Russian missiles target Kyiv as troops consolidate gains in the east

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

City reporters reported seeing rescue services battling flames and rescuing civilians in the early hours of Sunday, and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said four people had been taken to hospital and that a seven-year-old girl had been pulled alive from the rubble.

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

Prior to the attack, Kyiv had not suffered a Russian airstrike since June 5.

Mr Klitschko said he thought 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 victims were not immediately clear.

Meanwhile, Russian troops attempt to consolidate their gains to the east, engulfing the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the Luhansk region after Ukrainian troops withdrew from the charred ruins of Sievierodonetsk.

The military said Moscow-backed separatists now had full control of the chemical plant which was the last Ukrainian checkpoint in the city.

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

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

Some of the missiles were fired by Russian Tu-22 long-range 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 Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said late Saturday that separatist forces backed by Russia and Moscow now control Sievierodonetsk and the villages surrounding it.

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

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, confirmed on Friday that Ukrainian troops were withdrawing from Sievierodonetsk after weeks of shelling 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 town lies across the river just west of Sievierodonetsk.

Capturing Lysychansk would give Russian forces control of all major settlements in the province, an important step towards Russia’s goal of capturing all of Donbass. The Russians and the separatists control about half of Donetsk, the second province of Donbass.

Russian news agency Interfax quoted a spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, as saying that Russian troops and separatist fighters had entered Lysychansk and 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 Ukrainian side’s claim.

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

Russian bombardments reduced most of Sievierodonetsk to rubble and reduced 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, around 20 missiles were fired from Belarus towards the Chernihiv region.

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

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

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

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

He said the war was at a difficult stage, “when we know 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 there will be efforts before we can see that victory is already on our horizon”.

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