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KYIV — Oleh Ocheretyanyi isn’t buying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s argument that Monday’s bombardment of central Kyiv was revenge for Saturday’s attack on the bridge connecting Russia to illegally occupied Crimea.
A few hours after the attack, with obvious curiosity, the 31-year-old picked out curved pieces of what appeared to be shrapnel from a Russian missile that hit a busy intersection during rush hour in downtown Kyiv. According to emergency services, at least six people were killed and 50 injured in the assault on Ukraine’s capital.
“This is not Putin’s revenge. It just means that we’re fighting a terrorist who behaves like this all the time,” he said.
Ocheretyanyi believed that at least part of the reason for the missile barrage was the appointment of Sergey Surovikin, notorious for his brutality in Syria, as the new commander of Moscow’s forces in Ukraine. “The new general may have now decided to show off to the leadership. Because their entire vertical of power is built on this desire to show off.”
The explosion at the intersection blasted a large crater in the road and shattered windows in nearby buildings, including those at Kyiv’s largest university and a hospital. On the walls of these buildings, flying shrapnel and pieces of asphalt carved deep scars.
“I live not far from here, and when I heard the explosion, I headed to the corridor that fences me off from the windows with three walls,” Ocheretyanyi said. “I thought it would be a good place to hide from shrapnel.”
As at the beginning of the war, underground stations became shelters, where thousands of people took refuge. Some brought pets, some stayed with toddlers. People went to subway platforms supplied with blankets, mats and bottles of water.
From the other side of the intersection, musician Mark Marczyk, 37, watched public workers clear the road from the debris of the morning blast.
The Canadian national of Ukrainian origin and leader of the folk-noir music band Balaklava Blues was staying in the country over the past week and had a concert in Kyiv just the day before. “This might be revenge,” he said. “When this [the explosion on the Crimea bridge] happened, the morale of Ukrainians was boosted. He [Putin] wants to smother it somehow. He will not succeed, though.”
Ocheretyanyi said Russia would “never leave Kyiv alone” and predicted Monday’s blasts would be followed by new attacks.
“Any day now we can expect anything from Russia,” he said. “Russia will try to burn Ukraine to the ground. Everything will all depend on what kind of resistance we offer.”
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has already warned residents about impending temporary blackouts while electricians repair the system after the morning missile strikes. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also urged the nation to reduce electricity consumption overnight, “to ease the burden on our power system and reduce the need for emergency outages.”
“I wonder how those people who launched the rockets had their breakfast as if nothing had happened,” Viktoria Pasichnyk, 26, said. “Look how many children went to Kyiv schools today [when the missile attack started]. When I recall this, my eyes fill with tears.”