Russia unleashed multiple waves of air strikes on Kyiv overnight in what officials said appeared to be the largest drone attack on the city since the start of the war, as the Ukrainian capital prepared to celebrate the anniversary of its founding on Sunday.
In what also appeared to be the first deadly attack on Kyiv in May and the 14th assault since the start of the month, officials said air defence systems downed at least 40 drones moving towards Kyiv with falling debris killing one person.
The pre-dawn attacks came on the last Sunday of May when the capital celebrates Kyiv Day, the anniversary of its official founding 1,541 years ago. The day is typically marked by street fairs, live concerts and special museum exhibitions – plans for which have been made this year too, but on a smaller scale.
“The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for the insecure Russians,” Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office, said on his Telegram channel.
Preliminary information indicated the air raid was the largest drone attack on Kyiv since the start of Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration said. Russia used the Iranian-made Shahed drones in the attack, he added.
Reuters was not able to independently verify that information.
“Today, the enemy decided to ‘congratulate’ the people of Kyiv on Kyiv Day with the help of their deadly UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles),” Popko said on the Telegram messaging app.
“The attack was carried out in several waves, and the air alert lasted more than five hours.”
Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the victim was a 41-year-old. The military administration said at least two people were injured.
Several districts of Kyiv, by far the largest Ukrainian city with a population of around 3 million, suffered in the overnight attacks, officials said, including the historical Pecherskyi neighbourhood.
Reuters witnesses said that during the air raid alerts that started soon after midnight, many people stood on their balconies, some screaming offensives directed at Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and “Glory to air defence” slogans.
With a Ukrainian counteroffensive looming 15 months into the war, Moscow has intensified missile and drone strikes after a lull of nearly two months, targeting military facilities and supplies. Waves of attacks now come several times a week.
In the leafy Holosiivskyi district in the southwestern part of Kyiv, falling debris set a three-storey warehouse on fire, destroying about 1,000 square metres (10,800 square feet) of building structures, Mayor Klitschko said.
A fire broke out after falling drone debris hit a seven-storey non-residential building in the Solomyanskyi district west of the city. The district is a busy rail and air transport hub.
In the Pecherskyi district, a fire broke out on the roof of a nine-storey building due to falling drone debris, and in the Darnytskyi district a shop was damaged, Kyiv’s military administration officials said on Telegram.
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters