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Russia strikes Kyiv for first time in weeks, will supply Belarus with nuclear-capable missiles

Russia strikes Kyiv for first time in weeks, will supply Belarus with nuclear-capable missiles
A firefighter walks in front of a damaged residential building following Russian airstrikes in the Shevchenkivskiy district of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. Multiple airstrikes hit the center of Kyiv in the morning. Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE

June 26 (UPI) -- Russia on Sunday fired missiles on Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, for the first time in weeks as fighting continues into its fifth month after President Vladimir Putin announced he will transfer nuclear-capable missiles to ally Belarus.

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said on Telegram that Russian forces had launched rockets "into houses and kindergartens" and that four victims were hospitalized, including a 7-year-old girl who was pulled from the rubble.

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"This 7-year-old Ukrainian kid was sleeping peacefully in Kyiv until a Russian cruise missile blasted her home," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

"Many more around Ukraine are under strikes. G7 summit must respond with more sanctions on Russia and more heavy arms for Ukraine. Russia's sick imperialism must be defeated."

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The Ukrainian Defense Ministry posted a photo to Twitter purporting to show a kindergarten in Kyiv damaged by a Russian missile.

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Klitschko said 25 people were evacuated from a building in the Shevchenkivskyi district where a rocket hit. The Shevchenkivskyi area of Kyiv is home to several universities, art galleries and historic churches and monuments.

Russian missiles last hit Kyiv in early June when invading forces had targeted the capital for the first time since withdrawing troops earlier in the occupation.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday that 45 missiles had hit the country from Friday night into Saturday targeting the Zhytomyr region, Lviv region, Chernihiv region and the city of Mykolaiv.

"It is not just the destruction of our infrastructure, it is also a very cynical, calculated pressure on the emotions of our people," Zelensky said.

"But it's not us who will be overpowered, we will overpower them. No Russian missiles, no strikes can break the morale of Ukrainians. And each of their missiles is an argument in our negotiations with partners."

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The British Defense Ministry, which has been providing intelligence updates throughout the war, said Sunday that most Ukrainian forces "have likely withdrawn from their remaining positions in the Donbas city of Sieverodonetsk."

The Donbas region of Ukraine is composed of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, which Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent republics before the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.

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Experts have said that Putin will try to annex the Donbas region into Russia in coming months. By seizing Sievierodonetsk, Russia is one step closer to occupying all of the Luhansk region.

"Russia's capture of the city is a significant achievement within this reduced objective. The settlement was a major industrial center and it occupies a strategic position on the Siverskyi Donets River," the British Defense Ministry said.

"However, it is only one of several challenging objectives Russia will need to achieve to occupy the whole of the Donbas region. These include advancing on the major center of Kramatorsk and securing the main supply routes to Donetsk city."

The Kremlin on Saturday released a transcript of a meeting between Putin and the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, announcing the missiles deal.

"Within the next several months, we will transfer to Belarus the Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which are known to use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both conventional and nuclear," Putin told Lukashenko.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in an analysis on Saturday that Russia has used the Iksander missile system against targets in northern Ukraine over the weekend.

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Putin also suggested upgrading Belarus' fleet of Sukhoi Su-25 planes -- a subsonic, twin-engine jet developed in the former Soviet Union.

However, the Institute for the Study of War said in its update that Ukraine's Main Intelligence Directoratehas firmly stated that Belarusian involvement in the war in Ukraine on behalf of Russia remains highly unlikely.

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