KYIV/Bakhmut, Ukraine (Reuters) – Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine as Russia unleashed more than 100 missiles Thursday morning, according to a Ukrainian presidential adviser, and explosions were heard in several cities, including the capital Kyiv. Massive air strike. More than 100 missiles in several waves, the adviser to the presidential office Oleksiy Aristovich wrote on Facebook, and the head of the Ukrainian Mykolaiv region also mentioned Russian missiles in the air.
Explosions were heard in Kyiv, Zhitomir and Odessa, according to a Reuters correspondent and local media reports.
Blackouts have been announced in the Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk regions, with the aim of minimizing potential damage to the power infrastructure.
The lightning attack came sharply in the wake of the Kremlin’s rejection of the Ukrainian peace plan, and they insisted that Kyiv accept Russia’s annexation of four regions.
Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians, but Ukraine says its daily bombardment is destroying cities, towns and the country’s infrastructure from power to medical.
On Wednesday, Russian shelling hit the maternity ward of a hospital in the city of Kherson, said Kirillo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelensky, although no one was hurt. Tymoshenko said in a post on Telegram that staff and patients have been taken to a shelter.
“It was scary,” said Olha Prysedko, a new mother. “When we got downstairs, the bombing wasn’t over. Not for a minute.”
The recently liberated city of Kherson in southern Ukraine has been under constant bombardment from Russian forces, who retreated to the eastern bank of the river when the city was recaptured in a major victory for Ukraine last month.
Zelensky, in a video address, urged Ukrainians to hug their loved ones, tell friends they appreciate them, support their colleagues, thank their parents and have fun with their children more often.
“We have not lost our humanity, though we have suffered terrible months,” he said. “And we will not lose it, although there is a difficult year ahead.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Kyiv and its Western allies have denounced Russia’s actions as an imperial-style land grab. Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor.
Comprehensive sanctions were imposed on Russia because of the war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced millions from their homes, destroyed cities and shook the global economy, driving up energy and food prices.
Gazprom data and Reuters calculations showed that Russian gas exports to Europe via pipelines collapsed to their lowest levels after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 2022 as its largest customers cut imports due to the conflict in Ukraine and a major pipeline was damaged by mysterious explosions.
There is still no prospect of talks to end the war.
Zelensky is aggressively pushing a 10-point peace plan that envisages Russia respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and withdrawing all its forces.
But Moscow rejected it on Wednesday, stressing that Kyiv must accept Russia’s annexation of the four regions – Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there could be no peace plan “that does not take into account today’s realities regarding the Russian territory with the entry of four regions into Russia”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Zelensky’s idea of removing Russia from eastern Ukraine and Crimea with the help of the West and getting Moscow to pay compensation to Kyiv is an “illusion,” RIA reported.
Tass quoted Lavrov as saying that Russia will continue to enhance its combat power and technological capabilities in Ukraine. He said the forces mobilized in Moscow had undergone “serious training” and while many were on the ground now, the majority were not yet at the front.
Zelensky told parliament to stay united and praised Ukrainians for helping the West “find itself again”.
“Our national colors are today an international symbol of courage and toughness in the entire world,” he said in an annual speech held behind closed doors.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Wednesday that Russia has bombed more than 25 settlements around Kherson and Zaporizhia on the battlefront. The Kherson region, at the mouth of the Dnipro River, serves as a gateway to Russia-annexed Crimea.
Heavy fighting has continued around the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, in the eastern province of Donetsk, and to its north, around the cities of Svatov and Krymina in Luhansk, as Ukrainian forces attempt to break Russian defensive lines.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia had likely reinforced the front-line Kremina section because it was logistically important and relatively vulnerable in the wake of the Ukrainian advance westward.
The military analyst in Kyiv, Oleh Zhdanov, said that the city of Kharkiv and the region were subjected to severe attacks, which damaged a regional gas pipeline.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekov said in the Telegram Post that the city was attacked twice, “presumably” from Iranian drones, five of which Ukraine’s Eastern Air Command separately reported being shot down over the city of Dnipro.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.
Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Himani Sarkar. Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Michael Berry
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