Dozens of Russian missiles were fired at Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities on Thursday in what officials described as one of the biggest daily barrages in a month-long campaign targeting the country’s energy infrastructure.
“Russia continues to use its missile terror against peaceful Ukrainian citizens,” General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said in a post on Twitter. “This morning . . . a total of 69 missiles were launched. 54 cruise missiles were shot down by means of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” he added.
Colonel Yuriy Ignat, spokesman for Ukraine’s air force, told the Financial Times that in addition to missiles, Russia fired at least 11 suicide drones into Ukraine early Thursday.
The number of casualties and the extent of the nationwide damage, nearly a year after Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, was not immediately clear.
The Ukrainian Air Force Command said in a statement that “after the night attack by suicide drones, the enemy is attacking Ukraine from various directions with air and sea cruise missiles from aircraft and strategic ships”.
Local officials in two Russian border regions said anti-aircraft defenses shot down Ukrainian targets, including drones. The apparent attacks suggested Ukraine was continuing to attack Russian territory after a series of recent strikes on airbases deep behind enemy lines, including two hits on Engels airbase.
In neighboring Belarus, which allowed its ally Russia to use the country as a launching pad for attacks without joining the war itself, officials claimed to have shot down a stray Ukrainian air defense missile. The Belarusian foreign ministry said it had summoned the Ukrainian ambassador and warned him of “disastrous consequences for everyone” if any more missiles landed in the country.
In a video released by state news agency Belta, Anatoly Konovalov, military commander of the western Brest region where the Soviet-era S300 missile is believed to have fallen, said “residents have nothing to fear “. He compared the incident to a similar incident last month when a stray Ukrainian anti-aircraft strike landed in Poland, killing two people, as Kyiv tried to repel a Russian barrage of similar intensity to Thursday’s strikes.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it was ready for an “objective investigation” into the incident.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Zelenskyy’s administration, in a Telegram channel post that included photographs of the destruction, said three people were injured, including a 14-year-old girl, after a missile landed in a residential area in the eastern district of Darnytsky. Kyiv. Tymoshenko also posted a photograph of a Russian missile that landed in a house in Ivano-Frankivsk, a provincial capital in western Ukraine, but did not explode.
Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said there had been “several explosions in the capital”. He urged residents to charge their phones and stock up on water as “there may be power outages”.
Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv, the largest provincial capital in western Ukraine where explosions were also heard, said “90% of the city is without electricity”, adding that the water supply could be disturbed.
Explosions were reported in many Ukrainian cities, some close to the front line, including Odessa on the Black Sea and Kharkiv, the largest city in eastern Ukraine.
Russian missile and suicide drone strikes on Ukraine’s power grid and heating infrastructure have triggered power and heating outages lasting hours and days in recent months. Moscow launched the campaign this fall after counteroffensives pushed Russian forces back from large swathes of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Moscow still holds nearly 20 percent of Ukrainian territory.
Klitschko said the Air Force shot down 16 missiles over the capital.
Thursday’s attack comes days after US President Joe Biden said he had approved the supply of a battery of Patriot missiles for Kyiv to be delivered in the coming months. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has for months pleaded for the United States and European countries to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, which rely primarily on depleting Soviet-era equipment, with air defense systems more sophisticated.
Kyiv received a handful of medium-range systems, including an Iris-T from Germany, Nasams from the United States and Norway, and Hawks from Spain.
After Thursday’s attacks, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Zelenskyy administration, criticized Western leaders who had urged Kyiv to start peace talks, adding that the strikes showed that Russia was not, despite recent calls Putin’s public talks, interested in peace more than 10 months after launching his full-scale invasion.
“We expect further proposals from the ‘peacekeeping forces’ on ‘peaceful settlement’, ‘security guarantees for the Russian Federation and the undesirability of provocations’,” Podolyak added.
Additional reporting by Max Seddon in Riga