Aug 07, 2023

Fought off drone attack on Kyiv, Ukrainians say

KYIV, Ukraine -- Russia attacked Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, before dawn on Wednesday, sending 13 Iranian-made drones from the Sea of Azov to the city, according to Ukrainian officials. Most of the drones were destroyed by Ukrainian air defenses, they said, and there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Two government buildings in Kyiv and at least four homes in the region surrounding the capital were damaged, officials said, but it was unclear whether they were hit by direct strikes or falling debris from drones shot out of the sky.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine praised the air defense systems in a brief video message published on the Telegram messaging app and said that all of the drones appeared to have been shot down.

Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine have been subject to Russian missile attacks in recent weeks that have taken out power and other infrastructure as the country heads into the cold winter months.

The attack on Kyiv on Wednesday came after drone strikes on Odesa over the weekend, which seemed to end a recent weekslong pause in Russia's use of Iranian-made drones.

Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's military intelligence agency, told Ukrainian media in October that Russia had used about 330 Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in the war against Ukraine, of which 222 had been shot down. He said Russia had ordered about 1,700 drones, which were being delivered in batches of 300 at a time. It was not possible to independently verify the claims, but they correspond with estimates from Western officials and military analysts.

The first sound that Yaroslav Vinokurov, 24, heard Wednesday shortly before 6 a.m. was the wailing of the air-raid alarm in the darkness. He continued to get ready for work, given that alarms sound nearly every day. But soon machine-gun fire echoed through the Shevchenkivskyi district as air-defense systems flashed in the sky, followed by what he described as "a very loud explosion."

"I lay down on the floor, as I didn't know what else can happen," Vinokurov said. Only once it was quiet did he go outside.

"My car is destroyed," he said, looking over the damage.

A blast left the three-story tax office building in the central Shevchenkyvskyi district with a gaping hole in the roof and blew out windows in parked cars and in a neighboring building.

Clean-up crews were on site quickly to shovel away the rubble and roll out plastic sheeting to cover the blown-out windows in freezing temperatures. One man, unfazed, pushed his son on a swingset at a nearby playground as the crews worked.

Another parent, Anton Rudikov, said his family was sleeping when they heard an explosion and smashing windows. "Thank God the children were not affected" beyond their fright, said Rudikov, whose daughters are 13 and 18 years old. But why Russia would attack his neighborhood left him perplexed.

"I didn't do anything bad to them, but it struck my house. From where? I don't understand why," he said.

Residents told Associated Press reporters they saw fragments from a drone bearing the words "For Ryazan." The Kremlin claims Ukraine was responsible for a cross-border attack last week on a military base in the Ryazan region of western Russia.

Just two days before the strikes, Yurii Ihnat, the spokesman for Ukraine's air force, warned that Russian forces were now using attack drones at night. If the drones are launched during the day, he said, Ukrainians can use large-caliber machine guns and other small arms to shoot them down. But in the darkness, they need expensive and limited air defense missile systems that can track the incoming drones by radar.

Even in the darkness, residents of the capital have become familiar with the sounds of Russia's unrelenting aerial bombardment.

Ukrainian authorities have trumpeted their ability to knock down Russian weapons. But strikes in some areas continue to cause deaths and havoc, particularly close to the front lines in the east and south. In the southern city of Odesa, drone strikes temporarily shut off the power last week. Kyiv has suffered comparatively little damage.

More air defense help was apparently on the way. U.S. officials said Tuesday the United States was poised to approve sending a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, agreeing to an urgent Ukrainian request. The Patriot would be the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided to Ukraine to help repel Russian aerial attacks since Russia invaded Feb. 24.

The Russian Embassy in Washington said a Patriot missile delivery would be "another provocative step by the administration, which could lead to unpredictable consequences." It added that this would cause "colossal damage not only to Russian-American relations but would create additional global security risks."

U.S. officials said last week that Moscow has looked to Iran to resupply its military with drones and surface-to-surface missiles.

The damage from Russian strikes has interrupted electricity, heating and water supplies as winter approaches. Yet the U.N. migration agency said more than 5 million people who were displaced within or outside Ukraine since Russia invaded have returned. The International Organization for Migration said a Nov. 25-Dec. 5 phone survey of 2,002 respondents in Ukraine found that only 7% were considering leaving.

Providing other estimates, Ukraine's human-rights chief said Wednesday that close to one-fifth of the country's prewar population sought refuge abroad during the war. Dmytro Lubinets said 7.9 million Ukrainian citizens left the country and 4.9 million were internally displaced. Lubinets did not specify how many Ukrainian refugees have returned.

In other developments Wednesday:

• Ukrainian authorities said they have discovered evidence that children were tortured during Russian occupation. Lubinets, Ukraine's human-rights chief, said "torture chambers for children" accused of resisting Russian forces were found in recaptured areas of northeastern and southern Ukraine. Lubinets said he saw two torture sites in Balakliya, in the northeastern Kharkiv region, and spoke with a boy who said he was held for 90 days and cut with a knife, burned, and subjected to mock executions.

• The Ukrainian presidential office said Russian forces struck ten regions in central and southeastern Ukraine, destroying two university buildings in Kramatorsk. It said high-rise apartment blocks, a hospital and a bus station were also damaged. Russian forces also shelled eight towns and villages in the southern Kherson region, the presidential office reported.

• The International Atomic Energy Agency said it would station nuclear safety and security experts at Ukraine's nuclear power plants to prevent a nuclear accident. The U.N. nuclear watchdog already has deployed a permanent mission to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The plant, Europe's biggest nuclear power station, has faced repeated shelling. Its six reactors have been shut down for months. Three other nuclear plants are located in Ukrainian-held territory, as is the decommissioned Chernobyl plant.

Information for this article was contributed by Marc Santera and Andrew E. Kramer of The New York Times and Hanna Arhirova, Jamey Keaten, Yuras Karmanau and Colleen Long of The Associated Press.

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