By Emmanuel Nduka
Ukraine’s Air Force on Sunday said it had destroyed 21 of 49 Iranian-made drones fired after Russia vowed to retaliate for what it called a “terrorist attack” on a border city that left 24 dead.
Kyiv said the “Shahed” drones were particularly targeted at “the front line of defence, as well as at civilian, military and infrastructure facilities in the front-line territories”.
In a statement on Telegram, Kyiv said guided missiles had also targeted the northeastern city of Kharkiv, without specifying whether they had hit their targets.
Head of Kharkiv’s military administration, Oleg Sinegubov said there had been 28 civilians wounded in the attack on the city, including two teenagers and a foreign citizen.
Residential buildings, offices and cafes were hit in the latest overnight attacks, said Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov.
“On the eve of the New Year, Russians want to intimidate our city, but we are not scared,” he said.
The fresh Russian strikes came a day after the deadliest attack on civilians in Russia since the start of the conflict in February 2022.
This is as the official death toll has risen to 24 with 108 wounded in Belgorod, 30 kilometres from the border, which has been repeatedly struck by what Moscow says is indiscriminate shelling.
Meanwhile, the two sides took turns to accuse each other of pummelling civilian areas of their shared frontier region over the weekend.
While Moscow said the Belgorod attack had included the use of controversial cluster munitions, and told an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council that Kyiv had targeted a sports centre, an ice rink and a university, Ukraine’s allies countered that responsibility ultimately lay with Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading the neighbouring country nearly two years ago.
Russian envoy Vasily Nebenzya called it a “deliberate, indiscriminate attack against a civilian target”.
“If Russia wants someone to blame for the deaths of Russians in this war, it should start with President Putin,” said British envoy to the UN Thomas Phipps.
Both Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky were due to give New Year’s Eve speeches Sunday after the latest escalation in the crisis.