Four people in Ukraine have been killed in air attacks as Russia launched one of its biggest volleys of drone and missile strikes in recent weeks, Ukrainian officials say.
The overnight drone attacks hit 127 targets across northern, southern and eastern parts of Ukraine, killing three civilians, the Ukrainian defence ministry said on Monday.
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In the capital, Kyiv, officials said Ukrainian air defences downed 35 Iranian-made Shahed drones. Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said five people were wounded due to falling drone debris.
Drone wreckage also hit a two-story apartment building in Kyiv’s western district of Svyatoshynskyi, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.
In the south, long-range bombers launched up to eight cruise missiles at the Odesa region, where one person was killed and three wounded, according to local officials.
The attacks were part of the most immense drone swarm yet in a renewed Russian air campaign that began 10 days ago.
Ukraine said Russian forces are making a final push to capture the eastern city of Bakhmut in time for Tuesday’s Victory Day, the annual commemoration of the 1945 Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany.
“These attacks come a day before a very symbolic and important day for Russia,” said Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kyiv.
“We understand there is a lot of pressure on Wagner and Russian forces in and around Bakhmut to take full control of the besieged city before tomorrow – some sort of celebration to give to President Vladimir Putin on Victory Day.”
In the eastern region of Donetsk, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, who threatened to leave the city of Bakhmut and stop fighting due to a shortage of weapons and ammunition, appeared to backtrack and said his mercenary forces now have the resources they need.
Moscow is preparing for a military parade, the staple of Victory Day celebrations across Russia, but at least 21 cities have cancelled such events. Regional officials vaguely referred to “the current situation” as a reason why these celebrations will no longer occur.
The use of drones has been banned in Moscow and St Petersburg. Last week, Russia accused Ukraine of an attempted drone attack on the Kremlin, whose spires loom next to the parade venue.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent a draft bill to parliament proposing that the country do away with the Victory Day holiday to further distance itself from Russia. Instead, he has proposed a Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in World War II on May 8 and a Day of Europe on May 9 to commemorate “the unity of all Europeans who destroyed Nazism”.
“Recalling the heroism of millions of Ukrainians in that war against Nazism, we see the same heroism in the actions of our soldiers today,” Zelenskyy said.
“Unfortunately, evil has returned,” he said, equating Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year to the Nazis.
“Although now it is another aggressor, the goal is the same – enslavement or destruction.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he believed veterans in Ukraine still hold May 9 as a sacred day.
Elsewhere, Russian authorities in the Zaporizhia region have begun evacuating residents due to what they said was an increase in Ukrainian shelling.
But speculation has been mounting over recent weeks about when Ukraine will begin its much-expected counteroffensive, which many analysts suspect will occur in Zaporizhia.