Ukraine’s capital Kyiv has come under a Russian aerial attack involving drones as well as cruise and ballistic missiles in what one Ukrainian military official described as an “exceptional” onslaught with the highest number of missiles fired by Moscow in the shortest time and from different directions.
“It was exceptional in its density – the maximum number of attack missiles in the shortest period of time,” Serhii Popko, head of Kyiv’s city military administration, said in comments posted on the Telegram messaging app. The aerial attack was the eighth on the capital so far this month.
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Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi said later that Ukrainian forces had shot down all 18 Russian missiles of various types that were launched in a concentrated attack.
Russia launched six Kinzhal ballistic missiles, nine Kalibr cruise missiles, and three Iskander land-based cruise missiles, Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram. Ukraine’s Air Force also shot down six Iranian-made Shahed drones and three reconnaissance drones.
Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said the Kinzhal aero-ballistic missiles were launched from MiG-31K aircraft and the nine Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from ships in the Black Sea. Along with the three land-based cruise missiles, they had all been aimed at the capital.
Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov celebrated in a tweet the “unbelievable success” in shooting down the hi-tech Russian Kinzhal and other missiles.
Another unbelievable success for the Ukrainian Air Forces! Last night, our sky defenders shot down SIX russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles and 12 other missiles.
russian terrorists have no chance of prevailing over Ukraine. Their weapons can and should be countered by…
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) May 16, 2023
Air raid alerts sounded across all of Ukraine as the Russian attack got under way.
Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram that three people were injured and a large building was damaged in the city.
Explosions were reported in the city’s Solomyanskyi district, the mayor said, and debris had fallen onto the city’s zoo in the Shevchenkivskyi district. In a separate post, Klitschko added that falling debris set ablaze several cars in Solomyanskyi.
“Stay in shelters!” the mayor wrote on Telegram.
Air defence systems were also repelling a drone attack in Boryspil, Klitschko said, a city just southeast of Kyiv, which is home to the capital’s main passenger airport that is now closed.
The Kyiv Independent news outlet reported that air raid alerts were sounding in all regions of the country due to the threat of missile attacks from Russia. Journalists with the news organisation reported hearing at least 10 loud explosions over the capital city in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Witnesses in Kyiv also reported several blasts that sounded like air defence systems destroying objects, the Reuters news agency reported.
Tuesday’s early morning attacks came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine following a trip that took him across Europe and where he received new pledges of military support from allies in Rome, Berlin, Paris and London.
Zelenskyy described the new weapons pledged by the Europeans as “important and powerful”.
In a video address from a train taking him back to Kyiv, he said: “We are returning home with new military help. Newer and more powerful weapons for the front, more protection for our people. Greater political support.”
France offered dozens more light tanks and armoured vehicles, Germany said it was preparing a new military aid package worth 2.7bn euros ($3bn), and the United Kingdom promised hundreds more air defence missiles and long-range attack drones.
The Kremlin said it did not believe the promise of new military hardware would change the course of the war.