Russia launched a major missile barrage on Ukraine early Thursday morning, hitting dozens of residential buildings, killing at least six people and compromising a major nuclear facility, Ukrainian officials said.
The strike included more than 80 missiles and eight drones to strike targets across Ukraine, including the capital Kiev. It was the biggest attack in recent weeks.
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi said about three dozen missiles were intercepted and half of the drones were shot down.
“Last night Russia attacked Ukraine with 81 missiles and 8 Shahed drones. [Thirty-four] cruise missiles and 4 drones were shot down by Ukrainian air defense. 8 [Russian] the missiles missed their targets,” Ukraine’s Defense Department said.
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As a result of the attack, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, previously captured by Russian troops, lost power, according to state-run nuclear operator Energoatom.
According to Energoatom, the nuclear power plant relies on 18 diesel generators, which can run the station for 10 days. This is the sixth time the facility has suffered a blackout after being occupied by Russian troops months ago.
The Zaporizhzhia plant has been the subject of international concern as a potential explosion or meltdown could wreak unprecedented destruction in the surrounding areas.
“The countdown has begun,” Energoatom said.
Lviv governor Maksym Kozytskyi said five people were killed in the Lviv region and three buildings were destroyed. The death toll could rise as rescuers continue to sift through the rubble, he said.
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Dnipropetrovsk governor Serhii Lysak said a sixth person was killed and two others were injured in multiple attacks across the region.
Odessa Governor Maksym Marchenko also said that residential buildings were hit and several power lines were damaged. Additionally, at least six missiles and a drone were shot down.
Kharkiv governor Oleh Syniehubov said 15 missiles hit residential buildings. There were no casualties.
Three power plants owned by private electricity operator DTEK were also reportedly hit in the attack. There were no casualties but the equipment was badly damaged, the company said.
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Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said three people were injured in the city’s Sviatoshynskyi district and the city’s infrastructure and vehicles were also destroyed.
“We woke up from the explosion, it was very loud and we saw the cars on fire,” said Maryna Kuryluk, a 49-year-old resident.
An alarm remained in Kiev during the night and in the early morning hours. It was lifted just before 8am
Russia’s missile barrage came as its forces advanced on Bakhmut in Ukraine, where the two sides have been fighting for six months. Much of the city has been destroyed or burned to ashes.
The attack also came after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Kiev for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about keeping Ukrainian shipping ports open to ship grain from its Black Sea ports.
Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko condemned the rocket attacks as “another barbaric massive attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure,” mentioning on social media that facilities in Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk and Zhytomyr had been targeted.
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Russia has been hitting Ukraine with these massive rocket attacks since last October.
The last massive barrage took place on February 16th.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.