KIEV (Reuters) – Russia launched waves of air strikes on Kiev overnight in what officials said was the biggest drone attack on the city since the war erupted, as the Ukrainian capital prepared to celebrate its anniversary. Sunday.
The Ukrainian Air Force said it had shot down 52 of 54 Russian drones, describing it as a record attack by Iranian-made ‘kamikaze’ aircraft. It was not immediately clear how many drones were launched over Kiev.
In what also appears to be the first fatal attack on Kiev in May and the 14th this month, falling debris killed a 41-year-old man, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
The attacks came before dawn on the last Sunday in May when the capital celebrates Kyiv Day, the anniversary of its official founding 1,541 years ago. The day is usually marked by street fairs, live concerts and special museum exhibitions – plans are in place for these this year too, but on a smaller scale.
“Ukraine’s history is a long-standing irritant for insecure Russians,” Andrei Yermak, chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on his Telegram channel.
The Air Force said on Telegram that Russia had targeted military facilities and critical infrastructure facilities in the central regions of Ukraine, and the Kiev region in particular.
Reuters could not independently verify the information.
With the Ukrainian counteroffensive looming after 15 months of war, Moscow has intensified airstrikes after a lull of nearly two months, mainly targeting military positions and supplies. Waves of attacks now come several times a week.
Sunday’s attacks came after Kiev said combat had subsided around the besieged city of Bakhmut in southeastern Ukraine, the site of the war’s longest battle.
Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kiev military department, said the attack was carried out in several waves, and that air alerts lasted more than five hours.
“Today, the enemy decided to ‘congratulate’ the people of Kyiv on Kyiv Day with the help of their killer drones,” Popko said in the Telegram messaging channel.
Officials said several areas of Kiev, Ukraine’s largest city with a population of nearly 3 million, suffered from the nightly attacks, including the historic Pechersky district.
During air raid alerts that began shortly after midnight, many people stood on their balconies, some shouting attacks directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin and slogans of “Glory to the Air Defense,” Reuters witnesses said.
In the leafy Holosevsky District in the southwestern part of Kiev, falling debris set a three-story warehouse on fire, destroying about 1,000 square meters (10,800 square feet) of building structures, Mayor Klitschko said.
A fire broke out after the wreckage of a drone fell into a seven-storey non-residential building in the Solomyansky district, west of the city. The region is a busy rail and air transport hub.
In the Pechersky district, a fire broke out on the roof of a nine-story building caused by falling drone debris, and in the Darnitsky district a shop was damaged, officials of the Kiev military department said on Telegram.
(Report) by Valentin Ogirienko and Gleb Garanich; Additional reporting by Nick Starkoff and Lydia Kelly. Written by Lydia Kelly. Editing by Himani Sarkar and Christopher Cushing
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