Return to Ukraine: This feature is part of an original Milwaukee Independent editorial series that recorded news from areas across Ukraine, including Milwaukee's sister city of Irpin, from June to July of 2023. It was the second time in the span of a year that the award-winning Wisconsin news organization traveled to the country during the war. The purpose of this journalism project was to document a humanitarian aid mission by the Milwaukee-based nonprofit, Friends of Be an Angel, and report about conditions 17 months after Russia's brutal full-scale invasion.

Russia fired cruise missiles on July 6 at a western Ukraine city far from the front line of the war, killing at least five people in an apartment building in what officials said was the heaviest attack on civilian areas of Lviv since the Kremlin’s forces invaded the country last year.

Emergency crews with search dogs went through the rubble of the building after the nighttime attack destroyed the roof and the top two floors. At least 36 people were injured, according to authorities.

The youngest of the five people who died was 21 years old and the oldest was a woman of 95, Lviv province Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi said. “This woman survived the Second World War, but unfortunately she didn’t survive” Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kozytskyi said.

Debris and wrecked parked cars lined the street outside the building, which overlooks a small neighborhood park with swings and other playground equipment.

The last victim was pulled from the wreckage hours after the attack, and seven survivors were rescued, the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs said. About 180 people received psychological support following the attack.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said around 60 apartments and 50 cars in the area of strike were damaged. He announced two days of official mourning.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink described the attack as “vicious.”

“Russia’s repeated attacks on civilians are absolutely horrifying,” she tweeted.

Ukraine’s air force reported it intercepted seven of the 10 Kalibr cruise missiles that Russia fired from the Black Sea toward the Lviv region and its namesake city — more than 500 miles away — around 1 a.m. on July 6.

Milwaukee Independent’s senior photojournalist Lee Matz had been reporting from Lviv in mid-June, and was based in the area of the city where the strike hit. Lviv is a major transportation hub in western Ukraine, and a primary route to cross the border into Poland. During World War II the region had been part of Poland.

After touring urgent supply sites and medical facilities in Lviv, Matz traveled to report from cities in eastern Ukraine from late June to early July. The humanitarian team from Milwaukee that Matz was embedded with planned to return to the same area in Lviv for July 4 and 5, in preparation for leaving Ukraine. Instead, logistical developments directed the team further north to cross the Polish border.

Matz was safely in Krakow by the time of the missile attack, but said he was no less unsettled from traveling in so many areas that were targets of Russian war crimes.

The Kremlin’s forces have repeatedly hit civilian areas since the start of its full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022. Lviv is more than 300 miles from the front lines of the war in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Kyiv’s counteroffensive to dislodge Russian forces is in its early stages.

Mayor Sadovyi addressed residents in a video message, saying the attack was the largest on Lviv’s civilian infrastructure since the beginning of last year’s invasion.

Lviv resident Ganna Fedorenko suffered injuries to her face, where an adhesive plaster on her cheek had turned red with blood. She held her hands crossed on her chest as she reacted to the attack.

“Russians are hitting us. That’s how they love us. I’m sorry for those people who were killed. They were young. So sorry for them,” she said. “This is terrible. They hit civilians.”

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said 64 people had to leave their homes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised “a response to the enemy. A tangible one.”

He went later on an official trip to Bulgaria at the invitation of its new pro-Western government, with talks about weapon supplies and Ukraine’s NATO membership on the agenda.

Ukrainian air force updates about the missiles’ course during the night showed they flew to the Kyiv region first, then turned west toward Lviv. Russia often changes the route of their missiles and drones to find weak spots in Ukraine’s air defenses.

In the early days of the war, Lviv served as a main transit point for millions of refugees from different parts of the country that crossed the border to Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from the east and south remained in the calmer and safer Lviv area.

Like the rest of the country, Lviv suffered power outages when Russia fired hundreds missiles over the winter, aiming to destroy Ukraine’s energy system. However, the attacks in the city were not as frequent as in the capital Kyiv, and the July 6 strike was a deep shock for many in the city.

Ukrainians shared messages of support on social media for Lviv residents.

Series: Return to Ukraine

Mstyslav Chernov and MI Staff

Mykola Tys (AP) and Mstyslav Chernov (AP)

Milwaukee Independent has reported on Russia’s brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine since it began on February 24, 2022. In May of 2022, Milwaukee Independent was the first news organization from Wisconsin to report from Milwaukee’s Sister City of Irpin after its liberation. That work has since been recognized with several awards for journalistic excellence. Between late June and early July of 2023, Milwaukee Independent staff returned to Ukraine for a second assignment to report on war after almost a year. The editorial team was embedded with a Milwaukee-based nonprofit, Friends of Be an Angel, on a humanitarian aid mission across Ukraine. For several weeks, Milwaukee Independent documented the delivery of medical supplies to military and civilian hospitals, and was a witness to historic events of the war as they unfolded.

Return to Ukraine: Reports about a humanitarian mission from Milwaukee after a year of war