Russia fired scores of missiles into Ukraine early on Thursday, targeting Kyiv and other cities including Lviv in the west and Odesa in the southwest, sending people rushing to shelters and knocking out power in one of Moscow’s largest aerial assaults.
“Senseless barbarism. These are the only words that come to mind seeing Russia launch another missile barrage at peaceful Ukrainian cities ahead of New Year,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
Ukraine’s military said it had shot down 54 missiles out of 69 launched by Russia. Air-raid sirens rang out across Ukraine – for five hours in Kyiv.
“The downing of 54 missiles saved the lives of dozens of people & protected key parts of our economic infrastructure,” Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a tweet. “Every day of military success brings our victory closer.”
Officials had earlier said more than 120 missiles were fired during the assault.
Reuters footage showed a team of emergency workers poring through the smouldering wreckage of residential houses in Kyiv destroyed by a blast and smoke trails of missiles in the sky.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, firefighters worked to extinguish a large blaze at an electricity station. In the southern central city of Zaporizhzhia, houses were damaged and a missile left a huge crater.
“I woke up to everything shaking, crumbling. I got up and screamed, ‘Vitia, Vitia [my husband], where are you?’ I ran barefoot on glass. He appeared and glass was falling off him,” 60-year-old local resident Halyna said.
Ukraine’s military said Russia had launched air and sea-based cruise missiles, anti-aircraft guided missiles and S-300 ADMs at energy infrastructure facilities in eastern, central, western and southern regions. The attacks followed an overnight assault by “kamikaze” drones.
Waves of Russian air strikes in recent months targeting energy infrastructure have left millions without power and heating in often-freezing temperatures.
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“The enemy placed a high stake on this attack, preparing for it for two weeks. Ukrainian air defence forces demonstrated an incredible level of skill and efficiency,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on the Telegram messaging app.
“At the same time, there were hits and damage, in particular to energy facilities. In some areas, emergency shutdowns may be applied to avoid accidents in the networks. Our power engineers are already working to repair everything,” he added.
Kyiv authorities said two private houses in Darnytskyi district were damaged by the fragments of downed missiles, and a business and a playground were also damaged. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said 16 missiles were shot down and three people injured in the attacks.
The mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, said on Telegram that 90 per cent of his city near the Polish border was without electricity. The missiles damaged an energy infrastructure unit.
In the Odesa region, the fragments of one missile hit a residential building, though no casualties were reported, its governor Maksym Marchenko said.
Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians, but Ukraine says its daily bombardment is destroying cities, towns, and the country’s power, medical and other infrastructure.
For months Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Western countries for further air-defence help.
Belarus protested to Ukraine’s ambassador after saying it had downed a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile. TV footage released by Belarus’s state-run BelTA news agency showed what looked like missile debris lying in a field.
In Russia, a regional governor said air defences had shot down a drone near the Engels air force base, hundreds of kilometres from the front lines in Ukraine and home to long-range strategic bombers. Russia says Ukraine has already tried to attack the base twice this month.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what President Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize its neighbour. Kyiv and its Western allies have denounced Russia’s actions as an imperialist-style land grab.
Sweeping sanctions have been imposed on Russia for the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, left cities in ruins and shaken the global economy, driving up energy and food prices.
There is still no prospect of talks to end the war.
Mr. Zelensky is vigorously pushing a 10-point peace plan that envisages Russia respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and pulling out all of its troops.
But Moscow dismissed it on Wednesday, reiterating that Kyiv must accept Russia’s annexation of four regions – Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south. It also says Ukraine must accept the loss of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Mr. Zelensky’s idea of driving Russia out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea with Western help and getting Moscow to pay damages is an “illusion,” the RIA news agency reported.