KYIV, Ukraine — Russia fired 30 cruise missiles against different parts of Ukraine early Thursday in the latest nighttime test of Ukrainian air defenses, which shot down 29 of them, officials said.
One person was killed and two were wounded by a Russian missile that got through and struck an industrial building in the southern region of Odesa, according to Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the region’s military administration.
Amid the recently intensified Russian air assaults, China said its special envoy met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during talks in Kyiv earlier this week with Ukraine’s chief diplomat.
Beijing’s peace proposal has so far yielded no apparent breakthrough in the war. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Thursday that the warring parties needed to “accumulate mutual trust” for progress to be made.
Ukrainian officials sought during the talks to recruit China’s support for Kyiv’s own peace plan, according to Ukraine’s presidential office. Zelenskyy’s proposal includes the restoration of his country’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian forces and holding Russian President Vladimir Putin legally accountable for the invasion in February 2022.
Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations gathering in Japan on Thursday were expected to denounce Russia’s war and vow to keep helping Ukraine fight Moscow. They were to hold “discussions about the battlefield” in Ukraine, according to Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser.
A Western official said Russia had built “potentially formidable” defensive lines on Ukrainian territory, including extensive minefields, and had more than 200,000 troops along the 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line, though it is unlikely to possess credible reserves.
As Ukraine receives sophisticated weapons systems from its Western allies, the Kremlin has started losing warplanes in areas previously deemed as safe, the official said, while Kyiv has proven able to shoot down Russia’s hypersonic ballistic missiles — the most advanced weapons in Moscow’s arsenal.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military intelligence.
Meanwhile, Kremlin-installed authorities in occupied Crimea reported the derailment of eight train cars Thursday because of an explosion, prompting renewed suspicions about possible Ukrainian saboteur activity behind Russian lines. Russian state media reported that the train was carrying grain.
The state news agency RIA Novosti, quoting a source within the emergency services, said the incident occurred not far from the city of Simferopol. The Crimean Railway company said the derailment was caused by “the interference of unauthorized persons” and that there were no casualties.
Ukraine officials refuse to comment on possible acts of sabotage. Ukraine’s military intelligence spokesperson, Andriy Yusov, noted on Ukrainian television that Russian train lines “are also used to transport weapons, ammunition, armored vehicles.”
Overnight, loud explosions were heard in Kyiv as the Kremlin’s forces targeted the capital for the ninth time this month. It was a clear escalation after weeks of lull and before a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive using newly supplied advanced Western weapons.
Debris fell on two Kyiv districts, starting a fire at a garage complex. There was no immediate word about any victims, Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration, said in a Telegram post.
Ukraine also shot down two Russian exploding drones and two reconnaissance drones, according to the authorities.
The missiles were launched from Russian sea, air and ground bases, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Ukrainian commander in chief, wrote on Telegram.
Several waves of missiles were aimed at areas of Ukraine between 9 p.m. Wednesday and 5:30 a.m. Thursday, he said.
Russian forces used strategic bombers from the Caspian region and apparently fired X-101 and X-55-type missiles developed during Soviet times, Kyiv authorities said. Russia then deployed reconnaissance drones over the capital.
In the last major air attack on Kyiv, on Tuesday, Ukrainian air defenses bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied systems shot down all the incoming missiles, officials said.
That attack used hypersonic missiles, which repeatedly have been touted by Putin as providing a key strategic advantage. The missiles, which are among the most advanced weapons in Russia’s arsenal, are difficult to detect and intercept because of their hypersonic speed and maneuverability.
But sophisticated Western air defense systems, including American-made Patriot missiles, have helped spare Kyiv from the kind of destruction witnessed along the main front line in the country’s east and south.
While the ground fighting is largely deadlocked along that front line, both sides are targeting each other’s territory with long-range weapons.
The most intense fighting has focused on the battle for the city of Bakhmut and the surrounding area, in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, with a Ukrainian military official claiming Thursday that the army advanced up to 1.7 kilometers (more than a mile) there over the previous day.
At the same time, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the millionaire owner of Russia’s private military contractor Wagner whose troops have spearheaded the battle, claimed that Russian army units had retreated from their positions north of the city. Prigozhin is a frequent critic of the Russian military.
At least seven Ukrainian civilians were killed, including a 5-year-old boy, and 18 people were wounded over the previous 24 hours, the presidential office said.
Also, two people were wounded in a drone attack in Russia’s southern Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, the regional governor reported Thursday.
In a Telegram post, Roman Starovoit claimed Ukrainian forces dropped an explosive device from a drone on a sports and recreation complex.
In Russia’s Belgorod region, two people were killed in Ukrainian shelling of the village of Nizhnee Berezovo, about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the border, according to Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov.
Jill Lawless in London and Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia contributed to this report.