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 and protected key parts of our economic infrastructure,” defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a tweet.
“Every day of military success brings our victory closer.” 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,” said 60-year-old local resident Halyna.
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.
“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,” said Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal 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.
Belarus summoned Ukraine’s ambassador after saying that it had shot down a Ukrainian air defence missile over its territory, the Belarus foreign ministry said.