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Russian strikes kill seven, create new panic across Ukraine

By AFP

January 23, 2024 07:50 PM


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A wave of Russian missiles hit Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities killing seven people and wounding dozens, setting ablaze and toppling apartment blocks and creating new panic among exhausted residents.

Rescue workers in Kharkiv -- Ukraine's second city that is near Russia's border -- hauled survivors from smouldering piles of rubble, AFP journalists reported.

The regional governor said six Kharkiv residents were killed in the overnight barrage and another 51 wounded, as medics treated survivors in blood-soaked clothes and bandages.

Oleksandra Terekhovich ran into the corridor of her home for protection when she heard the first explosion. The second blast hit the building next door, shattering her windows and door, she said.

"There are no more tears. Our country has been going through what has been happening for two years now. We live with horror inside of us," she told AFP.

Interior Minister Igor Klymenko praised "heroic" rescuers that he said had pulled 27 survivors from rubble. He posted dramatic footage of workers cutting free a man who had been trapped in freezing temperatures for hours.

Ukraine's army chief Valery Zaluzhny said Russian forces fired 41 missiles in the barrage and his forces had downed 21 of them.

AFP reporters in Kyiv heard air raid sirens echo over the capital at night, followed by a series of loud blasts as defence systems targeted the aerial onslaught.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 20 people were wounded in the attack on Kyiv that set buildings and cars ablaze in central districts.

 

- 'It's scary' -

 

Daryna Bodenchuk, a 17-year-old interior design student, said she was in her Kyiv dormitory at the time of the strikes. They shook the building and blew open the door of the basement where she and others had taken shelter, she said.

"It's really scary. A window was broken also in our dormitory. It was loud," she told AFP.

In the region around Kyiv, officials said four people were wounded after residential blocks, private homes and farm buildings were damaged.

Further south, in the city of Pavlograd, the Dnipropetrovsk governor said one person had been killed and another wounded.

Separately, the governor of the southern region of Kherson, which the Kremlin claims is part of Russia, said a 70-year-old man had been killed by Russian forces, without giving details.

"We must make Russia pay for the suffering and pain it has caused to Ukraine," Prime Minister Denys Shymgal said in response to the attack.

President Volodymyr Zelensky described the attack as an example of "deliberate terror".

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink said the attacks showed that Washington should double down on support.

"Ukraine needs our continued support now, to protect itself against these cruel attacks on civilians," she said on social media.

France's foreign ministry condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the wave of Russian missiles.

"By deliberately targeting Ukrainian civilian infrastructure once again, Russia is guilty of war crimes and bears sole responsibility for the escalation," it said in a statement.

Russia said it had launched long-range strikes on weapons production facilities in Ukraine, without giving details.

"The goals of the strike have been achieved. All designated facilities have been hit," said a defence ministry statement.

 

- Kremlin denies civilians targeted -

 

The Kremlin -- responding to questions from reporters about the attacks -- denied Russian forces had targeted civilian infrastructure and vowed to continue Moscow's nearly two-year invasion.

"Our military does not hit civilian facilities or residential neighbourhoods, and does not hit civilians -- unlike the Kyiv regime," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

This was an apparent reference to an increase in fatal drone and missile attacks that Russian forces have blamed on Kyiv, targeting cities and energy facilities near the border.

Russian forces had aimed to wrest control of Kharkiv -- the city worst hit in the overnight strikes -- early in their invasion, launched in February 2022.

Ukrainian forces pushed back Moscow's army but it has been routinely shelling the city since.

The toll from the missile barrage adds to the tens of thousands of military personnel and civilians understood to have been killed since Russia invaded.

There are no reliable figures of the overall toll but the United Nations has documented at least 10,200 civilian deaths –- including 575 children –- and 19,300 wounded.

The real figures are likely to be considerably higher.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said this month that his country's priority for 2024 was to gain control over its air space. Kyiv has urged its allies to help bolster its air defence capabilities.


AFP


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