Ukraine: Explosions shake Kyiv, hit by waves of drones

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Waves of explosive-laden suicide drones hit Ukraine’s capital as families prepared to start their week early Monday, with explosions echoing across Kyiv, setting buildings on fire and sending people rushing to shelters.

Even in a city that has become grimly accustomed to airstrikes since Russia launched its invasion in February, such concentrated use of drones has struck terror and frayed nerves, with people nervously scanning the skies as they search a shelter.

The exact number of drones that plunged into the capital was not immediately clear. Drones used in the attack appeared to include Iranian-made Shaheds. Previous Russian airstrikes on Kyiv were mainly missiles.

In the Kyiv region alone, 13 or more drones were shot down, all as they arrived from the south, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said.

Other drones passed. The capital’s central Shevchenko district is among the affected areas, with damaged apartment buildings and a non-residential building on fire, Kyiv City Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. He said 18 people had been rescued from the rubble of a building and rescuers were trying to extract two other people known to be under the rubble.

An Associated Press photographer who was shooting morning scenes from Kyiv captured one of the drones, its triangle-shaped wing and sharp warhead clearly visible against the blue sky. The drones arrived in waves and buzzed overhead with angry hums coming from their engines.

There was no immediate word from casualties. The targets the drones aimed for were not immediately clear, but Russian airstrikes over the past week have hit infrastructure, including power plants. A drone that struck a building caused the complete collapse of at least three apartments and left a gaping hole. Rescuers rushed to the rubble to search for victims amid gray smoke.

“All night and all morning the enemy is terrorizing the civilian population,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a social media post. “Drones and kamikaze missiles are attacking all over Ukraine.”

“The enemy may attack our cities, but he cannot break us,” he wrote.

Video posts on social media showed drones hovering over the capital and billowing smoke in the early morning light. The sound of sustained gunfire could also be heard in a post, apparently trying to shoot down a drone.

Iranian-made Shaheds, which Russia has renamed Geran-2 drones, contain an explosive charge and can linger on targets before diving into them. They can be fired one after another from racks. Their distinctive A-shaped wing makes them easily identifiable. Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, also confirmed in a social media post that Shahed drones were among those used in the strike on Kyiv.

Iran has previously denied supplying weapons to Russia, although its Revolutionary Guard leader has boasted of supplying weapons to the world’s biggest powers, without giving further details.

Drones have also been used repeatedly by Russia elsewhere in Ukraine in recent weeks to target urban centers and infrastructure, including power plants. They are relatively inexpensive, cost around US$20,000 and can be used in swarms.

Their numbers pose a challenge to Ukraine’s air defenses, said Ihnat, the air force spokesman. Some air defense weapons supplied by Western countries can only be used during daylight hours when the targets are visible, he added.

Western nations have promised to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses with systems capable of shooting down drones, but many of these weapons have yet to arrive and, in some cases, may be months away.

“The challenges are serious, because the air defense forces and assets are the same as at the beginning of the war,” Ihnat said.

Strikes in central Kyiv had become rare in recent months after Russian forces failed to capture the capital early in the war. Last week’s morning strikes were the first explosions heard in downtown Kyiv for several months and have put Kyiv and the rest of the country on edge. Monday’s explosions appeared to be continuing, which many fear will become more common occurrences in urban centers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week’s strikes were retaliation for the shelling of a bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland. Putin accuses Ukraine of orchestrating the explosion, which suspended traffic on the bridge and reduced Moscow’s ability to use the bridge to supply Russian troops in occupied southern Ukraine.

The strike on Kyiv comes as fighting has intensified in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in recent days, as well as the continuation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south near Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Zelenskyy said in his Sunday evening speech that there was heavy fighting around the towns of Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up the bulk of the industrial east known as Donbass and were two of four regions annexed by Russia in September in defiance of international law.

On Sunday, the Russian-backed regime in the Donetsk region said Ukraine bombed its central administrative building in a direct hit. No casualties were reported.


Inna Varenytsia in Kyiv contributed to this story.