KYIV, Ukraine — Several drone bombs targeted the Ukrainian capital before dawn on Monday, local authorities reported, as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepared to visit his Belarusian ally, who provided Kremlin forces with a launching pad for the invasion of Ukraine nearly 10 months ago.
The drone attack came three days after what Ukrainian officials have described as one of Russia’s biggest assaults on Kyiv since the start of the war, as Moscow continues its efforts to bully Ukraine from the airs as part of a broad battlefield stalemate.
Russia launched 23 self-explosive drones over Kyiv as the city slept, but Ukrainian forces shot down 18, the Kyiv city administration said on Telegram. No major casualties were reported in the attack, although the Ukrainian president’s office said the war killed at least three civilians and injured 11 elsewhere in the country between Sunday and Monday.
The barrage of drones caused emergency power cuts in 11 regions in the center and east of the country, including the capital region, authorities said.
Monday was Saint Nicholas Day, an occasion that marks the start of the Christmas holidays in Ukraine and where children usually receive their first gifts hidden under pillows.
“This is how the Russians congratulated our children on the holiday,” Serhii Kruk, the head of Ukraine’s state emergency services, wrote on Telegram, attaching photos of barely visible firefighters amid the flames. of an infrastructure that has been affected.
“On the night when everyone is waiting for a miracle, the terrorist country continues to terrorize the peaceful Ukrainian people,” denounced Ukrainian human rights chief Dmytro Lubinets.
Debris from downed drones damaged a road in the central Solomianskyi district and shattered the windows of a multi-storey building in Kyiv’s Shevchenkyvskyi district, city officials detailed.
Although the capital appears to be the main target of the latest Russian attack, the armed forces have indicated that other places in the country are also targeted.
Governor of Kyiv region Oleksii Kuleba revealed on Telegram that some infrastructure was damaged in Kyiv region, as well as private houses, and at least two people were injured.
The Ukrainian Air Force said on Telegram that its personnel were able to shoot down 30 of at least 35 self-explosive drones that Russia launched across the country from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov on the southern coast. -eastern Ukraine. Russia is across the sea.
The Ukrainian military has reported increasing success in destroying incoming Russian explosive missiles and drones.
Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including in Kyiv, since October as part of a strategy to leave the country without heat and light during the freezing winter. It maintained this offensive despite Western sanctions and the supply of Western air defense systems to Ukrainian forces.
On Friday, the Ukrainian capital came under attack in a massive Russian strike. Dozens of missiles were launched across the country, causing widespread power outages. Four people, including a toddler, were killed when a Russian missile ripped through an apartment building in the town of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman reported that Russian air defenses shot down four American-made HARM missiles over Russia’s Belgorod region, located along Ukraine’s northeastern border near Kharkov. Lieutenant-General’s remarks. Igor Konashenkov could not be independently verified.
The United States has supplied Ukraine with HARM missiles, which are launched by fighter jets and intended to hit enemy radars.
Some 14,000 people in Belgorod were left without power on Monday as a result of Ukrainian shelling, the region’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on Telegram.
Mr Putin was due to travel to Belarus on Monday for talks with its authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, who has allowed Russian forces to use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine and has close defense ties with Moscow.
It was to be a rare trip to Minsk by Mr. Putin, who usually receives Mr. Lukashenko at the Kremlin. Belarus is believed to have stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons that could be useful to Moscow, while Mr Lukashenko needs help with his country’s struggling economy.
Analysts say the Kremlin may again seek some sort of Belarusian military support for its operations in Ukraine. But Russia’s winter weather and depleted resources mean no attack is likely to happen anytime soon, according to the Institute for the Study of Warfare, a think tank in Washington.
“The ability of the Russian army, even reinforced by elements of the Belarusian armed forces, to prepare and carry out effective large-scale mechanized offensive operations in the coming months remains questionable,” the think tank said in an assessment published on Sunday. .
He also concluded that “Lukashenko is unlikely to commit the Belarusian army (which should also be re-equipped) to the invasion of Ukraine”.
Meanwhile, warships from Russia’s Pacific Fleet left on Monday to participate in joint naval exercises with China. The exercise follows a series of joint exercises that have highlighted growing military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing as they both face tensions with the United States.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the United States was walking on dangerous ground by getting involved in the war in Ukraine.
“This dangerous and short-sighted policy has brought the United States and Russia to the brink of direct confrontation,” Zakharova said in a statement Monday. Moscow calls on Joe Biden’s administration to soberly assess the situation and refrain from dangerous escalation.”