Russia has pounded Ukraine with missiles and drones, killing at least 11 people, according to officials, after Western allies pledged tanks to Kyiv in its fight against Moscow’s invasion.
Air raid alarms sounded across Ukraine on Thursday as people headed to work. In the capital Kyiv, crowds took cover for a time in underground metro stations.
“Not a single room is left intact, everything got hit,” said Halyna Panosyan, 67, surveying twisted sheets of corrugated metal, crumpled masonry and a large missile crater outside her ruined house in Hlevakha near Kyiv.
“There was an extremely loud strike that made me jump up. I was in the bedroom … I was saved by the fact that the bedroom is to the other side of the house.”
Russian forces trained tank, mortar and artillery fire on more than 60 towns and villages in an arc of territory extending from Chernihiv and Sumy regions in the north through Kharkiv region in the northeast and in the focal points of Russian attempts to advance in Donetsk region in the east – Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
Ukraine’s military said it shot down 47 of 59 Russian missiles – some fired from Tu-95 strategic bombers in the Russian Arctic. Russia also launched 37 air strikes, 17 of them using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. All drones were downed, the military general staff said.
Eleven people were killed and 11 wounded in the drone and missile strikes, which spanned 11 regions and also damaged 35 buildings, a State Emergency Service spokesperson said.
Russia responded with fury to news on Wednesday that Germany and the United States would send dozens of modern tanks to Ukraine. More tanks will come from Canada, Poland, Britain, Finland and Norway while several more allies including France, Spain and the Netherlands were considering sending tanks too.
Moscow has in the past reacted to Ukrainian successes with massed air strikes that left millions without light, heat or water. On Thursday, it appeared to follow that pattern. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Russian attacks on Thursday targeted energy plants.
“I held an urgent meeting today about the energy situation, about the shortages that are occurring and repair work after the terrorists’ strikes. Repair teams are working in those sites where hits occurred,” President Volodomyr Zelenskiy said in an evening video address on Thursday.
The Kremlin said it saw the promised delivery of Western tanks as evidence of growing “direct involvement” of the United States and Europe in the 11-month-old war, something both deny.
Western allies have committed about 150 tanks while Ukraine has said it needs hundreds to break Russian defensive lines and recapture occupied territory in the south and east. Both Moscow and Kyiv, which have so far relied on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, are expected to mount new ground offensives in springtime.
After being promised modern tanks, Ukraine is now seeking Western fourth-generation fighter jets such as the US F-16, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister said.
DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy producer, conducted pre-emptive emergency power shutdowns in Kyiv on Thursday, the surrounding region and the regions of Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk.
In Odesa, the Black Sea port designated a “World Heritage in Danger” site on Wednesday by the UN cultural agency UNESCO, Russian missiles damaged energy facilities, authorities said, just as French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna was arriving.
“What we saw today, new strikes on civilian Ukrainian infrastructure is not waging war, it’s waging war crimes,” she said.
The United States on Thursday formally designated Russian private military company the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organisation, freezing its US assets for helping Russia’s military in the Ukraine war.
Since invading Ukraine on February 24 last year, Russia has shifted the focus of its rhetoric from “denazifying” and “demilitarising” its neighbour to confronting what is says is an aggressive and expansionist US-led NATO alliance.
Russia’s invasion has killed thousands of civilians, uprooted millions and reduced cities to rubble.