Missiles hit Kiev early Wednesday in a Russian attack that killed at least three people, local authorities said, woke residents with air alarms and explosions, and sparked a fire that sent up plumes of smoke above the Ukrainian capital.
The barrage, which aimed missiles and drones at cities across the country, coincided with a moment of heightened uncertainty for Ukraine. Russian forces are launching assaults on towns and villages along the front, US aid is in doubt and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is bracing for what he has suggested will be a major shake-up in his government and of the army leadership.
Mr. Zelensky is plans to replace General Valery Zaluzhny, the country’s top military commander, but has not announced any decision on the matter. Gen. Zaluzhny remains in post and said Wednesday morning that Ukrainian air defense teams had destroyed 44 of the 64 cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones that Russia fired during the assault.
Since late last year, Russia has stepped up its large-scale aerial bombardment in a bid to exploit dwindling reserves of critical Western air defense munitions and inflict maximum damage.
“Ukraine needs help,” Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said in a statement. “Only the joint efforts of democracies will be able to stop the criminal Putin.”
The scale of the latest attack was still visible Wednesday morning, but two people were killed in the capital and at least 13 others were injured, according to city authorities.
As the Ukrainian Air Force warned of missiles heading toward kyiv along the Dnipro River around 7 a.m., interceptor missiles streaked across the skies to deal with the threat. The explosions echoed through the sky and a residential building caught fire in the attack, sending plumes of black smoke above the city of more than three million people during the morning rush hour.
Residents in one neighborhood temporarily lost power after debris hit a high-voltage cable, local electricity provider DTEK said in a statement.
In the southern port city of Mykolaiv, airstrikes damaged more than 20 residential buildings, city officials said, and killed at least one person.
Missile attacks were also reported in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, Cherkasy in the center of the country, and the Lviv region near the border with Poland.