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Russia launches airstrikes on Ukraine ahead of major holiday | Russo-Ukraine war news

Russia has launched dozens of missiles and drones at Kiev and other Ukrainian cities amid growing concerns about the safety of Europe’s largest Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.

The latest strikes come as Moscow prepares to celebrate Victory Day, a major Russian holiday marking the anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, which usually includes a military parade on Red Square.

At least five people were injured in an airstrike on the capital early Monday, while Russian missiles set a warehouse full of food on fire in Odessa, city officials said. Explosions were also reported in several other parts of Ukraine.

Russia has also stepped up its shelling of the ruins of Bakhmut as it looks to lock in gains ahead of the May 9 holiday, according to Ukraine’s top general in charge of the city’s defenses. Bachmut, once known as the salt mining town, is seen by the Russians as a key target in securing their advance to the east.

Witnesses told Reuters they heard multiple explosions in Kiev, where officials said air defenses were repelling the attacks.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his Telegram messaging channel that three people were injured in the explosion in Kiev’s Solomyanskyi district and two others were injured when wreckage from the drone fell into the Sviatoshyn district, west of the center of the capital.

The Kiev military said debris from the drone appeared to hit a two-story building in the city’s central Shevchenkovsky district, causing damage and landing at Zhuliany Airport, one of the Ukrainian capital’s two passenger airports on the runway.

Odessa junta spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk posted photos on his Telegram channel of a large building completely engulfed in flames, saying it was a Russian attack on a warehouse and more.

Hours after air raid sirens sounded over about two-thirds of Ukraine, there were also media reports that the southern Kherson region and the southeastern Zaporizhia region, where the Zaporizhia nuclear facility is located, were also reported. There was an explosion.

Residents of Kiev examine debris from a drone that fell near them. Wearing sweaters and jackets, they filmed the wreckage of the drone on their phones.
Drones reportedly went down in some areas of Kiev as air defenses shot them down [Oleksandr Khomenko/Reuters]

The Moscow-appointed governor of the region has ordered the evacuation of civilians, including from Ernejodar, a city where most of the plant’s workers live.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi has spent months trying to convince Russian and Ukrainian officials to create a protected zone around the plant to reduce the risk of disaster. Nuclear power plants need constant power to run cooling systems and avoid a meltdown, and Zaporozhye has shut down six times since the fighting began.

Yegeny Balitsky, the Russian-appointed governor of the region, said on Sunday that more than 1,500 people had been evacuated from two unspecified cities in the region. On Friday, he ordered civilians to leave 18 Russian-occupied neighborhoods, including Enerhodar. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed that the evacuation of Ernekhodar was underway.

Moscow troops seized the factory shortly after it invaded Ukraine last year, but Ukrainian employees have continued to run the plant during the occupation, sometimes under extreme coercion.

Attacks against Russian-held targets have also intensified over the past two weeks, notably Crimea, which Moscow invaded and annexed in 2014.

Ukraine did not confirm any role in the attacks, but said the destruction of enemy infrastructure was in preparation for its long-awaited ground assault.

Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, saying it was a “special military operation” to defend Russia from what it called “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine.

Kiev and its allies called the incursion an unprovoked attack on a sovereign state.

The fighting killed thousands and forced millions to flee.

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