The National Times - Tears, fear and fury in Kyiv after Russian attacks

Tears, fear and fury in Kyiv after Russian attacks

Tears, fear and fury in Kyiv after Russian attacks
Tears, fear and fury in Kyiv after Russian attacks

Lidiya Tikhovska peered past the crater left behind by the latest Russian missile to smash into Kyiv and pictured the charred remains of her son mangled in the scattered debris.

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The 83-year-old stood perfectly still in the afternoon sun and fixed her gaze on the twisted metal of cars and a green trolleybus scattered across the wide city street.

Her 58-year-old son had just nipped out to the local shop to get some food and basic supplies.

And then the Russian missile blew in, the second of the day to fall on Ukraine's increasingly besieged and traumatised capital.

"He is lying near the car, but they won't let me pass," Tikhovska whispered.

Policemen and paramedics crunched their feet over piles of smashed glass and measured the depth of the crater created by the Russian missile near Tikhovska's scarred apartment building.

The black hole in the ground looked big enough to swallow a car.

But Tikhovska was only looking at the spot where an ambulance worker said her son Vitaliy's remains lay behind the police tape.

"They say that he is too severely burned, that I won't recognise him, but I still want to see him," the elderly mother said.

"Now I will be alone in my flat. What do I need this flat for?" she asked.

Tears rolled down her pale cheeks as she clung a little tighter to her grandson's elbow for support.

"I wish Russia the same grief I feel now," she said and gently shook her head.

- 'Putin is finished' -

Russia's assault on Kyiv -- launched on February 24 but initially repelled by an enthusiastic army, many of them volunteers -- is gathering momentum again.

Ferocious clashes on Kyiv's northwestern edge are now accompanied by long-range missile strikes that killed at least two people and injured a dozen on Monday alone.

A second front is also opening up across the wide-open industrial districts of Kyiv's more remote northeast.

The growing sense of peril has forced armed volunteers who patrol Kyiv's sandbagged checkpoints to start demanding ever-changing code words from passing cars.

Soldiers are alternating the colour of the ribbons on their elbows and calves to better tell who is on the Ukrainian side and who might be a Russian saboteur.

Yet this almost tangible state of paranoia on the city's deserted streets is accompanied by strident defiance from many of the distraught victims of Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces.

"They killed my cat -- now Putin is finished," Oleg Sheremet spit out while picking through the debris from the day's first attack a few blocks down the street.

"The cat -- that was the last straw," the middle-aged man said in his black leather coat.

- 'Panic' -

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko stood with his massive fists clenched a few steps away from the remains of Tikhovska's son.

The former boxing champion's bulletproof vest looked tiny on his square chest.

A clutch of heavily armed bodyguards encircled Klitschko as he peered into the cameras of jostling Ukrainian TV reporters and dared Putin to attack.

"The Russians want to bring panic to our city," Klitschko said in a towering voice.

"But this will never happen. It will only motivate every Ukrainian to defend our city more."

A new round of distant booms from Kyiv's northern front forced Klitschko back into his car.

His entourage left behind local residents who were still trying to understand why Russia decided to strike this sleepy part of their city twice in the span of a few hours.

- 'They want more terror' -

Ukrainian lawmaker turned volunteer fighter Oleksiy Goncharenko was not even trying to contain his anger at both Russia and what he felt was a lack of sufficient support from the West.

"There is no military target here," the 41-year-old said after shuttling between the scene of the two attacks.

"They strike simply for the sake of striking. They just want more terror, to scare people more," he said.

And many are scared.

Hair stylist Vera Recheshkova stood with her boyfriend a block away from the site of the missile strike and sobbed into her handkerchief.

"We bought food in that kiosk just the other day, and now the person who worked there might not exist anymore," the 26-year-old said through the tears.

"It is simply horrible. You don't want to wish anyone harm, but Putin..." she said before trailing off.