KYIV: Russia launched an air attack on Kyiv early Thursday, killing at least three people including two children and bringing fresh terror to the city after a week of strikes.

Moscow’s forces have launched a series of aerial assaults on the Ukrainian capital, including an unusual daytime attack on Monday that sent residents running for shelter.

Thursday’s attack, which began around 3:00 am local time (0000 GMT), killed two children and injured 10 people, officials said.

“Among the three dead in the Desnyansky district, there were two children (aged 5-6 and 12-13),“ the Kyiv City Military Administration wrote on Telegram.

Russia said on Wednesday it was evacuating hundreds of children from villages due to intensifying shelling in the border region of Belgorod, where the situation was deemed “alarming” by the Kremlin.

More than a year since its Ukraine invasion, Russia has suffered stepped-up attacks on its soil, with an unprecedented incursion last week in Belgorod and a drone attack on Moscow Tuesday.

Authorities began evacuating children from the border districts of Shebekino and Graivoron, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram.

“The question of children’s safety in the two districts... is very important,“ Gladkov said. “All of us, adults, are very worried.”

Tensions between Russia and the West escalated further Wednesday, when Germany announced it would drastically reduce Moscow’s diplomatic presence on its soil in reply to a similar move from the Kremlin.

Moscow called Germany’s decision “ill-thought-out” and vowed a response.

And in the United States, the Pentagon announced a new $300 million arms package for Ukraine, including air defence systems and tens of millions of rounds of ammunition.

- ‘Alarming situation’ -

Governor Gladkov said the first 300 evacuated children would be taken to Voronezh, a city about 250 kilometres (155 miles) further into Russia. And over 1,000 more children will be removed to other provinces over the coming days, he added.

A correspondent for state-run agency RIA Novosti near Voronezh said buses had arrived with around 150 people on board.

Gladkov said the situation was worsening in the village of Shebekino, where he reported more shelling during the day that injured four people, but didn’t cause any deaths.

On Tuesday, one person was killed and two others were wounded in a strike on a centre for displaced people in the region. Several oil depots have also been hit in recent weeks.

The attacks have come as Kyiv says it is preparing for a major offensive against Moscow’s forces.

“The situation is quite alarming,“ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said about shelling in the region.

“We have not heard a single word of condemnation from the West so far,“ Peskov said.

- Moscow drone attack -

The Kremlin has accused Ukraine -- and its Western backers -- of being behind the increasing number of reported attacks.

On Tuesday, the foreign ministry said the West was “pushing the Ukrainian leadership towards increasingly reckless acts” after a drone attack on residential areas in Moscow.

At least three buildings were lightly damaged, including two high-rise residential buildings in Moscow’s affluent southwest.

Ukraine, which has seen almost nightly attacks on its capital, denied any “direct involvement”.

The United States said it did not support any attack inside Russia, instead providing Kyiv with equipment and training to reclaim its territory.

The Defense Department said Wednesday the fresh aid shipments would bring the total value of US security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s February 2022 invasion to $37.6 billion.

Also Wednesday, Berlin said it had ordered four of Russia’s five consulates in Germany to close.

The move comes after Moscow put a limit of 350 on the number of German government personnel allowed in Russia, a decision that Berlin says will force hundreds of civil servants and local employees to the leave the country.

- Fatalism in Belgorod -

Last week saw the biggest armed incursion into Russia from Ukraine since the offensive began, with two days of fighting in the Belgorod region.

AFP journalists went to the regional capital city, which is also called Belgorod, over the weekend.

Residents confessed to a certain amount of worry, but a sense of fatalism prevailed.

“What can we do? We just shout ‘Oh! and ‘Ah!’. What will that change?” said retired teacher, 84-year-old Rimma Malieva.

Most people AFP spoke to said they trusted the authorities to fix the weaknesses laid bare by the latest raid.

Evgeny Sheikin, a 41-year-old builder, still said “it should not have happened”.

At least five people were killed and 19 wounded in a nighttime bombardment in Ukraine’s Lugansk region, Russia-installed officials said Wednesday.

The Russian army also said it destroyed a Ukrainian navy warship, the Yuri Olefirenko, in Odesa, a claim AFP could not independently confirm. -AFP