Russia has launched a massive missile attack across Ukraine – striking targets in the capital Kyiv, the second biggest city of Kharkiv and the Black Sea port of Odesa – killing at least six people.
The northern city of Chernihiv and the western Lviv region, as well as the cities of Dnipro, Lutsk and Rivne, also came under fire, and Ukrainian media reported explosions in the western regions of Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil.
The Russian attack – targeting the country’s energy infrastructure but also hitting residential areas – was the first of its kind on such a scale for three weeks.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 10 regions were affected and described the barrage that came while many people slept as an attempt by Moscow “to intimidate Ukrainians again”.
Ukraine war – latest: Russia launches massive missile attack
The airstrikes caused widespread power cuts and set off air raid sirens. Many areas were left without water too.
Ukraine’s military said Russia had fired 81 missiles and eight drones during the early morning offensive.
Defence systems were activated and 34 cruise missiles and four drones were destroyed.
The country’s energy minister Herman Halushchenko condemned the missile strikes as “another barbaric massive attack on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine”.
Andriy Yermak, chief of the Ukrainian presidential staff, wrote on the Telegram messaging app: “The terrorists are doing everything they can to leave us without power… They are continuing their terror against peaceful people.”
Five people were killed in the Lviv region after a missile struck a residential area, its governor Maksym Kozytskyi said. Three buildings were destroyed by fire after the strike and rescue workers were searching the rubble for more possible victims, he said.
A sixth person was killed in several airstrikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region that targeted its energy infrastructure and industrial facilities, Governor Serhii Lysak said.
Officials said the capital was attacked with both missiles and exploding drones and that many were intercepted but that its energy infrastructure was hit.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said explosions were reported in the city’s Holosiivskyi district and emergency services were heading there.
“Objects of critical infrastructure is again in the crosshairs of the occupants,” said Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov in a Telegram post after 15 missiles struck the eastern Ukrainian city and the outlying northeastern region, hitting residential buildings.
The city’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, reported “problems with electricity” in some parts of the city.
Energy facilities and residential buildings were also hit in the southern Odesa region, according to its governor Maksym Marchenko.
“The second wave is expected right now, so I ask the residents of the region to stay in shelters!” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Preventive emergency power cuts were applied in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk and Odesa regions, supplier DTEK said.
Ukrainian Railways also reported power outages in areas.
The power supply at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was also knocked out during the offensive.
Energoatom state company said in a statement: “The last link between the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the Ukrainian power system was cut off.”
It said the fifth and sixth reactor had been shut down and electric power needed for the plant to function was being supplied by 18 diesel generators which had enough fuel for 10 days.
Nuclear plants need constant power to run cooling systems and avoid a meltdown.
“The countdown has begun,” the company added.
The nuclear power plant was captured by Russian forces early on in their invasion of Ukraine and remains under their control.
It is strategically critical to both sides of the Ukraine-Russia conflict but its ongoing stalemate has led to increasing concerns about nuclear safety.
The missile offensive came as Ukrainian forces fought off fierce assaults by Russian soldiers on the eastern mining town of Bakhmut.
“The enemy continued its attacks and has shown no sign of a let-up in storming the city of Bakhmut,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said on Facebook.
“Our defenders repelled attacks on Bakhmut and on surrounding communities.”
President Zelenskyy said in a video address late on Wednesday that the battle for Bakhmut and the surrounding Donbas region is “our first priority”.
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Russia’s Wagner mercenary group claimed control of the eastern part of Bakhmut.
“Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of Wagner,” the group’s leader and founder Yevgeny Prigozhin wrote on Telegram.
Control of Bakhmut would give Russia a stepping stone to advance on two bigger cities it has long coveted in the Donetsk region: Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
Russian has said it has annexed nearly 20% of Ukrainian territory.