From every façade you can hear the rattle of hammers. Residents of Kiev's Jurchatova Street are insulating windows broken by the explosion with plastics distributed by the City Hall. The explosion was caused by a Russian ballistic missile intercepted by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile in the early hours of Thursday. Broken glass on every corner and hundreds of shocked neighbors. Two women and a nine-year-old girl were killed when rocket debris fell on them while trying to access a shelter that was closed. The Prosecutor's Office is investigating what happened.
"It was another night of terror, but this time it sounded much louder, as if the sky was sinking," explains Valeria Ligotska, a resident of this neighborhood in the Desnianskii district, on the left bank of the Dnieper River. Ligotska is 27 years old and the mother of a two-year-old boy. The remains of the missiles rushed over the clinic where she takes her son for the pediatrician's check-ups. At 50 meters is the kindergarten where the child goes. There is no bomb shelter in his building, he says, and the entire month of May has been spent nights under the bed. Russia has struck the Ukrainian capital 18 times in the past month, with a record number of drone bombs and ballistic missiles, such as the Iskander that killed its two neighbors and the nine-year-old girl.
Last minute of the war in Ukraine, direct
The Ukrainians had become accustomed to the Russian threat. In recent months, there were almost no citizens running to an underground shelter when the air raid alarms sound. Since this year, in addition, in Kiev the anti-aircraft defenses have created a system so effective that 90% of drones and missiles are shot down. But things have changed this May, Ligotska says: "We've gone from almost no one seeking shelter to 50% of people running to one."
Ukrainians are learning to identify which weapons Russia uses to bomb their populations only with the time between alarms sounding and explosions starting. Russia is using ballistic missiles such as the Iskander and hypersonic missiles such as the Kinzhal against Kiev for the first time. "The sirens sounded and three minutes later, the explosion knocked me out of bed," recalls Vadim Onishenko, a resident of the building opposite the clinic. "I saw the glass and window frames broken, cut myself with the glass, grabbed my cat and curled up in the hallway, between two walls," Onishenko explains. In his building there is no basement to shelter.
The same happened with the three deceased people: in their block, next to Vadim's, there is also no shelter and they crossed the park that separated their house from the clinic to take refuge there. The entrance was closed, the husband of one of the victims told reporters. As they looked for a way in, the missiles fell on them. The Ukrainian Prosecutor's Office is investigating the reasons why the only shelter in the neighborhood was closed. The neighbors consulted believe that the security guard of the hospital did not have time to open the place: from the moment the sirens were activated until the arrival of the Iskander, only a few minutes passed.
"The man may have been asleep and not attentive enough," Onishenko adds. "The explosion was four minutes after the alarm, it's a clinic that is not open at night, they did not have time to arrive," says Nina Povadenova, a neighbor of the neighborhood and teacher at a local music school. A spokesman for the Kiev prosecutor expressly asked the media and authorities not to jump to conclusions about possible responsibility.
Povadenova confirms that the clinic's basements are the only space that can serve as a refuge in her area. She has not spent a single hour in that shelter so far in the war, she prefers the comfort of her home. Her friend and classmate at music school, Natalia Laptiva, doesn't either: "I stay at home and from the window I see how anti-aircraft missiles cross, every day explosions, every day more repeated."
Onishenko stresses that the basements of the clinic are an unsanitary and unventilated place. He only spent one night in it, at the beginning of the invasion, in March 2022, when Kiev was besieged by Russian troops. "In our buildings there are also no basements, the City Council should build safe spaces," he says. The death of the three neighbors of the Desnianskii district has opened a debate in Kiev about the lack of shelters in conditions and accessible in a short time. Not all buildings have garages or basements, and in public space, metro stations are above all the main points where citizens who want to protect themselves are still sheltered (especially during the day).
For Ligotska there is no choice but to continue protecting herself under the bed with her husband and baby. The clinic is too far from his apartment — a kilometer away. Asked if she would move to a bunker or a basement that the municipal administration enabled near her home, she admits that she probably would, although she has doubts: "Nor would it solve the fact that these weeks we can not rest practically one night, and the child, whether on the floor or in a basement, is terrified. "
Multiple citizens came during the day to lay flowers in front of the place where the two women and the girl died. Ligotska also brought her offering, and repeated to the international media that they wanted to interview her the same thing that her president, Volodímir Zelenski, said on Thursday at the European summit in Moldova: that Ukraine's allies provide more air defense systems. "We want to build our life, to be at peace, and Russia won't let us, we need the help of our friends."
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