At first it looked like snow. Small, spinning, floating flakes begin to fall. But the sky was blue.

Lubov Burra, 73, grabbed her handbag and looked at her apartment on the 11th floor. “It’s the one with the balcony. It’s on fire,’ she said calmly as her belongings, and those of her friends and neighbors, turned to ashes and now fell softly around them.

In Kiev’s western Sviatoshynskyi district, the Burra bloc was hit by a Russian missile before dawn on Tuesday. It was one of four civilian targets that morning. She said that “everything” she owned was gone. All she had left was in her purse: her documents, her phone, and her diabetes medicine.

“I’ve been here from the start,” Burra said. She had moved to the newly built block in 1975. Her children and grandchild had played for it. Neighbors gathered on Saturday to clear the estate’s buildings. They drank coffee together in the morning and had planted trees together here as well.

On Tuesday, the entire block, which housed up to 300 people, was destroyed.

As it burned, the sunlight from the mist bounced off a jet of water from fire hoses, creating a bright, strong rainbow over piles of smoldering rubble.

Firefighters fight a fire in an apartment building in SviatoshynskyiFirefighters fight a blaze at an apartment building in Sviatoshynskyi on Tuesday © Chris McGrath/Getty

Since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s capital has been largely spared the attacks that have left parts of suburban towns around Kiev and elsewhere in ruins. But the recent attacks seem to indicate that the capital’s relative calm may be coming to an end.

As of Tuesday evening, residents of Kiev were ordered to stay indoors for 35 hours. Kira Rudyk, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, said intelligence reports had suggested the capital was about to be subjected to a major attack.

It still hadn’t arrived by Thursday morning, but one person died when an intercepted missile fell on the roof of a building between the sprawling high-rise estates of the Pozniaky district.

It was unclear whether the Russian goal is to cause panic or whether its missiles have missed their intended military targets. If the idea was to terrorize the people of Kiev and force the government to surrender, it didn’t work.

No one knows how much of Kiev’s pre-war population of about 3 million remains, but residents of the affected blocks said they believed only half of the usual number of residents were still at home. Above all, women and children have left the city.

An elderly woman is carried out of a building by a rescuerA woman was rescued from a building in Sviatoshynskyi on Tuesday © Chris McGrath/Getty

Electricity, gas, water and internet will continue to function. None of these still work in nearby suburbs like Irpin and Bucha, where there is fighting. Bucha is occupied by Russia, but if they break through and capture Irpin, they will finally have reached the city limits of Kiev.

Exactly three weeks after the start of the war, however, that did not happen. Morale on the Ukrainian side remains high. There is no mood for compromise, Rudyk said. Even if the Russians broke through, they wouldn’t have enough troops to occupy the city, she added.

Smoke trails from surface-to-air missiles indicate that the city’s air defense system is working. Several of the recent explosions in Kiev have been attributed to Ukrainian interceptions of Russian missiles. It could explain why Kiev has not yet been exposed to the missile barriers that flattened parts of Mariupol and Kharkov.

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the capital are adapting. Many supermarkets remain open when they are empty. Pharmacies no longer have medicines. Some trains still run to the west of the country, to Odessa, and the main road south of the city remains open. The advance of the Russian pincer movement from the northwest and northeast has come to a halt.

Customers at a bakery in Kiev A bakery remains active in Kiev © Anastasia Vlasova/Getty

This week’s attacks on residential areas, intentional or not, may herald the start of a last-ditch Russian attempt to take Kiev, but while they wait to find out, some residents of the capital have other things on their mind: they have no more money.

When she heard speaking English, a woman with perfect English stopped and said that since she had no money left for food, she could give her some?

Many companies have stopped their normal activities and will not be able to pay their employees without income. However, a few businesses have begun to reopen to adapt to wartime demands.

On Monday, a rocket exploded opposite Kurenivskyi Park in the north of the city. CCTV footage showed a person walking on the sidewalk at the time of the collision. An hour later, the body was still waiting to be picked up, but a crew from the electric utility was already repairing severed cables hanging across the street.

On the other side of the park, Yaroslav Barsuk, the deputy director of Pasta Factory Kiev, was fixing plywood sheets to cover the areas where the glass of the company entrance had been shattered.

Barsuk, 33, said the company used to produce 3,000 tons of pasta per month but had stopped when war broke out. They were supposed to resume production that day, but much of the staff had either fled or couldn’t get to work due to fighting or the lack of public transportation. Now the company expected to be able to produce only 500 tons per month.

A hair salon in KievA hair salon still open in Kiev © Anastasia Vlasova/Getty

On the other side of town, Sprut Salon has reopened, a hipster hairdresser whose name means Octopus. According to Yaroslav Rudakov, the 27-year-old owner, he was cutting back more now than before the war, although the lack of money from customers meant that his prices had to fall. Some of his barbers had left to fight, but others whose salons were closed had come to work for him.

Sprut Salon’s contribution to the war effort was free haircuts for those who carried weapons, Rudakov said. Soldiers “don’t want to worry about their hair right now, so they’re asking for a haircut,” he noted matter-of-factly.

Budget cuts may remain de rigueur for the foreseeable future. Despite optimistic rumors about a possible deal to end the war, MP Rudyk was skeptical.

Ukrainians are determined to fight, she said. When told that the price of peace is to make indigestible concessions, “I don’t think that will fly”.

Back in Sviatoshynskyi district, Ludmila Kyzeytsova sat on a bench just past a body zipped into a black bag. The 70-year-old had just been rescued from her flat by firefighters using a giant ladder. She managed to save a plastic bag of clothes.

Kyzeytsova is said to have once sympathized with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who made much of his belief that Ukrainians and Russians really are one people.

But what happened to her city was beyond comprehension. After all, she said, “together we are one great Slavic nation”.

Now she said: “Putin must be held accountable for his crimes”, adding: “[US president Joe] Biden must help Ukraine and crush him, thank you very much!”


This post Body bags, burning buildings and budget cuts for soldiers: how Kiev survives was original published at “https://www.ft.com/content/4cd718fe-92ef-438b-aec2-d00029a0bb8d”

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