By Tom Balmforth and Dan Peleschuk
KYIV (Reuters) -Russia pounded Ukraine with missiles during the morning rush hour on Thursday, killing at least one person in Kyiv and damaging energy infrastructure in the Black Sea region of Odesa, officials said.
Crowds of people took cover in the capital’s metro stations during a nationwide air alert before Russia unleashed the latest in more than a dozen air attacks on the power grid since October that have caused sweeping outages during winter.
The missile strikes followed a drone attack overnight, one day after Ukraine secured pledges of main battle tanks from Germany and the United States to beef up its troops – a move that infuriated Russian officials.
Air defences shot down 47 of 55 missiles that included at least one Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile, said General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s top military commander. Twenty incoming missiles were downed in the vicinity of Kyiv.
“The goal of the Russians remains unchanged: psychological pressure on Ukrainians and the destruction of critical infrastructure,” he wrote. “But we cannot be broken!”
Air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said as many six Tu-95 warplanes had taken off from the Arctic region of Murmansk in northern Russia and launched long-range missiles.
At one point, Kyiv authorities said all the incoming missiles had been shot down by air defences, but warned the threat had not passed.
Minutes later, loud explosions rocked two districts of Kyiv. City officials said a 55-year-old man had been killed and two other people wounded when non-residential buildings in the south of the city were struck.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Russia’s main target had been energy facilities and that the strikes aimed to deprive Ukrainians “of light and heating” with the temperature in Kyiv at below freezing.
“Unfortunately, substations were hit. But the situation in the energy system remains under control,” he wrote on Telegram.
A Reuters reporter heard the sound of a missile flying overhead at a low altitude, about 30 km (19 miles) from Kyiv.
Two critical energy infrastructure facilities were damaged in the region of Odesa, but no injuries were reported, Odesa’s District Military Administration wrote on Telegram.
Impacts were reported in the central region of Vinnytsia, while Kyiv region officials said critical infrastructure and residential homes had been damaged as a result of drone and missile attacks.
In the capital, Iryna, an accountant in her fifties sheltering in a metro station, said she was worried about her husband.
“He was planning to go to a post office in the morning and now he is not answering his phone,” she said.
An eerie calm descended on a snow-blanketed Kyiv during the strikes, but life quickly returned to normal afterwards. Central bank officials announced the findings of their key interest rate meeting at a briefing from the safety of an undisclosed shelter.
DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy producer, said it was conducting emergency power shutdowns in Kyiv, the surrounding region as well as the regions of Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk because of missile attacks.
Energy Minister German Galushchenko said the Kyiv, Odesa and Vinnytsia regions were the most affected by outages.
Overnight, the military said its anti-aircraft defences had shot down all 24 drones sent by Russia. Fifteen of the drones were downed around Kyiv where there were no reports of any damage.