KYIV, Ukraine — An explosion in the sky above the home of Svitlana and Petro Romanchuk in central Kyiv shook their apartment, and then a fiery hunk of metal fell from the sky. It ripped through their kitchen and engulfed the building in flames, killing their downstairs neighbor and forcing at least 70 families living in the five-story residential building from their homes.
It was just a fragment of one of the more than 100 Russian missiles fired at targets across Ukraine on Tuesday night as Moscow tried to cripple the country’s infrastructure. “These are what our Russian brothers do for us,” said Svitlana, 66. “These are our ‘liberators.’”
The flashing lights of emergency crews illuminated the streets around her, rare points of light in the sudden blackout that followed the strike. Ms. Romanchuk was well aware of the risks that come with simply living in Ukraine. Last month, she said, she and her daughter found the fragment of an earlier rocket shot down over the city.
But nothing can prepare someone for a missile strike — or a close call with a missile fragment.
The couple first sought cover in a corridor. “But smoke was quickly filling up the building so we knew we had to go,” she said. They saw the hole torn through their kitchen. “We were just running around, no idea what to do,” she said.
They grabbed their jackets and a purse from their apartment’s entry and started to make their way out of the building, their shoes clutched in their hands. On the third floor, a woman stood in her doorway in her underwear, screaming.
By the time they got to the bottom floor, all the doors were open and their neighbors were outside. “My hands were shaking so badly, I had to have a neighbor help me button my coat,” Ms. Romanchuk said.
Emergency crews soon arrived to fight the fire as the residents huddled in the cold, dark night. Soon they learned that the neighbor in the apartment just below them had not escaped. It was not clear if her family had been notified, so her name was not yet public. But the Romanchuks said she was a pensioner whose husband died a few years ago, a good neighbor living alone with her cats.
If they had been in the kitchen when the missle fragment fell from the sky, they certainly would have died, Ms. Romanchuk said. The city was offering a place to sleep in a nearby school, and she has family in the city. But the couple did not want to burden anyone. All they wanted on Tuesday night was to be able to go home.