Eighteen dead in one of Russia’s biggest missile strikes of war

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© Reuters. A rescuer works at the site damaged by the debris of a downed drone, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the location given as Odesa, Ukraine, released December 29, 2023. State Emergency Service Of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS

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By Ivan Lyubsyh-Kirdey, Yuliia Dysa and Tom Balmforth

KYIV (Reuters) -Russia on Friday unleashed one of its biggest missile attacks on Ukraine of the war, killing 18 civilians, wounding more than 130 others and hitting residential buildings in Kyiv, the south and west of the country, officials said.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said the vast end-of-year air assault showed there should be “no talk of a truce” with the Kremlin at a time when uncertainty hangs over the future of vital Western support for Kyiv.

“Today, millions of Ukrainians awoke to the loud sound of explosions. I wish those sounds of explosions in Ukraine could be heard all around the world,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, urging allies to continue with long-term military aid.

In the capital Kyiv at least three people were reported dead and twenty-two confirmed wounded after residential buildings and another uninhabited property were hit, police and other officials said.

Kyiv resident Mariia told Reuters she had been awoken at home by a “horrible sound” and taken shelter in her bathroom.

“It was so frightening. A missile was flying and everything was buzzing, whirring. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to run down to the shelter,” she said. “As I went inside the bathroom, the mirror flew off (the wall).”

The Air Force said it had shot down 87 cruise missiles and 27 drones out of a total of 158 aerial “targets” fired by Russia.

NATO member Poland’s military said an unidentified aerial object had entered its airspace from neighbouring Ukraine and been tracked by its air defences until its signal disappeared.

Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, neither denied nor confirmed the report, but noted similar incidents in Poland and Romania during past Russian air strikes.

Army chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said the attack had targeted critical infrastructure and industrial and military facilities. There was no immediate comment from Russia, which denies targeting civilians.

“Russia attacked with everything it has in its arsenal… Approximately 110 missiles were fired, most of which were shot down,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Telegram messenger.

Ukraine has been warning for weeks that Russia could be stockpiling missiles to launch a major air attack on the energy system. Last winter, millions of people were plunged into darkness when Russian strikes pounded the power grid.

The foreign ministry said Friday’s strike was “one of the largest missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and villages” since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022.

The energy ministry reported power outages in the regions of southern Odesa, northeastern Kharkiv, central Dnipropetrovsk and the area outside Kyiv.

WIDESPREAD DAMAGE REPORTED

As rescuers picked through the rubble of a strike that hit a house in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, Viktor Chuhunov, 73, told Reuters he had been at home when he suddenly heard a powerful explosion.

“A woman died here. I don’t know whether her son was at home, maybe he was at work,” he said of the house.

Missiles also hit several infrastructure facilities in Zaporizhzhia, the interior minister said on Telegram messenger.

Five people were killed in the central region of Dnipropetrovsk where missiles struck a shopping centre, a house and a six-storey residential building, police said.

Three people were killed in the Black Sea port city of Odesa and at least 15 were wounded, including two children, the regional governor said, reporting hits on residential buildings.

In the Lviv region, which borders Poland, missile strikes were confirmed at an unnamed critical infrastructure facility, the president’s office said.

One person was killed in a damaged multi-storey residential building in the city of Lviv, the regional governor said. Three schools and a kindergarten were also damaged, the mayor said.

In the northeastern city of Kharkiv, a missile strike damaged a warehouse, an industrial facility, a medical facility and a transport depot, the regional governor said. One person was killed and 11 other were injured, he said.

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