KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s two largest cities came under heavy Russian ballistic missile attacks Tuesday, killing at least two people and injuring dozens as the war approached its two-year milestone and the Kremlin’s forces stepped up their winter bombardment of urban areas.

Oleh Syniehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, said one person died and 41 were injured in at least six strikes with Kinzhal missiles that hit the center of Kharkiv city and other areas. In Kyiv, the capital, five areas of the city were hit in strikes that killed an older woman and injured at least 27 people, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko. More than 100 people were evacuated from a burning apartment block, he said.

The barrage extended Russia’s escalated attacks on Ukraine that began Friday with its largest single assault on Ukraine since the war started, in which at least 41 civilians were killed.

The next day, shelling of the border city of Belgorod, Russia, killed more than two dozen people. Russia blamed Ukraine for the attack and has struck back repeatedly since.

The attack on Belgorod was one of the deadliest to take place on Russian soil since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine started more than 22 months ago. Russian officials said the death toll stood at 25 as of Monday, including five children.

Cities across western Russia have regularly come under drone attacks since May, although Ukrainian officials never acknowledge responsibility for strikes on Russian territory or the Crimean Peninsula.

“They want to intimidate us and create uncertainty within our country. We will intensify strikes. Not a single crime against our civilian population will go unpunished,” Putin said Monday, describing the barrage of Belgorod as a “terrorist act.”

Russia launched about 90 Shahed-type drones across Ukraine on Monday.

Putin accused Western nations of using Ukraine to try to “put Russia in its place.” While vowing retribution, he insisted Russia would only target military infrastructure in Ukraine. However, Ukraine reports civilian casualties from daily Russian attacks, which have hit apartment buildings, shopping centers and residential areas in small communities.


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