Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Waves of suicide drones laden with explosives hit the Ukrainian capital on Monday, setting buildings ablaze, tearing a hole in one of them and sending people for cover or trying to shoot them down, which the president said was Russia’s Attempt to terrorize civilians.
The concentrated use of the kamikaze drones was the second barrage in as many weeks – after months in which airstrikes in the center of Kyiv had become a rarity. The attack sowed fear and strained nerves as explosions shook the city. Power plants were hit and a drone largely brought down a residential building, killing four people, authorities said.
Intense gunfire rang out as Iranian-made Shahed drones buzzed overhead, apparently as soldiers attempted to destroy them. Others took cover, nervously scanning the sky. But Ukraine grimly got used to it to attacks almost eight months after the Russian invasionand life in the city resumed as rescuers sifted through debris.
Previous Russian airstrikes on Kyiv have been mostly rocket-powered. Analysts believe the slower-moving Shahed drones can be programmed to accurately hit specific targets with GPS unless the system fails.
Also on Monday, a Russian Su-34 fighter jet crashed in a residential area in the Russian port city of Yeysk on the Sea of Azov after an engine failure – killing at least four people on the ground, injuring 25 others and starting a fire that engulfed several floors of a nine-story apartment building, authorities said.
According to the RIA-Novosti news agency, the region’s Deputy Governor Anna Menkova said three of the victims died when they jumped from the upper floors of the building to escape the flames. Six other people were missing.
Both crew members jumped safely on a training mission, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
In Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Monday’s barrage came in successive waves from 28 drones — what many fear could become a more common attack mode as Russia tries to avoid depleting its stockpile of long-range precision missiles
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said five drones entered Kyiv itself. At least 13 were shot down in the Kyiv region, all flown in from the south, said Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force.
A strike was apparently aimed at the city’s heating network and hit an operations center. Another crashed into a four-story apartment building, ripping open a gaping hole and collapsing at least three apartments. Four bodies were recovered, including that of a woman who was six months pregnant and her husband, Klitschko said. An elderly woman and another man were also killed there.
An Associated Press photographer captured one of the drones on camera, its triangular wing and pointed warhead clearly visible against the blue sky.
“All night and all morning the enemy terrorizes the civilian population,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a social media post. “Kamikaze drones and missiles are attacking all of Ukraine.”
In a televised address to the nation on Monday night, Zelenskyy said Moscow is resorting to drones because it is losing the war.
“Russia has no chance on the battlefield and is trying to compensate for its military defeats with terror,” he said. “Why this terror? To put pressure on us, on Europe, on the whole world.”
Zelenskyy, citing Ukrainian secret services, claims that Russia has ordered 2,400 drones from Iran. Russia has renamed them Geran-2 drones – “Geranium” in Russian. A photo posted by Klitschko of debris from one of Monday’s strikes showed “Geran-2” on a mangled tail fin.
Iran has previously denied supplying arms to Russia, although its Revolutionary Guard chief has boasted about supplying arms to world leaders, without elaborating.
The drones have an explosive charge and can linger over targets before crashing into them. Their blasts shook people awake, including Snizhana Kutrakova, 42, who lives near one of the strikes.
“I’m full of anger,” she said. “Full of anger and hate.”
The Russian military said it had used “long-range, high-precision air and sea-launched weapons” to attack Ukrainian military and energy installations. They “hit all assigned targets,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for European Union sanctions on Iran for supplying drones to Russia, and both he and Zelenskyy reiterated Ukraine’s need for air defenses and weapons.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the 27-nation bloc is collecting evidence about Iran’s drone sales to Russia, and if that’s true, “we will be ready to respond with the means at our disposal.” The EU also approved one military training program in Europe for thousands of Ukrainian troops and plans additional funds of about 500 million euros ($486 million) to buy weapons for Ukraine.
Iranian-made drones have been used against urban centers and infrastructure, including power plants, elsewhere in Ukraine in recent weeks. At just $20,000 each, the Shahed is a fraction of the cost of high-tech missiles and conventional aircraft. The Kalibr cruise missiles, which Russia has deployed extensively in Ukraine, cost the military about $1 million each.
Swarms of drones are also challenging Ukraine’s air defenses. Western nations have promised systems capable of shooting down drones, but a majority of these weapons have yet to arrive and could be months away.
“The challenges are great because the air defense forces and assets are the same as they were at the beginning of the war,” said Air Force spokesman Ihnat. Some western-supplied air defense weapons can only be used during the day when targets are visible, he added.
Russian forces also attacked power infrastructure elsewhere, apparently trying to increase pressure on the Kyiv government after previous attacks crippled power supplies.
Prime Minister Shmyhal said hundreds of settlements were left without power after rocket attacks in the Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions.
Ukraine’s nuclear operator said Russian shelling again cut power to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, one of the hotspots of most concern the Russian invasion. The nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, requires power for critical safety systems. When shelling cuts power lines, the plant is forced to rely on diesel generators as a temporary workaround.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday there was no need for more widespread attacks on Ukraine — following an earlier spate of strikes he described as retaliation for a bridge bombing Connection of the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with Russia.
But Putin also said that seven out of 29 targets designated after the bridge attack were not hit “as planned by the Defense Ministry,” so Moscow’s forces would continue targeting them. He didn’t elaborate.
After months when strikes have been rare in central Kiev, the latest attacks have thrown the country and its capital back into turmoil.
Monday’s strike in Kyiv came amid intensified fighting in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and a continued Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south near Kherson and Zaporizhia. Zelenskyi said heavy fighting broke out around the towns of Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region on Sunday.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions form the industrial east known as Donbass and were two of four regions annexed by Russia in September in violation of international law.
In the south, Ukrainian air forces reported shooting down nine drones in the Mykolaiv region and six in the Odessa region. The governor of the eastern Kharkiv region said one was killed and four wounded in night attacks on a town and villages.
Russia and Ukraine also completed a prisoner swap on Monday. The Russian Defense Ministry said 110 freed Russians were 72 seamen from merchant ships held since February, while 108 Ukrainian prisoners of war were handed over to Kiev authorities, two of whom said they wanted to remain in Russia. The Ukrainian side confirmed the exchange, but not that two Ukrainians decided to stay in Russia.
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