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Russia Blasts Ukrainian Cities, Including Biggest Use of Advanced Missiles - 10.03.23

By Andrew E. Kramer for The New York Times.

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched its biggest aerial barrage in weeks on Thursday, blasting targets across Ukraine with a diverse array of weapons, including its newest hypersonic missiles, in what it said was retaliation for an armed incursion into Russian territory last week.

Volleys of missiles streaked into Kyiv and other cities overnight and in the predawn, setting off air raid sirens and jarring people from their sleep with thunderous booms, and killing at least six people, Ukrainian officials said.

The strikes included six of the new Russian missiles known as Kinzhals, the most Russia has used in a single wave since the war began a year ago, according to Ukraine’s Air Force. They are hypersonic — meaning they travel at more than five times the speed of sound, and Russia has hinted at much higher speeds — and can maneuver in flight, making them all but impossible to shoot down.

Several missiles hit electrical power plants, damaging three of them, continuing a Russian campaign to black out Ukrainian cities and undermine morale, and Moscow’s forces followed their usual tactic of trying to overwhelm air defenses with waves of missiles of various kinds and drones fired at intervals through the night.

“It was a massive strike, from multiple directions, firing from the air and sea and with kamikaze drones,” Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force, said of the barrage, the latest of a dozen or so large-scale missile attacks that began in October.

Russia fired 81 cruise and ballistic missiles of nine different types on Thursday, from air, land and sea, along with eight Iranian-made exploding drones, the Ukrainian military said. Forty-seven missiles penetrated Ukrainian defenses and hit targets — a far higher success rate than in other major Russian missile attacks in recent months.

That was because the barrage used more than the usual number of high-speed missiles, including ballistic missiles and Kinzhals, that Ukraine has no ability to stop, and fewer of the relatively slower, more vulnerable cruise missiles that Ukrainians have become adept at shooting down, Mr. Ihnat said in an interview.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency has estimated Russia had, before the volley fired Thursday, no more than 50 Kinzhals, Mr. Ihnat said. It was not clear why Moscow’s forces would have used such a large part of a limited supply of one of its most sophisticated weapons, one whose existence was first revealed five years ago and which was developed to breach American antimissile defense systems.

“For one reason or another, they needed a result” this time, he said. He added that the use of Kinzhals could also indicate that Russia is “expending its strategic reserve” of alternatives.

The State of the War

  • Russian Strikes: Moscow fired an array of weapons, including its newest hypersonic missiles, in its biggest aerial attack on Ukraine in weeks, knocking out power in multiple regions.

  • Bakhmut: Even as Ukrainian and Russian leaders predicted that the fall of the city could open the way for a broader Russian offensive, the U.S. intelligence chief said that the Kremlin’s forces were too depleted to wage such a campaign.

  • Nord Stream Pipelines: The sabotage in September of the pipelines has become one of the central mysteries of the war. A Times investigation offers new insight into who might have been behind it.

More than a year of war has depleted Russia’s stocks of cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles. Russia has taken to using S-300 antiaircraft missiles to hit targets on the ground, a role in which they are not very accurate. It has also bought attack drones from Iran, which are far less expensive but also less powerful and easier to shoot down, and has used many of them.

Five of the people killed in the attacks were in the western Lviv region bordering Poland, a region far from the front lines that has been spared the worst of the war’s barbarity but is well within reach of Russian missiles. The victims, three men and two women, were in their homes in the Zolochiv district when a missile struck around 4 a.m. local time, Maksym Kozytskyi, the head of the region’s military administration, said on the Telegram messaging app.

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Russia Blasts Ukrainian Cities, Including Biggest Use of Advanced Missiles - By Andrew E
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Reporting was contributed by Victoria Kim in Seoul, and Marc Santora and Maria Varenikova in Kyiv.

Andrew E. Kramer is the Times bureau chief in Kyiv. He was part of a team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a series on Russia’s covert projection of power. @AndrewKramerNYT

A version of this article appears in print on March 10, 2023, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Russia Fires Hypersonic Missiles In Largest Air Assault in Weeks. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Three rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia’s Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. Credit...Vadim Belikov/Associated Press

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