KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missiles and artillery pounded cities across Ukraine early Thursday, sparking fires, killing at least five people and trapping others under the rubble of destroyed buildings, authorities said, shortly after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced Russia as a “terrorist state” at the United Nations.
The early-morning wave of missile strikes on what’s known as the International Day of Peace was the largest in more than a month and came during Zelenskyy’s multiday trip to the U.S. where he was to meet Thursday with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders in Washington with an additional $24 billion aid package hanging in the balance.
With a counteroffensive that has moved more slowly than expected and winter approaching, Zelenskyy is trying to shore up more financial and military support, which encountered a setback when Poland said it would stop providing weapons to its ally amid a trade dispute.
Poland, which has been a major supporter of Ukraine, said it would stop transferring weapons to its neighbor as it works to modernize its own military, but denied the decision was linked to a simmering dispute over a temporary ban on Ukrainian grain imports.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the decision would not affect NATO and U.S. weapons transfers through Poland.
A dispute about whether Ukrainian grain should be allowed to enter the domestic markets of Poland and other European Union countries has pushed the tight relationship between Kyiv and Warsaw to its lowest point since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
Morawiecki stressed that Poland would defend its economic interests, but added that the dispute over grain imports would not hurt Ukraine’s security.
“We are not going to risk the security of Ukraine,” he said. Poland has transferred large amounts of its older weapons to Ukraine and has been upgrading its own inventory with new equipment purchased from South Korea and other countries.
Air raid sirens sounded repeatedly across Ukraine, as Russia launched dozens of missiles and, near the front lines, likely used shorter-range artillery to pound cities.
Five people were killed and 10 wounded in multiple strikes in the southern Kherson region, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.
“The enemy covers Kherson region with fire all day,” he said.
Seven people were injured in Kyiv, including a 9-year-old girl, Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said, as explosions or debris from intercepted missiles rained down and shattered windows in buildings and cars and left fires burning around crumpled metal wreckage.
Marharyta Moldokova, 76, who had taken shelter on the floor of her Kyiv home just before hearing an explosion and the sound of her window shattering, denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“God, we can’t wait for someone to shoot him,” she said. “Everything is not enough for him. … What does he need?”
Students at the National Academy of Statistics, Accounting and Audit in Kyiv stood outdoors looking at a building where metal strips hung from the portico and empty window frames were bent inward.
Illia Melnyk said he had taken shelter behind two walls as he heard an explosion and saw a flash and then ran outside.
“When I came out, I saw bricks falling from the door,” he said. “It was visible how the wall was broken and the door was knocked out. … It was scary.”
The academy, located in Kyiv’s cozy Tatarka neighborhood, has endured numerous missile strikes and damage from falling debris. It is located near an arms maker that manufactures high-precision ammunition and missiles.
The Ukrainian Air Force said it had intercepted 36 of 43 cruise missiles launched deep into Ukraine. Kharkiv, closer to the front lines, was struck with S-300 missiles.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it targeted Ukrainian arms factories and radio-technical intelligence centers with precision-guided missiles and drones. It said, without providing details, that “the strike achieved the objectives and all targets were hit.” It was not possible to confirm that claim.
At least six strikes damaged civilian infrastructure in the Slobidskyi district of Kharkiv, said regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov. The city’s mayor added that two people had been hospitalized.
At least 10 people were injured and at least one person was rescued from under rubble in Cherkasy, in central Ukraine, according to Ihor Klymenko, minister of internal affairs of Ukraine. As many as 23 people were feared buried in rubble from damaged buildings that included a hotel, said Cherkasy regional Governor Ihor Taburets. Rescue services were working to clear the debris.
An industrial zone was hit in the western region of Lviv, damaging buildings and starting a fire, but no information on casualties was immediately available, Klymenko added.
Regional Governor Vitalii Koval reported strikes in the city of Rivne in the northwest region of the same name, without immediately providing details.
Ukrainian armed forces said they attacked a military airport near the city of Saka in Russian-annexed Crimea.
Russia said 22 drones were taken down overnight by air defense systems, 19 above Crimea and three others in the Kursk, Belgorod and Oryol regions near Ukraine. The defense ministry did not say whether there were any casualties.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Kharkiv was struck with S-300 missiles and Kherson was likely hit with shorter-range artillery.
Associated Press journalists Samya Kullab in Kyiv, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, and Brian Melley in London contributed to this report.
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