More than four months into Russia’s invasion, the wail of air raid sirens warning of an incoming strike has become, to some Ukrainians, a kind of background noise: irritating, alarming, but also possible to ignore.
A series of deadly missile attacks by Russian forces in recent days that have hit civilian targets, however, has changed the calculus, sending Ukraine’s leaders scrambling to reinforce the message that adherence to the advisory to seek shelter saves lives.
“I’m begging you, once again: Please don’t ignore the air alert signals,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in a national address this weekend. “Appropriate rules of conduct must be followed at all times.”
Many people in Ukraine still lack access to bomb shelters. In Kharkiv, the nation’s second-biggest city, officials have said they do not plan to reopen schools in the fall, partly because not all schools have them. In Lviv, the western Ukrainian city near the Polish border where hundreds of thousands of displaced Ukrainians have settled, all new buildings must include bomb shelters.
But many Ukrainians in bigger cities have become not just complacent about the danger but too weary of war to worry about the threat of attacks.
On Saturday evening in Kharkiv, where there are Russian artillery strikes almost every night, young people at a popular bar drank at outdoor tables and listened to live music.
“My neighbors go to the basement; older people go, but young people don’t,” said one of the patrons, Maryna Zviagintseva, 28.
“I think in the first month everyone was afraid and they would go down into the metro or somewhere,” said Vladyslav Andriienko, 29, a construction worker. “Now people try to live a normal life.”
In the most deadly strike in the past week, three Kalibr cruise missiles fired from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea hit the center of the provincial capital of Vinnytsia, killing 23 people and wounding 140 others. The dead in the strike on Thursday included Liza Dmytriyeva, a 4-year-old with Down syndrome, and two other children.
The next day, at least 10 Russian missiles slammed into the southern city of Mykolaiv, hitting two universities, a hotel and a mall. Later on Friday, three people were killed and 16 others were wounded when at least one missile struck a target in Dnipro, in central Ukraine.
Anti-aircraft batteries shot down one missile over the Kyiv region in northern Ukraine on Friday and four others in Dnipro, Ukrainian military authorities said.
And on Saturday, a Russian rocket hit a warehouse in the Odesa region, causing a fire, according to a spokesman for the regional military administration, Serhii Bratchuk. He said that there were no casualties because the security guards retreated to a shelter as soon as they heard the siren.
A senior U.S. military official said on Friday that between 100 and 150 civilians may have been killed in Russian strikes in Ukraine that week. Moscow denies that it targets civilians in what it says is a limited military action in Ukraine aimed at ridding the country of Nazis.
Ukrainian officials, however, say the strikes are primarily aimed at spreading terror and form part of a genocidal campaign by President Vladimir V. Putin and his military.
“This is the extermination of Ukrainians as a nation,” said Oleksandr Motuzianyk, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman, on television on Friday. “This is an attempt to break the spirit of Ukrainians and reduce the level of their resistance.”
Moscow’s recent military gains, particularly in Luhansk Province in the eastern Donbas region, flow largely from the superiority of its artillery, but an influx of weapons from the United States and other countries is starting to redress that balance. Mr. Zelensky said that the situation partly explains the increase in recent strikes.
“The occupiers realize that we are gradually becoming stronger,” he said. “The goal of their terror is very simple: to put pressure on you and me, on our society, to intimidate people, to cause as much as possible damage to Ukrainian cities, while Russian terrorists are still able.”