Several dead in ‘barbaric’ Russian missile and drone airstrikes across Ukraine while people slept

Russia has launched a massive missile attack across Ukraine – striking targets in the capital Kyiv, the second biggest city of Kharkiv and the Black Sea port of Odesa – killing at least six people.

The northern city of Chernihiv and the western Lviv region, as well as the cities of Dnipro, Lutsk and Rivne, also came under fire, and Ukrainian media reported explosions in the western regions of Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil.

Thursday’s attack – targeting the country’s energy infrastructure but also hitting residential areas – was the first of its kind on such a scale for three weeks.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 10 regions were affected and described the barrage that came while many people slept as an attempt by Moscow “to intimidate Ukrainians again”.

Ukraine war – latest: Nuclear plant loses power

Three Russian rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, late Thursday, March 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Vadim Belikov)
Three Russian rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia’s Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Pic: AP

Ukraine’s military said Russia had fired 81 missiles and eight drones during the offensive.

Defence systems were activated and 34 cruise missiles and four drones were destroyed.

The airstrikes caused widespread power cuts and set off air raid sirens. Many areas were left without water too.

In Kyiv, a seven-hour air strike alert through the night was the longest of the Russian air campaign that began in October.

The country’s energy minister Herman Halushchenko condemned the missile strikes as “another barbaric massive attack on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine”.

Emergency workers in Kyiv extinguish fire in vehicles at the site of a Russian missile strike
The Ukraine capital Kyiv was among the targets of the Russian missile strikes
People shelter inside a subway station during a Russian missile attack in Kyiv
People shelter inside a subway station during a Russian missile attack in Kyiv
Smoke rises after a Russian missile strike in the capital Kyiv
The aftermath of a Russian missile strike on the capital

Andriy Yermak, chief of the Ukrainian presidential staff, wrote on the Telegram messaging app: “The terrorists are doing everything they can to leave us without power… They are continuing their terror against peaceful people.”

Five people were killed in the Lviv region after a missile struck a residential area, its governor Maksym Kozytskyi said. Three buildings were destroyed by fire after the strike and rescue workers were searching the rubble for more possible victims, he said.

A sixth person was killed in several airstrikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region that targeted its energy infrastructure and industrial facilities, Governor Serhii Lysak said.

Rescuers in a residential area destroyed in the Russian airstrikes in the Lviv region. Pic: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/via Reuters
Rescuers in a residential area destroyed in the Russian airstrikes in the Lviv region. Pics: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/via Reuters
A Russian missile strike on Lviv, Ukraine. Pic: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/via Reuters

‘They are frightening the children’

Officials said the capital was attacked with both missiles and exploding drones and that many were intercepted but that its energy infrastructure was hit.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said explosions were reported in the city’s Holosiivskyi district and emergency services were heading there.

“I heard a very loud explosion, very loud. We quickly jumped out of bed and saw one car on fire. Then the other cars caught on fire as well. The glass shattered on the balconies and windows,” said Liudmyla, 58, holding a toddler in her arms.

“It’s very frightening. Very frightening. The child got scared and jumped out of bed. How can they do this? How is this possible? They are not humans, I don’t know what to call them. They are frightening the children.”

“Objects of critical infrastructure is again in the crosshairs of the occupants,” said Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov in a Telegram post after 15 missiles struck the eastern Ukrainian city and the outlying northeastern region, hitting residential buildings.

The city’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, reported “problems with electricity” in some parts.

A house burns following a missile strike in the southern port city of Kherson. Pic: Ukraine's Presidential Office/via Reuters
A house burns following a missile strike in the southern port city of Kherson. Pic: Ukraine’s Presidential Office/via Reuters

Energy facilities and residential buildings were also hit in the southern Odesa region, according to its governor Maksym Marchenko.

“The second wave is expected right now, so I ask the residents of the region to stay in shelters!” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Preventive emergency power cuts were applied in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk and Odesa regions, supplier DTEK said.

Ukrainian Railways also reported power outages in areas.

Russia says its campaign of targeting Ukraine’s infrastructure is intended to reduce its ability to fight. Ukraine says the air strikes have no military purpose and aim to harm and intimidate civilians, a war crime.

Ukraine map

Nuclear plant down to diesel power

The power supply at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was also knocked out during the offensive.

Energoatom state company said in a statement: “The last link between the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the Ukrainian power system was cut off.”

It said the fifth and sixth reactor had been shut down and electric power needed for the plant to function was being supplied by 18 diesel generators which had enough fuel for 10 days.

Nuclear plants need constant power to run cooling systems and avoid a meltdown.

“The countdown has begun,” the company added.

The nuclear power plant was captured by Russian forces early on in their invasion of Ukraine and remains under their control.

It is strategically critical to both sides of the Ukraine-Russia conflict but its ongoing stalemate has led to increasing concerns about nuclear safety.

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Why is Bakhmut so important?

Battle of Bakhmut rages on

The missile offensive came as Ukrainian forces fought off fierce assaults by Russian soldiers on the eastern mining town of Bakhmut.

“The enemy continued its attacks and has shown no sign of a let-up in storming the city of Bakhmut,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said on Facebook.

“Our defenders repelled attacks on Bakhmut and on surrounding communities.”

A Ukrainian tank fires towards Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut, Ukraine. Pic: AP
A Ukrainian tank fires towards Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut, Ukraine. Pic: AP

President Zelenskyy said in a video address late on Wednesday that the battle for Bakhmut and the surrounding Donbas region is “our first priority”.

Read more:
Pro-Ukrainian group ‘responsible for Nord Stream pipeline attacks’, US intelligence suggests
Bakhmut will show if Ukraine or Russia is winning the war – but at what cost?

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Russia’s Wagner mercenary group claimed control of the eastern part of Bakhmut.

“Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of Wagner,” the group’s leader and founder Yevgeny Prigozhin wrote on Telegram.

Control of Bakhmut would give Russia a stepping stone to advance on two bigger cities it has long coveted in the Donetsk region: Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Russia has said it has annexed nearly 20% of Ukrainian territory.

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