By SUSIE BLANN
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia used strategic bombers, cruise missiles and killer drones in a wave of attacks across Ukraine early Friday, while Moscow’s military push that Kyiv says has been brewing for days appeared to pick up pace in eastern areas ahead of the one-year anniversary of its invasion.
Russian forces launched 71 cruise missiles, 35 S-300 missiles and seven Shahed drones since late Thursday, Ukraine’s military chief, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi said.
Ukrainian forces downed 61 cruise missiles and five drones, he said.
The cruise missiles were launched by Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and from Russian navy ships in the Black Sea, Zaluzhnyi said, while the S-300 missiles were launched from the Belgorod region just inside Russia and the occupied part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Moscow once again targeted the power supply in “another attempt to destroy the Ukrainian energy system and deprive Ukrainians of light, heat, water.”
“We have sustained damage to high-voltage infrastructure and generation in the western, central and eastern regions, which may cause power outages,” he said.
The Kremlin’s forces focused on Ukraine’s industrial east, especially the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces that make up the industrial Donbas region where recent fighting has been most intense, the Ukrainian military said. Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces there since 2014.
But the barrage went further, also taking aim at the capital, Kyiv, and Lviv, near Ukraine’s Western border with Poland. It also struck critical infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the northeast. Seven people were wounded there, two of them seriously, regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.
Air raid sirens went off across much of the country.
Kyiv believes Moscow is planning a ground assault in the east, where the Kremlin is striving to secure areas it has illegally annexed and where it claims its rule is welcomed.
In the Donetsk region, local Ukrainian officials reported that the Russian military deployed additional troops and launched offensive operations. “There is a daily escalation and Russian attacks are becoming active throughout the region,” Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
In Luhansk province, the Russian army is trying to punch through Ukrainian defenses, according to regional Gov. Serhii Haidai.
“The situation is deteriorating, the enemy is constantly attacking, the Russians are bringing in a large amount of heavy equipment and aircraft,” Haidai said.
There has been little change in battlefield positions for weeks.
Also Friday, Moldova’s Ministry of Defense said that a missile was detected traversing its airspace near the border with Ukraine. Moldova’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the Russian ambassador in Chisinau has been summoned for talks over the “unacceptable violation”.
The ministry said that the missile was detected in its airspace at around 10 a.m. and flew over two border villages before heading toward Ukraine.
The spokesperson for Ukraine’s Air Forces, Yurii Ihnat, told The Associated Press that another missile crossed the airspace of Romania, a NATO member country. Romania’s defense ministry denied that, however, saying the closest the missile came to Romania’s airspace was approximately 35 kilometers (20 miles).
High-voltage infrastructure facilities were hit in the eastern, western and southern regions, Ukraine’s energy company, Ukrenergo, said, resulting in power outages in some areas. It was the 14th round of massive strikes on the country’s power supply, the company said. The last one occurred on Jan. 26 as Moscow seeks to demoralize Ukrainians by leaving them without heat and water in the bitter winter.
Zaporizhzhia City Council Secretary Anatolii Kurtiev said the city had been hit 17 times in one hour, which he said made it the most intense period of attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
Ukraine’s Air Force shot down 10 Russian missiles over Kyiv, according to the Kyiv City Administration. The fragments of one missile damaged two cars, a house and electricity wires. No casualties were reported.
The Ukraine Air Force said Russia launched S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles on the Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia provinces. Those missiles cannot be destroyed in mid-air by air defenses but they have a relatively short range so the Russians have used them for attacks on areas not far from Russian-controlled territory.
The Khmelnytskyi province in Western Ukraine was also attacked with Shahed drones, according to regional Gov. Serhii Hamalii.
Russia has in the past used Iranian-made Shahed drones to strike at key Ukrainian infrastructure and sow fear among civilians, according to Western analysts. They are known as suicide drones because they nosedive into targets and explode on impact like a missile.
The onslaught lent a sense of urgency to Ukraine’s pleas for more Western military support. The need prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to make a rare — and daring — two-day trip abroad this week to press allies to grant Kyiv more aid.
A Russian rocket fell but did not explode in Ukraine’s Lviv province, near to Poland, according to regional Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi. He said on Telegram that there were no victims when the rocket impacted close to a village bus stop.
Moscow’s ambitions have narrowed since it launched its full-scale invasion, military analysts say, when the capital Kyiv and the installation of a puppet government were among its targets. It is now focusing its efforts on gaining full control of the Donbas.
Numerous battlefield setbacks, including yielding eastern areas it had initially captured, have embarrassed Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.