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'What are they hoping for?' A dispatch from Kyiv, where Russia is shelling civilian targets at a rate not seen since the start of the full-scale war
Story by Alexander Rybin. Abridged translation by Sam Breazeale.
On the morning of October 10, Kyiv and more than a dozen other Ukrainian cities came under heavy shelling — Moscow’s “response to the explosion of the Crimean Bridge,” in the words of Vladimir Putin. According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Russian troops launched more than 80 missiles and airstrikes at the city, half of which were shot down by air defense systems. By the evening of October 10, Ukrainian authorities had reported 14 deaths and about 100 injuries in cities throughout the country. In Kyiv, at least five people were killed and more than 50 were injured. Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed the strikes were limited to “military, communication, and energy targets.” This isn’t true: in Kyiv alone, Russian shells hit playgrounds, parks, museums, and schools, among other things. In their own words, Kyiv residents told Meduza what it felt like on the ground on Monday — and what's changed since the last time the city came under such heavy shelling.
For Kyiv residents, October 10 began with loud explosions. People reported hearing them in almost every one of the city's ten districts. The first reports of shelling appeared on Telegram at about 8:00 am local time. By 11:00 am, Russian forces had launched 75 missiles, 41 of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defense systems, according to Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. At about 10:00 am, the Ukrainian President’s Office reported that in addition to infrastructure targets like the Kyiv Thermal Power Plant, city power lines, and closed military bases, the strikes had also hit playgrounds, parks, and office centers.
“It’s a unique feeling when you drive by a shelling site just one minute before the shelling. And see the explosion behind you. Happy new birthday to us,” wrote Ukrainian TV host Yulia Galushka on Facebook. She published the post soon after multiple missiles landed near Taras Shevchenko Park in central Kyiv.
“But that’s how we do everything here. The first strike came at the intersection of Shevchenko Boulevard and Khreshchatyk [Street]. A minute later, the ambulance was rushing to the scene. What were they [the Russian military] hoping for?” Galushka added.
“Taras Shevchenko Boulevard is one of the city’s main roads. It connects the center to most of the right bank. On workdays, there are practically always traffic jams here. The park is full of university students and children. You get the feeling they were intentionally trying to kill as many civilians as they could,” said Kateryna Forman, a Kyiv resident who lives in a building that looks out over Taras Shevchenko park. At the moment the shell exploded, Forman was in her apartment:
I was awoken by a loud and sharp crash. I woke up, grabbed my phone, and started checking the news. At first it wasn’t clear where the explosion had been. [...] I didn’t know what to do. I put on some tea and sat in the kitchen to read the news. Then I realized from Telegram channels that [the strike] had literally landed a hundred meters (328 feet) away from me.
Then I heard the second explosion, but that one was on the other side — near the train station [which is also near the park]. At that point, I quickly grabbed some things and ran to the shelter at the Ploshcha Lva Tolstoho metro station. As I ran, I saw smoke, cars on fire, and ambulances. From what I could tell, the blast wave blew out the windows [in the homes] around the park, and a lot of people were injured.
Another Russian strike hit a building on Kyiv’s Lva Tolstoho Street that houses a Samsung office, a German consulate (though it’s been closed for several months), and the headquarters of Ukraine’s largest electricity provider, DTEK.
The shelling also damaged both the National Taras Shevchenko Museum and the nearby Khanenko Museum. The latter, an art museum, is located just 20 meters (66 feet) from the playground in Shevchenko Park that was hit by a missile.
Olga, a Kyiv resident who lives near the Khanenko Museum, told Meduza that she was home when the missile strikes began. When she heard the air raid sirens, she rushed to a bomb shelter. Many of her neighbors, however, have stopped being so careful, she told Meduza, because the sirens go off multiple times a day:
I was nearby; I could feel the strength of the blasts. It seems to me that we [Kyiv residents] have let down our guard a little. A preliminary air alert was declared in advance, after all, but nobody runs into the shelters anymore. What happened today was a reminder that this war isn’t just in the south and the east of the country; the capital is vulnerable, too. The anti-aircraft defense system works, of course, but it’s not all-powerful.
Vlad, a food delivery worker, told Meduza that he, too, become a lot calmer when it comes to shelling in the city — to the point that he decided to ride his bike into Kyiv on Monday after hearing about the shelling. Though he usually stays in the suburbs, where he lives, he “wanted to see what was happening” in the city center, he said.
“However strange it may sound, we’re starting to get used to it,” he added. “The only thing that’s scary is the prospect of one of your loved ones getting hurt.”
According to Kyiv resident Vadim Graber, who needed to travel to the other side of the city for work on Monday, cars started lining up to get gas as soon as the shelling began:
The lines aren’t like they were in February and March, when there wasn’t any gas, of course, but you could easily wait for an hour. Honestly, I don’t get the hype — running to get all the gas and scooping all the canned goods from the grocery store. [...] I’m sure that most of the people in those lines are the same ones who spent three days driving in one big mass of traffic to western Ukraine back in February. Back then, there was a real threat, but now what? Most people I know are completely calm, even though the missile strikes are ongoing.
Vadim also said that unlike in the initial days of the war, there are currently no major traffic jams on the Kyiv streets. In fact, most people decided to stay inside on Monday, while the road that people took to evacuate west at the start of the war has been practically empty this week.
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Despite reports that Kyiv residents had begun buying up all of the groceries and essential items from stores, Meduza’s correspondent did not notice shortages of anything in the city’s supermarkets.
According to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, Russia’s shelling attack on Monday damaged 45 residential buildings, five pieces of critical infrastructure, six educational institutions, six cultural institutions, five hospitals, and two government buildings.
A Russian shell also hit the glass pedestrian bridge in central Kyiv that was unveiled by Mayor Klitschko — to a good deal of controversy —in 2019. Monday evening, the mayor posted a video from the bridge, vowing to “heal the wounds” soon. The bridge connects Volodymyrska Hill to the Soviet-built monument that used to be known as the People’s Friendship Arch. Built in 1982, the arch was originally intended to symbolize unity between Russians and Ukrainians. On April 26, 2022, however, the Kyiv authorities took down the sculpture depicting Russian and Soviet workers, and on May 14, the monument was renamed the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian People.
Abridged translation by Sam Breazeale
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