Ukraine braces for more missile strikes after Russia’s worst barrage

At least 29 dead in Kyiv and other cities after Russian forces launch record drone and missile attacks

Ukrainians were told to prepare for large-scale missile strikes after Russia launched its biggest barrage of the war on multiple cities in Ukraine, killing at least 29 people.

Ukraine’s defence minister, Rustem Umerov, said Russian forces had spent months stockpiling missiles and drones for ample raids intended to overcome its air defences.

“It is obvious that with such stockpiles of missiles ... they can and will continue such attacks,” Mr Umerov said on Facebook on Friday.

The US embassy in Kyiv warned American citizens in Ukraine of a heightened risk of missile and drone strikes during the new year holiday weekend.


In a massive raid on Friday morning against the capital Kyiv and several other cities, Russian forces launched 158 missiles and drones, Ukrainian officials said, including Kinzhal (Dagger) ballistic missiles, which are hard to intercept.

Eight people were killed in Kyiv, which is well defended by multiple air defence systems. A warehouse was destroyed in a direct missile hit, the first to strike the capital in months.

Seven people were killed in Zaporizhzhia in the south of Ukraine and six in Dnipro, in the east of the country, where a shopping centre was set on fire. A maternity hospital was also damaged. At least 130 people across Ukraine were injured.

Russia launched a further wave of cruise missiles on Friday afternoon, hitting a residential area in Smila, south east of Kyiv.

Lieut-Gen Mykola Oleschuk, head of Ukraine’s air force, said Friday’s strikes amounted to the biggest aerial attack of the war so far. Military facilities were also targeted.

The attack comes as Ukraine endures its toughest period of the conflict since Russia’s full-scale invasion. A long-awaited counteroffensive ground to a halt this autumn after making only meagre territorial gains, with the land war now largely deadlocked.

Solidarity from Kyiv’s western allies appears to be faltering. A request from the Biden administration for $61 billion (€55 billion) in aid for Ukraine remains blocked in Congress. A €50 billion EU support package for the coming four years was vetoed earlier this month by Hungary, although the bloc is drawing up an alternative €20 billion funding plan for 2024.

One bright spot for Kyiv has been its long-range missile and drone strikes against Russia’s Black Sea fleet, with another ship destroyed in Crimea earlier this week.

Ukrainian and western officials had expected Russia to step up aerial bombardments following its campaign last winter to destroy power and heating plants and other infrastructure in a bid to disrupt the economy and destroy Ukrainian morale.

Gen Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said that of the 158 missiles and drones launched by Russia, 87 cruise missiles and 27 attack drones were shot down by air defence forces. However, none of the 20 or so ballistic missiles appear to have been intercepted.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram: “Today, Russia struck with almost everything it has in its arsenal: Daggers, S-300, cruise missiles, UAVs. Strategic bombers launched Kh-101/Kh-505. About 110 missiles were fired, most of them were shot down. Unfortunately, as a result of the shelling, there are dead and wounded.”

Attacking with a large number of varied missiles has more chance of overwhelming Ukraine’s largely western-supplied air defence systems.

Friday morning’s strike was vast in scale. Russia launched cruise missiles from 18 Tu-95 “Bear” bombers, ballistic missiles from Tu-22 supersonic aircraft, Kinzhals from MiG-31 fighter jets and ground-launched air defence ballistic missiles, officials said.

Four people were killed in Odesa on the south coast and three in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

“We are doing everything to strengthen our air shield,” Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential administration, wrote on Telegram. “But the world needs to see that we need more support and strength to stop this terror.”

Poland’s military said on Friday that a suspected Russian missile had briefly flown into Polish airspace, but it was monitored by both Polish and allied forces during its three-minute flight across the border with Ukraine.

Gen Wiesław Kukuła, chief of the general staff of the Polish army, said although the incident was a violation of Polish airspace it was being treated as part of Russia’s mass missile strike against Ukraine.

Two people were killed in eastern Poland in November 2022 by a stray missile identified as a Ukrainian S-300 air defence interceptor. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023