More than four months after the start of the Russian invasion, the sound of air raid sirens warning of an impending strike has become a kind of background noise for some Ukrainians: annoying, unsettling, but also can be ignored.
However, a series of deadly missile strikes by Russian forces in recent days that hit civilian targets has changed the calculus, leaving Ukrainian leaders scrambling to reinforce the message that following asylum recommendations saves lives.
“I ask you again: please do not ignore air raid alerts,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nationwide address this weekend. “The appropriate rules of conduct must always be followed.”
Many people in Ukraine still do not have access to bomb shelters. In Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, officials said they had no plans to open schools in the fall, in part because not all schools had them. In Lvov, a western Ukrainian city near the Polish border where hundreds of thousands of displaced Ukrainians have settled, all new buildings must have bomb shelters.
But many Ukrainians in the big cities are not only comforted by the danger, but are too war-weary to worry about the threat of terrorist attacks.
On a Saturday evening in Kharkiv, where Russian artillery shells almost every night, young people in a popular bar were drinking at outdoor tables and listening to live music.
“My neighbors go to the basement; the elderly go, but the young do not,” said one of the regulars, 28-year-old Marina Zvyagintseva.
“I think in the first month everyone was afraid and went down to the subway or somewhere else,” said Vladislav Andrienko, 29, a construction worker. “Now people are trying to live a normal life.”
In the deadliest strike in the past week, three Kalibr cruise missiles fired from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea hit the center of Vinnytsia, the regional capital. killing 23 people and wounding 140 people. Those who died during the strike on Thursday including Liza Dmitrieva4-year-old child with Down syndrome and two other children.
The next day at least 10 Russian missiles crashed into the southern city of Nikolaev, hitting two universities, a hotel and a shopping mall. Later on Friday, three people died and 16 were injured when at least one rocket hit a target in the Dnieper River in central Ukraine.
On Friday, anti-aircraft batteries shot down one missile over the Kyiv region in northern Ukraine and four more over the Dnieper, according to Ukrainian military authorities.
And on Saturday, a Russian missile hit a warehouse in the Odessa region, causing a fire, said Sergey Bratchuk, a spokesman for the regional military administration. He said there were no casualties because the guards retreated to cover as soon as they heard the siren.
senior usa military official said on Friday that between 100 and 150 civilians could have been killed in Russian strikes on Ukraine this week. Moscow denies targeting civilians in what it says is a limited military operation in Ukraine aimed at ridding the country of the Nazis.
However, Ukrainian officials say the strikes are primarily aimed at spreading terror and are part of a genocidal campaign led by President Vladimir Putin and his military.
“This is the destruction of Ukrainians as a nation,” Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said on television Friday. “This is an attempt to break the spirit of the Ukrainians and reduce their level of resistance.”
Moscow’s recent military successes, especially in the Luhansk region in eastern Donbass, are largely due to the superiority of its artillery, but an influx of weapons from the US and other countries is starting to restore that balance. mr. Zelenskiy said the situation partly explains the increase in recent strikes.
“The occupiers understand that we are gradually becoming stronger,” he said. “The goal of their terror is very simple: to put pressure on us, on our society, to intimidate people, to cause as much damage as possible to Ukrainian cities, while Russian terrorists are still able to.”