Russia launched at least 15 drones to attack Kyiv and other regions for a second consecutive night, with air defence systems engaged in repelling the aerial weapons just hours before Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was to meet with leaders of the NATO military alliance.
Ukraine’s air defences shot down 11 of the Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Russia in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Ukrainian Air Force said on the Telegram messaging app.
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“A difficult night … The enemy attacked our area with ‘Shaheds’,” Ihor Taburets, the military head of the Cherkasy region southeast of Kyiv, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Two people were injured in the attacks and fire broke out at a non-residential infrastructure facility, Taburets said. It was not immediately known how many drones in total were launched on Cherkasy and how many on Kyiv.
Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said earlier that the air attack came on the “504th day of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine”.
Russia had also conducted air raids on Kyiv and other locations in the early hours of Tuesday morning with Iranian Shahed drones.
Washington, DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said the Ukrainian military reported shooting down 26 of 28 Shahed 131 and 136 drones, which were likely intended by Moscow to be a “demonstrative response to the 2023 NATO Summit”, which started in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on Tuesday.
The Russian drones also attacked port infrastructure and a grain terminal in the Odesa region, according to Ukrainian commanders.
“Russia’s drone strikes on port infrastructure also coincide with the first day of the NATO summit in Vilnius and are likely intended to discourage NATO members from providing more military aid to Ukraine,” the ISW said on Tuesday.
“Russia may be threatening the Black Sea grain deal to message the deal’s original broker, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that his recent statement of support for Ukraine’s NATO membership and the return of the five Ukrainian Azovstal commanders on July 7 has not gone unnoticed and is not appreciated by the Kremlin,” the ISW added.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday that Ankara had promised under a prisoner exchange agreement to keep the five Ukrainian commanders in Turkey for the duration of the war and complained that Moscow had not been informed of the move to return them to Kyiv.