31 perish in one of Russia’s biggest strikes on Ukraine

Published December 30, 2023
This photograph released by Ukraine’s emergency service on Friday shows firefighters working to extinguish a fire in a residential building, following a Russian attack in Dnipro.—AFP
This photograph released by Ukraine’s emergency service on Friday shows firefighters working to extinguish a fire in a residential building, following a Russian attack in Dnipro.—AFP

• Critical infrastructure, industrial and military facilities targeted
• Zelensky says 110 missiles fired; air force claims to have shot down 87 missiles, 27 drones
• Kyiv urges allies to press on with long-term military aid

KYIV: Russia fired one of its biggest missile barrages of the war at Ukraine on Friday, killing 31 civilians, wounding over 120 and hitting residential buildings in Kyiv, the south and west of the country and a maternity ward in the east, officials said.

Nato member Poland said a Russian missile appeared to have flown into its airspace for some 40km before returning to Ukraine under three minutes later. There was no immediate comment from Moscow and Nato said it remained “vigilant”.

Britain is sending around 200 air defence missiles to Ukraine to help protect civilians and infrastructure from Russian drones and bombing, the British ministry of defence said on Friday. “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is testing Ukraine’s defences and the West’s resolve, hoping that he can clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. But he is wrong,” British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said.

“Now is the time for the free world to come together and redouble our efforts to get Ukraine what they need to win.”

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 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 press on with long-term military aid.

In the capital Kyiv, at least nine people were killed and 30 confirmed wounded after a warehouse, residential buildings and another uninhabited property were hit, officials said.

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

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.

Army Chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said the attack had targeted critical infrastructure and industrial and military facilities. “Russia attacked with everything it has in its arsenal... Approximately 110 missiles were fired, most of which were shot down,” President Volodymyr Zelensky 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.

“It is obvious that with the stocks of missiles that the aggressor state has, it can and will continue such attacks,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said on Facebook.

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

Widespread damage reported

The president’s office put the death toll at 26, but statements from the various regions indicated at least 31 people had been killed.

Eight people were killed and 13 wounded in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, the governor said. Civilian infrastructure facilities were also struck, he said.

Six people were killed in the central region of Dnipropetrovsk where missiles struck a shopping centre, a house and a six-storey residential building, the governor said. The attack also caused a fire in a maternity ward, he said.

Four people were killed in the Black Sea port city of Odesa and at least 22 were wounded, including two children, the regional governor said, reporting hits on residential buildings.

One person was killed in a damaged multi-storey residential building in the city of Lviv and 30 were wounded, the regional governor said. Three schools and a kindergarten were 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. Three people were killed and 13 wounded.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2023

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