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 attack 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 hit a gas station, creating a ‘river of fire’ that engulfed 15 houses in an unstoppable blaze.

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

“They were held hostage by the fire in their own home,” said chief investigator Serhiy Bolvinov.

‘The man’s body is in the hallway of the house, the mother and the children tried to save themselves in the bathroom. We still don’t know where the baby’s body is. The search is on.’

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

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

A devastating gas station strike in Kharkiv engulfed 15 houses and killed seven people

A devastating gas station strike in Kharkiv engulfed 15 houses and killed seven people

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

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

Local residents have expressed fears Ukraine is struggling to repel drone strikes after the strike in Kharkiv

Local residents have expressed fears Ukraine is struggling to repel drone strikes after the strike in Kharkiv

Fire rages after a Russian drone strike hits a former leisure center and hotel in Zmiiv, Kharkiv

Fire rages after a Russian drone strike hits a former leisure center and hotel in Zmiiv, Kharkiv

In an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday, Markarova pleaded with international supporters 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, really for us, we are defending our homes—but we have little equipment, especially missiles and interceptors,” she said. “We need this support yesterday.”

Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova

Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova

The US Senate voted Thursday to move forward with a bill that would grant $95 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine to sustain its fierce resistance to Putin’s military.

“I was so happy to hear that this was a very strong bipartisan support, obviously not final yet, just the first step in the right direction,” Ms Markarova said. “There is no alternative to continuing this support.”

A spokesperson for Ms Markarova told Newsweek that ‘due to a shortage of ammunition, the Ukrainian army is under increased pressure on the front line’.

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

Yaroslava Gres, co-ordinator of Ukrainian President Zelensky’s official fundraiser, UNITED24, told MailOnline today: ‘Air defense is a critical area. With daily threats of Russian airstrikes, Ukraine’s need for additional missile and air defense systems is paramount to protect our cities. Protecting the Ukrainian air ensures Ukraine’s future.

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

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

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

So far, it has raised $950,000 with the help of 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 underscores the urgency of such systems that would help Ukraine repel 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.

‘It ran down the street and set houses on fire.

“We tried to put out the fire, put it out with our hands, with snow, as much as we could.”

“We tried to put out the fire, put it out with our hands, with snow, as much as we could.”

Mayor Igor Terekhov said: ‘The enemy’s Shaheds (Iranian-made drones) hit a gas station, spilling burning fuel and setting 14 private houses on fire.’

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 effects of the fire were so terrible,’ he said.

Family members 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.

Local residents have expressed fears that air defenses in Ukraine are wearing thin and failing to hold back against Russian attacks, particularly in the eastern Kharkiv region.

A local source here said: ‘We have been under attack with Russian drones (from Iran) and local social media chats have exploded 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 of a burnt-out house after the overnight strike in Kharkiv

A woman, Natalia, stands in front of a burnt-out house after 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)

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

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

“We want more systems that have proven themselves on the battlefield as a way to combat ballistics.”

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

“We need to do more and we need to do it faster.”