Russia targets Ukraine with another “massive” missile barrage aimed at infrastructure

Kyiv, Ukraine — Multiple regions of Ukraine, including its capital, faced a massive Russian missile attack Thursday, the biggest wave of strikes in weeks targeting national infrastructure. Air raid sirens rang out across the country. 

Russia dispatched explosive drones to selected regions overnight before broadening the barrage with “air and sea-based cruise missiles launched from strategic aircraft and ships” in the morning, the Ukrainian air force reported. It called the attack “massive,” according to French news agency AFP.

The widespread attack was the latest in a series of Russian strikes targeting vital infrastructure across Ukraine. Moscow has launched such attacks on a weekly basis since October as its ground forces got bogged down and even lost ground.

After earlier attacks, the Ukrainian military reported shooting down incoming Russian missiles and explosive drones, but some still reached their targets, damaging power and water supplies and increasing the suffering of the population amid freezing temperatures. 

In a new development that could rised escalating tension in the region, a social media channel linked to Belarus’ presidential press service said a Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile had landed on Belarusian soil early Thursday. It said the missile may have landed in Belarus accidentally and there were no casualties, but the Belarusian Defense Ministry said later that it had been shot down by Belarusian air defenses over the western Brest region.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia’s, and sitting just north of Ukraine, it was used as a staging ground for Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion. Fears have simmered for months that Belarus could look for a pretext to join the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The governor of Russia’s Saratov region, meanwhile, said Russian air defense systems had shot down an “unidentified object” near the city of Engels, which hundreds of miles from the Ukrainian border inside Russian territory. Engles is also home to an air base that serves as the primary hub for Russia’s nuclear-capable strategic bombers, which have been used to drop conventional bombs on Ukraine.
Russia’s military has already said the Engels air base was targeted Ukraine, using drones, twice this month, but while noting them, Ukraine has never overtly acknowledged an attack within Russian territory.
Earlier this month, the United States agreed to give a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine to boost the country’s defense. The U.S. and other allies also pledged to provide energy-related equipment to help Ukraine withstand the attacks on its infrastructure.

AFP quoted Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny as saying, “According to preliminary data, 69 missiles were launched in total. Fifty0four enemy cruise missiles were shot down.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, had said earlier in the day that Russia had launched over 120 missiles.

Authorities in Kyiv said all 16 missiles that targeted the capital were downed, AFP reported, adding that 40% of Kyiv had no power.

At least three people were wounded and hospitalized, including a 14-year- old girl, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. He asked people to stockpile water and charge their electronic devices.

Fragments from downed Russian missiles damaged two private buildings in the Darnytskyi district of Kyiv, the city administration said. An industrial facility and a playground in neighborhoods located across the Dnieper River also were damaged, city officials said. No casualties were immediately reported.

Numerous explosions also took place in Kharkiv, which is in eastern Ukraine and the country’s second-largest city, and in the city of Lviv near the border with Poland, according to their mayors.

About 90% of Lviv was without electricity, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi wrote on Telegram. Trams and trolley buses weren’t working, and residents might experience water interruptions, he said. Attacks on that city have been relatively rare.

As the latest wave of Russian strikes began Thursday, authorities in the Dnipro, Odesa and Kryvyi Rih regions said they switched off electricity to minimize the damage to critical infrastructure facilities if they were hit.

The governor of southern Ukraine’s Mykolaiv province, Vitaliy Kim, said five missiles were shot down over the Black Sea. The Ukrainian military’s command North said two were downed over the Sumy region, located on the border with Russia in the country’s northeast.

In the south, Odesa Governor Maksym Marchenko said 21 missiles were intercepted over the region, AFP reported.

Earlier this month, the United States agreed to give a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine to boost the country’s defense. The U.S. and other allies also pledged to provide energy-related equipment to help Ukraine withstand the attacks on its infrastructure.

Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said Russia was aiming to “destroy critical infrastructure and kill civilians en masse.”

“We’re waiting for further proposals from ‘peacekeepers’ about ‘peaceful settlement,’ ‘security guarantees for RF’ and undesirability of provocations,” Podolyak tweeted, a sarcastic reference to statements from some in the West who urged Ukraine to seek a political settlement of the conflict.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Monday that his nation wants a “peace” summit within two months at the United Nations with Secretary-General António Guterres as mediator. Kuleba said Russia must face a war-crimes tribunal before his country directly talks with Moscow. He said, however, that other nations should feel free to engage with the Russians.

Commenting on the summit proposal Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed it as “delirious” and “hollow,” describing the proposal as a “publicity stunt by Washington that tries to cast the Kyiv regime as a peacemaker.”

“It’s an attempt to give a semblance of legitimacy to a meaningless discussion that will not be followed by any concrete steps,” Zakharova said during a briefing.

Russian officials have said that any peace plan can only proceed from Kyiv’s recognition of Russia’s sovereignty over the regions it illegally annexed from Ukraine in September. 

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