Russian missile strikes hit residential buildings in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early on Sunday, burying some people under rubble and hospitalising at least four, the city’s mayor said.
Four explosions were heard at around 6:30 am (0330 GMT), half an hour after air raid sirens sounded in the city, which had not come under Russian bombardment for nearly three weeks.
The missiles struck just hours before the start of a G7 summit in Germany and prompted calls from Ukraine for a stronger response to the Russian invasion.
The top three floors of an around 10-storey building in the Shevchenkivsky neighbourhood were completely destroyed and several fires broke out, spewing out thick smoke.
Several hours later, firefighters were still struggling to control two blazes.
Four people were hospitalised, including a seven-year-old girl who lived on the ninth floor and was rescued from the rubble, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.
AFP reporters witnessed the girl’s mother being rescued, a process that took several hours.
The mother was trapped under a concrete slab, according to rescuers.
Authorities described her as a Russian citizen around the age of 30, who was subsequently taken to hospital in a serious condition.
Another missile hit a nearby kindergarten, apparently without causing any casualties.
Klitschko said that rescue operations were ongoing and warned that the toll from the strikes could still rise.
‘G7 summit must respond’
The mayor said the missile strike was intended to “intimidate Ukrainians” ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid on June 28-30 — as well as the G7 summit being held in Bavaria on Sunday.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said the “G7 summit must respond with more sanctions on Russia and more heavy arms for Ukraine” in light of the latest Kyiv strikes.
He tweeted that the seven-year-old girl “was sleeping peacefully in Kyiv until a Russian cruise missile blasted her home”.
“Many more around Ukraine are under strikes,” he continued.
The residents of the complex gathered at the bottom of the building, many of them in tears, according to AFP reporters at the scene. One woman was still wearing a bathrobe.
Edward Shkuta, who lives next door to the hit building, said there had been four missiles since 6.30 am.
A building “was directly hit on the top floors and I saw wounded people coming out”, he said.
Yuri, a 38-year-old resident who declined to give his surname, said: “I woke up at the first explosion, went to the balcony and saw missiles falling and heard a huge explosion — everything vibrated.”
Irena, 32, evacuated the building with her 17-month-old son Makar.
“We came down with our emergency kit, which has been next to the door since the war started,” she said.
An AFP colleague living in the same residential complex heard a loud buzz preceding the explosions, which sounded like a missile strike.
Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ignat told AFP the strikes were carried out by TU-95 and TU-160 bombers, “probably using KH101-type cruise missiles”.
It was the third time since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 that Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky neighbourhood was targeted by missiles.
It was hit in mid-March and again on April 28 during a visit by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, killing a Ukrainian journalist from Radio Liberty in her apartment.
The neighbourhood is near the Artem weapons plant, which was founded at the end of the 19th century and produces air-to-air missiles and anti-tank rockets, according to a specialised Ukrainian military website.
The last Russian strike in Kyiv was in early June. It targeted a factory on the outskirts of the capital and wounded one person.