Local residents stand in front of an apartment building damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine December 31, 2023.

Local residents stand in front of an apartment building damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine December 31, 2023.
| Photo Credit: REUTERS

Russia launched a fresh drone assault on Ukraine on Saturday night, after promising that strikes on the Russian border city of Belgorod earlier in the day “would not go unpunished”.

The Ukrainian Air Force said on Sunday that it had shot down 21 of 49 drones launched by Russian forces overnight.

Twenty-eight people were wounded in an attack on the eastern city of Kharkiv, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Sunday. A central hotel, apartment buildings, kindergarten, shops and administrative buildings sustained damage, according to the regional prosecutor’s office.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said that it had hit “decision-making centres and military facilities” in Kharkiv, reporting that its strike on the Kharkiv Palace Hotel had “destroyed representatives of the Main Intelligence Directorate and Ukrainian Armed Forces” involved in the “terrorist attack” in Belgorod.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said that a British journalist was among the wounded, while public German broadcaster ZDF said Sunday that one of its television crews had been in the hotel. A Ukrainian translator was hit by debris and seriously wounded, with one of the team’s security guards also sustaining injuries, ZDF said in a statement.

“This is another attack by Russia on the free press,” said ZDF editor-in-chief Bettina Schausten.

In the Kyiv region that surrounds the capital, a Russian drone attack caused a fire to break out at a critical infrastructure facility, local officials said. They did not identify the facility further.

Shelling in the center of the Russian border city of Belgorod Saturday killed 24 people, including three children. A further 108 people were wounded in the strike, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Sunday, making it one of the deadliest attacks on Russian soil since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine 22 months ago.

Russian authorities accused Kyiv of carrying out the attack, which took place the day after an 18-hour Russian aerial bombardment across Ukraine killed at least 41 civilians.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it identified the ammunition used in the strike as Czech-made Vampire rockets and Olkha missiles fitted with cluster-munition warheads. It provided no additional information, and The Associated Press was unable to verify its claims.

“This crime will not go unpunished,” the ministry said in a statement on social media.

In an emergency meeting at the U.N. Security Council demanded by Russia Saturday night, envoy Vasily Nebenzya accused Kyiv of a “terrorist attack.” In comments carried by Russian state media, Nebenzya claimed Ukraine had launched “a deliberate act of terrorism directed against civilians.”

Ukrainians are bracing for further attacks. A blistering New Year’s Eve assault by Russia last year killed at least three civilians.



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