Russia attacks Ukrainian capital Kyiv for the first time in weeks

Russia attacked the Ukrainian capital in the early hours of Sunday morning, hitting at least two residential buildings, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said, as Russian troops elsewhere consolidated their gains in the east.

Associated Press reporters in Kyiv saw emergency services battling the flames and rescuing civilians. Klitschko said two people were hospitalized with injuries.

Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Goncharenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app that “according to preliminary data, 14 missiles were launched against the Kyiv and Kyiv region.”

Klitschko said one of the missile strikes partially destroyed a nine-story building and started a fire. Rescuers were trying to pull people out from under the rubble, he said. Ukrainian National Police Commander Ihor Klymenko told state television that five people were injured in the strike.

Ukrainian rescuers work outside a damaged residential building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv on Sunday. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Prior to Sunday’s early morning attack, Kyiv had not faced such Russian airstrikes since June 5.

Explosions were also heard in the central Ukrainian city of Cherkassy on Sunday, former regional governor Oleksandr Skichko said on the Telegram app.

He gave no further details. Cherkasy has been largely spared from bombardment since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Bombers deployed from Belarus

Meanwhile, Russian forces sought to engulf the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Donbass region of Luhansk, pressing their momentum after taking full control on Saturday of the charred ruins of Severodonetsk and the chemical plant where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians had been locked up.

On Saturday, Russia also 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.

The bombardment preceded a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, during which Putin announced that Russia planned to supply Belarus with the Iskander-M missile system.

Ukrainian soldiers board an armored personnel carrier on a road in the eastern Luhansk region June 23, amid Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said late Saturday that separatist forces backed by Russia and Moscow now control Severodonetsk and the villages surrounding it. He said the attempt by Ukrainian forces to turn the Azot plant into a “tenacious center of resistance” had been thwarted.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, said Friday that Ukrainian troops were withdrawing from Severodonetsk after weeks of shelling and house-to-house fighting. He confirmed on Saturday that the town had fallen to Russian and separatist fighters, who he said were now trying to blockade the nearby town of Lysychansk from the south. The city lies across the river just west of Severodonetsk.

Russian news agency Interfax quoted a spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, as saying that Russian troops and separatist fighters had entered Lysychansk and fighting was taking place in the heart of the city. There was no immediate comment on the Ukrainian side’s claim.

Lysychansk and Severodonetsk were the focal point of a Russian offensive aimed at capturing all of Donbass and destroying the Ukrainian army defending it – the most capable and battle-hardened segment of the country’s armed forces.

Capturing Lysychansk would give Russian forces control of every major settlement in the province, an important step towards Russia’s goal of capturing all of Donbass. The Russians and the separatists control about half of Donetsk, the second province of Donbass.