KYIV — A volley of Russian missiles wounded dozens of people and damaged a children’s hospital Wednesday (Dec 13), the worst attack on Kyiv in months, Ukrainian officials said, as the country pleaded for Western military aid.
AFP journalists in the capital heard several explosions before dawn, and air raid sirens sounded soon after.
Ukraine’s air force said it had downed all 10 missiles targeting the city and the health ministry said 53 people had been wounded, including two children.
Most injuries were caused by “glass shards, household items and the shock wave” as missile debris fell in eastern and southern parts of the city, the ministry added.
Wednesday’s strike, which caused the highest number of wounded in months, was the second in a week.
In another attack overnight Sunday to Monday, eight missiles headed for the capital were shot down.
“The enemy used ballistic weapons,” the Kyiv City Military Administration said, adding that Russia was “intensifying the missile terror of Kyiv”.
There were also strikes in the southern port of Odesa, where officials said nine Iranian-made Shahed drones had been downed.
ODESA UNDER ATTACK
On the edge of the port city of Odesa, an AFP journalist saw a large hangar in which trucks and cars had been destroyed. Pieces of the metal roof were lodged in the branches of nearby trees.
Inside the hangar, some cars had shrapnel holes, some were burnt out, while others had been crushed by the roof falling. Some cars parked outside were also damaged.
“It turned out that when the drones were downed, not all of them were completely destroyed,” said army spokeswoman Nataliya Gumenyuk.
She said the destroyed hangar was a civilian facility, not directly connected to Odesa ports, which has been relentlessly targeted by Moscow since summer.
Two employees of a car repair facility were wounded by one of the downed drones and “a port infrastructure building was partially destroyed” by another, regional chief Oleg Kiper said.
Russia’s defence ministry said the armed forces had destroyed Ukrainian ammunition depots and drone construction sites, but did not elaborate.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russia “a shameful country that fires rockets at night, hitting residential areas, kindergartens and energy facilities in winter”.
The Kyiv strikes came a day after a massive hacking attack on the country’s top telecoms operator, which Ukrainian officials said might have been carried out by Russian security services.
Russian forces have also intensified attacks along the front line in southern and eastern Ukraine in recent days. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Izvestia newspaper that “Ukrainian forces are rapidly losing their positions.”
The missiles targeted Kyiv when Mr Zelensky was travelling to Norway — a key donor — after a visit to Washington that failed to unblock a US$60 billion (S$80 billion) aid package stuck in a divided Congress.
The Ukrainian leader is trying to rebuild support among Ukraine’s allies amid growing fatigue.
Ukraine “can’t win without help”, he told reporters following talks with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.
Speaking alongside Mr Zelensky at the White House on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said: “I will not walk away from Ukraine.”
Republicans increasingly oppose continued support for the pro-Western democracy, but Democratic Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday cited “real progress” in behind-the-scenes talks on hashing out a major new military aid package.
The conflict is also expected to be a key topic for a European Union summit this week, where Ukraine is hoping for positive news on its bid for membership.
Speaking in the European Parliament on Wednesday, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen urged the bloc’s 27 leaders to back massive financial aid for Ukraine, and Kyiv’s ambitions for membership talks.
“We must give Ukraine what it needs to be strong today,” the European Commission president told MEPs.
French President Emmanuel Macron also called for the EU to offer “full and enduring support” to Ukraine.
But Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban maintains his opposition to opening EU membership talks with Ukraine, suggesting instead a “strategic partnership”. AFP