Three people, including a young girl, were killed in Kyiv on Thursday while desperately trying to take cover in a closed bomb shelter amid fresh Russian strikes, in an incident that sparked anger in the Ukrainian capital.
Internal Affairs Minister Ihor Klymenko condemned the incident as a “crime” in a statement shared by Ukraine’s National Police, adding that an investigation had been launched.
Russia launched a total of 10 missiles at Kyiv early on Thursday morning, all of which were shot down, the Ukraine Armed Forces said.
However, falling debris from the skies killed three people – a 9-year-old girl, her 34-year-old mother, and a 33-year-old woman – according to the national police. Fourteen others were injured.
The husband of one of the women told public broadcaster Suspilne that when they heard the air raid alarm, people ran to the shelter but found it locked. “People knocked… They knocked for a very long time… There were women, children. No one opened. My wife and child [were there]. The child is fine, but my wife died,” he said.
“I just ran to the other side, calling for them to open. And just at that moment everything happened, at that moment something flew – I don’t know, fragments or something,” the man, named Yaroslav, added.
Another eyewitness named Kateryna Didukh said: “They ran here to hide, but unfortunately it was closed. This is the largest bomb shelter. They were all standing at the entrance. There is a polyclinic and a kindergarten here, and it fell right between them.”
An image taken in the aftermath of the incident shows the grandfather of the nine-year-old victim, who was killed alongside her mother, watching over her body.
The photographer, Serhii Okunev, said in a Facebook post the man “sat on his haunches for several hours, then a chair was found for him.”
Lessons would have to be learned from the incident, minister Klymenko said in his statement. “The 16th month of full-scale war. It would seem that during this time, responsible officials should have identified and fixed all the flaws in the issue of people’s safety. The enemy continues large-scale shelling of cities. But some shelters still remain closed during the air raid alarm.
“Closed bomb shelters during the war are not just indifference. It is a crime,” he added, calling for shelters to be kept open around the clock.
In response to the incident on Thursday, Kyiv’s Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said police would now patrol bomb shelters in the city during night-time air-raid alarms to check they are open.
In a Telegram post, Klitschko said a missile fragment fell near the entrance to a clinic in the Desnianskyi district of the capital, “4 minutes after the air raid alarm was announced. People were running to the shelter.”
“Now the investigation is establishing whether the shelter was open. Whether there were people in it,” he said.
“I gave a separate order to the heads of the capital’s districts to immediately check all bomb shelters,” he added.
Klitchko said he had asked for the head of the Desnianskyi district to be removed from his duties while the investigation into the shelter at the clinic is underway, adding that the head of the medical institution should also be removed.
Ukraine, meanwhile, unleashed an early-morning strike on Russia’s Belgorod region Thursday, a day after Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov lashed out at Western countries for not condemning recent strikes inside Russian territory.
“Shebekino is under incessant fire: at 12 a.m., 3:40 a.m. and 5:15 a.m., the Ukrainian armed forces fired Grad missiles at the center and outskirts of the city,” Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladlov said on Telegram.
Gladkov added that of the five injured, three people have been hospitalized, one woman was treated at the scene, and “there is information about a man who is unconscious with multiple shrapnel wounds. An ambulance team is transporting him to the hospital.”
Residential and administrative buildings were damaged in the strikes, according to Gladkov.
Belgorod – which borders Ukraine’s Kharkiv region – has recently become a hotbed of straying violence, marking a new turn in a conflict that is increasingly coming home to the Russian people.
In a regular call with journalists on Wednesday, before the overnight strikes, Peskov said the Kremlin was concerned about the situation in Belgorod.
He said: “We have not heard a single word of condemnation from any one from the collective West, so far. The situation is rather alarming. Measures are being taken.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Volunteer Corps – a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals aligned with the Ukrainian army – has denied shelling civilians as it claimed its “second phase” inside Russia had begun on Thursday.
In a video message, a fighter from the Russian Volunteer Corps claimed they were “once again fighting on Russian territory.”
The Freedom for Russia Legion posted a video online, claiming it shows the “detonation of ammunition and mortar of the enemy after a precise artillery work on them.”
CNN has geolocated the video of an explosion to Shebekinsky District, in Belgorod, but cannot verify the claim of a successful strike.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday that together with the Federal Security Service (FSB) it had prevented an incursion across its border by Ukraine, saying tanks and two motorized infantry companies attempted to enter the Belgorod region.
According to the daily briefing by the Russian MoD, around 3 a.m. Moscow time (8 p.m. Wednesday ET), “after intensive shelling of civilian targets in the Belgorod region, Ukrainian terrorist formations with up to two motorized infantry companies, reinforced with tanks, attempted to invade the territory of the Russian Federation near the settlement of Novaya Tavolzhanka and the Shebekino international automobile checkpoint.”
The Russian military repelled three attacks by Ukrainian terrorist groups, MOD spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said, adding that “terrorists of the Kyiv regime were pushed back, suffering significant losses.”
“Violations of the state border were not allowed,” he added.
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, also denied these latest claims of a border incursion.
“There was no enemy on the territory of the Belgorod region and there is none,” Gladkov said in a Telegram video message Thursday.
“There is massive shelling. Of course, the lives of civilians, the population is under threat. Mainly, in Shebekino and in the surrounding villages,” he added.
The Russian Volunteer Corps, alongside another anti-Putin group known as the Freedom for Russia Legion, last week claimed responsibility for an incursion into Belgorod.