KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia launched cruise missiles at Ukraine’s capital and the Odesa region early Thursday, officials said, in an escalation ahead of a much-anticipated counteroffensive. Most of the missiles were shot down, and one death was reported from the attacks.
Loud explosions were heard in Kyiv, and falling debris caused a fire in a non-residential building.
It was the ninth Russian air raid that targeted the capital this month, a clear escalation after weeks of lull and ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive using newly supplied advanced Western weapons.
The attack was carried out by strategic bombers from the Caspian region, probably using cruise missiles, and Russia later deployed reconnaissance craft over the capital. According to preliminary information, all enemy targets were destroyed, Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv Military Administration, said in a Telegram post.
Debris fell on two Kyiv districts and the fire at a garage complex was extinguished. There was no information so far about any victims, Popko said.
In the southern region of Odesa, one person died and two were wounded in a Russian missile attack, Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the Odesa military administration, said on Telegram.
“Most of the enemy’s missiles were shot down over the sea by the Air Defense Forces. Unfortunately, an industrial object was hit: 1 person died, two were injured,” Bratchuk said.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian air defenses, bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied systems, thwarted an intense Russian air attack on Kyiv, shooting down all missiles aimed at the capital, officials said.
The bombardment, which targeted locations across Ukraine, included six Russian Kinzhal aero-ballistic hypersonic missiles, the most fired in a single attack in the war so far, according to Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat.
The cruise missiles used Thursday were apparently X-101 and X-55 types developed during Soviet times.
The hypersonic missiles used Tuesday have been repeatedly touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin as providing a key strategic competitive advantage and among the most advanced weapons in his country’s arsenal. The missiles are difficult to detect and intercept because of their hypersonic speed and maneuverability.
Sophisticated Western air defense systems, including American-made Patriot missiles, have helped spare Kyiv from the kind of destruction witnessed along the main front line in the country’s east and south. While most of the ground fighting is stalemated along that front line, both sides are targeting other territory with long-range weapons.
Susie Blann, The Associated Press