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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ballistic missiles shot down in latest Russian attack on Kyiv, say Ukrainians

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Russia fired eight ballistic missiles at Kyiv early on Monday, all of which were shot down, Ukraine’s air force said.

The thwarted attack still left one person injured by shrapnel and three more suffered severe stress reactions, officials said.

Several homes were also destroyed and more than 100 were left without electricity.

The predawn attack on Kyiv came amid warnings that Russia will step up its attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure as winter sets in with freezing temperatures.

A series of loud explosions rang out in Ukraine’s capital just after 4am, as the city was under its nightly curfew, followed by air raid sirens.

Ukraine’s military said its air defenses intercepted all eight ballistic missiles. However, falling debris from rockets damaged homes on the ground, leaving one person wounded and three others suffering severe shock, officials said.Lk

The attack also left some 120 households in the city without electricity, Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy said.

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia will target energy infrastructure to cause power outages and blackouts like it did last winter.

In an intelligence update over the weekend, the UK Defence Ministry noted that Russia last week used its heavy bomber fleet for the first time since September.

It predicted the start of a more concerted campaign aimed at degrading Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as winter sets in.

Kyiv is routinely targeted by Russian drone and missile attacks.

Just over two weeks ago, Kyiv came under what Ukrainian officials said was the most intense drone attack since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched 75 Iranian-made Shahed drones against the capital, of which 74 were destroyed by air defences.

Monday’s attack on the capital happened as Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was in Argentina, where he attended the swearing-in of the country’s new president, Javier Milei.

It was the Ukrainian leader’s first official trip to South America as Kyiv continues to court support among developing nations for its 21-month-old fight against Russia’s invading forces.

Mr Zelensky met with Mr Milei as well as with the presidents of Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador. During the inauguration ceremony, Mr Zelenskyy could be seen exchanging words with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, widely considered one of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s closest allies in Europe and one of the few European leaders who has not sided with Ukraine in the war.

In his nightly video address, Mr Zelensky said he had a “highly straightforward conversation” with Mr Orban, “focused on our European affairs”.

He said he also spoke by phone with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, “about joint work at the EU level and about the joint defence of Europe”.

EU leaders are meeting later this week in Brussels. Mr Orban has demanded that EU membership talks with Ukraine and billions of euros in funding meant for Kyiv be taken off the agenda.

Mr Zelensky was due to travel to Washington for meetings Tuesday with President Joe Biden and other US officials.

“Volodymyr Zelensky will focus on ensuring unity among the United States, Europe and the world in supporting Ukraine’s defence against Russian terror and strengthening the international order based on rules and respect for the sovereignty of each nation,” his office said in a statement.

Biden has asked Congress for a 110 billion US dollars (£87 billion) package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel, along with other national security priorities. But the request is caught up in a debate over US immigration policy and border security.

Elsewhere in Ukraine on Monday, Russia fired 18 drones overnight, and the air force intercepted all of them, mostly over the southern Mykolaiv region.

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