The attack was launched along the entire eastern front, with Kremlin forces attempting to surge forward. As President Volodymyr Zelensky jetted home after his whirlwind European tour, the Russian military radically ramped up its aerial and artillery assaults.
Kyiv military chiefs warned that the opening phase of Moscow’s new offensive in the east was growing in scale and intensity.
Air raid sirens also sounded right across the country yesterday morning as Russia launched its latest onslaught, with Kremlin forces hitting critical energy infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and power facilities in Zaporizhzhia, in the south east.
Sites were also badly hit in Khmelnytskyi, in western Ukraine, and the central Dnipropetrovsk region. Some missiles from Russia also crossed Moldovan and Romanian air space without permission, sparking furious international condemnation.
But in Ukraine, as a result of the attacks on energy hubs, power was shut down in some areas.
Zaporizhzhia council secretary Anatolii Kurtiev revealed his city had been hit 17 times in one hour.
He said it was the most intense bombardment since the beginning of the invasion last February.
Meanwhile, in second city Kharkiv, authorities were trying to establish the number of casualties and scale of the destruction.
Oleh Syniehubov, governor of Kharkiv, issued an urgent update on the Telegram messaging app, saying: “At 4am, the enemy launched rocket attacks on the city of Kharkiv and the region with S-300 missiles.
“Critical infrastructure facilities were targeted. Some areas of the city remain without electricity. Specialists are working to eliminate the consequences of the impact.”
Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, told residents: “There is a big threat of missile attack – do not ignore the air alert sirens.”
Pictures showed residents huddled by escalators and stairwells as they sheltered in subway stations during an air raid alert yesterday.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Anton Gerashchenko also warned of further “threats of massive Russian rocket attacks”.
Better trained and equipped Russian divisions have now joined tens of thousands of newly mobilised soldiers trying to break through well-fortified Ukrainian lines, Kyiv officials said.
Russia is “in a period of permanent mobilisation” as the “preliminary” waves of a major spring offensive get under way, military analysts have warned.
Roughly 60,000 Russian soldiers have entered the battlefield since Vladimir Putin announced the mobilisation of 300,000 military reservists last September. Some 170,000 more are expected to arrive through the southern occupied territories of Ukraine as part of a “rolling offensive” to “shock the enemy” and reverse the momentum of the war.
Military expert Professor Michael Clarke warned that Russia will now look to mobilise around 600,000 troops annually, split into two waves, every year for the “indefinite future”.
Moscow’s forces are also now attacking from multiple directions along the eastern front.
In addition, the tempo of the fighting is increasing, with greater Russian artillery fire on the front lines in a renewed bid to help its forces grind paths across towns and villages al Wagner Group stops recruiting prisoners after convicts sent to Ukraine