- Matt Murphy
- BBC News
Ukrainian officials confirmed that they shot down more than a dozen drones during a Russian attack on the capital Kyiv early Wednesday morning.
BBC reporters heard loud explosions shortly after an air strike warning siren sounded.
The explosions rocked the Shevchenkivsky district in the city center, with the air defenses shooting down what was said to be Iranian-made “Shahid” drones.
Russia has repeatedly targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since October with missiles and drones.
Kyiv Governor Oleksiy Kuleba accused Russia of “continuing energy terrorism against our country” with the recent wave of drone attacks.
But the director of the national power grid, Okrinergo, said Wednesday’s strikes did not destroy any power facilities and praised the “fantastic work of the Air Defense Forces” in a post on the network’s Telegram account.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces shot down 13 Shahed drones, which he said made up all of those launched by Russia on Wednesday.
Kuleba said debris from a drone hit an administrative office in the city center and four residential buildings. But a spokesman for the city’s emergency services told Ukrainian media that no casualties were reported in the attack.
A witness, Svetlana, told the BBC that the first strike took place at 6:30 am local time (4:30 GMT).
“The noise was like a bicycle, that’s the sound it made. It fell behind the houses and then we heard a big explosion,” she said.
“Winter is coming, how can people survive? My God, what do they want from us? They don’t let Ukrainians live.”
Another Kyiv resident, Anton, told the BBC that the shattered glass falling from the explosions almost hit his sleeping children.
“May this Putin die,” he said. “I didn’t do anything to him, but he did this to me.”
Ukraine had accused Iran of providing Russia with “kamikaze” marches used in the bloody attacks that took place on October 17, which Iran initially denied.
Iran later admitted that it had sent Moscow a limited number of drones “many months” before the outbreak of the war.
In response, Ukrainian President Zelensky said that this was a lie and that many Iranian drones had been used.
Russia has deliberately targeted the Ukrainian energy network in recent months in an effort to demoralize the Ukrainian population.
World leaders have said attacks on civilian infrastructure amount to war crimes, but Russian President Vladimir Putin last week defended the attacks, saying they were in retaliation for the Oct. 8 bombing of a Russian bridge linking Russia-annexed Crimea. in 2014.
The attacks come amid reports that the United States is preparing to arm Ukraine with the modern Patriot air defense system. Senior military officials told Reuters news agency that the announcement could take place on Thursday.
The Patriot missile system is among the most advanced missile systems in the world, and there are usually few available. And given its long-range capabilities, it can shoot down Russian missiles and drones before they reach the range of Ukrainian cities.
However, the Patriot systems, unlike the Ukrainian air defense systems currently available, require large crews to operate, and training Kyiv forces to use them effectively may take several months.
Russia is expected to view any attempt to arm Ukraine with Patriot missiles as an escalation of the war. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev – who is now deputy head of the National Security Council – warned of the move last month.
Meanwhile, Ukraine says it has secured the release of 64 soldiers captured by Russia during fighting in the country’s eastern Donbass region earlier this year.
Andrei Yermak, director of President Zelensky’s office, said officials had secured the release of US citizen Sudi Muriquisi.
Murikizi was arrested by Russian forces during their occupation of the southern city of Kherson in July, where he had been living for more than two years.
He was released from Russian custody last October, but was prevented from leaving Donetsk by Russian officials for not having identity papers.