Russia launched its biggest attack on Ukrainian cities in more than a month Thursday morning, firing two massive barrages of cruise missiles while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continued a visit to North America to bolster support for his besieged country.
Ten Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers launched a total of 43 Kinzhal cruise missiles at six Ukrainian cities. The Ukrainian Air Force said it destroyed 36 of the missiles before they reached their targets.
Mr. Zelensky, who on Wednesday called for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “criminal” regime to be stripped of its veto power at the United Nations Security Council, visited Washington Thursday for meetings with members of Congress and U.S. President Joe Biden, who pledged to continue military support for Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.
He is expected to address the House of Commons in Ottawa Friday. He will then head to Toronto for an evening reception with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of Canada’s vast Ukrainian diaspora.
At least six people were killed and more than 20 were injured in the wave of attacks, which also included ground-launched S-300 ballistic missiles fired at the eastern city of Kharkiv. Badly damaged targets reportedly included a hotel in the central Cherkasy region, where people were feared to be trapped under the rubble, and industrial buildings in Kyiv, Kharkiv and the western city of Lviv.
Seven people were injured in Kyiv when debris from a missile that had been shot out of the sky fell onto a gas station and the yard of a vocational school. Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said a nine-year-old girl was among the wounded.
The attacks knocked out power in five areas of the country, including part of the Kyiv region, recalling how Russia ramped up attacks on Ukraine’s electricity and heating infrastructure ahead of the onset of winter a year ago. “Russian terrorists struck another massive blow. In particular, on infrastructure. Most of the missiles were shot down. But only the majority. Not all,” Mr. Zelensky posted on his Telegram channel.
His trip to Ottawa is also expected to involve additional announcements of Canadian military assistance. Mr. Trudeau announced $500-million in new military aid when he visited Kyiv in July, $33-million of which has been allocated to a British-led effort to purchase more air defence equipment for Ukraine.
Russian missiles pounded cities across Ukraine early Thursday morning, starting fires, killing at least two people and trapping others under rubble. The early morning missile attack was Russia’s largest in more than a month, and came a day after reports of sabotage at a Russian military airfield in Chkalovsk near Moscow.
The Associated Press
Russia’s Ministry of Defence, meanwhile, said it destroyed 19 Ukrainian drones over the occupied Crimean Peninsula and three more over western Russia Thursday morning.
Ukraine’s SBU security service, however, said it had successfully hit and caused “serious damage” to the Saky air base in Crimea. Neither side’s claim could be independently verified, but recent Ukrainian drone attacks on Crimea have knocked at least one attack submarine and a Ropucha-class landing ship out of action, while also badly damaging a ship-repair yard.
The exchange of blows came just hours after Mr. Zelensky addressed the UN Security Council in New York – sitting at the same table as a Russian official for the first time since Mr. Putin launched his invasion almost 19 months ago – and said the Security Council’s structure was part of the problem.
“Veto power in the hands of the aggressor is what has pushed the UN into a deadlock,” he said, as Russia’s UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya made a show of ignoring him by looking at his smartphone. “It is impossible to stop the war because all efforts are vetoed by the aggressor or those who condone the aggressor,” Mr. Zelensky continued.
The Ukrainian President’s efforts to rally international support suffered a major setback Wednesday when Poland – which has been one of his country’s staunchest backers – said it would stop sending weapons to Ukraine amid an escalating dispute over Ukrainian grain exports.
The Polish government, which has provided Ukraine with 320 Soviet-era tanks and 14 MiG-29 fighter jets since the war began, said it now has little more to offer. “We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, adding that the move would not affect the supply of weapons from the U.S. and other NATO allies that flows into Ukraine via the southern Polish city of Rzeszów.
On Tuesday, Ukraine said it was taking Poland, Hungary and Slovakia to the World Trade Organization over their bans on the import of Ukrainian grain, which is cheaper than domestically produced equivalents in those countries. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest producers and has been forced to export more of its grain overland owing to a Russian naval blockade of its traditional Black Sea routes.
Poland – where the ruling Law and Justice party is seen to be courting farmers’ votes ahead of an Oct. 15 election – promptly summoned the Ukrainian ambassador after Mr. Zelensky accused some of his country’s allies of “political theatre – making a thriller from grain.”