It has been exactly 125 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. Facing a barrage of heavy artillery, Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv has borne the brunt of the attacks and on Tuesday, its central city stadium, also known as Stadion Tsentralnyi was struck by a missile.
“On June 28, Mykolayiv and its suburbs came under massive missile attack launched from Bastion coastal missile system located in occupied Kherson region,” the press service of the Mykolayiv Regional State Administration posted on Facebook.
Ukraine’s air defense systems could intercept 3 out of 8 missiles on the day; but the rest hit various targets in Mykolaiv including a military station, and the stadium, leaving a 15-meter wide and 5-meter deep crater. The Central City Stadium which was built in 1965, has a capacity of 16,700 and is the home stadium of the football club MFK Mykolaiv (one of the oldest football clubs in Ukraine).
As per preliminary information, there were no casualties reported from the stadia but citizens of the country expressed anger and dismay at the development.
Ruslan Malinovskyi, a Ukrainian professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Italian Serie A club Atalanta and the Ukraine national team, shared a photo of the stadium and expressed his shock. Anton Gerashchenko, the advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, wrote: “This used to be a lawn at the main stadium in Mykolaiv. Now it’s a crater. Just imagine what kind of rockets Russians hit the city with.”
“The central stadium of Mykolaiv at dawn was subjected to a missile strike by Russian troops. Not a strategic, but a civilian site. Thank God that it was so early that no one was there for a morning jog at the stadium,” Serhiy Leshchenko, advisor of President Zelensky’s chief of staff, wrote on social media.
“Another attack against civilians and another reason to declare Russia as the sponsor of terrorism,” he added.
The official Twitter account of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine also wrote a heartfelt message: “To football fans all over the world – first we will win the war, then we will bring back the football to our cities.”
Oleksandr Senkevych, Mayor of Mykolaiv spoke to Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda and confirmed the development and said, “Russian troops fired 8 missiles at Mykolaiv on the morning of 28 June, damaging the abandoned base of the 79th brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the city’s central stadium.”
According to the Mayor, one missile fell on the recently repaired city stadium, forming a funnel 5 meters deep and 15 meters wide. Last year it was fully renovated with new furniture, technical equipment, computers and a new field with underfloor heating. All of it has been destroyed.
“We constructed a brand-new heated field – the missile hit it, right in the stadium bowl, leaving behind a crater 15 m wide and 5 m deep,” added Senkevych.
Will the stadium be rebuilt again? “Yes of course,” emphasised Mayor Senkevych.
28 June 2022 from five in the morning struck a missile strike to Mykolaiv. 3 missiles were shot down by air defense. One of the missiles hit the central stadium.
Notably, the football field was not the only sports infrastructure that was damaged. Last Friday, Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute’s sports complex was hit by multiple Russian cruise missiles, with no casualties reported.
The sports complex of NTU “KhPI” is situated in the Kharkiv Youth’s park. It was built between 1985-1991 and has 14 gyms, two swimming pools, including a 50-meter one, and special grounds to practice various games including table tennis, gymnastics, and aerobics among others.
While the availability of such a complex gives an opportunity for students and university staff to be active in sports, the destruction of the facility is indeed a sad outcome.