Russian air raids kill two, wound dozens in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Local authorities say two missiles hit a hardware hypermarket as part of renewed Russian assault on the eastern Ukrainian city.

People run after the announcement of a Russian missile attack towards Kharkiv, at the site of a hardware hypermarket, which was hit by a Russian air raid, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]Published On 25 May 202425 May 2024

At least two people have been killed and more than a dozen injured in two separate Russian air raids in Ukraine’s eastern town of Kharkiv, Ukrainian authorities have said, as Moscow steps up its offensive in the northeast.

Two Russian missiles hit a hardware hypermarket with about 200 people believed to be inside in the first attack on Saturday, Oleh Syniehubov, Kharkiv’s regional governor, said on his Telegram channel.

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At least 33 were injured, Syniehubov said, adding that the two people killed were store employees, and that a fire caused by the explosion was now under control.

In a separate message on social media, the city’s mayor Ihor Terekhov said four people were missing.

“This attack on Kharkiv is another manifestation of Russian madness,” said Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelenskyy, reacting to the news of the attack. He noted that the target was not military infrastructure, but one of the biggest shopping centres in the city.

Russia has repeatedly claimed that it does not target civilian infrastructure. However, United Nations figures, Ukrainian officials and aid groups have been reporting tens of thousands of civilian casualties since the start of the Russian invasion more than two years ago.

“I was at my workplace. I heard the first hit and … with my colleague, we fell to the ground. There was the second hit and we were covered with debris. Then we started to crawl to the higher ground,” witness Dmytro Syrotenko, who had a large gash to his face, told Reuters news agency.

Terekhov said a second Russian attack took place in the centre of the city wounding at least 11 people.

First responders take cover, after the announcement of a Russian missile attack towards Kharkiv, as smoke rises from the site of a household item shopping mall which was hit by a Russian air raid in Kharkiv, Ukraine [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

Saturday’s air raids on Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city which lies about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Russian border – are the latest in a wave of nearly daily attacks that started months ago as Russian forces are pushing forward on the country’s eastern front.

Most of the energy infrastructure has been severely damaged in the city, which is still home to around 1.3 million people.

While still far from the city, should Russian forces seize control of Kharkiv, it would test Kyiv’s morale, said Al Jazeera’s John Holman, reporting from the Ukrainian capital.

“If they manage to get people out and to depopulate the city, that would be seen as a morale boost for Russia and a devastating blow for Ukraine,” Holman said.

The attacks on the city took place after Russian troops launched a cross-border assault on May 10 in the northeastern front of the Kharkiv region. It comes after President Vladimir Putin promised in March to establish a “buffer” zone in the region in what he calls a response to Kyiv’s shelling of Russian border regions such as Belgorod. Russia frequently launches air attacks on Ukraine from the region of Belgorod.

That assault opened a new front in the war in what Kyiv said was an effort to divert its outnumbered troops from the east where the fiercest fighting is taking place.

In their respective messages, both Zelenskyy and Syniehubov took the chance to renew a request to Western allies to send more air defence to be able to protect the city.

“When we say to world leaders that Ukraine needs sufficient air defence protection, when we say that real resolve is needed – to be allowed to protect the lives of our people in the way that is most effective,” the president said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies