MYKOLAIV, Ukraine — A day after Ukrainian forces pushed them back beyond the city limits, Russian troops unleashed a ferocious artillery attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Monday, hitting residential neighborhoods with rockets and sending streams of people fleeing.
At about 5 a.m., the city awoke to an artillery barrage that lit up the dark sky. Residents took shelter in basements and truckloads of Ukrainian troops rushed to the east of the city, where the fighting appeared to be heaviest.
Several rockets landed in a neighborhood of dense apartment blocks in the far east of the city, blowing out windows and sending shrapnel through walls and home appliances. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
But residents were both shaken and spiteful, invoking the name of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, with a torrent of profanity.
“Tell Putin that he is killing peaceful people,” Olga Kololyova, 48, said through sobs as she stood in the kitchen of her broken home. The glass had been blown out of her front window and her front door had been destroyed. She said she hid in her bathroom as the rockets rained down.
“He thinks that we are to submit to him?” she said. “I want him to go through what I went through this morning.”
Viktor Voroboi had just returned to his bed after an early-morning cigarette on his balcony when a rocket hit outside, blowing out the balcony glass and showering him with debris. A day earlier he had moved his mother into his apartment after her own neighborhood was bombed in an earlier attack. Neither of them suffered injuries on Monday.
“I was lucky, it means an angel is protecting me,” he said, his voice still shaking.
Residents of an apartment block sheltered in a basement that normally serves as a gym, and the sound of artillery fire shook the walls. Margarita Andreyeva accused Russia of tarnishing what she described as a sacred victory over the Nazis in World War II, in which Ukrainians and Russians fought together.
“And now Germany is giving us weapons to defend ourselves from the Russians,” she said. “This is absurd. What would our grandfathers think?”
The scope of the battle was not yet clear. Mykolaiv has emerged as a key battleground in Russia’s effort to capture Ukraine’s southern coast, which would cut off the country’s access to the Black Sea. By noon on Monday, the soundtrack of incoming and outgoing artillery fire around the city had reached high volume.
Just over 24 hours earlier, officials had triumphantly declared that Ukrainian forces recaptured the city’s airport and pushed Russian forces from the city. On Monday, the Russians appeared to be mounting a counterattack. The governor of the Mykolaiv region, Vitaliy Kim, posted a video saying the Russians — he referred to them using an obscenity — had attacked the airport and that Ukrainian forces were fighting them there.
Reached on WhatsApp at the front line on Monday morning, Colonel Sviatoslav Stetsenko from the Ukrainian Army’s 59th Brigade said that Ukrainian forces were holding back Russian forces with their artillery.
“The best way to preserve yourself is to destroy the enemy who attacks you,” he said.