By Jonathan Landay
KYIV (Reuters) – Sitting cross-legged in a passageway deep within Kyiv’s Zoloti Vorota metro station, 10-year-old Daria Kucher ignored roaring trains and hundreds of other people taking refuge from the threat of Russian missiles, etching a flower on a pad with her colored pencils.
“We are afraid. But we are more irritated,” groused her mother, Helena Kucher, 44, as she, her daughter and her seven-year-old son waited for the all-clear advisory automatically dispatched to the Ukrainian capital’s cellphones.
The family was among untold numbers of citizens who headed for a second day on Tuesday into nuclear blast-proof metro stations, basements and underground garages after air raid sirens disrupted the morning rush hour, the same time that Russia barraged Kyiv the day before.
Fresh strikes hit the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia and doused power in part of the western city of Lviv. While Kyiv was spared new attacks, the danger of further carnage all but emptied its broad avenues and narrow streets of traffic and pedestrians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he ordered the attacks across Ukraine on Monday to avenge a blast that damaged Russia’s bridge to occupied Crimea, a vital supply link for his troops who have been ceding ground they seized after invading in February. The dozens of air raids killed 19 people, wounded more than 100 and knocked out power supplies across the country.
Putin, Kucher said, “is a person with an old way of thinking” who is “trying to assert his power over Ukraine. To him, we are only fit to be disposed of.”
Across the cavernous passageway, Viktoriya Moshkivski, 35, her husband and their two sons, Timur, 5, and Rinat, 3, sat on a sleeping bag waiting for the danger to pass.
“We live on the other side of the street, and they got scared by the siren. So, we brought them down here,” Moshkivski said as her youngest played with a King Kong action figure.
Putin, she said, “thinks that if he scares the population, he can ask for concessions. But he is not scaring us. He is pissing us off.”
The all-clear sounded shortly after 1 pm (1000 gmt), unleashing pedestrians and vehicles into the bright sunshine.
Central Kyiv, however, remained nowhere near as congested as it has been since the last round of Russian strikes four months ago. Some grocery stores and coffee shops were open, but most appeared shut.
Workers and residents resumed clearing away the previous day’s damage, sweeping up glass shards, hauling rubble and fixing plywood sheets over empty windows.
Timur, a 49-year-old telecommunications worker who withheld his last name, headed out of his shattered apartment block’s courtyard toward a municipal water tanker parked nearby, toting five large plastic containers.
“We have no water and no electricity, only gas. But we have nowhere else to go. We have to stay,” said Timur.
He was at work on Monday when a missile slammed into shops adjoining his building. It stove in roofs, collapsed walls, blew out windows and shredded the blue-tinted glass facade of an office tower housing the German Embassy visa office. It quickly was followed by a second.
“My children were at home. I was not far away. I heard the explosion and called them. They were screaming. They were very scared because the apartment door was blocked,” he recounted. “They pushed it open and ran to the basement.”
Glass, splintered wood, metal sheets, and tangled tree limbs carpeted the building’s courtyard, where Eugene Dobrovolsky swept debris from his demolished car because he did not want it littering the streets when a flatbed truck hauled the hulk away.
The 34-year-old IT worker said he believed the Russian missiles actually were targeted at the municipal power plant across the street from the building.
Fortuitously, he said, he had a premonition that Russia would strike the city and had moved his wife and 6-year-old daughter into an inner hallway of their apartment when the missiles exploded.
“We were the last to leave the building,” he recalled.
Yulia Datsenko surveyed the wreckage of the library in her first-floor apartment.
Broken furniture, sheets of fallen plaster and shattered wooden beams sat jumbled in front of floor-to-ceiling shelves housing a Ukrainian literature collection, paintings, and knickknacks.
“We will rebuild everything. We will clean everything, and the Russians will be destroyed,” said the 38-year-old paramedic.
She was next door in her mother’s apartment when the missiles exploded the day before. Flying glass cut her mother’s left eyebrow.
In her debris-strewn bedroom, Datsenko’s pet guppies slowly cruised in their tank, on the floor of which lay a large green catfish.
Datsenko said she was not worried about them suffering in water chilled by the evening breeze wafting through the glassless windows.
“They are Ukrainian fish.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)