KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched a broad aerial assault at targets across Ukraine on Monday, the second wide-ranging attack in three days, as fighting appeared to intensify ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Explosions echoed in the skies above the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and other parts of the country before dawn as Ukrainian air defenses shot down 15 of 18 Russian cruise missiles, according to the Ukrainian military. The alert in the capital lasted for about three hours until the authorities said that “all enemy missiles and drones were destroyed in Kyiv airspace.”
There were no initial reports of civilian casualties in the missile barrage, which came as Ukrainian forces stepped up efforts to strike Russian targets behind the front lines ahead of an expected push to recapture lost territory with the support of newly delivered, powerful weapons from Western allies.
Hours earlier, Russian strikes in the central Ukrainian city of Pavlograd set off a massive fire that lit up the night sky. Russian pro-war military bloggers, who closely follow the fighting, suggested that the strike targeted Ukrainian air defense systems, but did not offer evidence for the claim.
At least 34 people, including three children, were injured in the attack, according to Serhiy Lysak, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, which includes Pavlograd. Dozens of buildings, including schools and homes, were damaged, he said.
Herman Galushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister, said the overnight strikes did not impact power generating facilities but caused “significant damage” to distribution networks in and around the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine, cutting scores of people off from the power grid.
Both sides have reported escalating attacks in recent days. Russia continued its bombardment of Ukrainian towns and villages along the front line over the weekend while a series of explosions also took place deep behind Russian lines. The flurry of strikes could signal the start of a shift in a conflict that has for months settled into a grinding war of attrition, with tens of thousands of soldiers killed and wounded in heavy fighting across eastern Ukraine but little territory being gained by either side.
Across the north, east and south of Ukraine, regional authorities over the course of 24 hours reported Russian artillery, mortar, rocket or drone strikes in 11 regions, killing at least three people and destroying more than a hundred residential buildings. Ukrainian officials said that Moscow’s forces shelled the Kherson region in southern Ukraine 39 times on Sunday, killing at least one civilian and injuring several others.
On Saturday, a blast hit an oil depot in Sevastopol, the home to the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet in occupied Crimea. The spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern command, Natalia Humeniuk, said the depot fire was part of preparations for “the broad, full-scale offensive that everyone expects” Ukraine to launch soon.
The Ukrainian military said on Monday morning that it had launched four strikes on concentrations of Russian troops over the preceding 24 hours, but provided no details.
Residents of the occupied southern city of Berdiansk reported overnight that a strike hit a Russian airfield, according to Ukrainian media and Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the exiled mayor of the nearby city of Mariupol. The extent of any damage was unclear.
While Russia continues to try and mount attacks in and around ruined towns and cities of eastern Ukraine, they have moved into defensive positions in the south, according to Ukrainian and Western officials.
Britain’s defense intelligence agency said on Monday that Russian forces had “constructed some of the most extensive systems of military defensive works seen anywhere in the world for many decades” not only near the front line but also “deep inside areas Russia currently controls.” In a Twitter post, the agency said the extensive network highlights “Russian leaders’ deep concern that Ukraine could achieve a major breakthrough.”