Russia carries out what Ukraine calls “most massive aerial attack” of war

Russia launches its largest air assault on Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine — Russia launched 122 missiles and a score of drones against Ukrainian targets, officials said Friday, killing at least 22 civilians across the country in what an air force official said was the biggest aerial barrage of the war.

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

Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on his official Telegram channel that it was “the most massive aerial attack” since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Police and military carry the body of a local resident at the site of a Russian missile strike amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, on Dec. 29, 2023.

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.

Western officials and analysts recently warned that Russia had limited its cruise missile strikes in recent months in an apparent effort to build up stockpiles for massive strikes during the winter, hoping to break the Ukrainians’ spirit.

An unknown number 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.

The health ministry in the city of Dnipro said the maternity hospital was “severely damaged” but the staff and patients managed to shelter in time, AFP reports.

A local resident stands as rescuers work at the site of a Russian missile strike amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, on Dec. 29, 2023.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 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,” Zelenskyy said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

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 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.

In a statement Friday, President Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “seeks to obliterate Ukraine and subjugate its people.” The U.S. president urged Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement to provide more funding for Ukraine. 

“In the face of this brutal attack, Ukraine deployed the air defense systems that the United States and our allies and partners have delivered to Ukraine over the past year to successfully intercept and destroy many of the missiles and drones,” Mr. Biden said. “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. But unless Congress takes urgent action in the new year, we will not be able to continue sending the weapons and vital air defense systems Ukraine needs to protect its people. Congress must step up and act without any further delay.”

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 Dec. 29, 2023. 
Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP

Fighting along the front line is largely bogged down by winter weather after Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive 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 defenses to protect it against aerial attacks like Friday’s. Their appeals have come as signs of war fatigue strain efforts to keep support in place.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was among Ukrainian officials calling on Kyiv’s allies to step up their support Friday. “Today, millions of Ukrainians awoke to the loud sound of explosions. I wish those sounds of explosions in Ukraine could be heard all around the world,” Reuters quotes him as saying.

Separately, Poland’s armed forces said Friday an unknown airborne object entered the country’s airspace from the direction of Ukraine and subsequently vanished off radars.

The Operational Command of the Armed Forces said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that the unidentified airborne object entered from the side of the border with Ukraine and was observed by radars of the country’s air defense system from the moment it crossed the border until the signal disappeared.

It also said troops have been mobilized to identify and find the object.

Local authorities said that the object crossed the border near the town of Hrubieszow.

There were no immediate reports of any explosion or casualties.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk convened a meeting with the defense minister, military commanders and heads of national security bodies, which was to be followed by a meeting of the National Security Bureau.

Poland’s border with Ukraine is also the European Union and NATO border with Ukraine.

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