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Missiles hit apartments in Ukraine city, as Putin mobilizes

KHARKIV, Ukraine, September 22 ------ Residents of Ukraine's second city Kharkiv found themselves under bombardment again as Russian missiles struck apartment blocks and a railway yard.

The salvo will spur fears that Moscow's forces, having been driven back from the city limits, are targeting homes and key infrastructure to hurt civilian morale. "Our area was relatively quiet, and now you see what happened," Lyubov Grygorivna, 65, told AFP outside a badly damaged housing block. Kharkiv, a major hub in the northeast just 40 kilometers (24 miles) south of the Russian border, was attacked on the first day of the invasion, but its Ukrainian defenders held on to the city.

In recent weeks, it has been spared from more intense bombardments as a Ukrainian counter-offensive swept Russian land forces from the region. Russia can, however, still launch missiles from its own territory. Approaching retirement after 45 years working in the neighborhood municipal services, Grygorivna was loudly directing clean-up crews clawing through rubble. "The war is a disaster. It's terrifying. It's painful ... It's miserable. How can you stand things like this?" she asked. "So many have lost their homes and winter is coming. It's terrible. Every night we go to bed scared. But we keep on working. They shoot and we work," she added.

The mayor of Kharkiv, Igor Terekhov, said four projectiles had struck the Kholodnohirskyi district overnight, hitting two housing blocks, a building site and some civil infrastructure. At the railway freight marshalling yard, site manager Oleksandr Brykov confirmed that a missile had hit freight cars and a section of track, the first major strike on the cargo network since April. Nearby, two freight cars lay ripped apart and a huge crater was visible under buckled rails and discarded wheel springs. In one residential block, 10 residents were trapped until rescuers could arrive, but officials spoke of only one wounded. Air raid sirens continued through the day, mingling with bells from the gilded domes of the Saint Sofia Church, where Orthodox worshippers gathered to mark the nativity of the Virgin Mary.

Lyubov Prokopivna, an 85-year-old retiree, surveyed the wreckage in her apartment on the upper floor of the nine-story Slavi 11 block of modest privately owned flats in the Zalintyne neighborhood. She had been staying at her son's house at 2:00 am when the missile hit. "I usually sleep in the bedroom. All the windows were broken, the TV, everything is a mess. If I had been here, I wouldn't have survived," she said. Anna Verbytska, 41, was asleep with her husband on a lower level. Her family were unharmed, but the windows blew in and the water is now cut off. She swept up the glass quietly, as 12-year-old daughter Sofia slept on the sofa, exhausted after a night caring for Tasya the cat. "The heating system is damaged, and winter is coming. The car was damaged too," she said, as four burly neighbors carried a stunned elderly lady down the dusty staircase in a blanket.

The renewed bombardment of their homes was a bitter blow for many Ukrainians, coming as Russian President Vladimir Putin mobilized reservists in a bid to seize back the initiative in the conflict. "I ask all the Russians, may God give them the wisdom to escape, to ignore the mobilization, to leave... to wake up finally, but not to come fight us," said 63-year-old Svitlana. "You see? They kill civilians. There's nothing here except gardens and civilian homes. I'm turning to you, the international community, close the sky above Kharkiv. Don't let Putin destroy us," she said. Another local resident, Galyna, 50, said she "can't understand the people he is calling on to fight us". "We are protecting our homeland. This is Ukraine and they are fighting a war... for what? Against who?" she said. "They want to liberate us from what? From our homes? From our relatives? From friends? What else? From life... they want to free us from being alive."


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