KYIV, May 1 (AP): Russia launched its second large salvo of missiles at Ukraine in recent days on early Monday, damaging buildings and wounding at least 34 people in the eastern city of Pavlohrad but failing to hit Kyiv, officials said.
Air raid sirens began blaring across the capital at about 3.45 am, followed by the sounds of explosions as missiles were intercepted by Ukrainian defence systems.
Eighteen cruise missiles were fired in total from the Murmansk region and the Caspian region, and 15 of them were intercepted, said Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi.
The head of Kyiv’s city administration, Serhii Popko, said all missiles fired at the city were shot down, as well as some drones. He didn’t provide further details, but said more information would be available later.
The attack follows Friday’s launch of more than 20 cruise missiles and two explosive drones at Ukraine, which was the first to target Kyiv in nearly two months.
In that attack, Russian missiles hit an apartment building in Uman, a city about 215 kilometres (135 miles) south of Kyiv, killing 21 people including three children.
In Monday’s attack, missiles hit Pavlohrad, in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, wounding 34 people, including five children, according to Serhii Lysak the region’s top official.
Seven missiles shot at the city and “some were intercepted” but others hit an industrial facility, sparking a fire, and a residential neighbourhood where 19 apartment buildings, 25 homes, six schools and five shops were damaged, he said.
Missiles also hit three other areas in the region, damaging residential buildings and a school, he said.
The attacks also damaged Ukraine’s power network infrastructure, which will take several days to repair, according to Energy Minister Herman Haluschenko.
He said that nearly 20,000 people in the city of Kherson and wider region had been left without power, along with an unspecified number of people in the Dnipropetrovsk region, including the city of Dnipro.
Moscow has frequently launched long-range missile attacks during the 14-month wa r, often indiscriminately hitting civilian areas.
Ukraine has recently taken delivery of American-made Patriot missiles, providing improved anti-missile defences, but it was not clear whether any of them were employed in trying to stop Monday morning’s attack.
Ukraine has also been building up its mechanised brigades with armour supplied by its Western allies, who have also been training Ukrainian troops and sending ammunition, as Kyiv prepares for an expected counteroffensive this spring.
On Saturday, two Ukrainian drones hit a Russian oil depot in Crimea in the latest attack on the annexed peninsula as Ukraine gears up for its counteroffensive.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview last week that his country would seek to reclaim the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014 in the upcoming counteroffensive.
In what has become a grinding war of attrition, the fiercest battles have been in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russia is struggling to encircle the city of Bakhmut in the face of dogged Ukrainian defence.
Troops from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group and other forces are fighting Ukrainian troops there house-to-house to try and gain control of what has become known as the “road of life” — the last remaining road west still in Ukrainian hands, which makes it critical for supplies and fresh troops.
In an interview released on Monday, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, the head of Ukrainian ground forces, said that Russia continues to exert “maximum effort” to take the city but that it so far has failed.
“In some parts of the city, the enemy was counterattacked by our units and left some positions,” he said.