Russia has launched the biggest air attack on Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Ukrainian military told CNN, with an unprecedented number of drones and missiles fired at targets across the country, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 120 others.
The wave of attacks began overnight into Friday and struck nationwide, with blasts reported in the capital Kyiv, as well as at a maternity hospital in the central city of Dnipro, the eastern city of Kharkiv, the southeastern port of Odesa, and the western city of Lviv, far from the frontlines.
The strikes continued Friday afternoon, Ukraine’s air force said, as a barrage of missiles targeted the northern Cherkasy region, with one hitting the city of Smilla. Other missiles were detected from Russia’s Kursk region heading towards the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy.
“It’s been a long time since we have seen so many enemy targets on our monitors in all regions and all directions,” Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for Ukraine’s air force, told national television. “Everything was being fired.”
Russia used 158 drones and missiles, including hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, cruise missiles and Shahed drones, to strike targets in Kyiv, the east, south and west of the country, Ukraine’s air force said.
“Today the enemy has struck a powerful blow. There are downed targets, however unfortunately there are also casualties,” Ihnat added.
The Polish military reported an “unidentified airborne object” entered Polish airspace from Ukrainian territory early Friday morning. Ihnat implied the object may have been fired by Ukrainian air defenses seeking to intercept incoming Russian missiles near the far-western city of Lviv, near Poland’s border.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia used “nearly every type of weapon in its arsenal” in the “terrorist strikes,” to which he pledged Ukraine’s military would respond.
The massive overnight assault comes just days after Ukraine struck a Russian Navy landing ship in Crimea on Tuesday, causing severe damage to the vessel in another major blow to Moscow’s Black Sea fleet.
But the onslaught also came shortly after Ukraine received the last package of military aid from the United States until Congress approves the Biden administration’s funding request.
Nearly two years since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Zelensky is facing a largely-stalled counteroffensive while Western aid has begun to dry up.
In Kyiv at least three people were killed and 28 injured, including 25 hospitalized, after Russia targeted a metro station and residential buildings. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said four people had been pulled from the rubble of a damaged warehouse in Shevchenkivskyi district, adding that rescue operations were ongoing.
Kharkiv was hit by a “massive attack,” Ukrainian Prime Minster Denys Shmyhal said, with more than 20 strikes reported in the region, including on a hospital. At least three people were killed and 11 injured in the strikes, according to regional military administration head Oleh Syniehubov.
At least four people were killed and 10 people were injured in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, the regional military administration head Yurif Malashko said on Telegram. Emergency workers are still working to see if people are trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings. Malashko said the region had been targeted by 10 missiles, including Kinzhal missiles, of which one was intercepted.
Further south, a school building was hit in Odesa, injuring seven people, including a child. At least three people were killed and 22 injured – including two children and a pregnant woman – in strikes elsewhere in the region, according to Oleh Kiper, head of Odesa region military administration. At least 18 people were hospitalized.
And in the central city of Dnipro, at least five were killed and more than 20 injured, officials said.
Prime Minister Shymal praised the professionalism of Ukraine’s air defense forces, which he said had shot down most of the drones and missiles, but had not been able to prevent all of the strikes.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said Russia had targeted “Ukrainian women, children, the elderly, and civilians.”
“The crimes that Russia has committed in Ukraine today are its revenge for its inability to turn the tide of the battle in the fight against the Ukrainian defense forces,” it said in a statement.
Without referring directly to Friday’s attacks, the Russian Defense Ministry said its army had “carried out 50 group strikes and one mass strike with high-precision weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles” in the period from December 23 to 29, claiming it had only struck military targets.
The head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, called for support as his country battles Russian airstrikes.
“A massive terrorist attack, rockets are flying at our cities again, and civilians are being targeted,” Yermak said in a Telegram post on Friday.
“Ukraine needs support. We will be even stronger, we are doing everything to strengthen our air shield. But the world needs to see that we need more support and strength to stop this terror.”
‘The house was shaking’
The Ukrainian Air Force said it recorded “the departure of 9 Tu-95MS strategic bombers from the ‘Olenya’ airfield in the Murmansk region of Russia.” The Tu-95 bomber is a mainstay of Russia’s aerial attacks on Ukraine, able to launch cruise missiles against its neighbor out of the range of most air-defense systems.
In Kyiv, air raid sirens sounded for several hours overnight. Residents told CNN later Friday how they were woken by the attacks.
“It was very loud, the house was shaking, it was very scary,” said Viktoria Krasyuk. “It seems like you’ve been living in this for many months, but it still causes emotions, it’s still very difficult, it’s very hard to decide whether to stay or go somewhere, or even leave (the country).”
A man named Sehiy told CNN the attack was a reminder that Russia’s “goal is the same – to destroy Ukraine as a state.”
“Unfortunately, Russia is learning to fight. It is learning to fight, including from us Ukrainians. They are accumulating ammunition, everything else they need,” he said.
Trains were halted as a building was damaged at Lukianivska subway station in central Kyiv, which is also operating as a shelter, mayor Klitschko said.
Many were wounded and a search for victims is underway after a warehouse caught fire in the Podilskyi district of the capital region, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, Serhiy Popko, said in a Telegram post.
In Lviv, which borders Poland, the head of the regional military administration said that at least 15 people had been injured, with damage reported in 13 residential buildings and two schools.
The National Basketball Federation later announced that one of the country’s most celebrated basketball players, Viktor Kobzystyi, had died in the strikes on the city.
Responding to reports that an “unidentified airborne object” had entered Polish airspace, Ihnat, spokesperson for Ukraine’s airforce, said “this is not something new.”
“We’ve seen missiles flying into Romania, as well as attack UAVs and debris. The same thing happened in Poland,” he told Ukrainian television. “These things can happen under such massive attacks. The enemy is attacking the border areas in the west [of Ukraine] as well.”
In November 2022, a missile struck near the Polish village Przewodow, close to the border with Ukraine, killing two people. US officials later determined it was a Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile.
Friday’s widespread strikes followed Russia’s launch of 53 attacks across eastern Ukraine on Thursday, according to a Telegram post from the Ukrainian General Staff.
Russia launched dozens of airstrikes, wounding civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, the post said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he wished the “loud sound of explosions” heard across Ukraine Friday morning “could be heard all around the world.”
“In all major capitals, headquarters, and parliaments, which are currently debating further support for Ukraine. In all newsrooms, which are writing about ‘fatigue’ or Russia purportedly being ready for ‘negotiations,’” he wrote on X.
“These sounds are what Russia really has to say. Our only collective response can and must be continued, robust, and long-term military and financial assistance to Ukraine. Only greater firepower can silence Russian terror.”