Waves of suicide drones hit Ukrainian capital, 3 dead – News-Herald

Smoke rises from the scene of Russian shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, October 17, 2022, after a few explosions rocked Kyiv early in the morning. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

By SABRA AYRES and HANNA ARHIROVA (Associated Press)

KYIV, Ukraine – Waves of explosive-laden suicide drones hit the Ukrainian capital on Monday, setting buildings on fire and sending people rushing for cover or trying to shoot down suicide bombers – a week after Russia unleashed its most widespread strikes against the country in months.

Airstrikes in central Kyiv had become rare in recent months, and the concentrated use of drones, their explosions echoing through the city, sowed terror and frayed nerves. One of the drones slammed into a residential building, killing three people, the deputy head of the president’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said. Energy facilities were also among the targets.

Drones used in the attack appeared to include Iranian-made Shaheds. Previous Russian airstrikes on Kyiv were mainly missiles. Intense, sustained bursts of gunfire rang out on Monday as the drones buzzed overhead, apparently soldiers trying to shoot them down. Others headed for shelter – though city life quickly resumed in a country that has become grimly accustomed to attacks.

In what many fear will become more common occurrences in urban centers nearly eight months after the war, the barrage came in successive waves of 28 drones, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. Five of them dived in Kyiv itself, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

In the Kyiv region, 13 or more were shot down, all as they arrived from the south, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said.

A strike appeared to target the city’s heating network, hitting an operations center. Another slammed into a four-story apartment building, gouging a large hole and collapsing at least three apartments on top of each other. In addition to the three people killed there, Tymoshenko said 19 were rescued from the rubble, including four injured. Rescuers looking for victims rushed to the debris from which gray smoke was billowing.

An Associated Press photographer who was shooting morning scenes from Kyiv captured one of the drones, its triangle-shaped wing and sharp warhead clearly visible against the blue sky.

“All night and all morning the enemy is terrorizing the civilian population,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a message posted on social media. “Drones and kamikaze missiles are attacking all over Ukraine.”

“The enemy may attack our cities, but he cannot break us,” he wrote.

Iranian-made Shaheds, which Russia has renamed Geran-2 drones, contain an explosive charge and can linger on targets before diving into them. They can be fired one after the other.

Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, confirmed in a social media post that Shahed drones were among those used in the strike. Iran has previously denied supplying weapons to Russia, although its Revolutionary Guard leader has boasted of supplying weapons to the world’s biggest powers, without giving further details.

Drones have also been used repeatedly by Russia elsewhere in Ukraine in recent weeks to target urban centers and infrastructure, including power plants. They are relatively inexpensive, costing around US$20,000.

Their use in swarms poses a challenge to Ukraine’s air defenses, said Ihnat, the air force spokesman. Western nations have promised to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses with systems capable of shooting down drones, but many of these weapons have yet to arrive and, in some cases, may be months away.

“The challenges are serious because the air defense forces and assets are the same as at the start of the war,” Ihnat said. Some air defense weapons supplied by Western countries can only be used during daylight hours when the targets are visible, he added.

After months in which strikes in central Kyiv were rare, last week’s morning strikes put Kyiv and the rest of the country on edge.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strikes were in retaliation for the bombing of a bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland. Putin accuses Ukraine of orchestrating the explosion, which suspended traffic on the bridge and reduced Moscow’s ability to supply Russian troops in occupied southern Ukraine.

The strike on Kyiv comes as fighting has intensified in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in recent days, as well as the continuation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south near Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Zelenskyy said in his Sunday evening speech that there was heavy fighting around the towns of Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region.

The Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up the industrial east known as Donbass and were two of four regions annexed by Russia in September in defiance of international law.

On Sunday, the Russian-backed regime in the Donetsk region said Ukraine bombed its central administrative building in a direct hit. No casualties were reported.

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Associated Press reporter Inna Varenytsia contributed to this story.

Christi C. Elwood