The first blasts of the day occurred during the morning rush hour at a central intersection, killing a police officer on his way to work and leaving several cars mangled and in flames near a historic university complex and the country’s education ministry.
Another struck one of Kiev’s most popular parks, leaving a crater next to a playground that had only the day before been packed with children and families enjoying a mild autumn weekend.
Later, there was an explosion near a popular tourist pedestrian and bicycle bridge. A massive orange fireball, followed by a cloud of white and black smoke, briefly engulfed but did not destroy the glass-bottomed walkway with views of the city and the Dnieper River.
The wave of Russian airstrikes that hit Kyiv on Monday morning shattered months of calm, plunging the city back into the thick of the nearly eight-month-old conflict.
On Monday, Ukrainians across the city expressed outrage and fear over the strikes on civilian targets in retaliation for a Saturday blast that damaged the Crimean Bridge, a vital link between mainland Russia and the illegally annexed Crimea region.
The bridge serves as a vital logistical conduit for the Russian military and holds significant symbolic significance for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the bridge attack, Putin has accused Ukraine’s special services of organizing it.
Many Kyiv residents also expressed their defiance in the face of the possibility of further attacks, which Putin threatened with a “massive strike” on Ukraine in retaliation for the bridge attack.
Ekateryna Puzanova, who works at a grocery store in central Kyiv, was unloading morning deliveries when a massive explosion shook the building, throwing colleagues to the ground and jolting her so hard that the contents of her pockets spilled onto the floor.
Puzanova, 46, had fled to Kyiv from the eastern Donetsk region, which Russia illegally annexed last month. Puzanova, who was getting emotional thinking about her husband and son, was adamant: she would stay.
Residents in Kyiv said they were better prepared after the first few months of the war, having grown accustomed to the wartime routine of sheltering, cleaning up, and getting on with their lives.
Following Putin’s February 24 invasion, much of the city slept in shelters or subway stations for weeks as residential areas were regularly targeted by Russian fire, until the invading forces were forced to retreat after their failed assault on the capital.
However, Monday’s attack appeared to go beyond Russia’s previous boundaries, as the missile strike hit the heart of Kyiv for the first time, near government ministries, pedestrian streets, and commercial zones.
Residents of Kyiv who had ignored air raid sirens for months rushed into basements, safe rooms or hallways, and especially deep underground subway stations, which were deemed the safest place to wait out the attacks.
In the hours following the first blasts in Kyiv, the Vokzalna subway station, which is adjacent to the central passenger railroad station, was crowded with hundreds of people, some of whom were carrying suitcases or pets in small carriers.
Olesya Rogatynska, 39, had arrived in Kyiv by train on Monday morning after spending seven months in Georgia, where she and her family had sought refuge from the conflict. With Kyiv seemingly calm for months, Rogatynska decided to return with her 61-year-old mother and 4-year-old son. But as soon as her train pulled into Kyiv, they were rushed into the metro station.
Rogatynska raised her hands in uncertainty as she considered her options. She stated that her family would wait at her Kyiv home to see what the night would bring. “I’ll just jump in the car with my son and drive to Poland,” she said if more strikes occur.
Oleksiy Milkovskiy was among those cleaning up the wreckage left by a strike that appeared to target a major power station across the road, as Putin suggested.
The blast shattered the windows of nearby apartment buildings and offices.
Nearly the entire facade of a tall office building nearby was blown out, leaving the interior of offices and building materials dangling in the open air. Emergency service workers and military personnel quickly sealed off the area.