Russian missile attack hits infrastructure in Kyiv – officials

Isobel Koshiw

The sound of four explosions were heard in central Kyiv on Saturday morning. For the first time since Russia began regular missile and drone attacks on the capital this autumn, the air raid sirens sounded after the attack.

Until now the air raid sirens have sounded from 10 to 90 minutes before an attack, giving residents some time to seek shelter.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, confirmed that something had landed, writing on Telegram that explosions had occurred in Kyiv’s Dniprovskyi district, on the eastern bank of the river. Klitschko said emergency services were on their way to the scene.

Minutes after the explosions rang out, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, wrote on Telegram that a rocket attack was occurring on critical infrastructure in the capital and advised residents to seek shelter.

Key events

Dan Sabbagh

Dan Sabbagh

In case you missed it, Ukraine is confident that Britain will announce it has plans to send about 10 Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv shortly, a move it hopes will help Germany finally allow its Leopard 2 tanks to be re-exported to the embattled country.

A formal announcement is anticipated on Monday, but Ukrainian sources indicated they understood that Britain had already decided in favour, as pressure mounts on Berlin ahead of a meeting of western defence ministers next Friday.

Earlier this week, it emerged that Britain was considering supplying Ukraine with the tanks, following months of requests from Kyiv – with a final decision in the hands of the prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

A handful of Challenger 2 tanks, taken from the UK’s existing fleet of 227, would not in itself make much difference on the battlefield, but it would be the first time any western country has agreed to send its own heavy armour to Ukraine.

A woman walks past a destroyed residential building is seen in Izium, Ukraine on 13 January 2023.
A destroyed home in Izium, south-east Kharkiv region, photographed yesterday. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The governor of the central Cherkasy region warned Ukrainians that Russia could launch a massive missile strike later on Saturday and urged residents to take shelter during air raid sirens.

Separately, Vitaly Kim, regional governor of the southern Mykolaiv region, said that 17 Russian Tupolev bombers had taken off from their airbases. His statement came shortly after air attacks in Kyiv and Kharkiv hit critical infrastructure.

It comes as the head of Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba, said 18 houses were damaged and a fire was contained at a critical infrastructure facility.

A fire has broken out at a non-residential facility in Kyiv’s southern Holosivskyi district as a result of the attack, according to Klitschko. Rescue workers are at the scene.

Isobel Koshiw

Isobel Koshiw

Earlier on Saturday morning two S-300 missiles, targeted energy infrastructure in the Industrialniy district of Kharkiv city, according to its mayor, Ihor Terekhov, and head of Kharkiv region, Oleh Synehubov. The authorities said the damage was being assessed.

Synehubov announced that there could be emergency power outages in the city as a result of the attack.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, said rocket fragments had fallen in Kyiv’s Holisivskyi district, on the western bank of the river. He said the fragments had fallen in non-residential area and there were no casualties.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko said a house was hit in Kopyliv village, Kyiv region. No casualties have been reported so far.

Air raid alerts have also sounded for Cherkasy, Poltava, Sumy and Chernihiv region.

Russian missile attack hits infrastructure in Kyiv – officials

Isobel Koshiw

Isobel Koshiw

The sound of four explosions were heard in central Kyiv on Saturday morning. For the first time since Russia began regular missile and drone attacks on the capital this autumn, the air raid sirens sounded after the attack.

Until now the air raid sirens have sounded from 10 to 90 minutes before an attack, giving residents some time to seek shelter.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, confirmed that something had landed, writing on Telegram that explosions had occurred in Kyiv’s Dniprovskyi district, on the eastern bank of the river. Klitschko said emergency services were on their way to the scene.

Minutes after the explosions rang out, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, wrote on Telegram that a rocket attack was occurring on critical infrastructure in the capital and advised residents to seek shelter.

The small Donbas saltmining town of Soledar has become the focus of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Its fall, if true, would be a propaganda coup for Kremlin. But as Peter Beaumont reports, it would be at best a pyrrhic victory, gained at high cost:

The top UN political affairs official has told the security council that “there is no sign of an end to the fighting” in Ukraine and “the logic that prevails is a military one, with very little, if any, room for dialogue right now”.

During a security council meeting on Friday, the under-secretary general for political and peace-building affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, said the UN high commissioner for human rights has verified 18,096 civilian casualties since Russia’s invasion of 24 February 2022, but the actual figures are likely considerably higher.

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said since August, “Iran has transferred hundreds of UAVs to Russia, in violation of UN security council resolution 2231”, while North Korea has delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by Wagner mercenaries in violation of the council’s sanctions resolutions.

Russia’s representative, Vasily Nebenzya, said that his country’s goal “is to ensure that no threat will emanate from the Ukrainian territory to Russia and the discrimination of the Russian speaking population will end”.

Nebenzya added: “If this can be achieved through peaceful negotiations, we are ready to engage; if not we will achieve it through military means.”

Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister, Emine Dzhaparova, told the meeting that “the majority of Russian missile and drone attacks has been directed at civilian infrastructure, namely 62% of all strikes”. She called for further sanctions in “sectors of particular economic importance to Russia”.

“Full oil and gas embargo, disconnection of Russian banks from global financial system is the price the aggressor state should pay,” Dzhaparova said.

