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Russia launches what Ukraine is calling the biggest aerial barrage of the war

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, firefighters work on a site of a building damaged after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday.
Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, firefighters work on a site of a building damaged after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday.

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched 122 missiles and 36 drones against Ukrainian targets, officials said Friday, killing at least 18 civilians across the country in what an air force official said was the biggest aerial barrage of the 22-month war.

The Ukrainian air force intercepted 87 of the missiles and 27 of the Shahed-type drones overnight, Ukraine's military chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said.

Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on his official Telegram channel: "The most massive aerial attack" since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

According to the Ukrainian air force, the previous biggest assault was in November 2022 when Russia launched 96 missiles against Ukraine. This year, the biggest was 81 missiles on March 9, air force records show.

Fighting along the front line is largely bogged down by winter weather after Ukraine's summer counteroffensive failed to make a significant breakthrough along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) line of contact.

Ukrainian officials have urged the country's Western allies to provide it with more air defenses to protect itself against aerial attacks like Friday's one. Their appeals have come as signs of war fatigue strain efforts to keep support in place.

Western officials and analysts have warned that Russia had limited its cruise missile strikes in recent months in an apparent effort to build up stockpiles for massive strikes during the winter, hoping to break the Ukrainians' spirit.

At least 86 people were injured and an unknown number were buried under rubble during the roughly 18-hour onslaught, Ukrainian officials said. Among the buildings reported to be damaged across Ukraine were a maternity hospital, apartment blocks and schools.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Kremlin's forces used a wide variety of weapons, including ballistic and cruise missiles.

"Today, Russia used nearly every type of weapon in its arsenal," Zelenskyy said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said Russia "apparently launched everything they have," except for submarine-launched Kalibr missiles, in the attack.

The aerial attack that began Thursday and continued through the night hit six cities, including the capital, Kyiv, and other areas from east to west and north to south Ukraine, according to authorities.

Reports of deaths and damage came in from across the country.

In Odesa, on the southern coast, falling drone wreckage started a fire at a multi-story residential building, according to the regional head, Oleh Kiper. Two people were killed and 15, including two children, were injured in the course of the Odesa attack, he said.

The mayor of the western city of Lviv, Andrii Sadovyi, said one person was killed and eight injured and three schools and a kindergarten were damaged in a drone attack in the region.

Several dozen missiles were launched towards Kyiv during the night, with more than 30 of them intercepted, said Serhii Poplo, head of the Kyiv military administration. The attack started a fire at a warehouse in the capital's Podil district where five people reportedly were pulled from the rubble.

In northeastern Ukraine, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said the city was subjected to at least three waves of aerial attacks overnight that included S-300 and Kh-21 missile launches. One person was killed and at least nine injured, officials said.

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The Associated Press