Putin marks national poet’s birthday with bouquet of bombs

The Russians love dates, it is often said nowadays. It refers to days they pick to carry out their large-scale attacks against Ukrainian cities. And what better day to express Kremlin sentiments towards Ukrainian nationhood than March 9, the birthday of national poet Taras Shevchenko?

But instead of laying flowers on the great bard’s grave, Moscow delivered an explosive bouquet of more than 80 missiles on civilians as they slept.

At least five were killed in the Lviv region alone. Several other districts had their critical infrastructure knocked out.

In Kyiv, I awoke to a deafening bang at the crack of dawn, but thought it was the trash collectors dropping a dumpster. It had been quiet here for almost a month. The long dark nights spent shivering in a light-less flat have become memories of a winter now passed.

The day before, March 8, was International Women’s Day, one of the few holidays stubbornly observed throughout more than a year of all-out war.

Like almost every other man, I was out shopping for flowers for all the ladies in my life: the wife, my daughter’s catechism teacher and even the woman who cuts my hair. The day also unofficially welcomes the start of spring and hope for renewed life – a thing Moscow would naturally want to put a dampener on.

Shards of one missile hit a densely populated area in Kyiv’s north, incinerating half a dozen cars. Pensioner Valery says impassively of his car: “It wasn’t even insured.”

Nearby, a children’s playground has escaped damage.

The windows of some blasted flats remain intact, held together by masking tape in the shape of an “X” – a precaution widely practised when miles of Russian tanks were parked outside the city’s northern perimeter.

Valery remained in his home, even as the neighbourhood took arguably the city’s worst shelling at that time. “What is one to do?” he remarks, before turning and heading for his damaged building.

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