Russian forces attacked Kyiv and several other cities across Ukraine with more than 20 missiles and two drones on Friday, killing at least 12 people and demolishing residential and commercial buildings.
The attack was the largest of its kind in weeks and came two days after China’s president Xi Jinping urged Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in their first phone call in more than 14 months, to negotiate an end to Russia’s war.
In the central city of Uman, 10 people died after missiles struck high-rise residential buildings, according to Ukrainian interior minister Ihor Klymenko.
Ten apartment buildings in the city were damaged, Zelenskyy said. “The entire block of one of them was destroyed. People are still trapped under the rubble.”
A mother and a young child were killed when their apartment in the eastern city of Dnipro was hit, according to the city’s mayor, Borys Filatov.
Rescuers were clearing debris at the scenes of both attacks on Friday morning, as they searched for more victims.
Air raid sirens wailed throughout Kyiv just before dawn, signalling an attack was on its way. There were no direct strikes in Kyiv, but air defence systems could be heard engaging the missiles. Kyiv city administration reported downing 11 cruise missiles and two drones around the capital. Images showed a missile blast shatter the facade of an apartment block in the suburb of Ukrainka.
Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s military chief, said air defence units destroyed 21 out of 23 Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles in all. They had been launched from the Caspian Sea at around 4am, he added.
The bombardment was the first aerial assault on Kyiv in 51 days, the city administration said.
The attack came less than 48 hours after Zelenskyy held his first telephone call with China’s Xi since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
During the almost hour-long call that Zelenskyy described as “long and meaningful”, Xi urged the Ukrainian president to seek a “political settlement”, according to China’s foreign ministry.
“Dialogue and negotiation are the only way forward,” Xi said, signalling that he and his government want to act as mediator in the conflict.
“Missile strikes killing innocent Ukrainians in their sleep, including a two-year-old child, is Russia’s response to all peace initiatives,” Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. He repeated his plea for US fighter jets to protect the skies over his war-stricken country. “The way to peace is to kick Russia out of Ukraine. The way to peace is to arm Ukraine with F-16s and protect children from Russian terror.”
Russian attacks were also carried out on several cities across the 600-mile frontline in Ukraine’s south and east on Friday.
“This Russian terror must face a fair response from Ukraine and the world. And it will,” Zelenskyy said.