Russian missiles hit Ukrainian apartment buildings in latest deadly strikes on civilian areas

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BY ILLIA NOVIKOV

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia fired two missiles at Kharkiv during the night, hitting apartment buildings and a medical center and injuring 17 people in the city in northeastern Ukraine, officials said Wednesday, in Moscow’s latest strikes on civilian areas in the almost two-year war.

The S-300 missiles landed after dark Tuesday, Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram.

Normally surface-to-air missiles, the S-300s have been adapted by Russia to hit targets on the ground and are cheaper to make than ballistic or cruise missiles. However, they are inaccurate and have a shorter range, analysts say.

Both sides are looking to replenish their weapons stockpiles as fighting along the 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) front line is largely bogged down during winter and the war’s focus turns to long-range missile, drone and artillery strikes.

Russia’s recently intensified aerial attacks sharply increased civilian casualties in December, with more than 100 Ukrainians killed and nearly 500 injured, according to the United Nations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been making a diplomatic push for Kyiv’s Western allies to keep supplying weaponry. He recently visited the three Baltic countries and on Tuesday attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Ukraine has accomplished a lot more than might be obvious on the battlefield at the moment, Blinken said Wednesday in Davos. Kyiv’s forces last year clawed back about half of the territory lost to Russia after the full-scale invasion in February 2022 and have forced the Russian navy to pull back from the Ukrainian coast in the Black Sea, he noted.

“The strategic picture looks … very different than maybe the day-in and day- out picture” on the battlefield, he said.

Nevertheless, Ukraine remains outnumbered and outgunned by its bigger neighbor. “This is a ferocious fight and Russia does have tremendous resources that it brings to it,” Blinken said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, also in Davos, took note of comments about “war fatigue” in the West.

“Yes, we are tired” from fighting Russia, he said in English, but added: “No matter how tired or exhausted we will be, we will keep defending our country.”

Ukraine’s priority this year is air power, Kuleba said, “because the one who controls the skies will define when and how the war will end.”

U.S.-made F-16 warplanes pledged by Western allies are “on their way,” he said.

Also in Davos, French President Emmanuel Macron urged the European Union to intensify its support for Kyiv, saying the top priority is “to ensure that Russia cannot and must not win in Ukraine.”

At a two-day meeting of NATO’s top brass in Brussels, the alliance was working on plans for military exercises later this year — the biggest in Europe since the Cold War.

The head of the NATO Military Committee, Adm. Rob Bauer, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rationale for the war was his fear of democracy, not any security threat from NATO or Ukraine.

“If people in Ukraine can have democratic rights, then people in Russia will soon crave them too,” he said.

The attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, struck 20 residential buildings and a medical center, authorities said.

Deeper inside the surrounding region of the same name, areas close to the front line came under artillery fire, according to officials.

Ukraine’s air force said it intercepted 19 of 20 Shahed-type drones fired by Russia overnight, although regional officials reported that other drones made it through.

In Kherson, a southern city, Russian artillery fire hit two residential areas, killing a man and injuring three people, according to regional chief Oleksand Prokudin.

In Odesa, another southern city, three people were injured in a drone attack that forced the evacuation of about 130 people from an apartment building, regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said.

The missile attacks on Kharkiv came from the Russian border region of Belgorod, Ukrainian officials said. That area has seen a recent increase of cross-border attacks by Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry said two winged Ukrainian drones and four missiles were shot down over the Belgorod region overnight and another around noon Wednesday. It gave no details about damage or injuries.

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