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Russia hit Ukraine with missiles Thursday morning, killing at least six people

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Russia launched more than 80 missiles and drones at Ukraine today, including at least six advanced hypersonic missiles, according to the Ukrainians. Ukraine says it's the first time Russia has used so many of these missiles in one attack. At least six people died, and power was knocked out in several regions, including to Europe's largest atomic energy plant, which is occupied by Russia.

NPR's Joanna Kakissis is following these developments from Kyiv. Hi, Joanna.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Over the last year, Russia's launched a lot of missile strikes at Ukraine, but not like this. Tell us more about today's strike.

KAKISSIS: Sure. For one thing, this is the first time in at least a month that we've had this kind of large-scale attack. I was actually surprised earlier this morning when I heard explosions outside the window because it had been so long. Another difference is the number of missiles that Russia launched today - more than 80 missiles and drones - at Ukraine today. And another difference is the variety of missiles that were used. Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat spoke to reporters about this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YURIY IGNAT: (Non-English language spoken).

KAKISSIS: And he's saying here that it was the first time he had seen so many kinds of missiles used at the same time, including six hypersonic cruise missiles with nuclear capabilities.

SHAPIRO: Tell us more about those specific missiles. What do you know about them?

KAKISSIS: The Russians call this missile a Kinzhal, which means dagger in Russian. Ukraine says Russia has launched these before, but not this many of them all at once. And Russian President Vladimir Putin has been bragging about these missiles for a couple of years, saying that they travel 10 times the speed of sound. Now, Ukraine's air defenses are very good, and over the last few months, they've been successfully intercepting many other missiles launched by the Russians, but not the Kinzhal.

Analysts are asking why Russia would launch these missiles because they're expensive, and the supply is limited. But, Ari, let's remember that the ground war for Russia has not gone well, and perhaps this attack today is some sort of message that Russia is still in the fight.

SHAPIRO: What kind of damage did these attacks do around the country?

KAKISSIS: Well, at least six people died, five of them in the western district of Lviv. You know, you've been there. I've been there. I mean, Lviv borders Poland, which is a NATO country; completely, you know, as far away from the front line as you can get. Infrastructure, like the power grid, was hit in Kyiv and other cities, and the mayor of Kyiv said that about 40% of the city had lost power at one point because of these attacks. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also weighed in. He wrote on his Telegram page that it had been a difficult night and morning and that the Russians had, quote, "returned to their miserable tactics to try to intimidate Ukrainians."

SHAPIRO: And tell us more about the Zaporizhzhia power plant because some of the missiles knocked out power there. Do you know what the situation is?

KAKISSIS: So the power there has since been restored, and there was backup diesel generators running when the power went out. The plant needs power to run the pumps that supply cooling water to the reactors. And this isn't the first time the plant has lost power, but this has happened enough times now that today's power cut produced this furious response from Rafael Mariano Grossi, who's the director general of the U.N.'s Atomic Energy Agency.

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RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI: I am astonished by the complacency - yes, the complacency. What are we doing to prevent this from happening? Each time we are rolling a dice, and if we allow this to continue, then one day, our luck will run out.

KAKISSIS: So, you know, Ari, Grossi has repeatedly asked for the area around the plant to be demilitarized because each time there's an attack or a power cut, there's a chance of a nuclear accident, and the consequences of that would extend far beyond Ukraine.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Joanna Kakissis, reporting from Kyiv. Thank you.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.