Russia hits Kyiv as Western leaders meet in Europe

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia has shattered weeks of relative calm in the Ukrainian capital with long-range missiles fired at Kyiv early on Sunday, an apparent show of Kremlin strength as Western leaders meet in Europe strengthen their military and economic support for Ukraine.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the missiles hit at least two residential buildings, killing one person and injuring six others, including a 7-year-old girl and her mother. Associated Press reporters witnessed rescuers battling flames and rescuing civilians from buildings.

The strikes also damaged a nearby kindergarten, where a crater carved out the yard. US President Joe Biden called the attacks “barbaric” after arriving in Germany for a Group of Seven summit.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said the first air-launched weapons to successfully target the capital since June 5 were Kh-101 cruise missiles fired from warplanes above the Caspian Sea, more than 1,500 kilometers (932 miles).

Kyiv mayor told reporters he thought the airstrikes were ‘perhaps a symbolic attack’ ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid which begins on Tuesday. A former commander of US forces in Europe says the strikes are also a signal to leaders of G-7 countries meeting on Sunday in Germany.

“Russia says, ‘We can do this all day. You are powerless to stop us,” said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commanding general of US Army Forces Europe. “The Russians humiliate the leaders of the West.”

G-7 leaders were about to announce the latest in a long line of international economic measures aimed at pressuring Russia and isolating it in its war in Ukraine: new bans on imports of Russian gold. Along with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, host of the three-day meeting, Biden said of the missile strikes on Kyiv: “It’s more their barbarism.”

A member of Ukraine’s parliament, Oleksiy Goncharenko, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that preliminary information indicated that Russia had launched 14 missiles towards the capital region and Kyiv itself, suggesting that some had been intercepted.

In a phone interview, retired US General Hodges told The Associated Press that Russia has a limited stockpile of precision missiles and that “if they use them, it will be for a particular purpose” .

Russia has denied targeting civilians during the 4-month war, and Hodges said it was unclear whether the missiles launched on Sunday were intended to hit apartment buildings.

Russian forces attempted to take control of Kyiv early in the war. After Ukrainian troops pushed them back, the Kremlin largely shifted its focus to southern and eastern Ukraine.

Russian rocket fire in the town of Cherkasy, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Kyiv, left one dead and five injured, regional governor Ihor Taburets said on Sunday.

To the east, Russian troops fought to consolidate their gains as they fought to swallow the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk province. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday that Russia was carrying out intense airstrikes on the town of Lysychansk, destroying its TV tower and badly damaging a road bridge.

“There is a lot of destruction. Lysychansk is almost unrecognizable,” he wrote on Facebook.

For weeks, Lysychansk and the nearby city of Sievierodonetsk have been the subject of a bloody and destructive offensive by Russian forces and their separatist allies aimed at capturing the entire eastern region of Donbass in Ukraine.

They have made steady and slow progress, with Haidai confirming on Saturday that Sievierodonetsk, including a chemical plant where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were locked up, had fallen.

Commenting on the Battle of Sievierodonetsk, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday evening that separatist forces backed by Russia and Moscow now control not only the city, but also the villages surrounding it. He said the Russian military thwarted an attempt by Ukrainian forces to turn the Azot chemical plant into a “stubborn center of resistance”.

Capturing Lysychansk would give Russian and Separatist forces control of all of Luhansk’s major settlements. Last I heard, they controlled about half of Donetsk, the second province of Donbass.

On Saturday, Russia launched dozens of missiles at several areas across the country away from the heart of eastern battles. Some of the missiles were fired by Russian Tu-22 long-range bombers deployed from Belarus for the first time, Ukraine’s air command said.

On the economic front, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said banning Russian gold imports would represent a significant escalation in sanctions.

“It is Russia’s second most lucrative export after energy.” Blinken told US news channel CNN. “It’s about $19 billion a year. And most of it is in the G-7 countries. So cutting that, denying access to about $19 billion in revenue a year, that’s important.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian War at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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