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‘Flashbacks of the First Days Of The Invasion’: 24 Hours Under Renewed Attack In Kyiv

As Russian missiles rain down again on the Ukrainian capital, Chris York finds that Putin’s attempt to intimidate Ukrainians is being met with increasing defiance

Damage to the historic centre of Kyiv. Photo: Chris York

‘Flashbacks of the First Days Of The Invasion’24 Hours Under Renewed Attack In Kyiv

As Russian missiles rain down again on the Ukrainian capital, Chris York finds that Putin’s attempt to intimidate Ukrainians is being met with increasing defiance

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There’s a macabre sort of game you find yourself playing when in a city under bombardment – scrolling social media for reports of the numbers of missile launched then counting down the expected minutes to their arrival.

“One down, 46 to go,” said a woman, as the sounds of an explosion rumble through the walls of the bomb shelter in which we sat in central Kyiv.

Two hours earlier Ukraine’s capital had been woken by air raid sirens, which, after more than seven months of war in a city that hasn’t been struck by missiles since June, is an all too familiar alarm call that mostly goes unheeded.

A series of explosions that shook the city centre on Monday morning changed all that in seconds, marking Russia’s biggest missile attack since the first days of the war and one that hit cities all across the country.

Two muffled explosions had caught the attention of everyone in the hotel I was staying and a third far louder blast that was accompanied by the sounds of breaking glass and car alarms sent us racing to the bomb shelter.

Decked out with tables, chairs, coffee machine and mattresses if we were there long enough, there were worse places to be. One man’s slightly panicked enquiries as to whether or not it was the safest place to be “if a missile hits and the building collapses” was met with a stony silence.

A jogger runs past the damage at Shevchenko Park. Photo: Chris York

For the next few hours conversation was thankfully light, interspersed with tidbits of information gleaned from social media. It quickly became apparent the loud blast we’d heard earlier was a missile strike on a busy road intersection during rush hour.

In a televised address later that day, Vladimir Putin claimed he ordered the massive strike of cruise missiles and suicide drones against military, energy, and communications targets in Ukraine. In a shock to no one but the most die-hard of Putin apologists, this was a lie.

The majority of missiles struck civilian targets. The road intersection that was struck and covered in destroyed civilian cars lies on the corner of Shevchenko Park, one of Kyiv’s most popular and prettiest attractions.

On any given day it’s filled with people buying coffee from the vintage Polish tram converted into a cafe, playing chess and backgammon in the corner with small stone tables inscribed with the games’ boards, entertaining their children in the meets near one of its two fountains.

A damaged car near Shevchenko Park. Photo: Chris York

That’s what one of Russia’s “high-precision” missiles struck on Monday. Museums, office buildings and a walkway bridge that connects Saint Volodymyr Hill to Khreshchatyi Park were also hit. Across Ukraine, 19 people were killed and 105 wounded.

The strikes served no strategic value for Putin – where he faces an army rather than civilians, his military continues to be beaten back in the areas it has occupied in the south and east of Ukraine since the reinvasion of the country in February.

World leaders condemned the attacks calling them “vile”, “war crimes” and the “indiscriminate terrorising of the general population”.

Walking to Shevchenko Park shortly after the attacks, the clean up operation had already begun. The vintage Polish tram and fountains still stood but wrecked vehicles were being trucked away from the scene, marked by a massive crater.

Even 300m away, the streets of Kyiv glistened with broken glass yet even this wasn’t enough to deter dog walkers and joggers taking advantage of a gloriously sunny October afternoon.

“It feels a bit like the very first day of the full-scale war,” Denys told Byline Times. “The only difference is on February 24th I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next and if Ukraine would be able to resist.

“But today I know these missile strikes won’t help Russia to win the war.”

Sheltering in Palats Ukraini Station. Photo: Chris York

If Putin’s aim was to demoralise Ukrainians, Monday morning’s attacks did exactly the opposite, perhaps best signified by a fundraising campaign that had raised $5.6m dollars by the end of the day to buy kamikaze drones to strike back at Russian forces. Ukrainians have always, and continue to, want to fight.

A few hours later and the air raid sirens sounded once again. The capital’s metro stations, spacious and deep underground, are the most popular places for people to wait out air raid alerts yet over the summer few people chose to shelter there and those that did arrived with minimal supplies expecting to be there for an hour at most.

Monday was very different. Whole families poured into the Palats Ukraini station carrying camping mats and chairs, bags of food and drink, dogs on leashes and cats in pet carriers, scenes not seen in Kyiv since the early days of the war.

People sat glued to their phones looking for updates or checking in with friends and relatives. “Hi mum, yes I’m fine,” was repeated like a continuous echo from all over the station.

“Today was like flashbacks of the first days of the invasion,” 28-year-old Denys told Byline Times.

He and his girlfriend arrived in Kyiv three months ago after leaving Kharkiv, a city grimly accustomed to the experience of Russian bombardment.

“It’s very scary because we already felt this before. We’ve been in Kyiv for three months and we felt a bit of safety here but this was obviously an illusion.”

When asked if they would stay in Kyiv or once again pack up their lives and look for a safer part of their own country to live in, he shrugs. “I think we will stay here because today they showed us that nowhere is safe – Lviv and other big cities are all under attack.

Mobilisation laws mean Ukrainian men have not been allowed to leave the country since February but for women it remains an option, albeit one that involves near-impossible decisions.

Denys. Photo: Chris York

Tatiana Denysenko briefly left Kyiv after the invasion to spend time in the relatively safer western part of Ukraine but returned in May. “Today was more scary than the last few months but less scary than the first days of the war,” she told Byline Times.

“It makes me review my decision to stay in Kyiv but I still want to support my country in the hardest time.”

The all-clear sounded in Kyiv just after 5 pm and the rest of the evening was quiet but the city was different. Not just because the events of the very recent past but with preparations for the immediate future.

Supermarkets were busier, though far from frantic. The complacency that had set in over the summer about having a “grab bag” of supplies ready to take with you in an emergency had diminished as people shopped for energy bars and non-perishable snack food. On Monday night, everyone knew Putin would do it again and went to bed expecting to be woken by air raid sirens at any moment.

Mercifully, most had a full night’s sleep but at 7:50 the sound of sirens filled the air once again with Tuesday threatening to be a repeat of the previous day.

Down in the metro station, three-year-old Nastia was celebrating her birthday by sheltering from bombs sent by a man determined to wipe out her people for little more than his own fragile ego.

Nastia and Family. Photo courtesy of Chris York

“I’m very sad that we have to be here,” her mother Valeria told Byline Times. “I worry about my children, it’s cold and uncomfortable but we must stay here because it’s safe.”

It’s nearly midday on Tuesday now. A country-wide air raid alert has been ongoing for four hours. It will be a long week in Kyiv.

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