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Russian missiles hit western Ukraine


A flurry of Russian missile strikes this weekend hit western Ukraine, where things had been relatively quiet. One neighborhood in the capital of Kyiv was hit today, killing at least one person and injuring four others. The attacks came as President Biden met with leaders at the G-7 summit in Germany to discuss the war. Biden called the Kyiv strike, quote, "barbarism." The strike broke a lull in that part of Ukraine over the last two months, as fighting was concentrated instead in the east and south. NPR's Emily Feng visited one of the neighborhoods struck and brings us this report.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: The smell of smoke fills the air in this Kyiv neighborhood. There's dust swirling. Rescue crews are desperately clearing the top floors of a residential building that was destroyed by an early morning strike.

A short walk away, a 15-foot crater in the yard of a shelled kindergarten has already filled with muddy water. It's the result of another missile that hit this neighborhood early Sunday. A Ukrainian police officer guarding the site said he wasn't supposed to give interviews but explained a little of what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: The Russian rockets go here around 6 a.m. (inaudible).

FENG: He explains Russian rockets hit around 6 a.m. on Sunday, when most people were sleeping. This same neighborhood was bombed at the end of April. That made it a known target, and it appeared some residents had already evacuated before the most recent strike. Russia said it bombed military installations in Ukraine this weekend. And in Kyiv, this Ukrainian police officer and a government spokesperson did steer reporters away from certain buildings. But the police officer insisted to NPR this area was full of only civilians this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: There is no military here - no one.

FENG: The night before, 45 additional Russian cruise missiles hit the suburbs around cities across Ukraine, a barrage of weekend hits that have reminded Ukrainians a fierce and violent war with Russia still menaces to the east, south and north of their country. And the collateral cost of war is undeniable. Hours after the attack, resident Luba Mykolayivna not remains sitting outside with her family, sweeping up shards of glass.

LUBA MYKOLAYIVNA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

FENG: She says she saw the first missile hit because she went to the balcony to see what was happening. Then the rocket exploded, shattering her windows and everything around her. She says it was scary, really scary. The 69-year-old grandmother grabbed her grandson and ran downstairs, sheltering in a doorway as the next missiles hit nearby.

MYKOLAYIVNA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

FENG: She keeps repeating, the horror, the horror. Ukrainian officials say some of the Russian missile strikes this weekend were launched from aircraft taking off from Belarus, whose leader, Alexander Lukashenko, met with Vladimir Putin in Russia on Saturday at around the same time. Belarus is a key Russian ally directly to Ukraine's north. Putin said this weekend he would gift Belarus its own cruise missiles, a potentially new front that is now heating up. For Mykolayivna, that means more threats of death and destruction from above.

MYKOLAYIVNA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

FENG: She says that's how it will be. That's what the Russians intend. Ukrainian forces beat back Russian soldiers in late March from the capital, winning the city a measure of peace and quiet, interrupted only intermittently since then. Yet this weekend's attacks broke that false sense of security. And they were a clear signal that Russia's Vladimir Putin has not forgotten about Kyiv. Emily Feng, NPR News, Kyiv.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.