Russia launched two waves of strikes on Saturday in towns far from Ukraine’s front lines, shocking residents after two weeks of quiet over the festive holiday season.
Explosions were heard in the capital city of Kiev this morning. In a rare instance, some of those blasts came minutes before air raid sirens sounded in the city, giving people early warnings of missiles or drones detected by Ukrainian forces.
A few hours later, an air raid alert was issued across the country. Authorities across the country urged people to take shelter as outbreaks were reported in several places.
At the very least Five people were killed A multi-story apartment building in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro was hit when it was hit, local officials said, with people trapped under the rubble.
According to local authorities, critical infrastructure sites were affected in the northeastern part of Kharkiv and in the western part of Lviv.
When explosions were heard in Kiev in the afternoon, Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said the blasts were from air defense systems.
The morning attack on Kyiv may have involved ballistic missiles fired from the north, which is why the airstrike warnings were delayed, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Col. Yuriy Ihnat said. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest northeastern city, was also affected. Both attacks targeted infrastructure, officials said.
There were no immediate casualties.
Russian forces have relentlessly targeted Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine from the front lines since early October with large-scale missile and drone strikes, mostly targeting electricity infrastructure and other vital services. The attacks paralyzed Ukraine’s power grid and led to nationwide blackouts to deal with power shortages.
Saturday’s strikes disrupted a relatively calm morning as Ukrainian Orthodox celebrated the New Year, or Malanga.
When the first air raid warning in Kiev was lifted at 11:30 a.m., residents slowly returned to the streets, many exiting subway stations where they had sought shelter to continue their day.
Oksana Koloniets and Anna Suplikina were on their way to Kyiv and panicked when they heard explosions before the air raid sirens had time to sound.
“After an air-raid alarm, you always know there’s going to be some trouble,” said Ms. Suplikina, 45.
Ms Koloniets, 50, said the timing of the strikes – during the Orthodox New Year celebrations – only added to lingering concerns for many in the capital in recent weeks.
“I think that’s one of the elements of intimidation — to suppress this festive spirit,” he said.
Oleksandra Mykolyshyn And Andrew E. Kramer Contributed report.