Hit Ukraine “With Almost Everything”: Zelensky As Russian Strikes Kill 30

Russia launched a massive air attack over Ukraine on Friday, killing at least 30 people and wounding over a hundred across the country in the fiercest assault since the first days of the war nearly two years ago. Schools, a maternity hospital, shopping arcades and blocks of flats were among the buildings hit in the barrage, said Ukrainian officials.

The attacks — which also saw a Russian missile passing through Polish airspace — triggered international condemnation and fresh promises of military support to Ukraine, which has been fighting off invading Russian troops since late February 2022.

“Today Russia hit us with almost everything it has in its arsenal,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Ukraine’s military estimated that Russia had fired 158 missiles and drones on Ukraine and 114 of them had been destroyed.

Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat told AFP that this was a “record number” of missiles and “the most massive missile attack” of the war, excluding the early days of constant bombardment.

Russia tried to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defences across most major cities, launching a wave of Shahed attack drones followed by missiles of numerous types fired from planes and from Russian-controlled territory.

Interior Minister Igor Klymenko announced on Telegram: “As of now, 30 people have been killed and more than 160 wounded as a result of Russia’s massive attack on Ukrainian territory in the morning.”

Russia’s army said it had “carried out 50 group strikes and one massive strike” on military facilities in Ukraine over the past week, adding that “all targets were hit.”

Poland reported that a Russian missile passed through its airspace.

“Everything indicates that a Russian missile entered Polish airspace… It also left,” said General Wieslaw Kukula, chief of the general staff of the Polish armed forces.

After speaking to Polish President Andrzej Duda, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance “stands in solidarity” with Poland, adding: “NATO remains vigilant”.

In the face of sustained Russian assaults, Ukraine is urging Western allies to maintain military support.

Ukraine presidential aide Andriy Yermak said Kyiv needed “more support and strength to stop this terror.” 

US President Joe Biden called on Congress to overcome its division to approve new aid for Ukraine, after Washington released its final package of weaponry under existing agreements still to be renewed by Congress.

“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,” Biden said in a statement.

“Congress must step up and act without any further delay.”

Britain announced it would send hundreds more air-defence missiles to Kyiv, after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared that “We must continue to stand with Ukraine — for as long as it takes”.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described it as “yet another cowardly and indiscriminate” attack on civilians.

The strikes targeted at least six Ukrainian regions including Kharkiv in the northeast, Lviv in the west, Dnipro in the east and Odesa in the south.

In the capital Kyiv seven people were killed, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko, with damage to the building of Lukyanivska metro station located near the Artyom arms factory that Russia said it targeted early in the war.

Work was still ongoing to rescue people stuck under the rubble of the warehouse in the Shevchenko district in the afternoon, according to the city administration.

AFP journalists in Kyiv earlier saw firefighters wearing oxygen masks tackling a fire a 3,000 square metres (32,300 square feet) warehouse in the northern Podil district.

Damage to civilian facilities was also reported in other parts of the country.

The northeastern city of Kharkiv faced around 20 strikes, killing three employees at a civilian enterprise and wounding 11, governor said Oleg Synegubov.

In Dnipro in southern Ukraine, the health ministry said a maternity hospital had been “severely damaged” but the staff and patients had managed to shelter in time.

Six were killed and 28 wounded said Sergiy Lysak, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region where a shopping mall, private houses and administrative buildings were hit.

Lysak said there were 12 women in labour at the maternity hospital and four newborns when it was struck.

In Zaporizhzhia, on the shores on the Dnipro river, governor Yuriy Malashko reported seven dead and 13 wounded.

In the Odesa region, which has seen renewed attacks since the summer, four people were killed. 

Earlier in the day, an AFP photographer saw firefighters extinguishing a blaze in a high-rise building, smoke pouring out of a hole blown in the facade, and the air thick with dust.

Strikes over Lviv in the West of Ukraine are much more rare, but the region was not spared on Friday.

One person was killed and 15 wounded as high-rise blocks of flats and two schools were damaged, the interior ministry said.

Zelensky said he had visited the town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, which has become a key battle site since Ukraine’s counteroffensive failed to pierce through Russia’s defensive lines. 

“This is one of the most difficult areas of the front line,” he wrote on Telegram, along with a video of him in front of a sign with the name of the town, giving medals to soldiers.

“I thank all those who are at the first line (of fire) for their service, for this year during which the entire country survived thanks to its soldiers,” he said.

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