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Russian Strikes Hit Ukrainian Cities at a Tense Time for Kyiv

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Missiles streaked into Kyiv early Wednesday in a Russian attack that killed at least three people, according to local officials, jolted residents awake with air alarms and explosions, and ignited a fire that sent plumes of smoke billowing over the Ukrainian capital.

The barrage, which directed missiles and drones at cities across the country, coincided with a moment of heightened uncertainty for Ukraine. Russian forces are pressing assaults in towns and villages along the front, American aid is in doubt, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is preparing for what he has hinted will be a major shake-up in his government and the army’s leadership.

Mr. Zelensky is considering replacing Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the country’s top military commander, but has not announced any decision on the matter. General Zaluzhny remains in his job and said on Wednesday morning that Ukrainian air defense teams had destroyed 44 of the 64 cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones that Russia had fired in the assault.

Since the end of last year, Russia has stepped up its large-scale aerial bombardments in a bid to exploit dwindling supplies of critical Western air defense munitions and inflict maximum damage.

“Ukraine needs help,” Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said in a statement. “Only the joint efforts of the democracies will stop the criminal Putin.”

The scope of the latest attack was still coming into focus on Wednesday morning, but two people were killed in the capital and at least 13 others were injured, according to city officials.

As the Ukrainian Air Force warned that missiles were streaming toward Kyiv along the Dnipro River around 7 a.m., interceptor missiles streaked through the skies to meet the threat. Explosions echoed in the skies, and a residential building caught fire in the attack, sending plumes of black smoke over the city of more than three million during the morning rush hour.

Residents in one neighborhood temporarily lost power after debris hit a high-voltage cable, the local power provider, DTEK, said in a statement.

In the southern port city of Mykolaiv, airstrikes damaged more than 20 residential buildings, city officials said, and killed at least one person.

Missile attacks were also reported in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, in Cherkasy in the center of the country, and in the Lviv region near the border with Poland.

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