Massive Russian missile attack devastates Ukraine as Turkey blocks British ships from Black Sea

Russian missile attacks on Ukraine have killed at least 44 people in the last five days and injured roughly 300 more

Tom Watling ,Arpan Rai
Tuesday 02 January 2024 18:10 GMT
Explosions seen in Crimea port town as Ukraine air force damages Russian ship

Russia has launched a massive, three-pronged aerial assault across Ukraine, killing at least five people and injuring more than a hundred more.

The attack, which targeted the capital of Kyiv and the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, in the east, was one of the deadliest campaigns since the war began in February 2022.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said on Tuesday evening that the attack killed five civilians and injured 127 as air defences downed Russian Kinzhal missiles that can fly at 10 times the speed of sound.

It was the second attack in just five days that has wounded more than 100 Ukrainians, a fact that president Volodymyr Zelensky and his aides used to highlight the pressing need for additional Western military support.

Both the US and European Union, Ukraine’s most significant allies, have failed to pass additional military packages over the past few months.

A firefighter looks out of a window as he works in a residential building destroyed by a missile attack in central Kyiv
A firefighter looks out of a window as he works in a residential building destroyed by a missile attack in central Kyiv (AFP via Getty Images)

The assault occurred as Turkey said it would not allow two British Royal Navy ships intended for Ukraine to pass through its waters.

Britain said last month it would transfer the minehunter ships to the Ukrainian Navy to help strengthen its sea operations in its war with Russia.

But Nato member Turkey informed allies that it would not allow the vessels to use its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits as long as the war in Ukraine continues. It would violate an international pact concerning wartime passage of the strait, the presidency’s communications directorate said.

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Turkey triggered the 1936 Montreux Convention, effectively blocking the passage of military ships of the warring parties.

According to the Montreux Convention, warships of non-belligerent parties can transit through the straits in time of war. But the convention also says Ankara has the final say on the passage of all warships if Turkey considers itself in danger of being drawn into a war.

Turkey has implemented Montreux impartially and meticulously to prevent escalation in the Black Sea, the presidency said.

Russia fired 35 Iranian-made drones and 99 missiles over roughly six hours on Tuesday, according to the Ukrainian Air Forces, with tens of thousands of civilians, including children, forced into makeshift bomb shelters.

“We were under fire the whole night,” said Inna Lukashenko from Vyshneve, a small city outside the capital.

“First, there were Shaheds (drones). Then, we fell asleep for a second and were woken up by explosions, hearing that missiles were in the air. My child and I hid in the corridor. We were very scared.”

After the initial wave of “Shahed” kamikaze drones, 16 Russian bomber planes crossed within firing range of the two cities at around 6am local time (4am GMT) and dropped roughly 70 cruise missiles, according to the Ukrainian air force.  A further three deadly Kalibr cruise missiles, which have previously killed dozens in single strikes, were fired at the two cities, as well as 10 aeroballistic missiles.

Valery Zaluzhny, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, said air defences had intercepted 72 of the 99 missiles fired. The airforce added that all drones had been shot down.

But in the capital, smoke belched out of the charred side of a high-rise residential building where mayor Vitali Klitschko said an elderly woman had been killed and 49 people hurt as a result of the missiles that slipped past the air defences. Emergency services later recovered another body from the building.

A 91-year-old woman was killed in a missile strike on Kharkiv that also wounded at least 47 people and a married couple was killed in an attack in the area around Kyiv, local officials said.

“Russia will answer for every life (that it has) taken away,” Mr Zelensky said on the Telegram messenger.

People stand next to a crater at a site of a Russian missile strike in Kyiv
People stand next to a crater at a site of a Russian missile strike in Kyiv (Reuters)

His top aide, Andriy Yermak, was clear that the only means to prevent further civilian deaths was the Western provision to Kyiv of further air defence systems.

Referring to a US system, he said: “Patriot and other Western air defence systems are synonymous with human life. They save lives, which is the highest value of democratic societies.

“Each state that provides these systems to Ukraine saves people and fulfils its main mission in the civilised world. Proved by shooting down missiles. Thank you for that. More is needed.”

Russia stepped up missile and drone strikes on 29 December, when it launched its largest air attack of the war, killing at least 39 people. Kyiv had warned for weeks that Russia appeared to be stockpiling missiles for big attacks.

Oleg Sinegubov, Kharkiv’s governor, posted photos detailing extensive destruction of the eastern Ukrainian region
Oleg Sinegubov, Kharkiv’s governor, posted photos detailing extensive destruction of the eastern Ukrainian region (Oleg Sinegubov/Telegram )

After that assault, UK defence minister Grant Shapps pledged to send hundreds of additional air defence missiles.

In Russia, at least one person was killed and seven injured in another attack on the Belgorod region that borders Ukraine on Tuesday.

At the start of this week, Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin promised to avenge what Moscow claimed was a Ukrainian attack on the Russian city of Belgorod over the weekend, which killed 25 people.

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