Russian missiles hit Ukrainian cities, killing 5 and injuring more than 100, Kyiv officials say

Fire and smoke rises after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukraine’s two largest cities came under attack Tuesday from Russian missiles that killed five people and injured more than 100, officials said, as the war approached its two-year mark and the Kremlin stepped up its winter bombardment of urban areas.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said Tuesday evening that the attack killed five civilians and injured 127 as air defenses downed Russian Kinzhal missiles that can fly at 10 times the speed of sound. The Kremlin’s forces targeted Kyiv, the capital, and the northeastern Kharkiv region whose provincial capital is also called Kharkiv, authorities said.

There was some confusion over the death toll as Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Syniehubov initially reported one death there but later said the injured woman thought to have been killed was in a coma. He said 52 people were wounded in Kharkhiv.

Air defenses shot down all 10 of the hypersonic missiles, out of about 100 of various types that were launched, Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi claimed. It was the most Kinzhals used by Russia in one attack since the start of the war, air force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said.

The barrage extended Russian attacks that began Friday with its largest single assault on Ukraine since the war started, as fighting along the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line has subsided into grinding attrition amid winter. At least 41 civilians were killed since the weekend.

At a nine-story Kyiv apartment building where two people were killed, 48-year-old Inna Luhina was getting ready for work when a blast shattered her windows and she and other family members, including her 80-year-old mother, were struck by flying glass.

More than 100 survivors gathered at a school set up as a temporary shelter.

Iryna Dzyhil, a 55-year-old resident of the same building, said the explosion threw her and her husband from their chairs, and a subsequent fire trapped them on the top floor until emergency crews rescued them via the roof.

“They say they’re hitting military targets, but they’re hitting people, killing our children and our loved ones,” Dzyhil said of the Russians.

Russia fired almost 100 missiles of various types in the attacks, Zelenskyy said on X, formerly Twitter. He claimed at least 70 were shot down, almost all of them in the Kyiv area, noting that Western-supplied air defense systems such as Patriots and NASAMS had saved hundreds of lives.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had launched missile and drone strikes on military industrial facilities in and around Kyiv. Depots storing missiles and munitions supplied by the West also were targeted, it said.

“The goal of the strike has been achieved, all the targets have been hit,” it said without elaborating.
It was not possible to independently verify either side’s claims.

Zelenskyy said that since Sunday, Russian forces have launched about 170 Shahed drones and dozens of missiles, with most aimed at civilian areas.

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal is an air-launched hypersonic ballistic missile. Russian forces rarely use such expensive missiles against Ukraine, due to their limited stocks.

The attacks created a desolate morning scene in Kyiv, with most cafes and restaurants remaining closed. Many people opted to stay indoors or seek refuge in shelters as powerful blasts shook the city from early morning. Air raid sirens blared for nearly four hours, and the city’s subway stations — which function as shelters — were crowded.

After the air force issued warnings about incoming missiles, people wearing pajamas underneath their coats took sleeping bags, mats and their pets to subway stations while loud explosions echoed above. At one of the central stations, called Golden Gates, hundreds of people filled the spacious underground areas while trains continued to run.

“Perhaps today was the most frightening because there were so many explosions,” said resident Myroslava Shcherba.

On Saturday, shelling of the Russian border city of Belgorod killed more than two dozen people. Russia blamed Ukraine for the attack and has struck back repeatedly since then.

The Belgorod attack was one of the deadliest on Russian soil since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine started more than 22 months ago. Russian officials said the death toll reached 26, including five children, after a new salvo of rockets Tuesday.

Air defense systems near Belgorod shot down four missiles fired Tuesday by a Ukrainian Vilkha multiple rocket launcher, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Over the previous 24 hours, Ukraine has carried out at least 50 attacks, including shelling and explosives from drones, regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

Cities in western Russia have regularly come under drone attacks since May, although Ukrainian officials never acknowledge responsibility for strikes on Russian territory or the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

“They want to intimidate us and create uncertainty within our country. We will intensify strikes. Not a single crime against our civilian population will go unpunished,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday, describing the barrage of Belgorod as a “terrorist act.”

He accused Western nations of using Ukraine to try to “put Russia in its place.” While vowing retribution, he insisted Moscow would only target military infrastructure in Ukraine, but officials in Kyiv report civilian casualties from daily attacks on apartment buildings, shopping centers and residential areas.

In other developments, Russia’s Defense Ministry said one of its warplanes accidentally released munitions over the southwestern Russian village of Petropavlovka in the Voronezh region Tuesday, damaging six houses but causing no injuries. It said an investigation will determine the cause of the accident but didn’t say what type of weapon the warplane dropped.

In April, munitions accidentally released by a Russian warplane caused a powerful blast in Belgorod, damaging several cars and slightly injuring two people.