Russia unleashed a missile attack on cities across Ukraine before dawn on Thursday, killing two people and wounding at least 20 others, Ukrainian authorities said.
The country’s air force said it shot down 36 of the 43 Russian cruise missiles that were fired “in waves” from 10 strategic aircraft at 3.46am local time.
Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s electricity grid operator, said the Russian bombardment marked the first major “enemy attack in six months” on power infrastructure and caused “partial blackouts in Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv regions”.
The attack came hours after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke at the UN General Assembly in New York and urged countries to strip Russia of its UN veto and back his peace plan to end the Kremlin’s “genocidal” war.
Sirens wailed across Kyiv in the early hours of Thursday, and alerts sent to residents’ phones urged them to seek shelter before explosions from Ukrainian air defence units intercepting Russian missiles rocked the capital.
Debris falling across three districts in Kyiv injured seven people, including a nine-year-old girl, according to the city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko. He said a two-storey building, two vehicles and a gas pipeline had been damaged, and power had been temporarily knocked out in one area.
“Kyiv survived another night attack by Russian barbarians,” said Klitschko.
An attack on a residential building in the southern city of Kherson killed two civilians and wounded at least five, said regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin.
Ukraine’s interior minister, Ihor Klymenko, said a missile strike in central Cherkasy damaged a hotel and engulfed it in flames, wounding seven people. Rescuers pulled one person from the rubble and were working to find others, he added.
Three Russian missiles destroyed an industrial facility and a two-storey warehouse in the western Lviv region, while six strikes in Kharkiv damaged civilian infrastructure, local authorities said.
Hours earlier, Zelenskyy denounced Russia’s “criminal and unprovoked aggression” against Ukraine and scolded the UN Security Council for its inaction, calling for Moscow to be stripped of its veto powers in the body. Russia, China, France, the UK and the US are permanent members with veto power.
“The veto should not be used as a weapon by those obsessed with hatred and war,” he said in a speech on Wednesday to the UN Security Council.
Zelenskyy said the UN was in “a deadlock” over Russia’s war against his country, which has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions more and badly damaged Ukraine’s economy.
“Humankind no longer pins its hopes on the UN,” said Zelenskyy. “Ukrainian soldiers now are doing at the expense of their blood what the UN Security Council should do with its votes — they’re stopping Russia and upholding the principles of the UN.”
Zelenskyy on Thursday is set to visit President Joe Biden at the White House and meet military leaders at the Pentagon and members of Congress. He is expected to thank them for the $75bn of financial, humanitarian and military assistance given to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion last year, while pushing for more help, including an additional $24bn currently being considered by Congress.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive launched in May has dragged on longer than Kyiv and some of its western backers have hoped.
Ukrainian forces trained and armed by Nato countries have struggled to make a decisive breakthrough against heavily fortified Russian defensive lines across the roughly 1,000km front line.
Ukraine’s limited progress in recapturing occupied territory in the southern Zaporizhzhia region and eastern Donetsk region have come at a high loss of soldiers’ lives and military equipment.
Meanwhile, Kyiv has stepped up attacks on Russian military targets inside Russia and Ukrainian territory under Moscow’s control using domestically produced unmanned aerial and aquatic drones to degrade its enemy’s ability to wage war.
Ukraine claimed its forces had conducted a successful air strike early on Thursday on an airbase in the occupied Crimean Peninsula that Russia has used to support its full-scale invasion.
A Ukrainian intelligence source speaking to the Financial Times said: “Strikes by the Security Service and the Naval Forces hit the target and caused serious damage to the occupiers’ equipment.”
Additional reporting by Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv