Russia kills at least 12 in biggest Ukraine air strikes for nearly two months
A view shows a heavily damaged residential building hit by a Russian missile, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Uman, Cherkasy region, Ukraine April 28, 2023. Press service of the Interior Ministry of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS
UMAN, Ukraine (Reuters) -Russia hurled missiles at cities across Ukraine as people slept early on Friday, killing at least 17 people in the first large-scale air strikes in nearly two months.
Hours after the pre-dawn attacks, Kyiv said it was finishing preparations for a counteroffensive to try to take back territory occupied by Russian forces in 14 months of war.
In the central city of Uman, firefighters battled a raging blaze at a residential apartment building that had been struck on an upper floor. At least 15 people were killed in Uman, including two children, and nine people were taken to hospital, the regional governor said.
Rescue workers clambered through a huge pile of smouldering rubble, carrying out a body on a stretcher. A man wearing a face mask sobbed as he watched, and a woman came to comfort him.
"At first the windows were blown out, then came the explosion," a resident of the apartment building, who gave her name only as Olga, said as rescue workers dug through the debris. "Everything flew out."
In the southeastern city of Dnipro, a missile struck a house, killing a two-year-old child and a 31-year-old woman, regional governor Serhiy Lysak said. Three people were also wounded in the attack.
"Rescuers will work until they make sure that no one else is left under the rubble," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter. "We can only defeat Russian terror together - with weapons for Ukraine, the toughest sanctions against the terrorist state, fair sentences for the Russian killers."
The Ukrainian military said it had shot down 21 out of 23 cruise missiles fired by Russia.
It was not clear what Russia was targeting in Friday's attacks. Ukraine's national grid operator, Ukrenergo, said the attack did not damage any energy infrastructure.
Russia started carrying out such attacks late last year, and did so roughly weekly through winter. They tapered off as winter ended, with Western powers saying Moscow had used up much of its long-range missile arsenal trying to knock out energy facilities and freeze Ukrainian cities.
Moscow says it does not deliberately target civilians, but air strikes and shelling have killed thousands of people and devastated cities across Ukraine. Kyiv says strikes on cities far from the front lines have no military purpose apart from intimidating and harming civilians, a war crime.
The capital Kyiv was also rocked by explosions, with officials reporting that air defence units had destroyed 11 missiles and two drones.
Two people were wounded in the town of Ukrayinka just south of Kyiv, and explosions were reported in the central cities of Kremenchuk and Poltava, and in Mykolaiv in the south, regional officials said.
The war is coming to a juncture after a months-long Russian winter offensive that gained little ground despite the bloodiest fighting so far. Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Kyiv was wrapping up preparations for a counteroffensive but did not say when it was likely to start.
(Reporting by Gleb Garanich, Ron Popeski and Dan Peleschuk; Writing by Michael Perry and Dan Peleschuk; Editing by Timothy Heritage)