Air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv at 2 a.m., a cacophony exacerbated by the emptiness of the capital’s streets during an overnight curfew.
Russia has been relentlessly bombarding Ukrainian cities with missiles and drones since early October in an attempt to knock out the country’s energy grid and leave citizens without emergency services in the freezing winter, including Friday’s violent missile attack.
But Monday’s strike marked the first time Russia has deployed such a large fleet of drones at night — possibly a recognition by Russian commanders that their noisy, slow-flying Iranian drones are easier to spot and shoot down during the day.
Ukraine’s Western backers have rushed to bolster its air defenses in response to repeated attacks by Russian missiles and drones. But while the Ukrainian military claims to have destroyed most of the unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, officials say several hit their targets, drawing news coverage and causing serious damage to the country’s energy system. destroy.
“Throughout the night, hostile drones attempted to break into energy facilities across the country,” Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s main grid operator, said in a statement. “Thanks to the professional work of the air defense forces, the enemy did not fully achieve its objectives, but unfortunately, the infrastructure was attacked several times.”
“Currently, the most difficult situation occurs in the central, eastern and Dnipro regions,” the company’s statement continued. “Sumy, Kharkov, Poltava, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, Kirovograd, Zhitomyr, Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Kiev Both the region and the city of Kiev have an emergency shutdown schedule. Priority is given to critical infrastructure. Restoring energy supply to household consumers may take a long time.”
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Ukrainian air force officials said in a statement that the country’s air defenses shot down 30 of “about 35” Iranian-made Shahed drones, which it said were launched from the “eastern coast of the Sea of Azov”.
“Air defense missile units, fighter jets and mobile fire groups [were] participated in the sabotage of air targets,” according to a statement released by the Air Force on its Telegram channel.
The Washington Post could not independently verify the Air Force figures.
But the scale of the nighttime attack still confirms that Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of scaling back the bombing of Ukraine’s infrastructure systems, which international experts say has pushed the country to the brink of a humanitarian crisis and could spark a second wave Loss of millions of Ukrainian refugees will flee to neighboring countries if life in winter becomes unbearable.
Dnipropetrovsk region governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on his Telegram channel that Russian troops had attacked his southeastern region with “drones, heavy artillery and Grad rockets”. In the southern Nikolayev region, Ukrainian air defenses “shot down 10 Iranian-made Shaheed-136 drones,” said Hanna Zamazeeva, head of the regional council.
Monday’s attack came hours before Putin arrived in Minsk on Monday for talks with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
The visit is being closely watched for signs that an attack may be imminent from Belarusian territory, as it did on Kyiv last winter.
Ukrainian authorities have warned that such an attack could happen as early as late January, although U.S. defense officials have said they see no signs of such an attack in the near future.
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Russia has attacked Ukrainians with drones before, most recently in the southern port city of Odessa.
But Deputy Mayor Andriy Kryshchenko said Monday’s attack was the largest in Kyiv so far. In previous attacks, the drones accompanied the missiles.
“It’s a tactical change — they’re trying to find the weak link,” Krysenko said in a telephone interview from the eastern front where he now serves. “They’re trying to change the status quo in some way, they’re trying a new approach.”
It is unclear how long the Russian airstrikes will last.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told local media that Ukrainian intelligence indicated that the Russian army was running out of missile stockpiles and was capable of carrying out “two to three, up to four” major strikes involving dozens of missiles, such as Friday More than 70 people were fired in the attack.
However, Russia still has a sufficient number of S-300 missiles — an older, less accurate weapon — Danilov said.
Danilov told The Washington Post that Russia is now asking Iran for more missiles because of the dwindling stockpile. “It would be a challenge for us if Iran supplied them with rockets, it would be a very big danger,” he said.
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Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv City Military Administration, said Kyiv was hit by “several waves of attacks by Iranian drones” in the early hours of the morning. According to the military’s Telegram channel, Popko said a total of 23 drones entered Kyiv’s airspace, 18 of which were shot down.
“Objects of critical infrastructure” were damaged, the city government said.
Ukraine’s emergency services released photos and video of what appeared to be a fire at a substation. Substations have been a prime target of Russian airstrikes because destroying them would cripple power transmission. Emergency services said the fire had burned for more than two hours.
Kyiv region governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on television that the drone attack was “serious enough”. In addition to the attack on infrastructure, three people were injured and nine houses were damaged, Kuleba said. Kyiv city officials said two residential neighborhoods were hit by falling debris or a damaged drone, but no one was injured.