Russia fires 122 missiles and 36 drones in what Ukraine calls the biggest aerial barrage of the war

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KYIV, Ukraine –

Russia launched 122 missiles and dozens of drones against Ukrainian targets, officials said Friday, killing at least 24 civilians across the country in what an air force official said was the biggest aerial barrage of the war.

The Ukrainian air force intercepted most of the ballistic and cruise missiles and the Shahed-type drones overnight, said Ukraine’s military chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on his official Telegram channel that it was “the most massive aerial attack” since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

According to the Ukrainian air force, the previous biggest assault was in November 2022 when Russia launched 96 missiles against Ukraine. This year, the biggest was 81 missiles on March 9, air force records show.

Western officials and analysts recently warned that Russia had limited its cruise missile strikes in recent months in an apparent effort to build up stockpiles for massive strikes during the winter, hoping to break the Ukrainians’ spirit.

Fighting along the front line is largely bogged down by winter weather after Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive failed to make a significant breakthrough along the roughly 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) line of contact.

Ukrainian officials have urged the country’s Western allies to provide it with more air defences to protect itself against aerial attacks like Friday’s one. Their appeals have come as signs of war fatigue strain efforts to keep support in place.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the huge attack should stir the world to further action in support of Ukraine.

“These widespread attacks on Ukraine’s cities show (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will stop at nothing to achieve his aim of eradicating freedom and democracy,” Sunak said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “We must continue to stand with Ukraine — for as long as it takes.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the scale of the attack should wake people up to Ukraine’s continuing needs.

“Today, millions of Ukrainians awoke to the loud sound of explosions,” he wrote on X. “I wish those sounds of explosions in Ukraine could be heard all around the world. In all major capitals, headquarters, and parliaments, which are currently debating further support for Ukraine.”

At least 130 people were injured and an unknown number were buried under rubble during the roughly 18-hour onslaught, Ukrainian officials said. Among the buildings reported to be damaged across Ukraine were a maternity hospital, apartment blocks and schools.

In Boyarka, a city near Kyiv, the debris of a shot-down drone fell on a home and started a fire.

Andrii Korobka, 47, said his mother was sleeping next to the room where the wreckage landed and was taken to hospital suffering from shock.

“The war goes on, and it can happen to any house, even if you think yours will never be affected,” Korobka said.

Tetiana Sakhnenko, who lives next door, said neighbours ran with buckets of water to put out the blaze but it spread quickly. “It’s so scary,” she said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Kremlin’s forces used a wide variety of weapons, including ballistic and cruise missiles.

“Today, Russia used nearly every type of weapon in its arsenal,” Zelenskyy said on X.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said Russia “apparently launched everything they have,” except for submarine-launched Kalibr missiles, in the attack.

The aerial attack that began Thursday and continued through the night hit six cities, including the capital, Kyiv, and other areas from east to west and north to south Ukraine, according to authorities.

Reports of deaths and damage came in from across the country.

Five people were killed and 20 injured in the eastern city of Dnipro where four maternity hospital patients were rescued from a fire, officials said.

In Odesa, on the southern coast, falling drone wreckage started a fire at a multi-story residential building, according to the regional head, Oleh Kiper. Two people were killed and 15, including two children, were injured in the course of the Odesa attack, he said.

The mayor of the western city of Lviv, Andrii Sadovyi, said one person was killed and eight injured and three schools and a kindergarten were damaged in a drone attack in the region.

Several dozen missiles were launched towards Kyiv during the night, with more than 30 of them intercepted, said Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration. The attack started a fire at a warehouse in the capital’s Podil district where five people reportedly were pulled from the rubble. Three people were killed in the capital.

In northeastern Ukraine, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said the city was subjected to at least three waves of aerial attacks overnight that included S-300 and Kh-21 missile launches. One person was killed and at least nine injured, officials said.

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Dmytro Zhyhinas contributed to this story

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Russia fires 122 missiles and 36 drones in what Ukraine calls the biggest aerial barrage of the war

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