The Mercury News Weekend

Russian missile barrage slams cities


KYIV, UKRAINE >> Russia launched a massive barrage of missiles and drones that hit residentia­l buildings and critical infrastruc­ture across Ukraine on Thursday, killing six people and leaving hundreds of thousands without heat or electricit­y.

The largest such attack in three weeks also put Europe's largest nuclear plant at risk by knocking it off the power grid for hours before it was reconnecte­d. Nuclear plants need constant power to run cooling systems and avoid a meltdown, and the latest threat to the Zaporizhzh­ia Nuclear Power Plant once again raised the specter of a nuclear catastroph­e

Air raid sirens wailed through the night, as the attacks targeted a wide swath of the country, including in western Ukraine, which is far from the front lines. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the assault that came while many people slept was an attempt by Moscow “to intimidate Ukrainians again.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said the strikes were in retaliatio­n for a recent incursion into the Bryansk region of western Russia by what Moscow claimed were Ukrainian saboteurs. Ukraine denied the claim and warned that Moscow could use the allegation­s to justify stepping up its own assaults.

Overall, Russia launched 81 missiles and eight exploding Iranian-made Shahed drones Thursday, according to Ukraine's chief commander of the armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi. Thirty-four missiles were intercepte­d, as were four drones, he said. The mixture of munitions makes it harder for air defenses to cope with the onslaught, military analysts say.

Among the weapons were six hypersonic Kinzhal cruise missiles, which are among the most sophistica­ted weapons in the Russian arsenal, Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said.

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