Explosions heard in Ukrainian capital, emergency teams deployed

Air-raid sirens heard in the capital in the pre-dawn hours with residents urged to take shelter.

Three explosions have been heard in the centre of Kyiv, as Ukraine said it had shot down a number of Iranian-made Shahed drones.

Russia “started this morning with 13 Shaheds… all 13 were shot down by our Ukrainian air defence systems,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address on social media, referring to the kamikaze drones that Moscow has been accused of deploying against Ukraine targets.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there were explosions in the central Shevchenkivskyi district and two administrative buildings were damaged, but mentioned no casualties. The all clear was issued after three hours.

No energy facilities were damaged, according to national power grid operator Ukrenergo.

Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian politician, said on Twitter he had heard three explosions by 6.30am local time (04:30 GMT).

The air-raid alarm had gone off at 5.55am (03:55 GMT) with residents urged to stay in shelters until the all clear.

“Ukrainians wake up not from alarm clocks, but from explosions,” Goncharenko wrote. “Thanks to neighboring Russia! Good morning!”

Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said the attack was deliberately timed for when it was dark to make it harder to shoot the drones down, but that Ukrainian air defence systems had been effective.

He said the total number of Iranian drones launched on Wednesday was being verified but that Russia had used about 400 since the first was shot down by Ukraine in mid-September.

It was unclear whether Russia was using a new batch of Iranian drones or had not yet used up its old stock, he added.

Parts of a drone seen at the site of a destroyed building had an inscription reading “For Ryazan.” Moscow earlier this month accused Kyiv of using drones to hit two air bases at Ryazan and Saratov, in south-central Russia, killing three servicemen and wounding four.

Parts of the drone are seen at the site of a building destroyed by a Russian drone attack, as their attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv
Parts of a drone are seen at the site of a destroyed building. The inscription reads “For Ryazan” [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

“It has been an unpleasant wake up call for Kyiv this morning,” Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands reported from Kyiv.

Challands explained that while he didn’t hear air-raid alarm, he woke up from “an enormous explosion that reverberated around the city centre”. The explosions were likely caused by drones being shot down in the air and hitting the ground, he added.

The blasts came as Ukraine calls on its allies to provide it with more advanced air defence systems to help it shoot down Russian missiles and drones that have devastated the country’s energy infrastructure and left millions without heating in the bitter cold of winter.

Zelenskyy said other areas experiencing “very difficult” conditions with power supplies included the capital Kyiv and Kyiv region, as well as four regions in western Ukraine and the Dnipropetrovsk region in the centre of the country.

Reports on Tuesday said the United States was finalising plans to send its sophisticated Patriot air defence system to Ukraine.

According to officials, the US plan would be to send one Patriot battery. A truck-mounted Patriot battery includes up to eight launchers, each of which can hold four missiles.

The entire system, which includes a phased array radar, a control station, computers and generators, typically requires about 90 soldiers to operate and maintain. However, only three soldiers are needed to actually fire it, according to the US Army.

Moscow has been hitting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure roughly every week since early October as it has been forced to retreat on some battlefronts in its near 10 month old war.

A barrage of missiles last week killed at least four people and knocked out power just as emergency outages following earlier raids were coming to an end.

In October, several people were killed in Kyiv following a series of attacks including by so-called kamikaze drones.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies