KYIV: Ukraine said on Friday Russia has launched a "massive" new wave of missiles and drones as President Volodymyr Zelensky called the fresh barrage a "challenge to NATO".

Zelensky said several Russian missiles crossed the airspace of ex-Soviet Moldova and NATO member Romania on their way to his country, even though Bucharest denied that.

The strikes were reported across the vast ex-Soviet country -- from the eastern region of Kharkiv to the western region Ivano-Frankivsk -- and came a day after Ukraine's war-time leader travelled to Brussels to lobby EU leaders for long-range weapons and fighter jets.

With the conflict approaching its first year mark, the Kremlin on Friday announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will deliver his annual state of the nation speech on February 21.

Zelensky called the new Russian attacks "a challenge to NATO".

"This is terror that can and must be stopped," Zelensky, 45, said in a statement, adding there were "victims".

Russia last targeted Ukraine with a mass strike in late January, days after Western allies agreed to deliver heavy tanks to Kyiv.

One killed in Kyiv in Russian missile attack

Romania's defence ministry said it detected an "aerial target launched from the Black Sea from a Russian Federation ship" but "at no point did it intersect with Romania's airspace".

The Moldovan defence ministry confirmed that Russian missiles had crossed its airspace, adding it would summon Russia's ambassador.

'Manifestation of violence'

Addressing a virtual summit of sports ministers chaired from London, Zelensky insisted that Russian athletes should not be allowed to take part in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"The mere presence of representatives of the terrorist state is a manifestation of violence and lawlessness," he said.

"If the Olympic sports were killings and missile strikes, then you know which national team would occupy the first place."

Earlier Friday Kyiv residents rushed to shelters as Russia battered the pro-Western country with missiles and drones.

"(Russians) are attacking us once again," Iryna told AFP in Kyiv. "We must continue to work. But to be safe, I went down to the subway."

The Ukrainian air force said Russians targeted cities and critical infrastructure facilities, adding that Iranian-made explosive drones were launched from the Sea of Azov and Kalibr cruise missiles from the Black Sea.

Russia also carried out a "massive" attack with "up to 35 anti-aircraft guided missiles" targeting the eastern region of Kharkiv and the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, the air force said.

The strikes also targeted the western regions of Lviv and Khmelnytskyi, and 10 missiles were shot down over the capital Kyiv, officials said.

The air force said it had intercepted 61 out of 71 Russian missiles fired.

After humiliating defeats on the ground, Russia has in recent months been systematically targeting Ukraine's energy infrastructure, leading to power shortages that have left millions in the cold and dark.

Ukraine's energy operator Ukrenergo, said "power plants and high voltage network facilities" were affected in the east, west and south of Ukraine.

Ukrenergo added that the "most difficult situation" was in the region of Kharkiv, near the border with Russia.

Zelensky's push for weapons

Friday's wave of attacks follows Zelensky's visit to Europe, where he urged allies to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles and fighter jets as Kyiv braces for a renewed Russian offensive in the east.

Zelensky warned that Ukraine needs artillery, munitions, modern tanks, long-range missiles and fighter jets faster than Russia can prepare what he said would be a dangerous new offensive.

Zelensky said he saw "positive signals, concerning the respective weapons" from EU leaders and expressed hope those murmurs would become a "concrete voice".

But some EU leaders were warier, fearing it could drag the West closer to direct conflict with Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned that even if fighter jets were to be sent to Kyiv, it would not be in "the coming weeks".

Polish Premier Mateusz Morawiecki said his country "will not be the first to hand over fighters" but would welcome others leading the way, while Britain said it would consider it as a "long-term solution".

The situation, however, is becoming more pressing on the ground in eastern Ukraine, where months-long fighting for control of Bakhmut, a key town in the eastern region of Donetsk, has left many casualties on both sides.

Denis Pushilin, head of Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk, told reporters on Friday that Russian forces consolidated their positions in the north of Bakhmut and in the south of Vugledar.


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