KYIV (Reuters) -Russia on Saturday launched a missile attack on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and the surrounding region for the first time in more than seven weeks and pounded the east and south of the country with drones, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukrainian border guards said they had retaken a village in the country’s northeast adjacent to the Russian border.
Officials in the east, the focus of Russia’s slow 20-month-old advance, said Ukrainian forces had repelled numerous attacks by Moscow’s troops and they anticipated further assaults, particularly around the devastated town of Avdiivka.
Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said a Russian ballistic missile was launched toward the capital at about 8 a.m. (0600 GMT).
“After a long pause of 52 days, the enemy has resumed missile attacks on Kyiv,” Popko said on the Telegram messaging app. “The missile failed to reach Kyiv, air defenders shot it down as it was approaching the capital.”
Popko said there were no casualties or major damage.
Ruslan Kravchenko, regional governor for the central Kyiv region, said five private houses and several commercial buildings in the area were damaged. He said two Russian missiles struck a field between settlements.
Ukraine’s air defence also shot down 19 Iranian-made “Shahed” drones out of 31 launched by the Russian forces overnight in southern and eastern regions, the air force said.
Ukrainian intelligence official Andriy Yusov told national television: “This is not the first or the last combined attack.” He pointed to increasing numbers of air alerts in recent days.
UKRAINIAN FLAG IN BORDER VILLAGE
Online video from Kharkiv region showed border guards raising the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag in Topoli village alongside the Russian border, without further explanation. Ukrainian forces a year ago made a lightning push to recapture large swathes of territory in the northeast and since June are engaged in a counteroffensive in the east and south.
Prosecutors in northern Sumy region said two people aboard motorcycles died when Russian forces shelled a road.
In the east, military spokesperson Oleskandr Shtupun said Ukrainian troops had repelled 35 Russian assaults in and near Avdiivka, which has been under intense fire since mid-October.
Shtupun told national television that 70 percent of air strikes in the east and south targeted Avdiivka.
Officials in Avdiivka say they anticipate a new Russian push on the city once the ground dries up from days of heavy rain. Videos show buildings reduced to shells and officials say increasing numbers of the remaining 1,500 residents, from a pre-war population of 32,000, were preparing to evacuate.
In the Black Sea port of Odesa, regional governor Oleh Kiper said the southern region was attacked with missiles and drones on Friday evening and overnight. The strikes wounded three people and damaged port infrastructure facilities, he said without offering further details.
Russia has intensified bombardments of Ukraine’s ports, including Odesa, and grain infrastructure since Moscow in July pulled out of a deal to allow for exports from Ukrainian ports.
Russian accounts of the fighting said its forces had struck positions near Bakhmut, a town Moscow captured in May after months of heavy fighting.
Reuters could not verify accounts from either side.
(Reporting by Olena Harmash; editing by Kirsten Donovan, Ron Popeski and David Gregorio)