Ukraine’s capital has been subjected to the largest drone attack since the start of Russia’s war, local officials said, as Kyiv prepared to mark the anniversary of its founding on Sunday.
Russia launched the “most massive attack” on the city overnight into Sunday with Iranian-made Shahed drones, said Serhii Popko, a senior Kyiv military official. The attack lasted more than five hours, with air defences reportedly shooting down more than 40 drones.
A 41-year-old man was killed and a 35-year-old woman was injured when debris fell on a seven-storey non-residential building and started a fire, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Ukraine’s air force said Saturday night was also record-breaking in terms of Shahed drone attacks across the country. Of the 54 drones launched, 52 were shot down by air defence systems.
In the north-eastern Kharkiv province, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said a 61-year-old woman and a 60-year-old man were killed in two separate shelling attacks.
Kyiv Day marks the anniversary of the city’s official founding. The day is usually celebrated with live concerts, street fairs, exhibitions and fireworks, but scaled-back festivities are planned for this year – the city’s 1,541st anniversary.
The timing of the drone attacks was likely not coincidental, Ukrainian officials said.
“The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for the insecure Russians,” Ukraine’s chief presidential aide Andriy Yermak said on Telegram.
Mr Popko added: “Today, the enemy decided to ‘congratulate’ the people of Kyiv on Kyiv Day with the help of their deadly UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).”
Meanwhile, local officials in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region said air defence systems destroyed several drones as they approached the Ilsky oil refinery.
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 aimed at the capital.
The bombardment, which additionally targeted locations across Ukraine, included six Russian Kinzhal aero-ballistic hypersonic missiles, repeatedly touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin as providing a key strategic competitive advantage and among the most advanced weapons in his country’s arsenal.
Sophisticated Western air defence systems, including American-made Patriot missiles, have helped spare Kyiv from the kind of destruction witnessed along the main front line in the country’s east and south. While most of the ground fighting is stalemated along that front line, both sides are targeting other territory with long-range weapons.