Russia turns to high-tech hypersonic missiles in latest attack on Ukraine

Near Dnipro, southeast Ukraine — Across Ukraine, people were left Friday to pick up the pieces of Russia's latest blistering coordinated assault, a barrage of missiles the previous day that left at least six people dead and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands more. The attack saw Moscow turn some of its most sophisticated weapons to elude Ukraine's potent, Western-supplied air defense systems.

Among the more than 80 missiles unleashed on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure Thursday were six "Kinzhal" [Dagger] hypersonic cruise missiles, according to Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat. The jet-launched rockets are believed to be capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 10 or 12, double the speed of sound (anything over Mach 5 is considered hypersonic).

People look at the ruins of houses destroyed by a Russian missile that hit a residential area in the village of Velika Vilshanytsia, near Lviv, Ukraine, March 9, 2023.  / Credit: Pavlo Palamarchuk/Anadolu Agency/Getty
People look at the ruins of houses destroyed by a Russian missile that hit a residential area in the village of Velika Vilshanytsia, near Lviv, Ukraine, March 9, 2023. / Credit: Pavlo Palamarchuk/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Ukraine has acknowledged that it cannot intercept the missiles, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads. The Russian military has used them at least once previously during the war, about a year ago.

Fitted with conventional warheads hypersonic missiles don't inflict significantly more damage than other, less-sophisticated rockets, but their ability to avoid interception makes them more lethal. It also makes them more valuable resources for Russia's military to expend, which may be further evidence of long-reported ammunition and missile shortages that Vladimir Putin has asked his allies in Iran, North Korea and even China to remedy.

Russia's Defense Ministry said it hit military and industrial targets "as well as the energy facilities that supply them" with its attack on Thursday.

In his daily video address to the Ukrainian people, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was as defiant as ever after the latest assault.

"No matter how treacherous Russia's actions are, our state and people will not be in chains," he said. "Neither missiles nor Russian atrocities will help them."

While Russia's air war has reached far across the country, hitting targets even in the far-western city of Lviv on Thursday, the worst of the suffering has been for Ukrainian civilians in the east, where Russian forces have seized a massive swath of the Donbas region — and where they're pushing hard to seize more.

There, Thursday's assault was met with a mixture of defiance and disgust.

"This is horrible," Vasyl, a resident of hard-hit Kherson said. "I don't have any other words, other than Russia is a horrid devil."

Moscow's destruction is evident across the small towns and villages of eastern Ukraine, including in Velyka Novosilka. The town right on the edge of Russian-held ground was once home to 5,000 people, but it's become a ghost town.

Only about 150 people were still there, and CBS News found them living underground in the basement of a school. It was dark, without electricity or running water, and most of those surviving in the shelter were elderly.

Oleksander Sinkov speaks with CBS News in the basement of a school in the southeast Ukrainian village of   Velyka Novosilka, where he took shelter with dozens of other mostly-elderly residents after his home was destroyed early in Russia's invasion. / Credit: CBS News/Agnes Reau
Oleksander Sinkov speaks with CBS News in the basement of a school in the southeast Ukrainian village of Velyka Novosilka, where he took shelter with dozens of other mostly-elderly residents after his home was destroyed early in Russia's invasion. / Credit: CBS News/Agnes Reau

Oleksander Sinkov moved in a year ago after his home was destroyed.

Asked why he didn't leave to find somewhere safer, he answered with another question: "And go where? I have a small pension and you can't get far with that."

The residents of the school pitch in to help cook and take care of other menial chores as they can, but there's very little normal about their life in hiding.

Inside the basement of a school in the southeast Ukrainian village of Velyka Novosilka, where dozens of mostly-elderly residents are taking shelter from the war outside. / Credit: CBS News/Agnes Reau
Inside the basement of a school in the southeast Ukrainian village of Velyka Novosilka, where dozens of mostly-elderly residents are taking shelter from the war outside. / Credit: CBS News/Agnes Reau

Iryna Babkina was among the youngest people we met in the school. She stayed behind to care for the elderly.

"They cling to this town," she said of her older neighbors. "We have people here who left and then came back because they couldn't leave the only home they've ever known."

Iryna Babkina speaks with CBS News in the basement of a school in Velyka Novosilka, southeast Ukraine, where she is sheltering from Russia's war and helping to look after other residents. / Credit: CBS News/Agnes Reau
Iryna Babkina speaks with CBS News in the basement of a school in Velyka Novosilka, southeast Ukraine, where she is sheltering from Russia's war and helping to look after other residents. / Credit: CBS News/Agnes Reau

It had been weeks since Russia carried out a coordinated attack across the country like Thursday's, but in the front-line towns like Velyka Novosilka in the east, the shells fall every day, leaving those left behind to survive, barely, however and wherever they can.

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