Russia launches 122 missiles in war’s ‘biggest aerial barrage’

The Ukrainian air force intercepted 87 of the missiles and 27 of the Shahed-type drones overnight, Ukraine’s military chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said.

Russia launches 122 missiles and 36 drones in war’s ‘biggest aerial barrage’ Getty Images

Russia has launched 122 missiles and 36 drones against Ukrainian targets, killing at least 30 civilians in what military officials said was the biggest aerial barrage of the 22-month war.

The Ukrainian air force intercepted 87 of the missiles and 27 of the Shahed-type drones overnight, Ukraine’s military chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said.

Air force commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on his official Telegram channel that it had been “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.

Fighting along the front line has been largely bogged down by winter weather after Ukraine’s summer counter-offensive failed to make a significant breakthrough along the roughly 620-mile line of contact.

Ukrainian officials have urged the country’s Western allies to provide it with more air defences to protect itself against such aerial attacks.

Their appeals have come as signs of war fatigue strain efforts to keep support in place.

At least 144 people were injured and an unknown number were buried under rubble during the roughly 18-hour onslaught, Ukrainian officials said.

Among the buildings reported to be damaged across Ukraine were a maternity hospital, apartment blocks and schools.

In Kyiv, the bombardment damaged a subway station that lies across the street from a factory belonging to the Artem company, which produces components for various military-grade missiles. Officials did not say whether the factory was directly hit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Kremlin’s forces used a wide variety of weapons, including ballistic and cruise missiles.

“Today, Russia used nearly every type of weapon in its arsenal,” Mr Zelensky said on X.

Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said Russia “apparently launched everything they have”, except for submarine-launched Kalibr missiles, in the attack.

The aerial attack that began on Thursday and continued through the night hit six cities, including the capital, Kyiv, and other areas from east to west and north to south Ukraine, according to authorities.

Reports of deaths and damage came in from across the country.

Five people were killed and 20 injured in the eastern city of Dnipro where four maternity hospital patients were rescued from a fire, officials said.

In Odesa, on the southern coast, falling drone wreckage started a fire at a multi-storey residential building, according to the regional head, Oleh Kiper. Two people were killed and 15, including two children, were injured in the course of the Odesa attack, he said.

The mayor of the western city of Lviv, Andrii Sadovyi, said one person was killed and eight injured and three schools and a kindergarten were damaged in a drone attack in the region.

Several dozen missiles were launched towards Kyiv during the night, with more than 30 of them intercepted, said Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration.

The attack started a fire at a warehouse in the capital’s Podil district where five people reportedly were pulled from the rubble. Three people were killed in the capital.

In north-eastern Ukraine, Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov said the city was subjected to at least three waves of aerial attacks overnight that included S-300 and Kh-21 missile launches. One person was killed and at least nine injured, officials said.

US President Joe Biden said the bombardment showed that Russian President Vladimir Putin “must be stopped”.

“The American people can be proud of the lives we have helped to save and the support we have given Ukraine as it defends its people, its freedom and its independence,” he said.

“But unless Congress takes urgent action in the new year, we will not be able to continue sending the weapons and vital air defence systems Ukraine needs to protect its people. Congress must step up and act without any further delay,” he said in a statement.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia’s attack “in the strongest terms” and said attacks against civilians are unacceptable and must end immediately, according to a statement from his spokesperson.

The UN Security Council hastily convened later on Friday to discuss the attack, which Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari called “appalling”.

“Tragically, 2023 is ending as it began — with devastating violence against the people of Ukraine,” he said, and noted that international humanitarian law forbids attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure.

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