Russia launches ‘most massive aerial attack’ of Ukraine war, killing 30 civilians

The result was “the most massive aerial attack” since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on his official Telegram channel. It topped the previous biggest assault, in November 2022 when Russia launched 96 missiles, and this year’s biggest, with 81 missiles on March 9, according to air force records.

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 1,000-km (620-mile) line of contact.

Ukrainian rescuers carry a bag from the site of a damaged building after shelling in Odesa. Photo: EPA-EFE

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the front-line town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, which is half surrounded by Russian troops.

“Avdiivka: our positions and our boys,” Zelensky said in a video message published on social networks on Friday. The head of state was standing at the entrance to the industrial town, which was decorated with Ukrainian flags. He was accompanied by the head of his presidential office Andrii Yermak.

Zelensky honoured several soldiers with medals and conveyed his best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

At the beginning of October, the Russian army launched a new offensive to capture Avdiivka. The heavily destroyed town is now only accessible via a road through a narrow corridor around 7km wide.

Zelensky had already travelled to the front-line town in April.

Ukrainian officials have urged the country’s Western allies to provide it with more air defences. Their appeals have come as signs of war fatigue strain efforts to keep support in place.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday said the attack should stir the world to further action in support of Ukraine.
“These widespread attacks on Ukraine’s cities show (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will stop at nothing to achieve his aim of eradicating freedom and democracy,” Sunak said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “We must continue to stand with Ukraine – for as long as it takes.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the scale of the attack should wake people up to Ukraine’s continuing needs.

“Today, millions of Ukrainians awoke to the loud sound of explosions,” he wrote on X. “I wish those sounds of explosions in Ukraine could be heard all around the world. In all major capitals, headquarters, and parliaments, which are currently debating further support for Ukraine.”

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Ukraine says Russian strike killed over 50 in one of the deadliest attacks of the war

Ukraine says Russian strike killed over 50 in one of the deadliest attacks of the war

In Boyarka, near the capital, Kyiv, the debris of a shot-down drone fell on a home and started a fire. Andrii Korobka, 47, said his mother was sleeping next to the room where the wreckage landed and was taken to hospital suffering from shock.

“The war goes on, and it can happen to any house, even if you think yours will never be affected,” Korobka said.

Tetiana Sakhnenko lives next door and said neighbours ran with buckets of water to put out the blaze, but it spread quickly. “It’s so scary,” she said.

A Christmas tree near a playground as Ukrainian rescuers and police officers work at the site of a damaged residential building after shelling in Odesa, southwestern Ukraine on Friday. Photo: EPA-EFE

The attack hit six cities, and reports of deaths and damage came in from across the country.

In the eastern city of Dnipro, four maternity hospital patients were rescued from a fire, five people were killed and 20 injured, officials said.

In Odesa, on the southern coast, falling drone wreckage started a fire at a multistorey residential building, according to the regional head, Oleh Kiper. Two people were killed and 15, including two children, were injured, he said.

Russia ‘sent unit of Ukrainian POWs into battle against own countrymen’

The mayor of the western city of Lviv, Andrii Sadovy, said one person was killed there, with three schools and a kindergarten damaged in a drone attack. Local emergency services said 30 people were injured.

Several dozen missiles were launched towards Kyiv, with more than 30 intercepted, said Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration. Three people were killed there, he said.

In northeastern Ukraine, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said the city was subjected to at least three waves of aerial attacks that included S-300 and Kh-21 missile launches. One person was killed and at least nine injured, officials said.

Additional reporting by dpa

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