A collection of the latest images from the Ukraine conflict:

A woman with a Ukrainian flag inspects a destroyed residential building in Kharkiv.
A woman with a Ukrainian flag inspects a destroyed residential building in Kharkiv. Photograph: Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A Ukrainian soldier works on a Grad missile launcher near Soledar, in the Donetsk region.
A Ukrainian soldier works on a Grad missile launcher near Soledar, in the Donetsk region. Photograph: Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A woman walks across the frozen Siverskyi Donets River as workers repair a bombed bridge in Staryi Saltiv.
A woman walks across the frozen Siverskyi Donets River as workers repair a bombed bridge in Staryi Saltiv. Photograph: Pierre Crom/Getty Images
Ukrainian soldiers load firewood at their position on the Donbas frontline.
Soldiers load firewood at their position on the Donbas frontline. Photograph: Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ukrainian soldiers patrol the heavily damaged city of Bakhmut, which has seen some of the most intense battles since Russia invaded.
Ukrainian soldiers patrol the heavily damaged city of Bakhmut, which has seen some of the most intense battles since Russia invaded. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A Ukrainian military vehicle is unloaded on the road to Bakhmut.
A Ukrainian military vehicle is unloaded on the road to Bakhmut. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A city worker in protective gear on a street in Bakhmut.
A city worker in protective gear on a street in Bakhmut. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
An elderly local resident walks along a street in Siversk, Donetsk region.
An elderly resident walks along a street in Siversk, Donetsk region. Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images

Russia deploys 10 vessels from Black Sea fleet

The deployment this week of at least 10 vessels from Russia’s Black Sea fleet could be related to a “specific threat” to their base in Novorossiysk, the UK Ministry of Defence has said.

In its latest intelligence update, MoD said it is “unlikely” that the deployment on Wednesday “signifies preparation for unusual maritime-launched cruise-missile strikes”.

“It is highly unlikely that the fleet is preparing for amphibious assault operations,” the update added.

MoD said the fleet “largely remains fixed by perceived threats from Ukraine, and continues to prioritise force protection over offensive or patrol operations”.

“Given the type and number of vessels putting to sea at the same time, the activity is likely a fleet dispersal in response to a specific threat to Novorossiysk that Russia believes it has identified.”

IAEA set to boost presence to all five nuclear plants

The UN nuclear watchdog announced on Friday it was boosting its presence in Ukraine to help prevent a nuclear accident during the current conflict, AFP reports.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it would soon have a permanent presence at all five of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, including Chernobyl – the plant closed after the 1986 disaster.

The agency’s chief, Rafael Grossi, will visit Ukraine next week to get the operation under way, the agency added in a statement.

“We must continue to do everything we can to avert the danger of a serious nuclear accident that would cause even more suffering and destruction for the people of Ukraine and beyond,” said Grossi.

The decision marks a major expansion of the IAEA’s activities in Ukraine. At the moment, only the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant, which is near the frontline, has a permanent IAEA presence.

But under the new plan, 11 or 12 of the agency’s experts will be present in Ukraine to monitor the plants and provide technical assistance.

Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, announced the plan in December after a meeting with Grossi, although he did not at that time give many details.

Inspectors will soon be deployed at the nuclear stations in Rivne, Khmelnytskyi, Pivdennoukrainska and Chernobyl.

During his visit next week Grossi will also meet senior Ukrainian officials as part of his efforts to set up a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant.

The Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant seen from Nikopol.
The Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant seen from Nikopol. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine. We’ll be bringing you all the latest developments as they unfold over the next few hours.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is boosting its presence in Ukraine, in a major expansion of the IAEA’s activities in the country.

The UN nuclear watchdog announced it will soon have a permanent presence at all five of the country’s nuclear facilities, including Chornobyl. At the moment, only the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant has a permanent IAEA presence.

The IAEA chief, Rafael Grossi, said: “We must continue to do everything we can to avert the danger of a serious nuclear accident that would cause even more suffering and destruction for the people of Ukraine and beyond,” he said.

We’ll have more on this shortly. In the meantime here are the other key recent developments:

  • Ukraine has denied Russia’s claim that Vladimir Putin’s forces have captured Soledar. On Friday, as Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had taken full control of the salt-mining town, Ukrainian officials denied the Russian claim, suggesting they were still holding on and counterattacking, with the Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi reporting “ongoing battles”.

  • Soledar is “Verdun for 21st century” according to a top Ukraine official. Andriy Yermak, head of the office of the president of Ukraine, likened the fight for the town to the longest and bloodiest battle in the first world war.

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut and Soledar in the east would be armed with everything they need to keep Russian troops at bay in some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

  • Hundreds of civilians remain trapped in Soledar, Ukraine has said. Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk, told Ukrainian state TV that 559 civilians remained in Soledar, including 15 children, and could not be evacuated.

  • Satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies show the destruction inflicted upon Soledar. The Guardian has a series of striking images from inside the eastern Ukrainian town.

  • Ukraine is confident Britain will announce it plans to send about 10 Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv shortly, a move it hopes will help Germany finally allow its Leopard 2s to be re-exported to the embattled country. A formal announcement is anticipated on Monday but Ukrainian sources indicated they understood that Britain had already decided in favour.

  • Putin’s move to replace his top commander in Ukraine after a few months is a sign of military disarray and his growing impatience in a war Russia is not winning, analysts said. The defence ministry in Moscow said on Wednesday it had, again, replaced its top commander in Ukraine, putting the army chief of staff, Valery Gerasimov, in charge. It is the latest of several major shake-ups of Moscow’s military leadership.

  • Germany will continue to “weigh every step carefully” and consult with its allies on further weapons deliveries to Ukraine, the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has said. The German leader is facing mounting pressure to approve German-made battle tanks for Kyiv. Scholz said Berlin would keep its “leading position” as one of Kyiv’s top supporters but said he had no intention of being rushed on “such serious things that have to do with peace and war, with the security of our country and of Europe”.

  • A US navy veteran has been released after almost a year in Russian detention, according to his family. Taylor Dudley, 35, of Michigan, was taken into custody by Russian border police last April after crossing the border from Poland into Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania.

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