Kyiv struck by Russian cruise missiles amid fierce fighting in east Ukraine

Pope Francis notes that more than 100 days have passed since the start of the war and calls it 'the negation of God's dream'

Smoke rises from a residential area in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, 05 June 2022, amid the Russian invasion of the country.  Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on 05 June announced on social media that several explosions occurred following missile strikes in the Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts of the capital with no casualties reported and only one injured who was taken to hospital.   EPA / OLEG PETRASYUK
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Five cruise missiles hit targets in Kyiv on Sunday, Ukrainian officials have said. The weapons, reportedly KH-22 missiles fired from the Caspian Sea, have a 600-kilometre range, marking the end of weeks of relative calm in the capital.

The attack came as Ukrainian forces claimed to have made gains in the country's east, after a period of Russian advances that the UK's Ministry of Defence called "incremental."

Dark smoke could be seen from many miles away after the attack on two outlying districts of Kyiv. Ukraine said the strike hit a rail car repair works, while Moscow said it had destroyed tanks sent by Eastern European countries to Ukraine.

At least one person was taken to hospital, although there were no immediate reports of deaths.

"The Kremlin resorts to new insidious attacks. Today’s missile strikes at Kyiv have only one goal — kill as many as possible," tweeted Ukrainian presidential adviser, Mikhailo Podolyak.

Ukraine's nuclear power operator said a Russian cruise missile had flown "critically low" over the country's second largest nuclear power plant.

Sunday's attack was the first big strike on Kyiv since late April, when a missile killed a journalist. Recent weeks have involved Russia focusing its destructive might mainly on front lines in the east and south. However, Moscow occasionally strikes elsewhere in what it calls a campaign to degrade Ukraine's military infrastructure and block Western arms shipments.

Fierce Sievierodonetsk battle

Russia has concentrated its forces in recent weeks on the small, eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, pursuing one of the biggest ground battles of the war in an attempt to capture one of two eastern provinces it claims on behalf of separatist proxies.

After retreating steadily in the city in recent days, Ukraine mounted a counter-attack there, which it says took the Russians by surprise. After recapturing a part of the city, Ukrainian forces were now in control of half of it and continuing to push the Russians back, said Sergiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region that includes Sievierodonetsk.

The claims could not be independently verified. Both sides say they have inflicted considerable casualties in Sievierodonetsk, a battle that could determine which side carries the momentum into a protracted war of attrition in the coming months.

In another sign Ukraine has held off the Russian advance, Mr Gaidai said evacuations resumed from the Ukrainian-held part of Luhansk province on Sunday, and 98 people had escaped. Russian forces have been trying for weeks to cut off the main road out to encircle Ukrainian troops there, and evacuations were halted last week after a journalist was killed by shelling.

Britain's defence ministry said on Sunday that Ukrainian counter attacks in Sievierodonetsk over the past 24 hours were likely to blunt any operational momentum Russia had gained. Moscow was deploying poorly equipped separatist fighters in the city to limit the risk to its regular forces, it said.

In the neighbouring Donetsk province, which Moscow also claims on behalf of its separatist proxies, Russian forces have been advancing in recent days in territory north of the Siverskyi Donets river, in advance of what Ukraine anticipates could be a push on the major city of Sloviansk.

Ukrainian officials said at least eight people were killed and 11 injured in Russian shelling in the province overnight.

In a Sunday address to 35,000 people in Rome, Pope Francis noted that more than 100 days had passed since "the start of the armed aggression against Ukraine", and called the war "the negation of God's dream".

Updated: June 05, 2022, 6:06 PM