Aftermath of a Russian missile attack in Kyiv
The view shows a local clinic, which was heavily damaged during a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 1, 2023. Kyiv City Military Administration/Handout via REUTERS Reuters

A nine-year-old girl, her mother and another woman were killed in a Russian missile strike on Kyiv on Thursday after the air raid shelter they rushed to failed to open, witnesses said.

Police opened a criminal investigation into the three deaths near a medical clinic in the Desnyanskyi district of Kyiv after the 18th attack on the capital since the start of May.

"Three people, one of them a child, died near the clinic last night," Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said. "A rocket fragment fell near the entrance to the clinic four minutes after the air alert was announced. And people headed for the shelter."

Local residents said people were unable to enter the shelter because it was closed. It was not clear why.

"The air alert sounded. My wife took our daughter and they ran to the entrance here," local resident Yaroslav Ryabchuk told Reuters in the Desnyanskyi district. "The entrance was closed, there were already maybe five to 10 women with children. No one opened up for them. They knocked loudly enough."

"They tried to enter the shelter, no one opened up for them. My wife died," he said.

The case caused a public outcry and prompted calls for residents to check shelters and report any safety violations. Local media said prosecutors later searched city administration offices as part of the investigation into the deaths.

At a makeshift memorial for the girl, another parent who was woken by the night-time attacks spoke of her terror.

"I grabbed my child and ran into the corridor because I didn't have any other options. We sat there the whole time, there were a few more explosions," said 25-year-old Oleksandra, visiting the memorial with her five-year-old son Hryhoriy.

"My child got really scared, he sat in the corner of our corridor. He cried, saying that we're all gonna die. I was terrified to hear this from him. It was terrible."

Russia has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes though its air strikes have caused devastation in cities across Ukraine since the full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

Ukraine reported no major damage from Thursday's attack on Kyiv, saying it has shot down all 10 missiles fired at it. But, in a statement on International Children's Day, U.N. human rights monitors in Ukraine said 525 children had been killed since Russia's full-scale invasion.

(Additional repotring by Yurii Khomenko; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Ros Russell)