Russia unleashes missile barrage at Ukraine as holiday airstrikes persist

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KHARKIV — Russia bombarded Ukrainian cities with an overnight assault of drones and missiles on Tuesday, extending a vicious wave of holiday-season strikes on population centers by Moscow and Kyiv that has left dozens of civilians dead and suggests a brutal new stage of the war that is being felt well beyond the stagnating front lines.

In Kyiv, there were loud explosions shortly after 7 a.m. Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said on Telegram that one woman died and 49 people were injured after a fire broke out in a high-rise building “as the result of the missile attack” and that electricity and water were cut off in some areas of the capital.

Klitschko said that “civilian infrastructure” in two regions of the capital had been damaged and that fires broke out in numerous locations, including a warehouse in Kyiv’s Podil district.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian forces fired “almost a hundred missiles of various types,” and that “at least 70 missiles were shot down” by air defense forces. Zelensky’s assertion, in a video post, could not be independently verified. In a separate post, Zelensky said Moscow had launched “about 170” self-destructing drones since Dec. 31.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, a 91-year-old woman died, and 47 people were injured — including five children — in four strikes on the city center, said the head of the regional administration, Oleh Synyehubov.

Ambulances were already on the scene at one location in Kharkiv when a second missile arrived, striking a strip of apartment buildings within eyesight of the Kharkiv Palace — a major hotel hit days earlier.

One ambulance’s windshield splintered. In a nearby liquor store, bottles shimmied off their shelves and smashed to the floor. The smell of natural gas wafted in the air. Debris floated into the park below, where the benches had been knocked sideways. Nestled among the damage was a teddy bear.

In an apartment corridor, a sliver of shrapnel pierced the neck of Sasha Vlasliuk, 9, dressed in pajamas and blue boots, who had been cowering in the hallway with his mother, Mariana.

When it was safe, Mariana, 49, led her boy downstairs and toward a medic, blood on the cuff of his coat. She held Sasha close — just as she had when he was a baby — as his head was wrapped in white gauze that soon soaked red.

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Nearby, a man in plaid house slippers walked in a daze, mud and glass glued to the soles, carrying his sneakers. Another woman was barefoot, crying on the phone while also calming her skittish German shepherd. An older woman in an ankle-length fur coat pressed a tissue to her injured face, blood streaking her front.

Another ambulance wailed: this one for Sasha. A medic lifted the boy into his arms. He went limp, head tipped back to the sky, his dressing redder yet. Mariana waited, blood on her glasses, blood on her bathrobe — her son’s.

A neighbor held her Schnauzer up to the open ambulance door for Sasha to see. A medic took Mariana’s information. She climbed inside, the doors folded behind her, and the ambulance rushed away to the nearest hospital.

Tuesday’s barrage by Russia was the latest volley in a series of strikes that started Friday, when Moscow fired more than 150 missiles and drones at Ukrainian cities, killing at least 29 people in Kyiv and scores more elsewhere and causing damage from Kharkiv, near the Russian border in the east, to Lviv near the Polish border in the west.

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Ukraine retaliated Saturday with a rocket and missile attack on Belgorod, Russia, killing at least 24 people and injuring more than 100 — the single most deadly attack on a Russian city since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Hours later, Russian forces attacked again, firing missiles at Kharkiv’s city center, injuring dozens.

Tuesday’s attacks came in two waves, an initial swarm of drones shortly after midnight in Ukraine and then with a bombardment of missiles a few hours later.

Ukraine’s Air Force said Moscow launched 35 self-destructing drones, all of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. The Air Force statement, posted on the Telegram social media platform, could not be independently verified.

Hours later, air raid sirens sounded again, and explosions could be heard in Kyiv and Kharkiv, sending thousands into underground shelters, as Russian bombers launched a wave of missiles against the two cities shortly after 7 a.m.

Following the attacks on Ukraine, air raid sirens blared in Belgorod, where the regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said air defenses were working but urged all residents to take shelter. Gladkov, posting on Telegram, said that defenses destroyed four “airborne targets” and that one man was injured on the ground. Gladkov’s account could not be independently verified.

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In Kyiv, air defenses are increasingly crucial to the capital’s ability to function.

Systems from Western countries, such as the U.S.-made Patriot, have “saved at least hundreds of lives,” Zelensky said.

“And Russia will be responsible for every life taken,” he added.

Ukraine’s top military commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny wrote on Telegram that Russia fired 10 Kinzhal ballistic missiles, all of which were intercepted. His account could not be independently verified.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force, Yuriy Ihnat, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that Russia was expending substantial resources to continue its airstrikes on Ukrainian cities.

“The enemy has a certain quantity of resources it can use,” Ihnat said. “Launching 10 at once is a substantial expenditure. These missiles are not produced quickly.”

Stern reported from Mukachevo, Ukraine. Isabelle Khurshudyan in Kyiv, Serhiy Morgunov in Warsaw and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.

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