Russian air strikes hammered Ukraine’s capital Kyiv for the first time in weeks, slamming into an apartment block and kindergarten and killing at least one person with others trapped in destroyed buildings.
Up to four explosions shook central Kyiv in the early hours of Sunday.
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“The Russians hit Kyiv again. Missiles damaged an apartment building and a kindergarten,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s administration.
Deputy Mayor Mykola Povoroznyk said one person was killed and six wounded. He said explosions heard later in other parts of Kyiv were air defences destroying further incoming missiles.
There had been no major strikes on Kyiv since early June.
The city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on the Telegram messaging app that some people were trapped in the rubble of a nine-storey apartment block.
“They have pulled out a seven-year-old girl,” Klitschko said. “She is alive. Now they’re trying to rescue her mother.”
A Ukrainian air force spokesperson said the strikes were carried out with long-range missiles fired from Russian bombers more than 1,000km (620 miles) away in the southern Russian region of Astrakhan.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Klitschko said the missile fire on Kyiv was a “symbolic attack” in the run-up to a NATO summit set to take place on Tuesday.
Klitschko added the air strikes were reminiscent of ones that took place during the late April visit of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who went on to describe the conflict as a “senseless war”.
Russian missiles also struck the central city of Cherkasy, which until now had been largely untouched by bombardment, according to regional authorities, who said one person was killed and five others wounded.
Russia’s defence ministry said it used high-precision weapons to strike Ukrainian army training centres in the regions of Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, and Lviv – an apparent reference to attacks reported by Ukraine on Saturday.
Russia denies targeting civilians, but Ukraine and the West accuse its forces of war crimes in a conflict that has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing Ukraine, and destroyed cities.
United States President Joe Biden called the attacks “barbarism” after he arrived in Germany for a Group of Seven (G7) summit.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said G7 countries should respond to the latest missile strikes by imposing more sanctions on Russia and providing more heavy weapons to Ukraine.
The eastern battlefield city of Severodonetsk fell to pro-Russian forces on Saturday after Ukrainian troops retreated, saying there was no longer anything to defend in the ruined city after months of fierce fighting.
It was a major defeat for Kyiv as it seeks to keep control of two eastern provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, that form the Donbas region, which Moscow demands Kyiv cede to separatists.
The RIA news agency quoted a pro-Russian separatist official as saying separatist forces had evacuated more than 250 people, including children, on Sunday from Severodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant.
The plant’s surrounding industrial area was the last part of the city held by Ukrainian forces.
Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the same official as saying forces were now advancing on Lysychansk across the river from Severodonetsk. Lysychansk is now the last major city held by Ukraine in Luhansk.
‘Have to stay together’
Biden condemned Russia’s actions and stressed that allies need to remain firm even as the economic reverberations from the war take a toll around the globe by fuelling inflation, food shortages and more.
“We have to stay together because Putin has been counting on from the beginning that somehow NATO and the G7 would splinter. But we haven’t and we’re not going to,” the US president said during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who holds the G7′s rotating presidency and is hosting the gathering.
The leaders were set to announce new bans on imports of Russian gold, the latest in a series of sanctions the club of democracies hopes will further isolate Russia economically.
Glenn Diesen, a professor at University of South-Eastern Norway, told Al Jazeera while sanctions on gold could lead to “more problems” for Russia, they may also have the same effect on the global economy as they did on Russian energy sources.
“When the NATO countries began to [implement] sanctions, oil and gas prices rose significantly to the point where Russia could simply export less but still made much more money than it did in the past,” he said.
“This could also happen to gold as well.”