Ukraine endured a deadly nationwide Russian missile barrage targeting energy facilities in Kyiv and other cities on Thursday, just hours before President Volodymyr Zelensky was set to meet US President Joe Biden at the White House.
Five people died in the southern region of Kherson, while a 9-year-old girl was among seven people injured in the latest attack on Kyiv. The child and an 18-year-old woman were hospitalized after debris fell from an infrastructure facility onto a residential building, according to Mayor Vitalii Klitschko.
Officials called it “a terrible night for Kherson city,” with at least three people killed and six injured, noting that apartment buildings and cars were also damaged in Russian shelling on residential areas. Two people were injured in the city of Kharkiv, where Russia launched six strikes in the early hours of the morning, according to local officials. And at least 10 people were injured in overnight missile attacks on the city of Cherkasy in central Ukraine.
The strikes marked the first time in six months that Russia has launched attacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure, according to the state energy provider Ukrenergo, just as the country gears up for colder seasons that will require more energy use for heating. Last year, Russia began a series of intense attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in October.
Ukrenergo said the overnight missile attacks resulted in damage to power facilities in western and central regions and caused blackouts in several areas.
Ukrainian air defenses shot down 36 of 43 missiles launched by Russia on Thursday, Ukraine’s army chief said. But air raid alerts remain in place in parts of the country, as some Ukrainian officials warn that the missile threat is ongoing.
The attacks came as the capital Kyiv crossed the 1,000-hour mark of air raid alarms since the start of the Russian invasion, according to the head of the city’s military administration.
“It’s a restless morning,” Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko said Thursday, as he urged Ukrainians to follow the safety rules.
The air raid alarms, which frequently blare on loudspeakers throughout the city and on residents’ cell phones, are so commonplace that government officials have had to appeal to residents to continue to use bomb shelters.
“Do not neglect the air raid alarms,” the head of Kyiv City Military Administration Serhii Popko said on Thursday, highlighting that a year and a half of continuous alarms has taken a toll on the capital. “We have survived it and we will overcome much more together.”
The latest round of missile strikes comes after a contentious United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, where Zelensky argued that removing Russia’s veto power “will be the first necessary step.”
“It is impossible to stop the war because all efforts are vetoed by the aggressor,” Zelensky said during a speech at Wednesday’s UN Security Council meeting.
While allies have already imposed sanctions on Russia since the start of the war, the Ukrainian president called for applying preventative sanctions to countries that engaged in conflicts.
“Anyone who wants to start a war should see before their fatal mistake what exactly they will lose when the war would start,” Zelensky said.
On Thursday, Zelensky travels to meet Biden, who is seeking to hear a “battlefield perspective,” the White House said.
It comes as the Ukrainian president pleas for additional aid for his war-torn country and the US Congress remains divided about how to proceed. Biden will also reiterate US support “that we’re going to continue to be with them for as long as it takes,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said.