Russian strikes hit Ukrainian cities at a tense time for Kiev

Rockets fell on Kiev early Wednesday in a Russian attack that killed at least three people, according to local officials, and residents were awakened by the sounds of weather alerts and explosions, igniting a fire that sent plumes of smoke billowing over the Ukrainian capital.

The bombing, which directed missiles and drones at cities across the country, coincided with a moment of heightened uncertainty for Ukraine. Russian forces are launching attacks on towns and villages along the front, American aid is in doubt, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is preparing for what he has hinted will be a major change in his government and military leadership.

Mr. Zelensky is Consider replacing General Valery ZaloznyHe is the highest military commander in the country, but he has not announced any decision in this regard. General Zalozny is still in office, and said on Wednesday morning that Ukrainian air defense teams had destroyed 44 of the 64 cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones launched by Russia in the attack.

Since the end of last year, Russia has intensified its large-scale aerial bombardment in an attempt to exploit dwindling supplies of critical Western air defense munitions and inflict maximum damage.

“Ukraine needs help,” Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said in a statement. “Only the joint efforts of democracies will stop the criminal Putin.”

The scope of the latest attack was still unfolding as of Wednesday morning, but two people were killed in the capital and at least 13 others were injured, according to city officials.

As the Ukrainian air force warned that missiles were streaming toward Kiev along the Dnipro River around 7 a.m., interceptor missiles streaked across the sky to confront the threat. Explosions echoed through the sky and an apartment building caught fire in the attack, sending plumes of black smoke billowing over the city of more than three million people during the morning rush hour.

Local energy provider DTEK said in a statement that residents in one neighborhood were temporarily without power after debris hit a high-voltage cable.

In the southern coastal city of Mykolaiv, city officials said that air strikes damaged more than 20 residential buildings and killed at least one person.

Rocket attacks were also reported in the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine, in Cherkasy in the center of the country, and in the Lviv region near the border with Poland.

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