Waves of explosive-laden suicide drones struck Ukraine’s capital early Monday as families were preparing to start their week, the blasts echoing across Kyiv, setting buildings ablaze and sending people scurrying to shelters.
Exactly how many drones nose-dived into the capital wasn’t immediately clear. Drones used in the attack appeared to include Iranian-made Shaheds. Previous Russian airstrikes on Kyiv were mostly with missiles.
In the Kyiv region alone, 13 or more drones were shot down, all of them as they flew in from the south, said a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, Yurii Ihnat.
The capital’s central Shevchenko district was among the areas hit, with apartment blocks damaged and a non-residential building on fire, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. He said 18 people were rescued from the rubble of one apartment building and that rescue workers were trying to extract two other people known to be under the debris.
One strike appeared to target the city’s heating network, hitting an operations centre. Another slammed into a four-storey residential building, ripping a large hole in it and collapsing at least three apartments on top of each other. Four bodies were recovered, including those of a woman who was six months pregnant and her husband, Klitschko said. An older woman and another man were also killed there.
An Associated Press photographer who was out shooting morning scenes of Kyiv caught one of the drones on camera, its triangle-shaped wing and pointed warhead clearly visible against the blue sky. Drones came in several waves and buzzed overhead with angry hums from their engines.
“The whole night, and the whole 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.”
“The enemy can attack our cities, but it won’t be able to break us,” he wrote.
Kyiv a renewed target
The Russian military said it used “long-range air- and sea-based high-precision weapons” to fire at Ukrainian military and energy facilities. The strikes hit “all assigned targets,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said.
Strikes in central Kyiv had become a rarity in the last several months after Russian forces failed to capture the capital at the beginning of the war. Last week’s early morning strikes were the first explosions heard in Kyiv’s city centre in several months, and put Kyiv and the rest of the country back on edge as the war nears nine months.
Western nations have promised to bolster Ukrainian air defences with systems that can shoot down drones but much of that weaponry has yet to arrive and, in some cases, may be months away.
“The challenges are serious, because the air defence forces and means are the same as they were at the beginning of the war,” Ihnat said.
Warplane crashes in southwestern Russia
Hours after those attacks, an Su-34 bomber crashed on Monday into a residential area in a Russian city on the Sea of Azov after suffering engine failure, killing at least three people and igniting a massive blaze that engulfed several floors of a nine-storey apartment building, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
It said both crew members had bailed out safely, but the plane crashed into a residential area, causing a fire as tons of fuel exploded on impact.
Local authorities said at least three residents were killed and 21 others were injured, including eight who were in grave condition. The authorities reserved emergency rooms at local hospitals and scrambled medical aircraft. At least 17 apartments were affected by the fire, and about 100 residents were evacuated from their homes.
Yeysk is a city of about 90,000 on the Sea of Azov and is home to a big Russian airbase.
Prisoner exchange occurs
The strikes Monday on Kyiv comes as fighting has intensified in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in recent days, as well as the continued Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south near Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Ukrainian Zelenskyy said in his Sunday evening address that there was heavy fighting around the cities of Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region.
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The Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up the bulk of the industrial east known as the Donbas, and were two of four regions annexed by Russia in September in defiance of international law.
Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-backed head of the Donetsk region, said on Monday that the two countries had conducted another prisoner swap, affecting 220 people overall.
NATO begins preplanned exercises
Meanwhile, NATO on Monday began its long-planned annual nuclear exercises in northwestern Europe, drills that were planned before Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine.
Fourteen member countries were due to take part in the Steadfast Noon exercises, which are to involve around 60 aircraft including fighter jets, and surveillance and refuelling planes.
The bulk of the war games will be held at least 1,000 kilometres from Russia’s borders. Training flights will take place over Belgium, the host, as well as over the North Sea and the United Kingdom.
The exercises involve fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but do not involve any live bombs.
U.S. long-range B-52 bombers will also take part in the manoeuvres, which will run until Oct. 30.
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