Russia launched a fresh drone assault on Ukraine on Saturday night, after promising that strikes on the Russian border city of Belgorod earlier in the day “would not go unpunished”.
The Ukrainian Air Force said on Sunday that it had shot down 21 of 49 drones launched by Russian forces overnight.
Twenty-eight people were injured in an attack on the eastern city of Kharkiv, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said on Sunday.
A central hotel, apartment buildings, nursery school, shops and administrative buildings were damaged, according to the regional prosecutor’s office.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said it had hit “decision-making centres and military facilities” in Kharkiv, reporting that its strike on the Kharkiv Palace Hotel had “destroyed representatives of the Main Intelligence Directorate and Ukrainian Armed Forces” involved in the “terrorist attack” in Belgorod.
In the Kyiv region that surrounds the capital, a Russian drone attack caused a fire to break out at a critical infrastructure facility, local officials said. They did not identify the facility further.
The Russian attacks came after shelling in the centre of the Russian border city of Belgorod on Saturday killed 24 people, including three children.
A further 108 people were injured in the strike, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Sunday, making it one of the deadliest attacks on Russian soil since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine 22 months ago.
Russian authorities accused Kyiv of carrying out the attack, which took place the day after an 18-hour Russian aerial bombardment across Ukraine killed at least 41 civilians.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said it identified the ammunition used in the strike as Czech-made Vampire rockets and Olkha missiles fitted with cluster-munition warheads. It provided no additional information, and the Associated Press was unable to verify its claims.
“This crime will not go unpunished,” the ministry said in a statement on social media.
In an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council demanded by Russia on Saturday night, envoy Vasily Nebenzya accused Kyiv of a “terrorist attack”.
In comments carried by Russian state media, Mr Nebenzya claimed Ukraine had launched “a deliberate act of terrorism directed against civilians”.
Ukrainians are bracing for further attacks. A blistering New Year’s Eve assault by Russia last year killed at least three civilians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Russia’s “united society” in his pre-recorded New Year’s address to the nation, the country’s state news agencies reported on Sunday.
Mr Putin addressed Russians in a video that ran under four minutes long, significantly shorter than the New Year’s speech he gave last year, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
Millions of people were expected to watch the new address when it airs on TV as each Russian time zone region counts down the final minutes of 2023 on Sunday.