Shattering booms. Flashes. Falling debris. Residents of the Ukrainian capital said on Wednesday that the latest Russian missile barrage jolted them out of sleep and any complacency about the reality of the conflict.
Alarms across the capital sounded at 2:25 a.m. on Tuesday and just 30 minutes later Russian missiles streaked above Kyiv. Ukrainian air defense teams raced to track the incoming salvo and fired surface-to-air missiles to intercept it.
Millions of people in Kyiv have become accustomed to sometimes hearing explosions in the sky. But they had little chance to prepare this time because of Russia’s use, according to Ukrainian and American officials, of six Kinzhal missiles — among the most sophisticated in its arsenal — along with three land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones. The explosions as the attacks were intercepted were also louder than many had heard before.
“When the alarm sounds, I’m not the guy who is panicking or running,” said Sam Memedov, 32, an account manager who lives at the top of a five-story apartment building in the center of the city. “But that was very scary. My house was shaking.”
The strikes reflect an apparent escalation, after weeks in March and April when there were no attacks on the capital and residents had learned to all but ignore air alarms.
This time, Mr. Memedov said, he thought about going to spend the night in one of Kyiv’s deep metro stations. He decided against it, but the following night, as a precaution, he did.
Maria Tomak, a senior government official, said that on the night of the strikes she slept in the bathroom of her 18th-floor apartment. The missile threat, she said, has led her to view her living space in a new way.
A windowless bathroom, once a gloomy space, now offers protection. But, as she crouched on the floor, she realized the bathroom mirror, once an asset, could shatter.
Oleksandr Pedan, a TV and social media star, said that he and his partner had not been scared by the explosions, and they opted to stay at home rather than going to the metro, but they faced an additional concern — how to reassure their child.
“Our 6-year-old son woke up and asked ‘What’s going on?’ We said: ‘It’s OK. Sleep. Sleep.’ We understood that if we were nervous it would be worse,” Mr. Pedan said.
On Tuesday, one video posted on Twitter showed a mother giving her daughter a whistle she could use to alert rescue workers if their building were to collapse and she should find herself trapped. The video shows the child asking what the whistle is for; the mother says, through tears, that she cannot explain for fear of alarming her daughter.
On Tuesday morning, rush-hour traffic was noticeably light, two residents said, adding that they were grateful to the country’s military and to allies in NATO who had supplied air defenses.
A statement from Ukraine’s Air Force did not specify whether a new Western-donated Patriot system had been involved in shooting down the Russian missiles. But President Volodymyr Zelensky called the downing of the Kinzhals “a historical act.”
“We were told such missiles would bring a guaranteed death because they are supposedly impossible to shoot down,” he said late Tuesday.
Two U.S. officials confirmed that a Patriot system had been damaged, though they said it was still operational against all threats.
Some residents said that what had happened reminded them that other parts of the country had been through similar disruptions regularly. Anna Ivanova, a freelance translator and photographer who normally lives in the western city of Lviv but was in Kyiv this week, said that she expected more such attacks as Ukraine prepared to launch a counteroffensive.
She described the attacks as “mind games” by Moscow. “You relax a little bit and then they do something,” she said. “People around me don’t look scared. People have adapted.”
Yurii Shyvala and Marc Santora contributed reporting.