Residents of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv were urged to head to air raid shelters as sirens wailed across the city early on Friday morning, a day after Russia carried out the biggest aerial assault since it started the war in February.
Shortly after 2:00am (00:00 GMT), Kyiv’s city government issued an alert on its Telegram messaging app calling on residents to proceed to shelters.
Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kyiv region, said on Telegram that an “attack by drones” was under way.
A Reuters witness 20km (12 miles) south of Kyiv heard several explosions and the sound of anti-aircraft fire.
Local media outlet The Kyiv Independent reported that air raid alerts were blaring in the Kyiv, Cherkasy and Kirovohrad regions due to possible Russian drone attacks.
The Ukrainian military’s Eastern Command later reported that anti-aircraft missiles had shot down 10 drones over the Zaporizhia and Dnipropetrovsk regions. Nine were “Shahed-type drones and one Marlyn drone”, according to the report.
Waves of Russian air strikes have hit the country’s energy infrastructure, leaving millions without power and heating in often freezing temperatures.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a video address on Thursday night, said Ukraine’s air commands the centre, south, east and west of the country repelled 54 Russian missiles and 11 drones on Thursday.
Zelenskyy acknowledged that most regions were suffering power outages. The areas where loss of power was “especially difficult” included Kyiv, as well as the cities of Odesa and Kherson in the south and surrounding regions, and the region around Lviv near the western border with Poland.
“But this is nothing compared with what could have happened if it were not for our heroic anti-aircraft troops and air defence,” he said.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba described Thursday’s barrage of Russian missiles as “senseless barbarism” ahead of the New Year.
Reuters footage on Thursday showed emergency workers searching through the smouldering wreckage of homes in Kyiv destroyed by a blast and smoke trails of missiles in the sky. Officials had earlier said more than 120 missiles were fired during Thursday’s assault.
More than 18 residential buildings and 10 critical infrastructure installations were destroyed in the latest attacks, the defence ministry said in a statement.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Thursday for additional arms deliveries to Ukraine.
“It may sound like a paradox but military support for Ukraine is the fastest way to peace,” the NATO chief said in an interview.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had to be convinced that he will not achieve his goal of taking control of Ukraine, Stoltenberg said.