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President Volodymyr Zelensky As Russia Strikes Kill 18 People

2023-12-29 13:52:49

Hit Ukraine 'With Almost Everything': Zelensky As Russia Strikes Kill 18

Ukraine said Russia had fired 158 missiles and drones on Ukraine. (File)

Kyiv, Ukraine:

Russia launched drone and missile strikes across Ukraine Friday, killing at least 18 people and wounding over a hundred in one of the most massive air attacks of the war.

Schools, a maternity hospital, shopping arcades and blocks of flats were among the buildings hit in the barrage, said Ukrainian officials.

“Today Russia hit us with almost everything it has in its arsenal,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said. Ukraine’s Western allies joined the condemnation of the latest attacks.

Ukraine’s military said Russia had fired 158 missiles and drones on Ukraine and 114 of them had been destroyed.

Air force spokesman Yuriy Ignat told AFP that this was a “record number” and “the most massive missile attack” of the war, excluding the early days of constant bombardment.

Ukraine is urging Western allies to maintain military support after the United States released its final package of weaponry under existing agreements, which have not yet been renewed by Congress.

Ukraine presidential aide Andriy Yermak said Kyiv needed “more support and strength to stop this terror”. The US ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the strikes showed “Ukraine needs funding now”.

Russia tried to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defences across most major cities, launching a wave of Shahed attack drones followed by missiles of numerous types fired from planes and from Russian-controlled territory.

Buildings damaged in six cities included warehouses, a shopping mall and a maternity hospital, according to officials.

In Kyiv, AFP reporters heard several powerful explosions in the early hours of Friday.

The city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said three bodies had been recovered from a warehouse hit by a strike in the central Shevchenko district.

In the city’s northern Podil district, another warehouse measuring around 3,000 square metres (32,300 square feet) caught fire.

There was a strong smell of burning plastic as firefighters wearing oxygen masks tackled the blaze and a huge column of black smoke billowed into the sky, an AFP reporter saw.

There were believed to be 10 people trapped under the rubble, said the head of the city’s military administration, Sergiy Popko.

AFP journalists also saw smoke near the building of Lukyanivska metro station close to the city centre. Popko said the metro station had been damaged but it reopened later in the day.

The station is located near the Artyom arms factory, which Russia said it targeted early in the war.

Maternity hospital struck 

Friday’s strikes targeted at least six Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv in the northeast, Lviv in the west, Dnipro in the east and Odesa in the south.

In Dnipro, the health ministry said a maternity hospital had been “severely damaged” but the staff and patients had managed to shelter in time.

The outside of the three-storey building was scorched black and the windows blown out, an AFP photographer saw.

A shopping mall in the city was also hit and caught fire. An explosion tore a hole in the facade of the large shopping centre and the interior was blackened from smoke.

Six people were killed and 28 injured, said Sergiy Lysak, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region’s military administration.

Three people were also killed in the southern region of Odesa and 26 wounded, prosecutors said.

Firefighters were extinguishing a blaze in a high-rise block of flats, an AFP photographer saw. Smoke was pouring out of a hole blown in the facade, the air was thick with dust and debris littered the ground.

Distressed local people watched and one family hugged each other.

In Lviv, one person was killed and 15 wounded by drones and missiles that damaged high-rise blocks of flats and two schools, the interior ministry said.

An image released by the emergency services showed window frames blown out in a nine-storey block of flats.

The eastern city of Kharkiv faced around 20 strikes, killing three employees at a civilian enterprise and wounding 11, said Oleg Sinegubov, the head of the city’s military administration.

Images released by the emergency services showed residents sweeping up shards of glass from blown-out windows in a cancer treatment clinic. There was a crater from an explosion in the forest nearby, an AFP photographer saw.

In Zaporizhzhia on the Dnipro River, four people were killed and 12 wounded after strikes on industrial and residential areas, the interior ministry said.

Crucial US support 

On Thursday, Zelensky thanked the United States for releasing the last remaining package of weapons under existing authorisation, as uncertainty surrounds further US aid to his war-torn country.

“To defend freedom and security not only in Ukraine and Europe but also in the United States, we must continue to respond to ongoing Russian aggression,” he said.

Zelensky has warned that any change in policy from the US — Kyiv’s main backer — could have a strong impact on the course of the war.

The French foreign ministry said they were part of Russia’s “strategy of terror” and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We must continue to stand with Ukraine — for as long as it takes”.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described it as “yet another cowardly and indiscriminate” attack on civilians.

The UN’s humanitarian envoy for Ukraine Denise Brown said the attacks were “another unacceptable example of the horrifying reality” that Ukrainians face.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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