KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia launched a fresh drone assault on Ukraine after promising that strikes on the Russian border city of Belgorod that killed 24 people Saturday “would not go unpunished.”

The Ukrainian Air Force said Sunday that it had shot down 21 of 49 drones launched by Russian forces overnight.

The retaliatory Russian attack wounded 28 people in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said. A hotel, kindergarten, apartment buildings, shops and administrative buildings sustained damage, according to the regional prosecutor’s office.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had targeted “decision-making centers and military facilities” in Kharkiv. The ministry said the hit on the Kharkiv Palace Hotel had “destroyed representatives of the Main Intelligence Directorate and Ukrainian Armed Forces” involved in the “terrorist attack” in Belgorod.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said a British journalist was among the wounded, while public German broadcaster ZDF said Sunday that one of its television crews had been in the hotel. A Ukrainian translator was hit by debris and seriously wounded, and one of the team’s security guards also was injured, ZDF said in a statement.

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“This is another attack by Russia on the free press,” ZDF Editor-in-Chief Bettina Schausten said.

In the Kyiv region that surrounds Ukraine’s capital, a Russian drone attack caused a fire at a critical infrastructure facility, local officials said. They did not identify the nature of the facility.

Russian troops additionally shelled the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Sunday, killing a 14-year-old boy and leaving a 9-year-old boy hospitalized in critical condition with a brain injury, according to regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin.

On Saturday, shelling in the center of Belgorod killed two dozen people, including three children. Another 108 people were wounded in the strike, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Sunday, making the attack one with the most casualties on Russian soil since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine 22 months ago.

Russian authorities accused Ukraine of carrying out the attack, which took place the day after an 18-hour Russian aerial bombardment across Ukraine killed at least 41 civilians.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it identified the ammunition used in the strike as Czech-made Vampire rockets and Olkha missiles fitted with cluster-munition warheads. It provided no additional information, and The Associated Press was unable to verify its claims.

“This crime will not go unpunished,” the ministry said in a statement on social media.

In an emergency Saturday night meeting of the U.N. Security Council demanded by Russia, envoy Vasily Nebenzya accused Kyiv of a “terrorist attack.” In comments carried by Russian state media, Nebenzya claimed Ukraine had launched “a deliberate act of terrorism directed against civilians.”

Ukrainians are bracing for further attacks. A blistering New Year’s Eve assault by Russia last year killed at least three civilians.


Kirsten Grieshaber contributed from Berlin and Elise Morton from London.

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