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Russian strikes battered cities across Ukraine on Friday, killing 25 people including five children, as Kyiv said preparations for a counter-offensive against Moscow’s forces were nearly complete. The deadly new attacks included a strike on a residential block in the historic city of Uman in central Ukraine, journalists saw rescue workers extracting victims’ remains from destroyed buildings. The barrage of almost two dozen missiles overnight ended a weeks-long pause following the repeated Russian strikes that had aimed to paralyse Ukraine’s energy grid during the winter months. On Friday evening, workers in Uman, the site of an annual Hasidic pilgrimage, pulled the body of another child from under the rubble. Authorities said Russian cruise missiles killed 23 people including four children  in Uman. “I want to see my children, they are under the rubble,” Dmitry, a 33-year-old local from Lugansk, an eastern city under Russian control, said earlier in the day. Rescuers were using cranes to search for survivors among the remains of the multi-storey housing block in the central city of 80,000 inhabitants. “I’ve seen a lot but I haven’t lost my children before. Now I want to see my children alive or dead,” Dmitry said. Russian missiles also hit the central city of Dnipro, already grief-stricken after a January strike on a tower block that killed more than 40 people. “A young woman and a three-year-old child died,” the city’s mayor Borys Filatov said on Friday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the latest barrage and vowed a response to “Russian terror”. His advisor Mykhaylo Podolyak tweeted: “If you don’t want this spread around the world, then give us weapons. Lots of weapons. And add sanctions.” Moscow said it had targeted reserve units of the Ukrainian military and that “all assigned objects were hit.”

‘We are ready’

There were no reported casualties in Kyiv, which was among the cities targeted on Friday. The capital had not been hit by missiles in more than 50 days, although last week it was attacked by 12 Iranian-made drones, eight of which were shot down without causing any casualties. Ukraine said overall it had downed 21 of 23 Russian missiles and two attack drones. The country’s air defence system has been bolstered in recent months by the delivery of Western equipment crucial to the country’s war effort. The new strikes came as Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said his country’s preparations to push back against entrenched Russian positions were almost complete. NATO allies and partners have provided Ukraine with 1,550 armoured vehicles and 230 tanks to form units and help it retake territory from Russian forces, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday “Equipment has been promised, prepared and partially delivered. In a global sense, we’re ready,” Reznikov said. Kyiv has said throughout the war launched by Russia in February 2022 that it is intent on repelling Moscow’s forces from territory they control in eastern and southern Ukraine. “Preparations are coming to an end,” Reznikov added of the planned offensive. “As soon as there is God’s will, the weather and the decision of the commanders we will do it.” Most of the fighting is focused on the eastern Donbas region, particularly the city of Bakhmut, which has been almost completely destroyed.

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