KYIV (Reuters): Air raid sirens rang across Ukraine as Russia unleashed more than 100 missiles on Thursday morning, according to a Ukrainian presidential adviser, and blasts were heard in several cities, including the capital Kyiv.
“A massive air raid. More than 100 missiles in several waves,” presidential office adviser Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on Facebook, and the head of Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region also reported Russian missiles in the air.
The city’s mayor Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said “For the moment, there are three wounded in Kyiv, including a 14-year-old girl. They are all in hospital.”
Kyiv authorities said that air defenses downed all 16 missiles that targeted the Ukrainian capital.
“All 16 missiles were shot down,” the city’s military administration said on social media, adding that missile fragments damaged three private houses and a car.
Close to half of Kyiv’s population was left without power after a new wave of Russian strikes targeted the Ukrainian capital and other cities, Klitschko also said on social media.
Explosions were heard in Kyiv, Zhytomyr and Odessa, according to a Reuters correspondent and local media reports.
Power cuts were announced in the Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk regions, aimed at minimizing potential damage to the energy infrastructure.
The blitz came hard on the heels of the Kremlins rejection of a Ukrainian peace plan, insisting that Kyiv accept Russia’s annexation of four regions.
Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians, but Ukraine says its daily bombardment is destroying cities, towns, and the country’s infrastructrure from power to medical.
On Wednesday, Russian shelling hit the maternity wing of a hospital in the city of Kherson, though no-one was hurt, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff. Staff and patients were moved to a shelter, Tymoshenko said in a post on Telegram.
“It was frightening … the explosions began abruptly, the window handle started to tear off … oh, my hands are still shaking,” Olha Prysidko, a new mother, said. “When we came to the basement, the shelling wasn’t over. Not for a minute.”
Ukraine’s recently liberated southern city of Kherson has remained under constant bombardment from Russian forces which had retreated to the east bank of the river when the city was retaken in a major victory for Ukraine last month.
Zelensky, in a video address, urged Ukrainians to hug loved ones, tell friends they appreciate them, support colleagues, thank their parents and rejoice with their children more often.
“We have not lost our humanity, although we have endured terrible months,” he said. “And we will not lose it, although there is a difficult year ahead.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Kyiv and its Western allies have denounced Russia’s actions as an imperialist-style land grab. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls it a “special military operation” to demilitarize its neighbor.
Sweeping sanctions have been imposed on Russia for the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, left cities in ruins and shaken the global economy, driving up energy and food prices.
There is still no prospect of talks to end the war.
Zelensky is vigorously pushing a 10-point peace plan that envisages Russia respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and pulling out all its troops.
But Moscow dismissed it on Wednesday, reiterating Kyiv must accept Russia’s annexation of the four regions — Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
There can be no peace plan “that does not take into account today’s realities regarding Russian territory, with the entry of four regions into Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Zelensky’s idea of driving Russia out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea with Western help and getting Moscow to pay damages to Kyiv is an “illusion,” the RIA news agency reported.
TASS cited Lavrov as saying that Russia would continue to build up its fighting strength and technological capabilities in Ukraine. He said that Moscow’s mobilized troops had undergone “serious training” and while many were now on the ground, the majority were not yet at the front.
Zelensky told parliament to remain united and praised Ukrainians for helping the West “find itself again.”
“Our national colors are today an international symbol of courage and indomitability of the whole world,” he said in an annual speech held behind closed doors.