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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Russia launches more than 60 missiles into Ukraine

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Russian forces have launched at least 60 missile strikes across Ukraine with explosions reported in at least four cities.

At least two people were killed when a residential building was hit in central Ukraine while electricity and water services were interrupted in the two largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv. Thousands rushed to subway stations to seek shelter deep underground.

The Kyiv city administration said Ukraine’s capital had withstood “one of the biggest rocket attacks” launched by Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine nearly 10 months ago.

The administration said Ukrainian air defence forces shot down 37 of “about 40” that entered the city’s air space. One person was injured.

Thudding blasts and gunfire from air-defence systems echoed across the country as authorities on social media reported explosions and missile strikes in Kyiv, the capital, southern Kryvyi Rih, south-eastern Zaporizhzhia and north-eastern Kharkiv.

Air raid alarms sounded across the country, warning of a new barrage of the Russian strikes that have occurred intermittently since mid-October.

The head of the country’s armed forces said Ukrainian forces intercepted 60 of the 76 missiles launched.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Inhat told Ukrainian TV that Russian forces had fired cruise missiles from positions in the Black Sea and used bomber aircraft as part of an effort to “massively distract the attention of the anti-aircraft defence, keeping it in tension”.

At the site of one attempted strike in Kyiv, military commanders told The Associated Press that the city’s territorial defence mobile group had unexpectedly — almost unbelievably — shot down a cruise missile with a machine gun.

“Almost impossible to hit a missile with a machine gun, but it was done,” said a commander who goes by the call sign “Hera”.

Another commander, a military post chief named “Yevhen”, said the machine gunner who intercepted the missile “reacted quickly” and fired, and green sparks flew from the rocket as it began to spin and tumble to the ground.

A day earlier, Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned that if the United States delivers sophisticated Patriot air defence systems to Ukraine, such systems and any crews that accompany them would also be a legitimate target for the Russian military.

Electricity and water services were interrupted in parts of the country, including in the capital and Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

State-owned grid operator Ukrenergo wrote on Facebook that emergency shutdowns were triggered across the country. Priority in restoring power will be given to critical infrastructure facilities, including hospitals, water supply facilities, heat supply facilities, and sewage treatment plants.

Friday’s attack was “the ninth wave of missile strikes on energy facilities”, Ukrenergo said, and because of the repeated damage “the restoration of power supply may take longer than before”.

Analysts have said Russian strikes targeting energy infrastructure have been part of a new strategy to try to freeze Ukrainians into submission after recent battlefield losses by Russian forces.

Officials and experts say that has only strengthened the resolve of Ukrainians to face up to Russia’s invasion while Moscow tries to buy time for a possible offensive in coming months after the current battlefield stalemate.

In Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s hometown, a Russian missile slammed into a residential building and destroyed its entrance. Two people were killed, and at least five others were injured — including two children — and rushed to hospitals, said regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko.

The south-eastern city of Zaporizhzhia was struck by about 15 Russian missiles, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said. He did not specify the exact location of the strikes but said infrastructure had been damaged.

Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov said on the Telegram social media app that the city is without electricity. Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov reported three strikes on the city’s critical infrastructure.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko reported explosions in at least four districts, urging residents to go to shelters.

“The attack on the capital continues,” he wrote on Telegram. Subway services in the capital were suspended, he said, as city residents flocked inside its tunnels to seek shelter.

Ukrzaliznytsia, the national railway operator, said power was out in a number of stations in the eastern and central Kharkiv, Kirovohrad, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions, due to damage to the energy infrastructure. But trains continued to run by switching from electric power to steam-engine power, which had been readied as a back-up.

In neighbouring Moldova, the state-owned energy company Moldelectrica reported disruptions to its electricity network as a result of Russia’s strikes on Ukraine, and warned of a “high risk” of power outages.

Moldova — whose Soviet-era systems remain interconnected with Ukraine’s — has already suffered two massive blackouts in recent months as Russia attacked Ukraine’s energy grid.

The previous such round of massive Russian air strikes across the country took place on December 5. Ukrainian authorities have reported some successes in intercepting and downing incoming missiles, rockets and armed drones.

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