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Deadly strikes hit Ukraine, Russia border

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Kyiv, Ukraine- Deadly strikes hit residential buildings in Ukraine and a Russian border region Tuesday as an escalation of aerial attacks also wounded dozens and prompted Kyiv to urge speedier Western weapons shipments.

The bombardment mainly of Kyiv and northeastern Kharkiv came less than 24 hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to step up strikes following an unprecedented Ukrainian attack on the Russian city of Belgorod.

In total five people were killed and 119 wounded, authorities said.

Meanwhile a new Ukrainian strike on Russia’s border Belgorod region killed at least one person Tuesday and wounded five, the local governor said.

Moscow claimed to have struck only military installations, but Ukraine’s Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said Russia was deliberately hitting critical infrastructure and residential neighbourhoods.

Kyiv urged Western allies to respond to the bombardment by speeding up the delivery of air defence equipment, combat drones and long-range missiles at a time when allied backing has wavered.

In Tuesday’s attack, Kyiv said Moscow fired 99 missiles but 72 were downed, while Russia said it had shot down nine Ukrainian-fire missiles over the Belgorod region.

Firefighters and rescue workers were on the scene in Kyiv, with smoke billowing from one of the buildings.

“It’s a residential building. They hit a residential building,” said Violetta Solovyova, 56.

Galyna Solovyova, 79, suffered a head wound in the strike that destroyed her home.

“It’s a real horror to be left without… everything. And we don’t know about the neighbours. They’re people we know. How are they?” she asked, her head bandaged.

Two people were killed and 49 injured in the capital, Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko said, while Ukraine’s interior minister Igor Klymenko said two people were killed in the Kyiv region.

– Polish jets scrambled –

There were power cuts across Kyiv and the surrounding areas after the strikes, with temperatures in the region hovering around three degrees Celsius (37 Fahrenheit).

But Kyiv’s military administration said later in the afternoon that power had been restored to about 260,000 households and now “Kyiv is fully lit-up”.

At least four strikes on the northeastern city of Kharkiv killed a 91-year-old woman and wounded 52 people as well as damaging multi-storey buildings, said the head of the city’s military administration, Oleg Sinegubov.

The cities of Orikhiv and Nikopol were also targeted by strikes that left three people wounded overall, authorities said.

In a sign of growing concern, Poland on Tuesday scrambled four F-16 fighter jets to its border with Ukraine to protect its airspace.

During the last wave of deadly attacks on Ukraine on Friday, Poland said a Russian missile had passed through its airspace.

Poland — a NATO and EU member — has remained a staunch ally of Ukraine as the Russian invasion nears its second anniversary.

Tuesday’s attacks came after an escalation in the war in recent days, with Russia launching on December 29 a wave of strikes across Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, that killed 39 people.

Moscow also hit Ukrainian cities on New Year’s Eve, with Kyiv saying it had foiled a “record” number of drones launched by Russia.

– ‘Critical we support Ukraine’ –

Ukraine is seeking assurances from its backers that military aid will continue as any new budget for support is stalled in Washington.

“Thanks to the partners for air defences. There is no reason to believe that the enemy will stop here. Therefore, we need more systems and munition for them,” army commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny said on social media.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused Moscow of seeking to “annihilate” Ukraine after the residential buildings were hit Tuesday.

Germany will “stand by the people in Ukraine for as long as they need us”, she wrote on X.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also said his country would “continue to stand steadfastly by Ukraine as they fight aggression and occupation”, in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

UK support will include “further deliveries of lethal aid,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“Putin is ringing in 2024 by launching missiles at Kyiv and around the country as millions of Ukrainians take shelter in freezing temps. Loud explosions in Kyiv this morning,” US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink wrote on X.

“It’s urgent and critical that we support Ukraine now — to stop Putin here,” she said.

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© Agence France-Presse

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