Russia launches barrage of drones at Kyiv as counteroffensive looms

Russian forces launched a barrage of air strikes on Kyiv ahead of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, in what the city’s mayor said was the largest drone attack on the capital since Moscow’s full-scale invasion last year.

Ukrainian forces said they had shot down 30 “kamikaze” drones in the Kyiv area in the early hours of Monday, while missiles also struck other parts of the country as Russia continued escalating air attacks in the run-up to its celebration of the anniversary of victory in the second world war.

Explosions rocked Kyiv early on Monday. Officials said at least five people were injured in the capital after air defences intercepted drones that fell on a residential building and parked cars.

Kyiv’s mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on Telegram that “last night, the barbarians staged the most massive attack with kamikaze drones” on the capital.

About 35 drones in total were intercepted, including another five outside the Kyiv region, according to Ukraine’s army general staff and air force command.

“Continuing its terror tactics, the Russian Federation launched 16 missile strikes last night, in particular on the cities of Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolayiv and Odesa regions,” they said in a statement.

Some 61 air strikes and 52 rocket attacks were launched against troops and civilian areas, they added. Ukraine’s defence ministry said at least three civilians were killed nationwide and 28 injured in the preceding 24 hours from air strikes and shelling.

Air raid sirens sounded again on Monday in Kyiv and most of the country, signalling the possibility of further drone and missile attacks in a campaign that Moscow has escalated since two drones were shot down over the Kremlin last week. Kyiv denies involvement in the Kremlin assault.

Russia responded to that incident by banning drone flights over many cities and scaled back celebrations for Tuesday, when it commemorates victory over Nazi Germany.

Russian officials, in turn, have accused Ukraine of stepping up drone strikes on its territory and in Russian-occupied Crimea. Analysts see the strikes targeting fuel depots and military supply nodes as preparations for a spring counteroffensive.

Kyiv, which repelled an early Russian attempt to seize Kyiv and much of the country last year, hopes to reclaim more of the roughly 18 per cent of Ukrainian territory that Russian forces hold more than a year into the full-scale invasion.

A Russian missile strike on Sunday in Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odesa hit and destroyed a warehouse full of aid supplies, the local Red Cross branch said. “Humanitarian aid for the Odesa region, which was in a warehouse, was completely destroyed by fire,” the group said in a statement.

In a video address on Monday morning, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy honoured the millions of Ukrainians who fought and died during the second world war.

“We fought then and we fight now so that no one ever again enslaves other nations and destroys other countries,” Zelenskyy said.

“And all those old evils that modern Russia is bringing back will be defeated just as Nazism was defeated,” he added.

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