UK sending hundreds of missiles to Ukraine after Putin’s biggest air attack of war kills at least 30

Grant Shapps has condemned Russian ‘barbarity’ and ‘murderous’ airstrikes after 18-hour bombardment

Athena Stavrou,Jane Dalton
Friday 29 December 2023 19:22
Firefighters battle blaze in Ukraine's Odessa after Russian airstrike on residential building

The UK is sending hundreds of British-made air defence missiles to Ukraine, after Russia launched the largest aerial attack since the war began on several major cities, leaving at least 30 civilians dead and scores injured.

In an 18-hour bombardment, Moscow attacked Kyiv, Lviv, eastern Dnipro, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv with 158 drones and missiles including hypersonic, ballistic and cruise missiles, Ukrainian air forces said.

The assaults left at least 144 people injured, including children, and many left buried under rubble. In the capital, Kyiv, air defence systems were triggered as explosions set fire to residential buildings and warehouses.

The aftermath of an attack on Zaporizhzhia during Russia’s 18-hour bombardment of Ukraine

According to the Ukrainian air force, the previous biggest assault was in November 2022 when Russia launched 96 missiles. “Russia attacked with everything it has in its arsenal,” Volodymyr Zelensky said on the Telegram messenger.

Within hours, the UK government announced it was sending Kyiv hundreds of British-made air defence missiles, as ministers condemned Russian “barbarity”.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps said Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “latest wave of murderous airstrikes are a desperate and futile attempt to regain momentum after the catastrophic loss of hundreds of thousands of conscripts and ahead of the humiliation of his three-day war entering a third calendar year”.

He added: “We continue to stand by Ukraine’s defence, which is why today we are sending hundreds of air defence missiles to restock British-gifted air defence systems capable of striking down Russian drones and missiles with incredible accuracy.”

Mr Shapps said Mr Putin was testing Ukraine’s defences and the West’s resolve. “Ukraine’s degradation of the Russian Black Sea fleet has proven it is still in this fight to win,” he said.

“Today’s air defence package sends an undeniable message, in the face of Russian barbarity that the UK remains absolutely committed to supporting Ukraine.”

Mr Putin had reportedly “ordered revenge raids” after Ukrainian missiles destroyed a Russian warship in occupied Crimea.

The ‘Novocherkassk’ landing ship appeared to be completely destroyed

Images posted by a Crimean Telegram channel show the Novocherkassk landing ship in the southeastern port of Feodosia appearing to be completely destroyed in the early hours of Tuesday.

A Ukrainian partisan group claimed that Mr Putin was “completely furious” following the attack and ordered raids throughout the city.

“The flywheel of repression is spinning up... Since yesterday, local residents have been raided throughout the city, their smartphones are being taken away and their houses are being searched,” the Atesh group posted on Telegram.

“It is reported that Putin is completely furious over the destruction of the Novocherkassk large landing ship. An order was issued to punish the Crimean air defence forces. It is expected that many commanders will be removed and sent to the front to participate in assault groups.”

At least 144 people were injured following the barrage of overnight attacks, which left infrastructure severely damaged in several key cities, including Dnipro

Russia has not yet commented on Friday’s attacks.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said they proved there could be no talk of a truce with Moscow.

“Russia is not considering any other scenarios than the complete destruction of Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement.

Ten people in Kyiv were trapped under rubble at a warehouse damaged by falling debris and one was confirmed dead, city mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

A classroom in Lviv was damaged in the attack

Five people were killed in the central region of Dnipro, where missiles hit a maternity ward, a shopping centre, a private home and a six-storey residential building.

In the Black Sea port city of Odesa, three people were killed and at least 15 were wounded, including two children, as missiles hit residential buildings, the regional governor said.

Kharkiv in the northeast was rocked by 22 Russian strikes, which damaged a hospital, residential buildings and an industrial facility, according to the local authorities.

Other fatalities occurred in Lviv, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia, marking a devastating night for Ukraine after 22 months of brutal war.

The energy ministry reported power outages in four regions after the air attack amid fears of Russian strikes pounding power grids this winter.

Ukraine has been warning for weeks that Russia could be stockpiling missiles to launch a major air attack on the energy system. Last year, millions of people were plunged into darkness when Russia attacked the power grid.

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. Their appeals have come as signs of war fatigue strain efforts to keep support in place.

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