KYIV/BAKHMUT, UKRAINE, Dec. 29 (Reuters) – Russia fired more than 100 missiles on Thursday morning, sending air raid sirens ringing across Ukraine, an adviser to Ukraine’s president said. A massive airstrike. More than 100 missiles in several waves,” presidential office adviser Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on Facebook, and the head of Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region also announced that Russian missiles were in the air.
According to a Reuters reporter and local media reports, explosions were heard in Kiev, Zhytomyr and Odesa.
A power outage was announced in the Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions to minimize potential damage to energy infrastructure.
After the Kremlin rejected a Ukrainian peace plan, it insisted that Kiev accept the annexation of Russia’s four regions.
Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians, but Ukraine says its daily bombardment is destroying towns, cities and the country’s infrastructure, from power to medicine.
On Wednesday, Russian shelling hit the maternity ward of a hospital in the city of Kherson, although no one was injured, according to Kyrillo Tymoshenko, a deputy to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Staff and patients were moved to shelters, Tymoshenko said in a post on Telegram.
“It was scary … the explosions started suddenly, the window handle started tearing … Oh, my hands are still shaking,” said Olha Prysitko, a new mother. “When we got to the base, the shelling didn’t stop. Not even for a minute.”
Ukraine’s recently liberated southern city of Kherson continues to be bombarded by Russian forces, who retreated to the east bank of the river last month when the city was retaken in a major victory for Ukraine.
Zelenskiy, in a video address, urged Ukrainians to hug loved ones, express their appreciation to friends, support colleagues, thank their parents and be happy with their children often.
“Even though we have endured brutal months, we have not lost our humanity,” he said. “Even though we have a tough year ahead, we won’t lose it.”
On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine. Kiev and its Western allies have denounced Russia’s actions as an imperialist-style land grab. Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling for a “special military operation” to militarize neighboring countries.
Russia has been hit with heavy sanctions for the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, left cities in ruins and rocked the global economy, driving up energy and food prices.
Russian gas exports to Europe via pipelines fell to a post-Soviet low in 2022 as the Ukraine conflict cut its biggest customer imports and a major pipeline was damaged by mysterious explosions, Gazprom data and Reuters calculations show.
There is still no chance of talks to end the war.
Zelensky has been actively promoting a 10-point peace plan that would see Russia respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and withdraw all its troops.
But Moscow rejected that on Wednesday, reiterating that Kyiv must accept four oblasts — Luhansk and Donetsk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south — for Russian annexation.
“With the entry of four regions into Russia, there cannot be any peace plan that does not take into account today’s realities regarding Russian territory,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Zelensky’s idea of forcing Russia out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea with Western help and forcing Moscow to compensate Kiev was an “illusion,” RIA news agency reported.
TASS quoted Lavrov as saying that Russia would continue to build up its combat power and technical capabilities in Ukraine. He said Moscow’s mobilized troops had undergone “intense training” and that while many were now on the ground, the majority were still not on the front lines.
Zelensky called for unity in parliament and praised Ukrainians for helping the West “re-find itself”.
“Our national colors are today an international symbol of courage and indomitability for the whole world,” he said in an annual address held behind closed doors.
On the frontline, Russia shelled more than 25 settlements around Kherson and Zaporizhia, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Wednesday. The Kherson region at the mouth of the Dnipro serves as a gateway to Russia’s annexed Crimea.
Fierce fighting continued around the towns of Swatov and Kreminna in Luhansk, where Ukrainian forces are trying to break through Russian defense lines, and around the Ukrainian-held town of Pakmut in the eastern province of Donetsk, and to its north.
Following Ukraine’s advance further west, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia may have strengthened the Greminna area of the front line, which is logistically important and relatively vulnerable.
Kyiv-based military analyst Oleh Zhdanov noted that the city and region of Kharkiv came under heavy attack, which damaged a regional gas pipeline.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekov said in a Telegram post that the city had been hit twice “apparently” by Iranian Shahed drones, five of which Ukraine’s Eastern Air Force reported separately fell over the city of Dnipro.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.
Report by Reuters Bureaus; By Himani Sarkar; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Michael Perry
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