A new wave of Russian missile strikes pounded cities throughout Ukraine on Thursday, damaging power stations and other critical infrastructure during freezing winter weather.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said a number of energy facilities were damaged and that “Russia is trying to deprive Ukrainians of light before the new year.”
However, the Ukrainian military said it had managed to neutralize most of the missiles, avoiding much larger damage.
“According to preliminary data, 69 missiles were launched in total. Fifty-four enemy cruise missiles were shot down,” said Ukraine’s top military general, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhniy.
“The enemy is attacking Ukraine from various directions with air- and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships,” Ukrainian air defense said on social media, describing the scope of the attack as massive.
Officials earlier said more than 120 missiles were fired, according to Reuters. In addition to the cruise missiles, Ukraine’s military said anti-aircraft and S-300 ADMS (air defense missile system) were used.
Russia has repeatedly used missiles to target Ukrainian cities, including strikes that have destroyed critical infrastructure sites, though it denies targeting civilians.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the attacks “senseless barbarism.”
“These are the only words that come to mind seeing Russia launch another missile barrage at peaceful Ukrainian cities ahead of New Year,” he said.
Several people were wounded in the capital, as rescuers continued search-and-rescue operations.
“At the moment, there are three victims in Kyiv, including a 14-year-old girl. Everyone was hospitalized,” said Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
He warned of potential electricity cuts and called on residents to stock up on water and to charge their electronic devices.
Kharkiv, other cities attacked
Russian kamikaze drones targeted infrastructure in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, where there were numerous explosions throughout the city.
“The Russian occupiers once again struck the energy infrastructure of Kharkiv, using 13 Iranian Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles in the attack. Ukrainian defense shot down 11 of these drones,” the Ukraine General Staff said.
Local officials said the attacks killed at least two people around Kharkiv.
The strikes also targeted Zaporizhzhia and the Dnipropetrovsk regions, but most of them were downed by the Ukrainian military, the General Staff said, and five drones were shot down around the Dnipropetrovsk region.
Additional strikes were aimed at the Black Sea port city of Odesa and Lviv, where Russian attacks are rare, which was left without power. There were power cuts in the Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions to reduce potential damage to the power infrastructure.
Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv, said the attack left his city near the Polish border about 90% without electricity.
Shelling on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia damaged electricity lines and gas pipelines and damaged houses.
Russia has attacked Ukrainian power and water supplies almost weekly since October while its ground forces struggle to hold ground and advance.
As heavy fighting in the Donbas region continued without significant advances on either side, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces rained scores of missile and rocket salvos along the whole front line in the east, while attempting to push ahead with their stalemated offensive in the Bakhmut and Avdiyivka areas of Donetsk.
Ukraine leader promotes peace plan
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been advocating a 10-point peace plan that calls for Russia to recognize Ukraine’s territory and withdraw its troops.
The Kremlin reiterated its dismissal of the proposal Wednesday, doubling down on its stance that Ukraine must accept the annexation Russia claimed in September after referendums rejected by Ukraine and most other nations as shams. The four Ukrainian regions include Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
“There can be no peace plan for Ukraine that does not take into account today’s realities regarding Russian territory, with the entry of four regions into Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. “Plans that do not take these realities into account cannot be peaceful.”
After the latest Russian air strikes, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, “There can be no ‘neutrality’ in the face of such mass war crimes. Pretending to be ‘neutral’ equals taking Russia’s side.”
Some material for this article came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.