Ukraine: Russia launches missile and drone strikes as offensive gathers pace

Ukrainian soldiers go to their position on the frontline close to Bakhmut, Donetsk region. Credit: AP

Air raid sirens rang out across much of Ukraine on Friday after Russia launched missile and drone strikes in the south and east of the country.

Russian forces hit critical infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, and launched multiple strikes on energy infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia.

Zaporizhzhia was struck 17 times in one hour, Zaporizhzhia City Council Secretary Anatolii Kurtiev said. He said the number of strikes made it the most intense period of attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in February 2022.

In Kharkiv, authorities were still trying to establish information on victims and scale of the destruction, with Mayor Ihor Terekhov saying there may be disruptions to heating and the electricity and water supply.

Russian rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv on Wednesday. Credit: AP

Due to the threat of a missile attack, emergency power outages were enacted in Kyiv city and the Kyiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, according to private energy operator DTEK.

The head of Kyiv City Administration, Serhii Popko, said that “there is a great threat of a missile attack” as Tu-95 strategic bombers are in the air, which can carry cruise missiles on board.

Military analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin is hoping that Europe’s support for Ukraine will wane, as Russia is believed to be preparing a new offensive.

It comes as fighting in the war-torn country intensified on Thursday amid Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's calls for more Western military support.

The prime minister welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Downing Street last week. Credit: AP

The Ukrainian leader made a rare trip abroad this week, including a visit to the UK, to press allies for more aid.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to the question of providing fighter jets to Ukraine, adding that sending warplanes was “part of the conversation”.

Mr Zelenskyy also called for more weapons while addressing the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday.

On Friday, he will virtually address a sports ministers’ summit chaired from London to discuss Russian participation at next year’s Paris Olympics.

Kyiv’s military intelligence agency said Russian forces have launched an offensive in the partially occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with the aim to grab full control of the entire industrial region, known as the Donbas. Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces there since 2014.

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