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Blasts hit central Kyiv as Russia launches rare daytime attack 

“My child is very afraid of loud sounds. ... And she always asks why they want to kill us. I have no answer for her,” said one resident who had taken shelter in a subway with her daughter, 5.
Explosions have rattled Kyiv during daylight as Russian ballistic missiles fell on the Ukrainian capital. The barrage came hours after a more common nighttime attack of the city by drones and cruise missiles.
Kyiv authorities said more than 41,000 people were taking refuge in the subways during the daytime shelling of the capital. Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

KYIV, Ukraine — Air raid sirens wailed, residents rushed to bomb shelters, and explosions rocked buildings in Kyiv on Monday morning amid an intensifying Russian assault on Ukraine's capital.

The wave of powerful explosions struck central Kyiv around 11:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. ET), shortly after an air alert sounded through the capital, leaving little time for residents to find safety.

NBC News staffers in the city heard a series of loud blasts that hit one after another, rattling window glass in buildings in the center of the capital.

Video shared by journalist Liz Cookman on Twitter showed children running through the street and screaming during the morning explosions. Debris that fell in the Podil district caused a small fire, she said.

The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Valery Zaluzhny, said 11 land-based ballistic and cruise missiles were launched at the Kyiv region. All were shot down, he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday its forces carried out a mass strike with “long-range precision-guided air-launched weapons” on Ukrainian airfields. It did not address the strikes on Kyiv directly.

Debris from intercepted missiles fell in Kyiv’s central and northern districts, landing on roads and parks, the Kyiv military administration said. At least one civilian was injured, it added.

The daytime attack intensified the sense of unease among residents, who are already under strain after weeks of nearly daily nighttime attacks by Russian drones and missiles.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that it was “another difficult night for the capital” but that nobody had been killed and that no buildings had been damaged or destroyed. 

Six hours earlier, air defenses brought down more than 40 targets as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv with a combination of drones and cruise missiles, said Serhii Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration.

The Kyiv military administration said the daytime strike was the 16th attack on the capital this month. “After long, exclusively nighttime attacks, the enemy struck a peaceful city during the day, when most of the residents were at work and on the streets,” it said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Many took shelter in nearby subway stations.

The central station, Palats Sportu, was crowded with residents looking for safety after the sirens began sounding, Kyiv resident Anastasiia Gherebetska said.

Gherebetska, 33, and her daughter, Hanna, who turned 5 on Sunday, have been spending many nights at the station, hiding from nighttime attacks on the city. Hanna sleeps in her clothes and knows the drill for running toward their nearest subway station when the siren sounds, her mother said.

But Monday's strike caught her off-guard, said Gherebetska, who works as a designer.

“It’s really scary. It is a kind of animal fear,” she said, speaking on the phone from the capital. “My child is very afraid of loud sounds. She sees fear in our eyes, as well. She sometimes imagines sirens, too. ... And she always asks why they want to kill us. I have no answer for her.”

Kyiv authorities said more than 41,000 people were taking refuge in the subways during the daytime shelling.

On Sunday, the city suffered the largest drone attack since the start of the war, according to Ukrainian officials. A “record number” of 54 Iranian-made Shahed drones were launched at the city, the air force said as it prepared to mark the day of its founding. At least one person was killed, local officials said.

The Kremlin’s strategy of long-range bombardment has brought many sleepless nights for Ukrainians.

Over the winter, Russian forces aimed their missiles and drones at power plants and other infrastructure. The apparent goal was to weaken Ukraine’s resolve and compel the Ukrainian government to negotiate peace on Moscow’s terms, but Ukrainians swiftly and defiantly repaired the damage.

In recent months, Ukraine has been receiving advanced air defense systems from its Western allies, improving its ability to fend off bombardments by the Kremlin’s forces.

Also Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared a message honoring Memorial Day in the U.S., saying: “It is our duty to remember what price was paid to give the light of freedom, despite all dark times that came down.

“We Ukrainians will always be grateful to the U.S. and every American for extraordinary support which helps us confine the Russian tyranny to the losers, those who lost to the freedom," he said. "My special gratitude on this Memorial Day goes to all Americans of different types, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, who became the warriors and whose threads turned into the threads of freedom and who were destined to show to the world that freedom will always shine bright on the hill.”

“Let our victory of the Ukrainian warriors make this light shine brighter. God bless America. Slava Ukraini,” he concluded.

Daryna Mayer reported from Kyiv and Yuliya Talmazan from London.