Russia launched 122 missiles and 36 drones against Ukrainian targets, officials said Friday, killing at least 18 civilians across the country in what an air force official said was the biggest aerial barrage of the 22-month war.
By: FRANCE 24 | Video by: Emmanuelle CHAZE
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, firefighters work on a site of a building damaged after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 29, 2023. © Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP
AFP reporters in Kyiv heard several powerful explosions in the early hours of Friday and saw thick black smoke billowing from a warehouse.
"We haven't seen so much red on our monitors for a long time," said Yuriy Ignat, a spokesman for Ukraine's air force, explaining that Russian forces had first launched a wave of suicide drones followed by missiles.
The Ukrainian air force intercepted 87 of the missiles and 27 of the Shahed-type drones overnight, Ukraine’s military chief Valery Zaluzhnyi said.
Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on his official Telegram channel: “The most massive aerial attack” since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.
According to the Ukrainian air force, the previous biggest assault was in November 2022 when Russia launched 96 missiles against Ukraine. This year, the biggest was 81 missiles on March 9, air force records show.
"There are people killed by Russian missiles today that were launched at civilian facilities, civilian buildings," presidential aide Andriy Yermak said.
"We are doing everything to strengthen our air shield. But the world needs to see that we need more support and strength to stop this terror," he said on Telegram.
Two people were confirmed dead in the capital Kyiv, with more people thought to be trapped under rubble at a warehouse damaged by falling debris, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram messenger.
He also said the capital's air defences were working intensively.
A metro station whose platforms were being used as an air raid shelter was damaged, he said.
Sergiy Popko, head of Kyiv's military administration, said a warehouse with an area of around 3,000 square metres (32,300 square feet) was burning in the northern Podil district.
"There are many wounded, the number is being clarified," he said.
In other districts of the city, an uninhabited multistorey block of flats also caught fire and a private house was damaged, Popko said.
Maternity hospital struck
In the central Shevchenko district, a residential building was damaged and there was also a fire in a warehouse with six believed to be injured, Popko said.
Klitschko wrote on social media that there appeared to be three people still under rubble of the warehouse while three others had been rescued.
The overnight attacks came days after Ukraine struck a Russian warship in the occupied Crimean port of Feodosia in a major setback for the Russian navy.
Drones and missiles struck at least five other Ukrainian cities on Friday, including Kharkiv in the northeast, Lviv in the west, Dnipro in the east and Odesa in the south, the cities' mayors and police said.
"So far we have counted 22 strikes in different districts of Kharkiv," the mayor, Igor Terekhov, said on television.
"There are currently seven injured in hospital. Unfortunately one person has died."
In Lviv, governor Maksym Kozytsky said that "one person was killed and three wounded".
In Dnipro, the mayor, Borys Filatov, said there were injured and dead. The health ministry said that a maternity hospital in the city had been "severely damaged".
Two people were killed in the Black Sea port city of Odesa and at least 15 were injured, including two children, as missiles hit residential buildings, the regional governor said.
Ukraine's southern command said 14 attack drones had been destroyed in the south of the country and there were no casualties reported.
Crucial Western support
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday said Moscow's latest missile strikes on Ukraine showed Russian President Vladimir "Putin will stop at nothing to achieve his aim of eradicating freedom and democracy".
"We will not let him win. We must continue to stand with Ukraine – for as long as it takes," he added on X, formerly Twitter.
On Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United States for releasing the last remaining package of weapons available for Ukraine under existing authorisation, as uncertainty surrounds further aid to his war-torn country.
Zelensky had warned that any change in policy from the US – Kyiv's main backer – could have a strong impact on the course of the war.
"I thank President Joe Biden, Congress, and the American people for the $250 million military aid package announced yesterday," Zelensky said on social media.
In an interview published on Friday, Christian Freuding, a German general who oversees the German army's support for Kyiv, said Russia was severely weakened but was showing greater "resilience" than Western allies had expected at the start of the war.
"We perhaps did not see, or did not want to see, that they are in a position to continue to be supplied by allies," he told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters, AP)