Russian Missile Attack North of Kyiv Kills at Least 17, Ukraine Says

At least 17 people were killed and scores more injured when three Russian missiles struck a busy downtown district of Chernihiv, north of Kyiv, just before noon on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials said.President Volodymyr Zelensky said the death toll, reported by the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general, might rise and blamed Ukraine’s lack of air defenses for the loss of life. The prosecutor general said that 61 people had been reported injured.“This would not have happened if Ukraine had received enough air defense equipment and if the world’s determination to counter Russian terror was also sufficient,” Mr. Zelensky said in a statement. “Terrorists can destroy lives only when they first manage to intimidate those who are able to stop terror and protect life.”Also on Wednesday, explosions and fires were reported at a key Russian air base in the occupied Crimean Peninsula in what appeared to be a Ukrainian attack. Ukrainian officials did not comment on the apparent attack, but Russian military bloggers affiliated with the Kremlin reported that Ukrainian missiles had struck locations around the air base in Dzhankoi, Crimea.The Times verified two videos circulating on social media from Dzhankoi. The first clip showed a large fire and explosions in the area of the base, while another clip filmed nearby also captured the scene. NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System also detected several hot spots at the base, an indication that fires were blazing.Dzhankoi is a hub for Russian roads and railways about 50 miles south of the Ukrainian mainland. It has been a frequent target of long-range strikes by the Ukrainian military, part of a broader campaign to isolate Russian troops fighting in southern Ukraine and undermine Russian logistics.With American military assistance largely suspended since the start of the year as some Republicans in Congress resist providing Ukraine with more support, the Western-supplied air defense systems needed to shoot down near daily Russian missile bombardments are nearly out of ammunition.That has increased the urgency of Ukraine’s efforts to target Russian weapons at their source in both occupied parts of Ukraine and inside Russia itself.Delays in American support have led to recent losses along the front and Mr. Zelensky told PBS in an interview broadcast on Tuesday that his nation’s forces were struggling.“I can tell you, frankly, without this support, we will have no chance of winning,” he said.At the same time, the toll on civilians is growing and Ukrainian officials said that what happened in Chernihiv on Wednesday was likely only a prelude to further bloodshed.The district where the missiles struck is a crowded part of the city near a university and hospital.“I personally saw dead people on the road killed by shrapnel and smashed cars covered in blood,” Oleksandr Lomako, the head of Chernihiv city government, said by telephone. “I looked through the dates of birth of the victims; so many young people there.”Rescue workers were still searching for victims in the rubble, he said. “This strike is just one more confirmation that Ukraine urgently needs air defense systems and ammunition,” he added.Chernihiv sits on the border with Russia and missiles are a frequent sight overhead as Russia launches attacks at towns and cities across Ukraine. “They used to be downed,” Mr. Lomako said. “But not any more, it seems.”The city was surrounded by Russian forces early in the war and it suffered massive destruction. But since the Russians were driven out and Ukraine’s air defenses improved, people have returned and sought to rebuild and carry on despite the looming threat.“Among those killed as a result of Russian shelling is a 25-year-old police lieutenant,” Ihor Klymenko, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, said in a statement. “The woman lived in a neighboring house, was at home on sick leave. A fatal shrapnel wound.”As missiles flew in the skies above, fierce fighting continued across the front, where Ukrainian troops struggled to hold their lines as Russia seeks to exploit Ukraine’s depleted arsenal. Within the past week, Russian forces have entered a number of villages, endangering Ukraine’s defensive lines at several critical positions in the east.Russia has been pushing into the outskirts of Chasiv Yar, a key town for Ukraine’s defense of the Donbas region, hoping to seize the hilltop fortress and open the way to sustained attacks on the last major cities there still under Ukrainian control: Kostiantynivka, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.About 35 miles south of Chasiv Yar, where Ukrainians are trying to hold new lines after being driven from the city of Avdiivka at the start of the year, the Russians have taken more villages as they set their sights on another Ukrainian stronghold in Pokrovsk.Arijeta Lajka contributed reporting from New York.

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