Russia launches air attacks on Ukraine ahead of key holiday

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A view shows an apartment building damaged by remains of a suicide drone, which local authorities consider to be Iranian made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) Shahed-131/136, shot down during a Russian overnight strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 8, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Russia launched a wave of drone, missile and air strikes on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, officials said on Monday, as Moscow stepped up attacks while preparing for its cherished Victory Day holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

As many as 16 missile strikes had targeted the cities of Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odesa regions, in addition to 61 airstrikes and 52 rocket salvos on Ukrainian positions and populated areas, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in its morning update on the fighting.

Ukrainian air defences destroyed all 35 Iranian-made Shahed drones Russia had launched, the military said.

Kyiv’s mayor said at least five people were wounded in the capital amid damage to a fuel depot, cars, buildings and infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded civilians, high-rise buildings, private homes and other civilian infrastructure were damaged,” the military said.

A food warehouse was set ablaze in the Black Sea city of Odesa.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.

The fresh attacks come as Moscow prepares for Tuesday’s Victory Day parade, a key event for President Vladimir Putin who has evoked the spirit of the Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany, having accused Ukraine of being in the grip of a new kind of fascism.

Ukraine and its allies say the accusation was a baseless pretext for Russia’s unprovoked invasion in February, 2022, which resulted in the biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two, killing thousands and forcing millions to flee the country.

“We must always be prepared for enemy treachery and defence,” Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia stepped up shelling of Bakhmut, hoping to take it by Tuesday, Ukraine’s top general leading the besieged city’s defence said, after Russia’s Wagner mercenary group appeared to ditch plans to withdraw from it.

Three people were injured in blasts in Kyiv’s Solomyanskyi district and two when drone wreckage fell in the Sviatoshyn district, both west of the capital’s centre, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.

Kyiv’s military administration said drone wreckage fell on a runway at Zhuliany airport, one of the capital’s two passenger airports, drawing emergency services there, although there was no fire.

Drone debris seemed to have hit a two-storey building in the central district of Shevchenkivskyi, causing damage, it added.

Reuters witnesses said they heard numerous explosions in Kyiv, with local officials saying air defence systems were repelling the attacks.

Flames had completely engulfed a large structure identified as a food warehouse in pictures posted on Telegram by Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for the Odesa military administration, after what he said was a Russian attack.

After air raid alerts blared for hours over roughly two-thirds of Ukraine, media said explosions sounded in the southern region of Kherson and southeastern Zaporizhzhia.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in Zaporizhzhia, said Russian forces hit a warehouse and Ukrainian troops’ position in the small city of Orikhiv. Reuters was unable to independently verify the report.

Separately, Russian forces shelled eight spots in Sumy in northeastern Ukraine on Sunday, the regional military administration said in a Facebook post.

Strikes have also intensified in the past two weeks on Russian-held targets, especially in Crimea.

Ukraine has not confirmed any role in those attacks but it says destroying enemy infrastructure is preparation for its long-awaited ground assault.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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