The Ukrainian capital Kyiv has been hit with an “exceptional” amount of Russian missiles, officials have said.
Moscow's attacks on the country have intensified in recent weeks, with a Ukrainian spring offensive expected to begin soon. Ukraine's armed forces officials said that the capital was hit with 18 missiles on Tuesday morning (16 May).
It comes as Ukrainian president Zelensky travels Europe, including meeting with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Chequers, in pursuit of further reinforcements for Ukrainian troops. The UK has committed to sending long-range Storm Shadow missiles, however Zelensky is still looking for fighter jets to put up a defence against Russian troops.
The newest assault on Kyiv is the eighth time the city has been hit in the past month. Russia has also continued to target other areas of Ukraine, including a reported missile launch sent to the university town of Ternopil - the hometown of Ukraine’s Eurovision performers TVORCHI - to coincide with the beginning of the country’s performance at the contest on Saturday evening (13 May).
What happened in Kyiv?
Air raid sirens began sounding in the city at around 2.30am local time and lasted for a total of two hours. Residents were told via social media that Kyiv’s air defence had been activated.
According to Valerii Zaluzhny, head of Ukraine’s armed forces, Moscow targeted the north, south and eastern areas of the city. Land and sea missiles were reportedly used by Russian forces in the attack.
Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said that the missiles were “exceptional in density” and that the “maximum number” of missiles were used by Russia in the “shortest period of time”. He added that air defences were able to destroy the incoming missiles.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that at least three people were injured, mainly from falling debris. The damage is also thought to be limited, with a few reports of buildings and vehicles catching fire from the debris.
However, Russia has said that the missiles all hit their intended targets in Ukraine. The Kremlin’s defence ministry also claimed that it destroyed a Patriot air defence system in the attack.
Is Ukraine launching a spring counter-offensive?
The latest attack comes amid attention on Ukraine’s next move. It is highly expected that the country is planning to launch a spring counter-offensive against Russia after months of a stalemate in troop movement.
Fighting in recent months has concentrated on the city of Bakhmut, while other Ukrainian areas have also been targeted. The supply of Western military aid has strengthened Ukraine’s military but Zelensky warned that the counter-offensive would not be able to begin until the full supply is received and further aid is committed.
The Ukrainian president said that troops, who have been given training from NATO allies, are “ready” to launch the counter-offensive. However, he warned that some of the military aid promised by Western countries are “arriving in batches” and troops are still waiting on being fully supplied before the next move can be made.
He said: "We can go forward, and, I think, be successful. But we'd lose a lot of people.
“I think that's unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time."