Explosions rock Ukraine’s capital after weeks of relative calm

The raids on Kyiv are the first since since Russia turned its military focus to the east and south of Ukraine.

A man looks at the smoke after explosions were heard as Russia's attacks on Ukraine continues.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Ukrainian side [Edgar Su/Reuters]

Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was rocked by several explosions early on Sunday, a day after officials said its troops had recaptured a swath of the eastern battlefield in a counteroffensive against Russia.

“Several explosions in Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts of the capital,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “Services are already working on site.”

At least one person was hospitalised but no deaths had been reported, Klitschko said. Other officials said the Russian bombardment appeared to be targeting the railway network.

Russia’s defence ministry later on Sunday claimed the raids destroyed tanks and other armoured vehicles on the outskirts of Kyiv that had been provided to Ukraine by its Western allies, as President Vladimir Putin issued a new warning to the West against supplying long-range missiles to Ukraine.

Smoke rises after missile strikes
Smoke rises after a missile strike in Kyiv [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

If Kyiv is supplied with long-range missiles, “we will draw the appropriate conclusions and use our arms … to strike targets we haven’t hit before”, Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

His remarks come days after the United States announced it would supply Ukraine with advanced Himars multiple-launch rocket systems. Himars is a mobile unit that can simultaneously launch multiple precision-guided missiles up to 80km (50 miles) away.

The mayor of the historic town of Brovary, some 20km (12 miles) from Kyiv’s centre, urged people to remain inside their houses as there had been reports of the smell of soot coming from the smoke.

‘Severodonetsk divided in half’

Air raid sirens regularly disrupt the life of the capital, but there had been no significant attack on the city since Moscow turned its military focus to the east and south, staging an especially intense battle for the industrial city of Severodonetsk.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region that includes Severodonetsk, said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces controlled about half the city after recapturing a large chunk from Russian troops.

“It had been a difficult situation, the Russians controlled 70 percent of the city, but over the past two days they have been pushed back,” Haidai said on Ukraine’s television. “The city is now, more or less, divided in half.”

Smoke rises from the city of Severodonetsk, during shelling in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas [Aris Messinis/AFP]
Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk during heavy fightings between Ukrainian and Russian troops [File: Aris Messinis/AFP]

Moscow instead claimed its own forces were making gains in the city. Military experts say the battle for the city could determine which side has the momentum for a prolonged war of attrition in the coming months.

On Saturday, Putin said Russian anti-aircraft forces have shot down dozens of Ukrainian weapons and are “cracking them like nuts”.

Kyiv has come under heavy shelling since Russia launched its invasion on February 24. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed astonishment after a Russian missile attack hit close to his location as he visited Ukraine in April.

The Retroville shopping mall was flattened in March and nearby schools and kindergartens were also damaged.

Russian troops pressed towards Kyiv in the early stages of what Moscow calls its “special military operation”. Explosions and street fighting sent Kyiv residents seeking shelter underground, with towns at the edge of the city forces to bear the brunt as enemy troops brutally attempted to clear a path to the capital.

Scenes of dead bodies on the streets of Ukrainian city Bucha prompted calls by world leaders including US President Joe Biden for Russia to be tried for war crimes.

Thousands of people have been killed and millions forced to flee Ukraine, as Russian bombardment destroyed cities across the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies