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People and a Ukrainian serviceman watch as firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged apartment building after a Russian attack in Odesa. Alamy Stock Photo
War in Ukraine

Death toll after massive Russian missile attack on Ukraine rises to 30

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a maternity ward was among the buildings hit in the strikes on several Ukrainian cities.

LAST UPDATE | Dec 29th 2023, 6:00 PM

THE DEATH TOLL from a massive Russian air attack on Ukraine overnight has risen to 30 people, with more than a hundred wounded across the country.

Schools, a maternity hospital, shopping arcades and blocks of flats were among the buildings hit in the barrage, said Ukrainian officials.

The attacks – which also saw a Russian missile passing through Polish airspace – triggered international condemnation and fresh promises of military support to Ukraine, which has been fighting off invading Russian troops since late February 2022.

“Today Russia hit us with almost everything it has in its arsenal,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Ukraine’s military estimated that Russia had fired 158 missiles and drones on Ukraine and 114 of them had been destroyed.

Air force spokesman Yuriy Ignat told AFP that this was a “record number” of missiles and “the most massive missile attack” of the war, excluding the early days of constant bombardment.

Russia tried to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defences across most major cities, launching a wave of Shahed attack drones followed by missiles of numerous types fired from planes and from Russian-controlled territory.

Interior Minister Igor Klymenko announced on Telegram: “As of now, 30 people have been killed and more than 160 wounded as a result of Russia’s massive attack on Ukrainian territory in the morning.”

Russia’s army said it had “carried out 50 group strikes and one massive strike” on military facilities in Ukraine over the past week, adding that “all targets were hit.”

Ukraine presidential aide Andriy Yermak said Kyiv needed “more support and strength to stop this terror”. The US ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the strikes showed “Ukraine needs funding now”.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk condemned the deadly wave of strikes and urged Moscow to cease the attacks “immediately”.

“I am shocked by yet another full-scale set of coordinated missile and drone attacks by the Russian Federation across Ukraine during the night,” Turk said in a statement.

“International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits attacks deliberately targeting civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate attacks, under any circumstances.

I call again on the Russian Federation to cease its attacks on Ukraine immediately, and to strictly respect all the rules of international law relating to the conduct of hostilities.

Buildings damaged in six cities included warehouses, a shopping mall and a maternity hospital, according to officials.

In Kyiv, AFP reporters heard several powerful explosions in the early hours of this morning.

The city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said three bodies had been recovered from a warehouse hit by a strike in the central Shevchenko district.

In the city’s northern Podil district, another warehouse measuring around 3,000 square metres (32,300 square feet) caught fire.

There was a strong smell of burning plastic as firefighters wearing oxygen masks tackled the blaze and a huge column of black smoke billowed into the sky, an AFP reporter saw.

There were believed to be 10 people trapped under the rubble, said the head of the city’s military administration, Sergiy Popko.

a-wounded-resident-talks-with-paramedics-after-russias-missile-attack-in-kyiv-ukraine-friday-dec-29-2023-russia-launched-about-110-missiles-as-well-as-drones-against-ukrainian-targets-during-th A wounded resident talks with paramedics after Russia's missile attack in Kyiv. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

AFP journalists also saw smoke near the building of Lukyanivska metro station close to the city centre. Popko said the metro station had been damaged but it reopened later in the day.

The station is located near the Artyom arms factory, which Russia said it targeted early in the war.

Maternity hospital struck

In Dnipro, the health ministry said a maternity hospital had been “severely damaged” but the staff and patients had managed to shelter in time.

The outside of the three-storey building was scorched black and the windows blown out, an AFP photographer saw.

A shopping mall in the city was also hit and caught fire. An explosion tore a hole in the facade of the large shopping centre and the interior was blackened from smoke.

Six people were killed and 28 injured, said Sergiy Lysak, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region’s military administration.

Three people were also killed in the southern region of Odesa and 26 wounded, prosecutors said.

people-clear-the-debris-at-the-site-of-russias-air-attack-in-zaporizhzhia-ukraine-friday-dec-29-2023-russia-launched-missiles-as-well-as-drones-against-ukrainian-targets-during-the-night-ukrain People clear the debris at the site of Russia's air attack in Zaporizhzhia. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Firefighters were extinguishing a blaze in a high-rise block of flats, an AFP photographer saw. Smoke was pouring out of a hole blown in the facade, the air was thick with dust and debris littered the ground.

Distressed local people watched and one family hugged each other.

In Lviv, one person was killed and 15 wounded by drones and missiles that damaged high-rise blocks of flats and two schools, the interior ministry said.

The eastern city of Kharkiv faced around 20 strikes, killing three employees at a civilian enterprise and wounding 11, said Oleg Sinegubov, the head of the city’s military administration.

Images released by the emergency services showed residents sweeping up shards of glass from blown-out windows in a cancer treatment clinic. There was a crater from an explosion in the forest nearby, an AFP photographer saw.

In Zaporizhzhia on the Dnipro River, four people were killed and 12 wounded after strikes on industrial and residential areas, the interior ministry said.

US support

On Thursday, Zelenskyy thanked the United States for releasing the last remaining package of weapons under existing authorisation, as uncertainty surrounds further US aid to his war-torn country.

kyiv-ukraine-29th-dec-2023-people-walk-past-the-wreckage-and-damaged-cars-lying-in-the-middle-of-the-street-after-russias-missile-attack-on-kyiv-ukraine-december-29-2023-at-night-ukraine-was-s People walk past the wreckage and damaged cars lying in the middle of the street after Russia's missile attack on Kyiv. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“To defend freedom and security not only in Ukraine and Europe but also in the United States, we must continue to respond to ongoing Russian aggression,” he said.

Zelensky has warned that any change in policy from the US – Kyiv’s main backer – could have a strong impact on the course of the war.

The French foreign ministry said they were part of Russia’s “strategy of terror” and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We must continue to stand with Ukraine — for as long as it takes”.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described it as “yet another cowardly and indiscriminate” attack on civilians.

The UN’s humanitarian envoy for Ukraine Denise Brown said the attacks were “another unacceptable example of the horrifying reality” that Ukrainians face.

© AFP 2023