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Russia triggers ‘River of Fire’ that kills seven including three children in petrol station drone strike on Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv amid fears defenders are running low on Western ammunition to repel Putin’s devastating strikes

A Russian strike on Ukraine’s second-largest city overnight killed at least seven people including three children, Kharkiv’s governor reported Saturday.

An Iranian-made Shahed drone struck a petrol station, creating a ‘river of fire’ that engulfed 15 houses in an unstoppable blaze.

Among the victims were a family of five including three children aged six-months, four and seven, who were reportedly ‘burned alive’ inside their own home.

‘They were held hostage by the fire inside their own house,’ said chief investigator Serhiy Bolvinov. 

‘The man’s body is in the corridor of the house, the mother and the children tried to save themselves in the bathroom. We do not yet know where the baby’s body is. The search is underway.’

While the Ukrainian air force said it was able to destroy 21 of 31 drones launched nationwide overnight, the devastation in Kharkiv comes amid fears the defenders are running out of munitions needed to repel aerial attacks.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, this week called on US lawmakers to approve a new aid package as her country faces a ‘critical shortage’ in military hardware. 

A devastating strike on a petrol station in Kharkiv engulfed 15 houses and killed seven people

A firefighter works at a site of a Russian drone strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine on February 10, 2024

A firefighter works at a site of a Russian drone strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine on February 10, 2024

Locals expressed fears Ukraine is struggling to repel drone attacks after the strike in Kharkiv

Locals expressed fears Ukraine is struggling to repel drone attacks after the strike in Kharkiv

Fire rages after a Russian drone strike hit a former recreation centre and hotel in Zmiiv, Kharkiv

Fire rages after a Russian drone strike hit a former recreation centre and hotel in Zmiiv, Kharkiv

In an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday, Ms Markarova pleaded with international backers to maintain their support for Ukraine as the war approaches its second anniversary.

‘We still have enough people who want to fight—there is no choice, actually for us, we are defending our homes—but we’re running out of equipment, especially missiles and interceptors,’ she said. ‘We need this support yesterday.’

Ukraine ambassador Oksana Markarova

Ukraine ambassador Oksana Markarova

The US Senate on Thursday voted to move forwards with a bill that would grant $95bn in emergency aid to Ukraine to keep up its fierce resistance against Putin’s army.

‘I was so happy to hear that it was a very strong bipartisan support, not yet final of course, just the first step in the right direction,’ Ms Markarova commented. ‘There is no alternative to continuing this support.’

A spokesperson for Ms Markarova exolaied to Newsweek that ‘due to a shortage of ammunition, the Ukrainian military finds itself under increased pressure on the front line’.

‘Russia is pushing on, trying to give Putin a “big win” by the election day in March: occupation of another Ukrainian city in the East.’

Yaroslava Gres, coordinator of Ukrainian President Zelensky’s official fundraiser, UNITED24, told MailOnline today: ‘Air defense is a critical area. With daily threats from Russian air strikes, Ukraine’s need for additional missile and air defense systems is paramount to safeguarding our cities. Protecting the Ukrainian sky secures Ukraine’s future.

‘Russia is stockpiling missiles and kamikaze drones to target critical civilian infrastructure in the winter and continue terrorizing civilians. The better we are prepared, the more innocent lives will be saved.’

UNITED24 has set up a fundraiser for a Safe Skies target detection system, led by American historian Timothy Snyder. 

The system ‘excels at detecting low-altitude air threats, a key part of air defense strategy’ – but Ukraine estimates it would need 12,500 devices to ‘adequately’ protect the territory.

So far it has raised $950,000 with help from Snyder and fellow academics Francis Fukuyama, Rory Finnin, Timothy Garton Ash and Serhiy Plokhy – but is short of its $1,900,000 target.

The overnight strike in Kharkiv highlights the urgency of such systems that would help Ukraine deflect incoming attacks, locals say.

More than 50 people were rescued from the flames as they tore through a community in the Nemyshlyanskyi district.

Witness Andrii Kruglo said: ‘Everything exploded and started running like a river. A burning river. I was covered in diesel fuel.

‘It was running down the street and setting houses on fire.

‘We tried to put the fire out, extinguished it with our hands, with snow, as much as we could.’

‘We tried to put the fire out, extinguished it with our hands, with snow, as much as we could.’

Mayor Igor Terekhov said: ‘The enemy’s Shaheds [Iranian-made drones] hit a petrol station, causing burning fuel to spill out and 14 private houses to burn.’

Regional prosecutor Oleksandr Filachkov said three drones were used in the attack.

‘As a result, an object of critical infrastructure was destroyed. There was a large amount of fuel, which is why the consequences of the fire were so terrible,’ he said.

Relatives have been asked for DNA to help identify the victims of the attack.

The strike followed an earlier attack on Zmiiv when a hotel complex and surrounding buildings were destroyed.

Locals expressed fears Ukraine is running low on air defences and failing to hold back on Russian attacks, especially in the eastern Kharkiv region.

A local source here said: ‘We were under attack with Russian drones [from Iran] and local social media chats were exploding with messages that our area no longer has proper air defences.

‘Kharkiv and the region are desperate for at least one Patriot system. Apparently many drones were shot down from just basic machine guns.

‘We are protected by virtually nothing.’

A woman, Natalia, stands in front a burned out house following the overnight strike in Kharkiv

A woman, Natalia, stands in front a burned out house following the overnight strike in Kharkiv

Regional prosecutor Oleksandr Filachkov said three drones were used in the attack in Kharkiv

Regional prosecutor Oleksandr Filachkov said three drones were used in the attack in Kharkiv

The strike followed an earlier attack on Zmiiv when a hotel complex and surrounding buildings were destroyed (pictured)

The strike followed an earlier attack on Zmiiv when a hotel complex and surrounding buildings were destroyed (pictured)

Spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force Colonel Yuriy Ignat warned: ‘There are a lot of statements from different countries, different representatives, and sometimes one gets the impression that we have everything and a lot of it – but no, we do not have everything and we do not have a lot.’

He said: ‘Germany has announced additional IRIS-T, we also expect Patriot.

‘We would like more systems that have proven themselves on the battlefield as a means of fighting ballistics.’

Josep Borell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said: ‘Mobilising additional EU military equipment for Ukraine is my top priority.

‘We must do more and we must do it faster.’

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