Russia's biggest drone strike in weeks hits Ukrainian infrastructure

By Olena Harmash

KYIV (Reuters) -Russia launched a massive drone attack early on Friday, hitting critical infrastructure in the west and south of Ukraine and destroying private houses and commercial buildings in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, officials said.

The air force said it shot down 24 "Shahed" drones out of 40 launched by Russia, the biggest drone attack in weeks to target Kharkiv in the northeast, Odesa and Kherson in the south and the region of Lviv on Ukraine's border with Poland in the west.

One X-59 missile was also shot down, the air force said.

"We realize that as winter approaches, Russian terrorists will try to do more damage. We will respond to the enemy," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said of the attack, adding that air defences had been active in 10 different regions.

Officials say Ukraine is bracing for a second winter of Russian air strikes on the energy system, which they warn is more vulnerable than it was last year as it has less excess capacity and little in the way of spare equipment.

The air force said the latest drones were launched in several waves and flew to different regions in small groups. Air alerts in some regions lasted for several hours during the night.

Maksym Kozytskiy, Lviv's governor, said an infrastructure facility had been hit five times during the attacks on his region, but did not elaborate on the damage. He reported no casualties.

In the nearby region of Ivano-Frankivsk a military facility was hit, governor Svitlana Onishchuk said.

Oleh Kiper, Odesa's regional governor, reported a strike on an infrastructure facility in the southern region.

Oleh Synehubov, Kharkiv's governor, said drones had hit civilian infrastructure and caused fires in and near the city of Kharkiv. He said eight people, including two children, required medical help due to acute stress.

Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said eight private houses, a three-storey building, several cars, and a car repair shop were damaged during the attack on Kharkiv.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash; editing by Tom Balmforth and Gareth Jones)