KYIV — At least 18 people were killed and more than 60 wounded in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv on Wednesday when Russian missiles struck the downtown area during morning rush hour — an attack officials said could have been stopped if Ukraine had adequate air defenses.

Russia launched three Iskander cruise missiles at the city, which is just 60 miles from the Russian border and was nearly encircled by Russian troops in early 2022.

A Russian missile attack killed more than a dozen people in Chernihiv, Ukraine, on April 17, according to local officials. (Video: Reuters)

“This would not have happened if Ukraine had received enough air defense equipment and if the world’s determination to counter Russian terror was also sufficient,” President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Telegram. “There needs to be sufficient commitment from partners and sufficient support to reflect it.”

Ukraine has three Patriot air defense systems, but officials here say 26 are needed to cover the entire country. Last weekend, after Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba intensified his appeals for more systems, Germany pledged to send another to Ukraine.

“Ukraine urgently needs more Patriot systems,” the Foreign Ministry posted on X after the attack.

A $60 billion aid package for Ukraine has been delayed in the U.S. Congress for months, as House Republicans refuse to allow a vote on the aid. In the meantime, Russia has exploited Ukraine’s ammunition and air defense shortages, destroying energy infrastructure across the country and slowly gaining ground in the east. Russian forces are currently advancing toward the town of Chasiv Yar, outside Bakhmut, the city they seized last year.

After the United States, Britain, France and Jordan helped repel a major Iranian missile and drone attack on Israel on Saturday, Ukrainian officials pointed to their rapid intervention as evidence that such defense is possible. Kuleba again referred to those efforts on Wednesday after the strike on Chernihiv.

“These innocent people would not have been killed or injured if Ukraine had sufficient air defense capabilities,” Kuleba wrote on X. “Three days ago in the Middle East, we saw what reliable protection of human lives from missiles looks like.”

“Ukraine’s partners have the necessary means to help us save Ukrainian lives with the same level of efficiency,” he added.

The strike destroyed an eight-story building and damaged a hospital, university facility and residential buildings, officials said. Three children are among the injured, and one of the dead is a 25-year-old police officer who was killed in her home.

“People may be under the rubble,” Viacheslav Chaus, head of Chernihiv Regional Military Administration, wrote on Telegram. “Rescuers and medics are making every effort to reach people.”

The strike is one of the deadliest to hit the city since Russia invaded in February 2022. In the weeks that followed, Russia regularly targeted civilian infrastructure in the city, including homes, hospitals and a bread line.

Last summer, seven people were killed and 140 others wounded after a Russian missile struck a theater in the city that was hosting a drone convention. Many lives were saved in that attack because attendees rushed to the theater shelter before the strike.

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