Concerns around civilian safety spiked in Ukraine on Saturday, as officials announced that an inspection had found nearly a quarter of the country’s air-raid shelters locked or unusable, just days after a woman in Kyiv reportedly died waiting outside a shuttered shelter during a Russian missile barrage.

The Ukrainian interior ministry said through its media service Saturday that of the “over 4,800” shelters it had inspected, 252 were locked and a further 893 were found “unfit for use.”

That same day, the Kyiv regional prosecutor’s office reported that four people had been detained in a criminal probe into the 33-year-old woman’s death on Thursday outside the locked shelter.

The prosecutor’s office said that one person, a security guard who had failed to unlock the doors, remained under arrest, while three others, including a local official, had been put under house arrest.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the suspects face up to eight years in prison for official negligence leading to a person’s death.

Also Saturday, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that city authorities have received “more than a thousand” complaints regarding locked, dilapidated or insufficient air-raid shelters within a day of launching an online feedback service.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko and others take cover inside a shelter during an air-raid alert.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is seen inside a shelter during an air-raid alert on Thursday. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

In an update on the Telegram messaging service, Klitschko reported that “almost half” of the complaints concerned facilities being locked, while about a quarter had to do with the shelters being in poor condition.

Some 250 Kyiv residents wrote in to complain of a lack of nearby shelters. The interior ministry said that over 5,300 volunteers, including emergency workers, police officers and local officials, would continue to inspect shelters across Ukraine.

More civilians killed

Russia on Thursday launched a pre-dawn missile barrage at the Ukrainian capital, killing a nine-year old, her mother, and another woman, in what was the highest toll from a single attack on Kyiv over the past month.

The husband of the 33-year-old woman who died told Ukrainian media the fact that the shelter was locked meant his wife and others were left at the mercy of falling missile fragments.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian regional officials reported Saturday morning that Russian shelling had killed at least four civilians across the country in the previous 24 hours.

A Ukrainian military helicopter is seen flying in the northern part of the country.
A Ukrainian military helicopter is seen flying in the northern part of the country earlier this week. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

A 67-year-old man died in the early hours of Saturday as Russian forces shelled the northeastern Kharkiv region from mortars, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram.

According to Syniehubov, two other civilians were killed on Friday and overnight, while six more, including a three-year-old boy, were wounded.

In the frontline Kherson region in the south, two boys aged 10 and 13 were hospitalized with “serious” injuries after an explosive device detonated Saturday in a village playground, regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin reported.

He said five others, including two children, were wounded by Russian shelling over the previous day.

In the Sumy province further west, a Russian mortar shell killed an 85-year-old man as he sat by the orchard outside his house, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office reported Saturday.

Shelling also killed two people in Russia’s Belgorod region just across the border, including an elderly woman who died on the spot, according to local Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov, who also said another woman had been hospitalized with injuries, and blamed Ukraine for the attack.

It was not immediately possible to verify the claims by regional authorities in Ukraine and Russia.

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