KIJIV, Ukraine — Russian missiles killed at least four people and destroyed dozens of homes in Lviv early Thursday, in what officials said was the biggest attack on the western Ukrainian city since Russia launched its full-scale invasion more than 16 months ago.
The authorities said the ages of the victims ranged from 21 to 95 and warned that there may still be people trapped under the rubble.
More than 30 people were injured in the pre-dawn strike on Lviv, which is hundreds of miles from the front lines and has largely been spared the worst violence of the war. President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed a response, saying on Twitter that it would be “strong”.
The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired 10 Kalibr cruise missiles from carriers and submarines in the Black Sea. Seven missiles were intercepted, the military said, and others hit the apartment complex and other sites.
“This is the biggest attack on Lviv’s civilian infrastructure since the start of the full-scale invasion,” Andriy Sadovyi, the city’s mayor, said in a video posted on Twitter that showed him standing in front of wrecked cars, broken windows and debris strewn about. on the street He said more than 50 apartments were destroyed.
Maksym Kozytskyy, the head of the regional military administrationsaid a piece of critical infrastructure was also damaged but did not provide details.
In the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Lviv was considered relatively safe due to its proximity to the border with NATO member Poland. But it remains well within range of Moscow’s missiles as fighting rages on the front lines.
Throughout the war, Russian forces changed their tactics with missile and drone attacks, trying and trying to wear out Ukrainian air defense systems. That’s what happened early Thursday, according to Ukraine’s military, which said several groups of missiles were spotted on radar heading north before “abruptly changing direction” to the west.
Hours after the strike, as rescue workers and firefighters removed debris from the blast site, a crowd of about 100 people gathered to watch and wait for permission from police to re-enter damaged buildings. The air was filled with dust; broken glass crunched underfoot.
Students from a nearby dormitory sat on a ping-pong table, watching the scene. Many wore mismatched clothing, grabbing whatever they could throw on before running for cover when the sirens sounded.
Aircraft alerts began going off at around 1:30am in parts of Ukraine – including the capital, Kyiv – before spreading to other regions. An hour later, the entire country was marked “red” on online alert maps, with Ukraine’s air force warning that several missiles were moving to the west.
The first reports of explosions in Lviv soon followed. The authorities said air defenses were working and urged residents to stay in shelters.
“It was very loud,” wrote Mr. Kozytskyy, the head of the regional administration, on the Telegram app just before 3 a.m., urging people to stay in a safe place.
After the all-clear was given around 3:20 am, ambulance sirens could be heard in the city.
Stanislav Kozliuk contributed reporting from Lviv.