Russia fires scores of missiles in one of its biggest attacks on Ukraine

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KYIV, Dec 16 (Reuters) – Russia fired more than 70 missiles during Friday’s morning rush hour in one of its biggest attacks on Ukraine since the start of the war, forcing Kyiv to introduce emergency power cuts nationwide, Ukrainian officials said.

Two people were killed when an apartment block was hit in central Kryvyi Rih and another died in shelling in Kherson in the south, they said. Russian-installed officials in occupied eastern Ukraine said 12 people had died in Ukrainian shelling.

Kyiv warned late on Thursday that Moscow planned a new all-out offensive early next year, around a year after its Feb. 24 invasion, which has destroyed huge areas of Ukraine but brought little of it under Moscow’s control.

Russia has rained missiles on Ukrainian energy infrastructure almost weekly since early October after several battlefield defeats, but Friday’s attack seemed to have caused more damage than many others and snow and ice is now widespread.

Russia had flown warplanes near Ukraine to try to distract its air defences, Ukraine’s air force said. Its army chief said 60 of 76 Russian missiles had been shot down but Energy Minister German Galushchenko said at least nine power generating facilities had been hit.

Moscow says the attacks are aimed at disabling Ukraine’s military. Ukrainians call them a war crime.

“They want to destroy us, and make us slaves. But we will not surrender. We will endure,” said Lidiya Vasilieva, 53, as she headed for shelter at a Kyiv railway station.

The governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region that includes Kryvyi Rih, President Volodomyr Zelenskiy’s home town, said a missile had hit an apartment block there.

“Two people were killed. At least five were wounded, including two children,” Valentyn Reznichenko posted.

A third person died in a fire after shelling in Kherson, authorities said, and Kharkiv in the east was also badly hit.

“There is colossal damage to infrastructure, primarily the energy system,” city mayor Ihor Terekhov said. “I ask you to be patient with what is happening now. I know that in your houses there is no light, no heating, no water supply.”

UKRAINIAN SHELLING

Russian troops occupy around a fifth of Ukraine in its south and east and many troops have been reported killed and wounded on both sides in brutal fighting, although neither issues detailed reports of their own military casualties.

Russian-installed officials said the latest Ukrainian shelling had killed civilians in two places.

Eleven people were killed, 20 wounded and another 20 were unaccounted for in the village of Lantrativka near the border with Russia in the Russian-controlled Luhansk region of Ukraine, Russia’s TASS news agency said, citing emergency services.

The Russian-installed governor of the region, Leonid Pasechnik, called the attack “barbaric”. 

He said Ukraine was targeting residential neighbourhoods, schools and shopping districts in an attempt to “kill as many people as possible”. He did not provide evidence and there was no immediate comment from Kyiv.

The head of a Russian proxy “people’s militia” in Luhansk said a civilian had been killed by Ukrainian shelling in the town of Svatove, some 70 km (40 miles) further south.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the latest battlefield accounts but recorded three explosions in the snow-covered capital Kyiv and smoke rising over the city.

Ukraine had shot down 37 out of 40 missiles fired at the Kyiv area, Kyiv military spokesperson Mykhailo Shamanov said. The missile attack was one of Russia’s largest since the start of the war, he said.

Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said there had been “massive shelling”. “The goal of the Russian Federation is for Ukrainians to be constantly under pressure,” she wrote in a social media post, vowing that Ukraine would endure.

SUCCESSIVE STRIKES

The country has managed to restore much of its power and water supplies after previous attacks but that task becomes harder each time.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential office, said emergency power shutdowns were being introduced across the country. 

Poltava in the centre and the regions of Sumi in the north and Odesa on the Black Sea were among places reported hit and several railway lines were also left without power.

With no peace talks in sight, Ukrainian defence chiefs on Thursday predicted Russia would launch a new all-out offensive early next year that could include a second attempt to take Kyiv, which they tried and failed to capture early this year.

A new assault could happen as soon as January, Zelenskiy, General Valery Zaluzhniy and General Oleksandr Syrskiy were quoted as saying in interviews with The Economist magazine.

The push could be launched from the eastern Donbas area, the south or neighbouring Belarus, they said.

A Russian defence ministry video showed joint exercises by Russian and Belarusian troops in Belarus, using tanks and machine guns as well as drones and practising crossing a river.

Russia calls its invasion a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Thousands of people have been killed, cities reduced to ruins and millions forced from their homes in what the West sees as an imperial-style land grab.

European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to provide 18 billion euros in financing to Ukraine next year and hit Moscow with a ninth package of sanctions, including barring investment in its mining industry.

The U.S. military said it would expand training in Germany of Ukrainian military personnel and the U.S. Senate passed a bill providing Ukraine with at least $800 million in additional security assistance in 2023.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Stephen Coates and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie)

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