By SUSIE BLANN and ELISE MORTON (Associated Press)
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s capital was the victim of the biggest drone attack since Russia’s war began, local officials said, as Kyiv prepared to mark the anniversary of its founding on Sunday. At least one person was killed, but officials said dozens of drones were shot down, demonstrating Ukraine’s air defense capability.
Russia launched the “most massive attack” on the city on Saturday night with Iranian-made Shahed drones, said Serhii Popko, a senior Kyiv military official. The attack lasted more than five hours, the air defense reportedly shot down more than 40 drones.
A 41-year-old man was killed and a 35-year-old woman was hospitalized when debris fell on a seven-story non-residential building and started a fire, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Debris from a drone damaged the building of the Ukrainian Society of the Blind. On Sunday morning, Volodymyr Golubenko, a member of the organization, came to collect his belongings. He was helped by his son Mykola, who searched for his father’s belongings among the rubble and at the same time tried to describe to his father what his office looks like now.
“This wall on the right is destroyed and on the left too,” Mykola told his father.
Volodymyr Golubenko worked there for over 40 years. He says it is a home for many blind people, as they come here to talk to each other and help each other.
“If you don’t even have a job, it’s hard to find one now, because these events (the war) have been going on since last year. At least people come here to chat,” Volodymyr said.
Like Golubenko, many people in his neighborhood heard the sound of Shahed drones for the first time. Among them was Yana, 36, who has three boys. The family hid in a hallway all night.
“Something started to explode above us. Children ran here in fear,” Yana said.
Ukraine’s air force said Saturday night also broke records for Shahed drone attacks across the country. Of the 54 drones launched, 52 were shot down by air defense systems.
Russia has repeatedly launched waves of drone attacks on Ukraine, but most are shot down. Ukraine also claimed this month to have shot down some of Russia’s hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has touted as providing a key competitive advantage.
In the northeastern province of Kharkiv, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said a 61-year-old woman and a 60-year-old man were killed in two separate shellings.
Kyiv Day marks the anniversary of the official founding of the city. The day is usually celebrated with live concerts, street fairs, exhibitions and fireworks. Scaled-down festivities were planned for this year, the city’s 1,541st anniversary.
The timing of the drone attacks was likely no coincidence, Ukrainian officials said.
“The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for insecure Russians,” Ukraine’s chief presidential aide Andriy Yermak said on Telegram.
“Today the enemy decided to ‘congratulate’ the people of Kyiv on Kyiv Day with the help of their deadly UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles),” Popko also wrote on the messaging app.
Local officials in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia said air defense systems destroyed several drones as they approached the Ilsky oil refinery.
Belgorod region in southern Russia bordering Ukraine was also attacked by Ukrainian forces on Saturday, local officials said. Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov reported on Sunday that a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy were injured in the shelling.
Drone attacks on Russian border regions have occurred regularly since the invasion began in February 2022, with attacks increasing in the past month. Earlier this month, an oil refinery in Krasnodar was attacked by drones for two consecutive days.
Ukrainian air defences, bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied systems, have been adept at thwarting Russian air attacks – both drones and aircraft missiles.
Earlier in May, Ukraine prevented an intense Russian air attack on kyiv, shooting down all missiles targeting the capital. The bombardment, which additionally targeted locations across Ukraine, included six Russian hypersonic aeroballistic Kinzhal missiles, repeatedly touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin as offering a key strategic competitive advantage and among the most advanced weapons in the world. arsenal of his country.
Sophisticated Western air defense systems, including American-made Patriot missiles, have helped spare Kiev the kind of destruction seen along the main front line in eastern and southern Ukraine. While most ground combat is deadlocked along this frontline, both sides are targeting other territories with long-range weapons.
Amid Saturday night’s drone attacks, Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin warned of an escalation in Ukraine. He told the BBC on Sunday that his country had ‘enormous resources’ and had yet to ‘act very seriously’, warning that Western arms supplies to Ukraine risked stalling the war to a “new dimension”. The duration of the conflict, he said, “depends on the war escalation efforts undertaken by NATO countries, in particular the UK”.
Kelin’s comments are typical of Russian officials’ rhetoric regarding Moscow’s military might, but contradict regular reports from the battlefield that Russian troops are poorly equipped and trained.
Also on Sunday, the death toll in Friday’s missile attack on the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the regional capital of Dnipropetrovsk province, rose to four. Regional. Governor Serhii Lysak said three people believed to be missing have been confirmed dead. Thirty-two people, including two children, were injured in the attack which hit a building containing psychology and veterinary clinics.
Elise Morton reported from London.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine