Ukraine: Explosions rock Kyiv a week after Russian strikes

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Several loud explosions rocked the center of the Ukrainian capital on Monday, a week after Russia orchestrated a massive, coordinated airstrike across the country.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klichko said the capital’s central Shevchenko district was hit and urged residents to seek shelter. The early morning blasts sparked a fire in a non-residential building and damaged several blocks of flats, Klichko said on his Telegram channel. Further details were not initially known. There was no information on the victims yet.

The blasts came from the same central Kyiv district where a week ago a rocket hit a children’s playground and an intersection near the main buildings of Kyiv National University.

Social media posts showed a fire in the area of ​​the apparent strike, with black smoke billowing into the early morning light.

Russian forces attacked Kyiv with Iranian Shahed drones, Andrii Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, wrote in a post on social media site Telegram. Russia has repeatedly used so-called suicide drones to attack urban centers and infrastructure, including power plants, in recent weeks.

Strikes in central Kyiv have become a rarity in recent months after Russian forces failed to capture the capital earlier in the war. Last week’s early-morning strikes were the first explosions to be heard in central Kyiv in several months, sending Kyiv and the rest of the country into a frenzy again as the war nears nine months. Monday’s blasts appeared to be continuing, leading many to fear it could be more common in urban centers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week’s strikes were in retaliation for the bombing of a bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia. Putin has accused Ukraine of staging the blast that disrupted traffic across the bridge and restricted Moscow’s ability to use the bridge to supply Russian troops in the occupied territories of southern Ukraine.

The attack on Kyiv comes as fighting has intensified over the past few days in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as the continued Ukrainian counter-offensive to the south near Kherson and Zaporizhia. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening address last night that there had been heavy fighting around the cities of Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up most of the industrial east known as Donbass and were two of four regions annexed by Russia in September in violation of international law.

On Sunday, the Russian-backed regime in the Donetsk region said Ukraine had shelled its central administrative building with a direct hit. No casualties were reported.