Russia pounds Ukraine’s two biggest cities in new wave of attacks

Published January 2, 2024
Fire rages after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 2. — Reuters
Fire rages after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 2. — Reuters

Russia pounded Ukraine’s two biggest cities in a new wave of heavy air strikes on Tuesday, killing at least five civilians and prompting calls for the West to quickly provide more military assistance.

The missile and drone attacks on the capital Kyiv and the northeastern city of Kharkiv also wounded dozens of people, caused widespread damage and hit power supplies, officials said.

Russia has intensified its attacks over the New Year period, with President Vladimir Putin warning on Monday that a Ukrainian air strike on the Russian city of Belgorod, which Moscow said killed 25 civilians, would “not go unpunished”.

Smoke belched out of the charred side of a high-rise residential building in Kyiv where mayor Vitali Klitschko said an elderly woman was killed and 49 people hurt. Emergency services later recovered another corpse from the building.

A 91-year-old woman was killed in a missile strike on Kharkiv that also wounded dozens and a married couple was killed in an attack in the area around Kyiv, local officials said.

“Russia will answer for every life [that it has] taken away,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on the Telegram messenger.

Russia later said one man was killed and seven people injured in another attack on Belgorod.

Russia stepped up missile and drone strikes on December 29, when it launched its largest air attack of the war, killing at least 39 people. Kyiv had warned for weeks that Russia appeared to be stockpiling missiles for big attacks.

Russia holds swathes of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine, and there is no end in sight to the war as next month’s second anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion approaches.

Russia depicts a Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in mid-2023 as a failure and front lines have changed little in recent months.

Calls for military assistance

Ukraine relies heavily on military and financial support from its allies, but over $110 billion in aid from the United States and the European Union has been delayed by political wrangling.

Several Western leaders, and foreign diplomats in Kyiv, said it was critical for Ukraine to receive more support.

“Ukrainian air defence works well but Ukraine must get more help. New Year’s celebrations are over and the West must get serious and act now,” Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics wrote on social media platform X.

Ukraine downed all 10 incoming “Kinzhal” missiles fired in the latest attack as well as 59 of the 70 cruise missiles and all three Kalibr cruise missiles, army chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said.

But he added: “There is no reason to believe that the enemy will stop here. Therefore, we need more systems and munitions for them.”

Klitschko said gas pipelines were damaged in Kyiv’s Pecherskyi district, and electricity and water were cut off in several districts of the capital. Heating and water supplies were damaged in Kharkiv, mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

The outages revived memories of last winter when air strikes on the energy grid caused frequent power cuts.

“We were under fire the whole night,” said Inna Lukashenko from Vyshneve, a small town outside the capital.

“First, there were Shaheds (drones). Then, we fell asleep for a second and were woken up by explosions, hearing that missiles were in the air. My child and I hid in the corridor. We were very scared.”

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