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Waves of missiles launched against Ukraine, killing at least three as fighting in east ‘deadlocked’

The aftermath of a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 9, 2022. (Cover Images/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A fresh wave of Russian strikes pounded cities throughout Ukraine early on December 29, killing at least three people and leaving the western city of Lviv almost without electricity, but the Ukrainian military said it had managed to neutralize most of the missiles, avoiding much larger damage.

Air-raid alarms could be heard across the country, and presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on Facebook that more than several waves of missiles were incoming.

Three people were killed and six were wounded as a result of the attack, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy said on Ukrainian television. He did not specify where people were injured and killed.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there were three victims, including a 14-year-old girl, in the Ukrainian capital and all were hospitalized.

Klitschko warned of potential electricity cuts and called on residents to stock up on water.

Besides Kyiv, the wave of strikes also targeted Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and the Black Sea port city of Odesa.

Most of Lviv, where Russian attacks are still rare, was left without power, Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said most regions were without power in freezing temperatures following the barrage of Russian missiles.

“It is especially difficult in the Kyiv region and the capital, the Lviv region, Odesa and the region, Kherson and the region, the Vinnytsya region, and Transcarpathia,” Zelenskiy said in his evening video address.

He said the situation on the front line did not change significantly during the day, and that fighting in the Donetsk region remains the most acute, noting in particular the situation in Bakhmut and Soledar.

“The enemy did not give up the crazy idea of capturing [the] Donetsk region. Now they are setting themselves a task for the New Year,” he said, repeating his thanks to “all our boys, who have been proving to the occupiers for several months that we will set and achieve goals on our land.”

According to preliminary data, 69 missiles were launched against Ukraine on December 29. “Fifty-four enemy cruise missiles were shot down,” Ukrainian Commander in Chief General Valeriy Zaluzhniy said.

Overnight, Russian kamikaze drones targeted infrastructure in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhya, and Dnipropetrovsk regions, but most of them were downed by the Ukrainian military, the General Staff said on December 29.

“The Russian occupiers once again struck the energy infrastructure of Kharkiv, using 13 Iranian Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles in the attack. Ukrainian defense shot down 11 of these drones,” the General Staff said in its morning report.

In the Sumy region, Russian troops carried out dozens of strikes, Dmytro Zhyvytskiy, the regional governor of the northeastern region, said on Telegram.

He said Russian forces fought in several communities, firing mortars, dropping explosives from a drone, and shelling from a helicopter.

“In all cases, there were no casualties,” Zhyvytskiy said.

Sumy borders three regions of Russia — Bryansk, Kursk, and Belgorod. The border regions of Ukraine are regularly shelled by Russia.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Moscow has denied a targeted attack on civilians despite evidence to the contrary.

Russian air defenses, meanwhile, shot down a drone near Engels air base deep inside Russia, according to a regional governor. The air base is hundreds of kilometers from the front line in Ukraine. Russia says Ukraine has previously tried to attack the base, which is home to long-range strategic bombers.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, five drones were shot down in the Dnipropetrovsk region, the General Staff said.

Shelling on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhya overnight damaged electricity lines, a gas pipeline, and houses.

The claims could not be independently verified.

Recent heavy fighting in the Donbas region has not seen significant advances on either side as Russian forces attempt to push ahead with their stalemated offensive in the Bakhmut and Avdiyivka areas of Donetsk.

Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told the BBC that the fighting in the east is deadlocked as neither Ukraine nor Russia can make significant advances.

“The situation is just stuck,” Budanov said in an interview. “It doesn’t move.”

Russians continue to pound Bakhmut, but elsewhere they appear to be on the defensive.

The onset of the cold season has also slowed down the pace of Ukraine’s ground operations across the 1,000-kilometer front line.

“We can’t defeat them in all directions comprehensively. Neither can they,” Budanov told the BBC. “We’re very much looking forward to new weapons supplies, and to the arrival of more advanced weapons.”

Budanov added that Russia has suffered very significant losses, but Ukrainian forces still lacked resources to move forward in multiple areas.