Russia attacked the center of Kyiv during morning rush hour with drones on Monday and shelled other cities around the country, the second time in a week it has unleashed strikes across Ukraine while its forces face setbacks on the battlefield.
Soldiers fired into the air trying to shoot down the drones after blasts rocked central Kyiv. Residents fled for shelter. An anti-aircraft rocket could be seen streaking into the morning sky, followed by an explosion and orange flames.
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At least six people were killed by the attacks on the capital, Ukraine officials said.
“As of now, the number of people killed as a result of a kamikaze drone attack on a residential building has increased to three. Nineteen people have been rescued. [Rescue] work is ongoing,” the deputy head of the presidency, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on social media.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said two of the people killed in the capital were a young married couple.
“A husband and wife who were expecting a child. The woman was six months pregnant,” he said on social media.
Black smoke poured out of the windows of a blasted building and emergency service workers toiled to douse flames.
Ukraine said the attacks were carried out by Iran-made ‘suicide drones,’ which fly to their target and detonate.
Russia’s defense ministry said it had carried out a “massive” attack on military targets and energy infrastructure across Ukraine using high-precision weapons.
Reuters saw pieces of a drone used in the attack that bore the words: “For Belgorod” - an apparent reference to Ukrainian shelling of a Russian region bordering Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi later said there had been deaths in other cities too in Monday’s attacks.
The strikes came exactly one week after Russia unleashed its heaviest aerial bombardment of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities since the start of the war - also during morning rush hour.
“All night and all morning the enemy terrorizes the civilian population. Kamikaze drones and missiles are attacking all of Ukraine. A residential building was hit in Kyiv,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on the Telegram messaging app.
“The enemy can attack our cities, but it won’t be able to break us. The occupiers will get only fair punishment and condemnation of future generations. And we will get victory.”
Ukraine’s military said it had destroyed 37 Russian drones since Sunday evening, or around 85 percent of those involved in attacks.
In the eastern region of Sumy the regional governor meanwhile said three people had been killed and several more were injured.
“At 5:20 (0220 GMT) in the morning, three Russian rockets hit a facility of civil infrastructure. At least three people died. Nine are injured. There are still people under the rubble,” Sumy regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said on social media.
Prime Minister Denys Shmygal earlier said Russian strikes had hit energy facilities in Sumy and the central Dnipropetrovsk region, where, according to the presidency, attacks had left some people killed and injured.
‘Desperate and reprehensible’
A drone attack also hit the Everi marine terminal in the southern city of Mykolaiv late on Sunday, officials said, damaging sunflower storage tanks and setting aflame leaking oil.
“This is an entirely civilian facility. There is no military,” said Andriy, 47, a senior manager who declined to give his last name. He said the attacks were part of a Russian effort to “destroy the economy and to destroy food security.”
The new United Nations human rights chief, Volker Turk of Austria, said drone attacks on civilians had to stop.
The US embassy in Kyiv also condemned the “desperate and reprehensible” drone attacks. Russia denies targeting civilians.
Iran repeated on Monday its denial that it is supplying the drones to Russia. The Kremlin has not commented.
Some European Union foreign ministers, gathering for talks in Luxembourg on Monday, called for new sanctions against Iran if Tehran’s involvement in Russia’s war on Ukraine is proven.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia should be expelled from the Group of 20 major economies and other international groups following the drone attacks.
“Those who give orders to attack critical infrastructure to freeze civilians and organize total mobilization to cover the frontline with corpses, cannot sit at the same table with leaders of G20 for sure,” he wrote on Twitter.
Russia has accused Ukraine of hitting targets in Belgorod region near the border. Pro-Russian news sources on Telegram reported that Ukraine had struck Belgorod’s airport overnight. There was no immediate comment from Kyiv, which typically does not comment on incidents in Russia.
Elsewhere on Monday, renewed Russian shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, caused it to be disconnected again from Ukraine's power grid, Ukrainian state energy firm Energoatom said.
The plant, which has often been shelled during the war, is occupied by Russian forces but operated by Ukrainian staff.
In southern central Ukraine, a large fire broke out at an energy facility in the Dnipropetrovsk region after an overnight missile hit, a local official said.
British military intelligence said on Monday Russia was facing more acute logistical problems in southern Ukraine after a blast on Oct. 8 caused damage to a road-and-rail bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.
Intense fighting is taking place around the eastern city of Bakhmut and the nearby town of Soledar, Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on Sunday.
Bakhmut has been a key target of Russia’s armed forces in their slow move through the Donetsk region since taking the key industrial towns of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in June and July. Soledar is located just north of Bakhmut.
Ukrainian forces, helped by Western arms, have clawed back territory in the southern Kherson region - strategically vital as it links Crimea to the rest of Ukraine - and in parts of the northeast in a major counter-offensive over the past two months.
Ukraine’s battlefield successes prompted President Vladimir Putin earlier this month to announce a partial mobilization, Russia’s first since World War Two, a deeply unpopular move that encouraged many men to flee the country.
On Monday, the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, said the Russian capital had “completed” its call-ups and further summons would no longer be issued.
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