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Russian strikes kill six, wound dozens across Ukraine

Six people were killed and dozens wounded after a wave of Russian missiles targeted Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine, setting residential buildings ablaze and reducing others to rubble. Rescue workers in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city that is near Russia’s border, hauled wounded residents from the scene of an attack where smoke rose from smouldering piles of rubble, AFP journalists on the scene in the aftermath reported. The regional governor said five residents were killed in the overnight barrage and another 51 had been wounded, as medical workers treated one wounded man with blood smeared across his face. In Kyiv, AFP reporters heard air raid sirens echo over the capital, followed by a series of loud blasts — thought to be air defence systems responding to the incoming aerial onslaught. They also saw residents of a housing block — decorated with a mural of a girl with butterflies — remove glass shards from a window blown out during the attack. Ukrainian army chief Valery Zaluzhny said Russian forces had fired 41 missiles — including cruise, ballistic and surface-to-air missiles — as part of the barrage, adding that his forces had shot down 21. Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said 20 people were wounded in the attack that set buildings and cars ablaze in central districts of the city. – ‘It’s scary’ – Daryna Bodenchuk, a 17-year-old interior design student, said she was in her 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. “I am very upset. It’s really scary. A window was broken also in our dormitory. It was loud,” she told AFP. Iryna Zalizna, a 25-year-old resident of Kyiv, had already left home for work when the strikes hit her neighbourhood. She said she rushed back to take stock of the destruction. “All the windows and a few frames were blown out there,” she told AFP. “But thank God everything is fine with the dog and everyone is alive.” Mayor Klitschko said that 13 people had been taken to hospital, including a 13-year-old boy, and that one woman was in an intensive care ward. He wrote on social media that municipal workers had found an unexploded missile in one building and that residents were being evacuated. In the region surrounding 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. “We must make Russia pay for the suffering and pain it has caused to Ukraine,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shymgal said in response to the attack. The US ambassador in Kyiv, 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. Russia’s defence ministry announced it had launched long-range precision strikes on weapons production facilities in Ukraine, without giving details. “The goals of the strike has been achieved. All designated facilities have been hit,” its statement added. – 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. “We are continuing our special military operation, and our military does not hit social facilities and residential neighbourhoods, and does not hit civilians — unlike the Kyiv regime,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. This was an apparent reference to a recent uptick in fatal drone and missile attacks that Russian forces have blamed on Kyiv, targeting cities and energy facilities near the countries’ shared 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 the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. 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 is to gain control over its air space, and Kyiv has urged its allies to help bolster its air defence capabilities.

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