A missile that hit the Retroville mall late Sunday night killed at least eight people, officials here said, in the latest violent attack on the capital last week that left residents fearful of what might happen next. Monday’s damage to the mall was one of Kyiv’s worst casualties since the war began, and concern is growing that Russia’s frustration with its failure to capture key territory could prompt its forces to step up attacks.
The civilians moved out of the house the next morning to survey the damage, well aware that the unpredictable nature of the attack meant that those who had died here just hours earlier could just as easily have been the same.
“The whole city is dangerous,” said Vitalia Dubovitska, who lives on the 16th floor of a nearby apartment building and saw the explosion from her window. “Any place can be safe or unsafe. It’s like a lottery.” Pictures on her phone showed an orange fireball exploding from afar. She approached the site of the strike on Monday to fix the windows in a relative’s apartment across the street and then visited what was left of the mall.
Dubovitska and others said the attack occurred around 11 p.m. on Sunday, causing a massive explosion in the area. Due to a citywide curfew from 8pm every night, journalists were unable to reach the scene until morning. It was not immediately clear who was killed in the attack, which occurred at a time when most civilians were not allowed to leave their homes or shelters.
Inside the damaged mall was a grocery store that a former employee said is now used for storage. Glass shards and a large pool of water sat in the hall. The roof was also damaged.
The forces guarding the door initially let a group of journalists in but then forced the press organizations to leave. Vladislov Kosiak, 21, stood across the street with two of his friends. They, too, heard the strike the night before from a nearby fourth-floor balcony, then came to see the damage after the curfew was lifted Monday morning.
“There was a very loud bang and the building started shaking like an earthquake,” said Kosiak. And all through the morning he heard heavy news of artillery coming out.
A regional defense volunteer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, said the strike was the result of a hypersonic missile – but provided no evidence. “Maybe it was to show the Ukrainian army what it can do, that it can destroy anything,” he said.
Booms reverberated continuously throughout the area on Monday morning. When asked if a single explosion was coming or going, the regional defense member shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, but it’s not here,” he said, laughing as he pointed to his immediate surroundings. “so it’s okay.”
Sunday’s attack came as Russia insisted that the besieged city of Mariupol be handed over to Ukraine. Weeks of attacks on the port led to a deadly humanitarian disaster. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky refused. Civilians in Kyiv said Monday that his defiance made them feel proud despite their horror at the events taking place within their borders.
Most contacts with Mariupol have been cut off since the beginning of March, but some civilians have managed to escape. They brought with them stories of infernal conditions, including mass graves and corpses left in the streets. Two Associated Press reporters Stayed in town for weeksdocumenting the atrocities first-hand and helping the world understand the gravity of the Russian attack, which allegedly included strikes on a theater, art school and maternity hospital.
“If he agrees to give them Mariupol, it will be Kharkiv tomorrow. It is better not to negotiate,” said Natalia, 44, who worked in a grocery store inside the mall before the war began. She spoke on condition that only her first name be used for security reasons. The site on Monday to assess the damage.
“From the beginning,” she said, “the Russian soldiers believed that in Kyiv we would meet them with a flower in our hands. But if they came, we would give them two,” referring to the tradition of leaving flowers on the grave.
Her friend Oksana works in a food store next to the place of the strike. She said that attacks on civilian infrastructure only strengthened the resolve of civilians to survive. “We will not let the Russian army come to Kyiv,” she said. She had decided to stay in the capital out of a sense of her patriotic duty. “It’s better to die in an apartment here than to try to live somewhere else.”
However, residents are concerned that the increased onslaught may make living here unbearable. They are already scared and worried – but they keep pressing in the hope that the situation will be resolved.
“I get up every day for breakfast and don’t know if I’ll live for dinner,” said Natalia.
Jennifer Hassan in London and Jonathan Edwards in Washington contributed to this report.
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