Falling missile debris injured at least three people in Kiev and caused damage to the zoo and the city’s central neighborhoods, city officials said.
The strikes, which could be heard for more than 20 minutes in the capital, were among the most intense in recent months. The assault “was exceptional in its density: the maximum number of missile attacks in the shortest period of time,” Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, wrote on Telegram.
Ukrainian officials said the avalanche provided the latest evidence that Ukraine desperately needs stronger aviation capabilities and more powerful, longer-range weapons.
Ukrainian officials claimed a perfect interception rate and credited Western-donated Patriot air defense systems with thwarting attacks by more sophisticated Russian weapons, including the hypersonic Kinzhal, or Dagger, which travels at more than five times the speed of the sound Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force, said Russia spent millions of dollars on high-end missiles in a failed attempt to hit targets in the Kiev region.
“The enemy is trying to achieve their goals,” Ihnat said. “Right now I had the objective of hitting certain facilities in the region of the capital. These could be next to the city, or in the city; we cannot know what the enemy had in mind, because we destroyed everything.”
Ihnat said the Russians fired from numerous locations. “They attacked with missiles from various bases: air, land, sea,” he said. Russia also attacked the capital overnight with drones, Ihnat and other officials said.
Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, said Russia appeared to have launched a “sophisticated and complex attack in terms of multiple trajectories, multiple missiles..”
“The idea is that ballistics will come in one direction, cruise missiles in another, drones in another,” Karako said.
Karako supported the assessment that Russia was targeting high-value targets and was not just trying to create a distraction. “If you’re shooting a Kinzhal, you’re not shooting for effect,” he said.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Tuesday, without evidence, that a Kinzhal missile had hit a Patriot missile defense system, contradicting Ukrainian accounts.
The drone strikes, in particular, appear to be part of an ongoing effort by Moscow to test Western air defense systems recently supplied to Ukraine, perhaps looking for vulnerabilities or with the aim of depleting Kiev’s missile stockpiles before of the most intense ground fighting expected in the coming weeks. .
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Kelly Grieco, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington, said that while the West has been able to address missile shortages in Ukraine’s former Russian-made air defenses by sending its own systems, the defense systems Western airlines also have supply constraints. .
“There simply aren’t many systems and missiles on hand to send to Ukraine, and the defense industry can’t scale up fast enough to meet the demand,” Grieco said, noting that only two Patriot systems have been delivered to Ukraine
Ukraine’s top military commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, wrote on Telegram on Tuesday that the drones included both Iranian-made Shahed attack drones and Orlan-10 reconnaissance drones.
“They are all destroyed!” Zaluzhny wrote.
Ukraine also intercepted nine ship-launched Kalibr cruise missiles in the Black Sea and three Iskander land-based missiles, the military said. About an hour after aerial alarms went off for the first round of strikes, they went off again as Ukraine reported a second round, this time involving unmanned aerial objects.
Debris from the missiles landed in the central Solomyansky district, injuring three people and setting fire to a non-residential building and several cars.
The Kiev Zoo was also hit by falling debris, although no animals were injured. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram that a fragment of a rocket hit a tree, but that the branches were now being cleared and the zoo opened as usual at 10am.
Since Russia resumed near-daily attacks on the capital in late April, Ukraine’s beefed-up air defenses, including Patriot systems, have spared Kiev damage.
Attacks in Russian-controlled Luhansk show Ukraine’s long-range missiles
This success has created a sense of security, which can be illusory. On Monday evening, few people in the city’s packed bars and restaurants reacted when an air raid alarm sounded at around 8pm. This alarm ended quickly, with no report of an attempted strike.
Earlier this month, Ukraine said it used the Patriot system to shoot down a Russian Kinzhal missile over Kiev, showing it could take down one of Russia’s most feared, but also most expensive, weapons.
During a recent interview with The Washington Post, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that Russia has stopped trying to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure and is now trying to eliminate its air defense systems. In the interview, Reznikov reiterated Ukraine’s urgent need for more firepower.
“We need 40 Patriots, 40 IRIS-T, 40 NASAMS,” Reznikov said, referring to the US-made system and two other surface-to-air missile systems.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak took to Twitter on Tuesday to criticize Western officials who have said Kiev “doesn’t need aviation and long-range missiles,” saying it makes it easier for Moscow to “create a nightmare” for Ukraine
Podolyak did not name anyone in particular, but President Biden personally rejected a request for American-made F-16 fighter jets, saying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not need them.
Podolyak, in a text message to The Post, said his words were aimed at “those partners who still believe” that transferring those weapons “will lead to escalation.” On the contrary, he said, not providing the weapons “leads to an aggravation of the conflict and an increase in deaths.”
“Let’s face it,” Podolyak said. “Every time Russia demonstratively attacks Ukrainian cities, it sends certain messages to our partners.”
He added: “These are ballistic and cruise missiles, attack and reconnaissance drones aimed at peaceful Ukrainian cities and their residents, who at 3 in the morning expect no threat.”
A year of war from Russia in Ukraine
Portraits of Ukraine: Life has changed for all Ukrainians since Russia launched its full-scale invasion a year ago, in ways big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other in extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined markets. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.
Battle of Attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kiev in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along a stretch of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.
A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law that prevents men of fighting age from leaving the country, has forced millions of Ukrainian families to make harrowing decisions about how to balance security, duty and love, with lives that were once intertwined that have become unrecognizable. This is what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.
Deepen the global differences: President Biden has heralded the strong Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on the issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions have not stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.