Drones struck Moscow on Tuesday but were neutralised, Russia said, in what one politician called the worst attack on the capital since World War II, while Kyiv was also hit from the air for the third time in 24 hours.
Since Russia invaded its neighbour in February last year, the war has largely been fought inside Ukraine, though Moscow has reported some attacks on its territory and blamed them on Ukraine, including an alleged assassination attempt against President Vladimir Putin.
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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said two people were injured, but not seriously, while some residents in two lightly damaged apartment blocks were briefly evacuated.
Russia’s defence ministry said eight drones sent by Kyiv were shot down or diverted, though Baza, a Telegram channel with links to the security services, said more than 25 were involved.
Residents in southwestern Moscow said they heard loud bangs followed by the smell of petrol at about 5am to 6am local time [02:00 to 03:00 GMT]. Some filmed a drone being shot down and a plume of smoke rising over the Moscow skyline.
Politician Maxim Ivanov termed it the most serious assault on Moscow since the Nazis, saying no citizen could now avoid “the new reality”.
“You will either defeat the enemy as a single fist with our Motherland, or the indelible shame of cowardice, collaboration and betrayal will engulf your family,” he said.
Two weeks ago, two drones exploded over the Kremlin in an attack Russia also blamed on Kyiv and said was aimed at Putin.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak denied Kyiv was directly involved in targeting Moscow on Tuesday, though he said “we are pleased to watch” and forecast more to come.
Russia’s defence ministry cast the assault as a “terrorist drone attack” launched by the “Kyiv regime”.
In Kyiv, Ukrainian defence forces said they shot down more than 20 Iranian-made Shahed drones on Tuesday.
One person died – reportedly a 30-year-old woman, and four were injured when debris from a destroyed Russian projectile hit a high-rise apartment building causing a fire, Ukrainian officials said. Two upper floors were destroyed with people possibly still under rubble.
Photos from Kyiv officials showed flames engulfing the top of the building.
“The attack was massive, came from different directions, in several waves,” said Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration.
Russia has attacked Kyiv 17 times in May with drones or missiles, mostly at night, in an apparent attempt to undermine Ukrainians’ will to fight after more than 15 months of war.
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Kyiv, said: “Where I am right now is an apartment block that was hit, the top two floors pretty much nearly destroyed.
“At the foot of this apartment block is a cleanup process. People are inspecting their cars that are damaged, trying to absorb what has happened. They are looking up at the top of the building, the windows are nearly blown up. A lot of [residents] are going to have to leave this building with their suitcases, their pets. Some of them are saying they don’t want to leave, they’re happy they have survived.
“This is the worst nightmare for people here in Kyiv. These attacks have been going on night after night now. This is the third consecutive attack now. People are not sleeping. But every night, when they do go to sleep, they hear those sirens, they hear the explosions and they just don’t know what will happen.”
In Moscow, journalist Yulia Shapovalova, said there was a sense of “calm” in the capital despite the attacks.
“Moscow is buzzing as usual now. People are going to work, public transport is functioning normally, it seems like nothing happened.
“People on the street are very calm, but I should tell you many people in Russia sincerely believe the information they regularly hear on TV, that the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine have been inevitable and that President [Vladimir] Putin, as a great strategist, began it first on foreign soil.”