Dnipro: Maxim was on leave from the front lines for the first time in six months to celebrate his wife’s birthday when Russian missiles slammed into the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, damaging their home.
“I’m very angry,” Maxim said as he prepared to return more determined than ever to push back the Russians in northeast Ukraine and do the utmost to protect his loved ones.
He had been due to return on Monday following his week’s leave but the Ukrainian army has now given him an extra day to clean up the mess in his home.
“As long as (Vladimir) Putin is in power, this can happen everywhere,” said Maxim, a heavyset 45-year-old.
The businessman, who joined the nationwide call to arms right after Russia’s invasion on February 24, vented his anger and frustration.
“It had been more than six months since I had been home. Here I had the right to celebrate my wife’s birthday,” he said, his military papers in hand.
“We are fighting on the front exactly to protect these places” far from the frontlines, he said. “But they still manage to hit them.”
Two days after the partial destruction of the sole bridge between Russia and Crimea, a humiliation for Putin, Russia fired 83 missiles at Ukraine, some 43 shot down by Ukraine’s air defences, the defence ministry said.
The 40 others hit many energy facilities as well as civilian infrastructure, killing at least 11 people and wounding 64 others throughout Ukraine, according to the latest official toll.
– ‘Putin is nasty’ –
In the Dnipro area, four people were killed and 19 wounded by Russian missiles, according to the military governor Valentin Reznichenko.
However, not one person died in the main regional city also called Dnipro, but the city was “lucky,” a spokeswoman for the emergency services said.
In a residential neighbourhood of Dnipro, where drab Soviet-era buildings stretch endlessly, a first missile strike hit an unused factory.
The second landed 10 seconds later in the middle of the roadway, gouging out a crater of several metres deep.
A video of the strike making the rounds on social media show flames reaching higher than the 12-storey building where Maxim lives.
Oleg Komar, a businessman of about 30 years old, thought he was in a film.
“There was an enormous red light Smoke was everywhere. It was hell.”
The impact was just metres from a bus, which was badly damaged and whose driver and some passengers were wounded, according to Sviatoslav Makov, the city’s head of transport.
In Ukraine, “we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” Oleg Komar said.
Thirty-nine year-old Andrii Khalik, another city resident, talked of the immense shock to his family.
Their small desk and toys survived more or less intact, but his five year-old daughter Milana, wearing her pretty pink coat, is now certain of one thing: “Putin is a bad guy.”