Russia has launched a rush-hour barrage of missiles across Ukraine – killing one person in Kyiv – the day after President Volodymyr Zelensky secured Western pledges of dozens of tanks to help in the country’s war effort.
Air raid sirens wailed nationwide, while booms were heard by The Independent around Kyiv, where the head of the city administration said that 15 cruise missiles were shot down.
Air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said as many as six Tu-95 warplanes had taken off from the Arctic region of Murmansk in northern Russia and launched long-range missiles. He said there was a volley of more than 30 missiles.
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Officials in Kyiv said a 55-year-old man had been killed and two other people wounded when non-residential buildings in the south of the city were struck.
Ukrainian officials said they believed the onslaught was Moscow’s furious response to announcements from Germany and the US that they would supply Ukraine with M1 Abrams and German-built Leopard tanks, significantly bolstering the Ukrainian ranks – and offering.
The Kremlin has previously launched waves of strikes deep into the country in apparent response to Ukrainian successes on the battlefield, pounding energy infrastructure and living millions without light, heat or water.
Kyiv official Serhii Popko said Thursday’s morning missiles were fired "in the direction” of the city. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko meanwhile said explosions were also heard in Kyiv's Dniprovskyi district, on the east side of the river that divides the city.
Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspilne said that one person has been killed and four wounded after Russia shelled Kochubeivka, which is a settlement in the north of the Kherson oblast, in southern Ukraine. Suspilne reports that the administrative building was hit.
Earlier the Ukrainian military said it had shot down all 24 drones sent overnight by Russia, with no damage reported. But as citizens were heading to work in the morning, air raid alarms sounded again across Ukraine, and senior officials said air defences were shooting down incoming missiles.
"Missiles are flying inside the territory of Ukraine. At least two northwest through Mykolaiv region," Vitaly Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, said on the Telegram messaging app.
An air force spokesman said impacts had been registered in the Vinnytsia region of central Ukraine.
The news came shortly after the US and Germany announced plans to arm Ukraine with dozens of modern tanks to give its troops the firepower to break Russian defence lines and reclaim occupied territory in the south and east.
It could be a game changer for the Ukrainians who are struggling to hold back an advance in the war-ravaged eastern region known as Donbas – containing the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk that Moscow covets – where Russian forces have punched through different lines, taking gateway towns such as the mining outpost Soledar in Donetsk.
Germany is set to send an initial company of 14 tanks from its stocks, which it said could be operational in three or four months, but that it would try to speed up that process. It said it would approve shipments by European states with the aim of equipping two battalions - around 100 tanks - in the future.
Despite the US being initially wary about sending tanks to Ukraine, US President Joe Biden announced his decision to supply 31 M1 Abrams tanks just hours later after Berlin’s promise.
President Biden said the tanks pose "no offensive threat" to Russia and that they were needed to help the Ukrainians "improve their ability to manoeuvre in open terrain".
But Sergei Nechayev, Russia's ambassador to Germany, on Wednesday called Berlin's decision "extremely dangerous", saying that it "takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation".
Nato's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday that said sending tanks to Ukraine will make a "big difference" to the country's ability to win the war.
"This will help them repel Russian offensives, to help them to be able to retake territory, liberate more Ukrainian lands and to win this war to prevail as a sovereign independent nation. We will stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he added.
Kyiv has repeatedly called for 300 tanks to help it win war, but Mr Stoltenberg would not comment explicitly on that request.
Since invading Ukraine in February last year, Russia has shifted its publicly stated goals from "denazifying" and "demilitarising" its neighbour to confronting what it claims is an aggressive and expansionist US -led Nato alliance.
Since October it has launched waves of missiles on energy infrastructure, attacks which Ukrainian officials have likened to terrorism and say are the largest assault on energy facilities in modern history.
It has plunged hundreds of thousands of households into darkness at various points and cut civilians off from light, water and warmth for long stretches.
It has sparked concerns of humanitarian catastrophe as temperatures have dipped well below freezing.
The government alongside international aid organisation and the railways service have constructed “heat centres” at key points like railway stations, where citizens can keep warm, charge their phones, get food and hot drinks.
Western analysts say the attacks on Ukraine's cities are more an attempt to break morale than a strategic campaign.