Russia fired dozens of missiles at infrastructure in Ukraine on Friday, forcing emergency power shutdowns across the country amid freezing temperatures and killing and wounding people in their homes in the south, Ukrainian officials said.
Russian-installed officials in occupied eastern Ukraine also reported civilian casualties from Ukrainian shelling in two places.
The latest Russian assault followed warnings from Ukrainian officials that Moscow plans a new all-out offensive early next year, a year after it launched an invasion that has destroyed much of Ukraine but brought little of it under Russian control.
As many as 60 Russian missiles had been spotted heading for Ukraine, Vitaly Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, said early on Friday, while Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kyiv region, said Russia was “massively attacking”.
Russia has rained missiles on Ukrainian energy infrastructure almost weekly since early October after a series of battlefield defeats. Moscow says it is part of its plan to disable Ukraine’s military, Kyiv says it is a war crime.
“A Russian missile hit a residential building in Kryvyi Rih,” regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Facebook. “The stairwell was destroyed. Two people were killed. At least five were wounded, including two children. All are in hospital.”
Russian troops are now bogged down trying to hold on to territory in the south and east, around a fifth of Ukraine. Fighting along the front line is brutal, with many soldiers on both sides thought to be killed or wounded although neither side issues detailed reports of military casualties.
Russian-installed officials said the latest Ukrainian shelling had killed civilians in two places.
Eight people were killed and 23 wounded in the village of Lantrativka, a small settlement close to the border with Russia in the Russian-controlled Luhansk region of Ukraine, the Russian-installed administrator of the region said on Friday.
Leonid Pasechnik called the attack “barbaric”.
He said Ukraine was targeting residential neighbourhoods, schools and shopping districts in an attempt to “kill as many people as possible”. He did not provide evidence and there was no immediate comment from Kyiv.
The head of a separatist, self-styled “people’s militia” in Luhansk said a civilian had also been killed by Ukrainian shelling in the town of Svatove, around 70 km (40 miles) further south, on Friday morning.
Reuters was unable to immediately verify the latest battlefield accounts but recorded at least three explosions in the snow-covered capital Kyiv, with smoke billowing over part of the city. It was not clear if any missiles had got through air defences.
Ukraine has managed to repair much of its power infrastructure to restore electricity and water supplies but each successive attack makes that task harder.
A senior Ukrainian presidential official said emergency power shutdowns were being introduced across the country.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential office, did not elaborate, but officials said earlier power had been knocked out in the eastern city of Kharkiv, home to more than a million people, and the smaller central city of Poltava.
Infrastructure was also reported to have been hit in the northern Sumy region and in the Odesa region on the Black Sea.
Several railway lines were also left without power, the railway operator said.
With no peace talks in sight, Ukrainian defence chiefs on Thursday predicted Russia would launch a new all-out offensive early next year that could include a second attempt to take the capital, Kyiv.
It could happen as soon as January, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, General Valery Zaluzhniy and General Oleksandr Syrskiy were quoted as saying in interviews with The Economist magazine.
The push could be launched from the eastern Donbas area, the south or neighbouring Belarus, and could include another ground assault on Kyiv, which Moscow failed to capture early in its invasion, the officials said.
The Russian defence ministry issued video on Friday showing joint exercises by Russian and Belarusian troops in Belarus, using tanks and machine guns as well as drones and practising crossing a river.
Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine on Feb. 24, since when thousands have been killed, cities reduced to ruins and millions of people forced from their homes in what the West sees as an imperial-style land grab.
With the invasion now in its 10th month, European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to provide 18 billion euros in financing to Ukraine next year and hit Moscow with a ninth package of sanctions.
The measures designate nearly 200 more people and bar investment in Russia’s mining industry, among other steps.
The U.S. military announced it would expand training in Germany of Ukrainian military personnel with 500 troops a month, building on more than 15,000 Ukrainians trained by the United States and its allies since April.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill for a record $858 billion defence budget next year, authorising $45 billion more than proposed by President Joe Biden. The bill, which Biden is expected to quickly sign into law, provides Ukraine with at least $800 million in additional security assistance in 2023.
Both sides have ruled out a Christmas truce and there are currently no talks aimed at ending the conflict, Europe’s largest since World War Two.