Russia launches air strikes on Ukraine ahead of a public holiday | News of the war between Russia and Ukraine

Concern grew about the safety of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant as civilians were ordered to evacuate.

Russia has launched dozens of missiles and drones towards Kiev and other Ukrainian cities, amid growing concerns about safety at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.

The latest air assault comes as Moscow prepares to celebrate Victory Day, a major Russian holiday that commemorates its defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two and usually includes a military parade across Red Square.

At least five people were wounded in the air strikes on the capital early Monday, city officials said, while an Odessa warehouse full of food was set on fire by Russian missiles. Explosions were reported in several other Ukrainian regions.

Russia has also intensified shelling of the devastated city of Bakhmut, according to the highest Ukrainian general in charge of the city’s defense, as it hopes to make gains before the May 9 holiday. Formerly known as a salt-mining town, Bakhmut was considered a prime target in order to secure its eastern advance.

Witnesses told Reuters news agency they heard several explosions in Kiev, where local officials said air defense systems were repelling the attacks.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his Telegram channel that three people were injured in explosions in the Solomyanskyi district of Kiev, and two more were injured when drone debris fell on the Sviatoshyn district, both west of the capital’s centre.

The Kiev military department said that in Shevchenkivsky district in the city center, debris from the drone appeared to have hit a two-story building, causing damage, and also landed on the runway of Juliani Airport, one of the two passenger airports in the Ukrainian capital.

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Serhiy Prachuk, a spokesman for the military department in Odessa, posted on his Telegram channel images of a large building engulfed in flames in what he said was a Russian attack on a warehouse, among other things.

After air raid alerts sounded for hours over nearly two-thirds of Ukraine, there were also media reports of the sounds of explosions in the southern region of Kherson and in the Zaporizhia region in the southeast, where the Zaporizhia nuclear complex is located.

There were reports of drones falling in some areas of Kiev, where they were shot down by air defense systems [Oleksandr Khomenko/Reuters]

The district governor installed by Moscow ordered the evacuation of civilians, including from Innerhudar, the city where most of the nuclear plant workers live.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi spent months trying to convince Russian and Ukrainian officials to create a protection zone around the plant to reduce the risk of disaster. Nuclear plants need constant power to run their cooling systems and avoid meltdowns, and the Zaporizhzhia plant has been shut down six times since the fighting began.

The Russian-installed governor of the region, Yevgeny Paletsky, said on Sunday that more than 1,500 people had been evacuated from two unspecified cities in the region. On Friday, he ordered civilians to leave 18 Russian-occupied towns, including Innerhudar. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed that the evacuation of Enirodar was underway.

Russian forces took over the factory shortly after last year’s invasion of Ukraine, but Ukrainian employees have continued to run the facility during the occupation, sometimes under heavy duress.

In the past two weeks, attacks on Russian-controlled targets have also intensified, especially in Crimea, which Moscow invaded and annexed in 2014.

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Ukraine, without confirming any role in those attacks, says the destruction of enemy infrastructure is preparation for its long-awaited ground offensive.

Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, calling it a “special military operation” to defend Russia from alleged “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine.

Kiev and its allies say the invasion was an unprovoked attack on a sovereign country.

Thousands have been killed and millions forced to flee as a result of the fighting.

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