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New Russian Missile Barrage Hits Ukraine - by Marc Santora for the New York Times - 16.02.23

In a blend of the old school and the new, Moscow sent balloons over Ukraine before pummelling it with high-tech weaponry.

KYIV, Ukraine — Moscow unleashed a new missile bombardment on cities across Ukraine before dawn on Thursday, killing a 79-year-old woman and once again targeting critical infrastructure.

Russian forces, firing from land, sea and air, launched what the Ukrainian air force put at almost three dozen cruise missiles, as well as repurposed missiles designed to attack warships, cripple electrical stations and topple industrial complexes.

With the first anniversary of the invasion nearing, the latest chapter of the Ukrainian war has been characterized by an odd combination of old-school tools and high-tech weaponry. Not long before the missiles arrived, the skies over Ukraine were dotted with balloons that appeared intended in part to confound Ukrainian air defenses.

The use of balloons in warfare has a long history for Moscow, but only in recent weeks have they been seen over Ukraine. Ivan Kyrychevskyi, a Ukrainian defense analyst, said one reason they are making a comeback now may be that Ukraine has made strides countering the threat posed by Russia’s use of Iranian-made drones.

“This tool was used by the grandfathers of these occupiers who are now fighting against us,” he said.

The assault came a day before dozens of officials from Western nations, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, were set to arrive in Munich for a three-day annual security conference. Ukraine’s allies were expected to project unity and resolve days ahead of the invasion’s anniversary.

In Moscow on Friday, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, is scheduled to meet with the Russian leader. Amid speculation that the Kremlin might pressure him to do more for the war effort, Mr. Lukashenko appeared to tread a careful line on Thursday, saying he would continue hosting Russian soldiers in Belarus but would join the war only if his country were to come under attack.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to the Norwegian Parliament, said that about half of the missiles launched by Russia on Thursday had breached Ukraine’s missile defense system.

One of them struck an industrial complex in the city of Pavlohrad, in central Ukraine, at about 3 a.m., killing the 79-year-old woman and injuring seven people, the regional military administration said. Seven homes were damaged.

Lviv, a city in the west where thousands of displaced people have fled to relative safety, was also struck, officials said. That attack, too, came at around 3 a.m., “when people were sleeping peacefully in their homes,” said the military administrator for the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytsky.

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Anatoly Kurmanaev, Michael Crowley and Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.

Marc Santora is the International News Editor based in London, focusing on breaking news events. He was previously the Bureau Chief for East and Central Europe based in Warsaw. He has also reported extensively from Iraq and Africa.

A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 17, 2023, Section A, Page 7 of the New York edition with the headline: First Came Balloons From Moscow. Then Came Missiles.. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Rockets being fired toward Ukraine from the Belgorod region of Russia at dawn on Thursday. Credit...Vadim Belikov/Associated Press

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