Explosions hit Ukrainian cities as Russia launches a barrage of missiles in waves

Residents in Kyiv spoke of their weariness as Ukraine begins the recovery process from another round of Russian missile strikes, as Martha Fairlie reports

Air raid sirens were heard across Ukraine on Thursday, as Russia unleashed a barrage of missiles, Ukrainian authorities said.

The strikes affected multiple regions in Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv, in what was the latest of a series of Russian strikes targeting vital infrastructure across Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military chief, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said preliminary data showed Russia fired 69 missiles at energy facilities and that Ukrainian forces had shot down 54 of them. There were no immediate reports of any deaths.

Explosions were heard in Kyiv, Zhytomyr and the port-city of Odesa, according to reports, prompting officials to urge civilians to seek shelter in affected areas.

Meanwhile, power cuts were declared in the Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions in an attempt to limit any possible damage to critical energy infrastructure.

Footage posted on Telegram appears to show Ukrainian forces successfully shooting down a missile fired by Russia

Ukraine's air force said Russia dispatched explosive drones to selected regions overnight, before broadening the barrage with "air and sea-based cruise missiles launched from strategic aircraft and ships" in the morning.

On Thursday, air defence systems were activated in Kyiv to fend off the ongoing missile attack, according to the regional administration.

At least three people were injured and hospitalised, including a 14-year-old girl, the city's Mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said.

He warned of power outages in the capital, asking people to stockpile water and to charge their electronic devices.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned Russia for launching the missiles amid the winter holidays, calling it an act of "senseless barbarism".

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"There can be no 'neutrality' in the face of such mass war crimes. Pretending to be 'neutral' equals taking Russia’s side," Mr Kuleba tweeted.

Elsewhere, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Russia was breaching the Geneva Convention with its "targeting of civilian national infrastructure and indeed civilian areas".

He said: "Russia is breaking international law in what it’s doing not only with its invasion, but also with the targeting it's carrying out, and there will be a response from the rest of the world to that type of behaviour."

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians. After more than ten months of fighting, Russia and Ukraine forces are locked in a grinding battle of attrition.

The Ukrainian military has reclaimed swathes of Russian-occupied territory in the country's northeast and south, and continues to resist persistent Russian attempts to seize all of the industrial Donbas region.

At the same time, Moscow has methodically targeted Ukrainian power facilities and other key infrastructure in a bid to weaken the country’s resolve and force it to negotiate on Russian terms.

The latest round of missile launches saw numerous explosions reported in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, and in the city of Lviv, near the border with Poland, according to their mayors.

Ukrainian authorities in several regions said some incoming Russian missiles were intercepted.

Vitaliy Kim, the governor of southern Ukraine's Mykolaiv province, said five missiles were shot down over the Black Sea.

And in the Darnytskyi district of Kyiv fragments from downed Russian missiles damaged two private buildings, the city administration said.

Two women watch on as emergency workers remove debris from a house, which was destroyed following a Russian missile attack in Kyiv. Credit: AP

Russia's most recent barrage comes after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy - who has accused Russia of "energy terrorism" - said earlier this week that around nine million people were without electricity.

Repeated attacks on energy infrastructure have left Ukrainians accustomed to daily blackouts to prevent overloading the system as temperatures continue to drop.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that between two and three million Ukrainians will leave their homes this winter in search of warmth and safety.

In its latest intelligence update, the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Russian forces are increasingly struggling to counter air threats deep inside of Russia.

The MoD said that in the early hours of Boxing Day, the country's Engels Air Base was attacked for the second time in three weeks.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine moves closer to its one year anniversary, the head of the GCHQ spy agency has said the conflict represents a "sea change" in the release of secret intelligence to inform public debate.

Sir Jeremy Fleming said the release of details by western intelligence agencies of the Russian military build-up in the run up to the invasion had helped counter Moscow’s narrative that Ukraine was threatening its neighbour.

However, speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he acknowledged that it had proved more effective in the West than in other parts of the world.

"There is no point in collecting it [secret intelligence] unless you use it," he said.

"The sea change we have seen during this conflict, getting the intelligence out there and using it to pre-bunk, to try and undermine that sort of narrative, I completely agree with that.

"But it is also the case that for much of the world they haven’t completely bought into that side of the argument. Much as we know it to be truthful, there are different and counter-narratives."