Three Kyiv residents were killed by missile fragments during the Thursday-morning Russian strike on Kyiv. One of them was a nine-year-old girl. The Ukrainian news outlet Suspilne reports that all three victims were killed while trying to get into an air raid shelter locked from the inside.
Yaroslav Ryabchuk is a husband to one of the victims. He says the group had gathered outside of the Desnianskyi District clinic that served as a shelter, but no one opened the door for them. “They knocked… They knocked for a very long time. And no one — there were women and children inside — but no one opened. Then there was a blast,” he recalls.
Ryabchuk says his wife was killed just as he’d darted to the other side of the street to try to get someone to let them in. Their child survived. Two other victims were a nine-year-old girl and her mother.
Ryabchuk told the news outlet Grati that he found his wife covered in blood. He recognized her by her clothes and her handbag. “I took her phone — it had been punctured by a shard the size of an apricot,” he said.
The blast had shattered the windows and broken down the door to the shelter. Ryabchuk says that when he ran inside, he saw a sleeping police guard who didn’t open the door to them “for 10 minutes.”
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In the aftermath of the tragedy, the city prosecutor’s office has launched a criminal negligence case. Four people have been detained, including the deputy district head, the clinic’s director, his deputy, and the security guard. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has initiated a process for getting the Desnianskyi District head fired. The mayor also plans to have the Kyiv police force monitor the city’s shelters at night. They now have to remain open at all times, the city administration says.
Commenting on the tragedy, Volodymyr Zelensky said that local authorities must “get their heads on straight,” adding that “there could be a knockout.” Some of the Ukrainian press took this as a hint about Mayor Klitschko, a boxing ex-champion.
Klitschko has acknowledged that, as a mayor, he is partly responsible for the tragedy. At the same time, he noted, he has no power over the choice of district heads whose job it is to manage air raid shelters around the city. District heads are appointed directly by the president, based on government recommendations, and can neither be fired nor even formally reprimanded by the mayor, he said.
According to Klitschko, 1.2 billion Ukrainian hryvnias ($32.5 million) have been allocated to district administrations for setting up air raid shelters. “Nine out of ten district heads are People’s Servant members,” the mayor said, referring to Zelensky’s own political party. “The head of Kyiv’s military administration was appointed by the President’s Office,” he added.
On Friday, Zelensky ordered a complete inspection of all defense facilities in Kyiv to take place within the next ten days, also tasking the Interior Ministry with inspecting all air raid shelters nationwide.