying the injured on stretchers. Mr. Yurchik’s father, a security guard at a nearby secondary school, waited and took him along with the other survivors to the school’s basement.
Ukrainian authorities evacuated 70 people from the building, bringing them to a nearby kindergarten.
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“They caused us a lot of pain,” Ms Fedun said of the Russian forces carrying out the missile attack. “Why? Why do they come to this small place? Russia is huge.”
“What do they want to achieve?” He asked. “Attacking us will not solve their problems.”
Later resting in an underground shelter on the other side of the city, Ms Fedun sorted out her drugs and took a deep breath. Her husband sat beside her, leaned on his stick and slowly walked up and down the room.
“If I hadn’t been sick, I would have been in the forefront,” he said.
Ms Fedun said she thought the attack on her apartment building was intentional, as there were no military or strategic targets in the area, and the Russians were aiming to spread panic.
Her husband put it more succinctly: “That’s her ambition,” he said.
Back in the damaged apartment building, the fire was extinguished and Mr. Yurchik’s father, Konstantin, was scouring his damaged home. A mechanical engineer and veteran of the Soviet Army, he said he would not run.
“We will rebuild,” he said. “after some time.”
It was the first time the immediate neighborhood had been hit, he said, and he emphasized the suggestion that the area was becoming too dangerous. He said he had protected 13 displaced people overnight in the basement of the school and will continue to do so.
And now the government has promised arms to the people of the area, he said. “I will take up arms,” said Mr. Yurchik. “my house is.”
His son said that he would also stay. One of his friends has already joined the regional defense forces.
“If there is a choice,” he said, “I will stop and defend, because this is our territory. And God is on our side. We didn’t hurt others, they attacked us.”
Mr. Yurchik fell into thought.
“But it’s a pity to start your day by looking at who’s alive,” he said.
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