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What to know about hypersonic missiles Russia used in barrage of strikes on Ukraine

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Russia unleashed one of the biggest barrages of missiles at critical and civilian targets across Ukraine in what it described as a “retaliation strike” for the attack on its border region last week.

Russian defense ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the missile attack was in response to last week’s incursion into the border district of Bryansk by a group President Vladimir Putin called “Ukrainian saboteurs” who carried out a “terrorist attack” against Russia.


Moscow said two people were killed and a child was injured. Kyiv accused Russia of staging a false “provocation” as part of its war propaganda to justify its invasion.

Thursday’s Russian missile attack killed at least six people and cut power from hundreds, leaving them without electricity or heating. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said it was a “difficult night”.

Ukraine’s commander-in-chief of the armed forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi said that Russia launched 81 missiles and eight explosive-laden Iranian-made Shahed drones overall on Thursday. He added that 34 missiles and four drones were intercepted.

Konashenkov confirmed that the Russian armed forces used the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in its latest attack on Ukraine.

Here’s what you need to know:

Hypersonic missiles, much like all traditional ballistic missiles, can travel at least five times the speed of sound. However, they are highly maneuverable and only require a low trajectory in the atmosphere, as they adjust course and flying altitude to go undetected by radar detection systems. This makes them hard to intercept by a country’s missile defenses.

Russia’s firing the Kinzhal missiles at Ukraine is the first time hypersonic weapons had ever been used in combat in history.

Russian forces have fired those missiles several times since the invasion of Ukraine in February 24 of last year. At the time, US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley downplayed its significance and said it didn’t have “game-changing effects” in the war.


Moscow said the Kinzhal is a Russian-made “state-of-the-art airborne system with hypersonic aero-ballistic missiles”. Russian MiG-31K and MiG-31I fighter jets carried the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles that featured “radar stealth and high maneuverability and are designed to engage ground and naval targets,” state news agency TASS reported.

The report added that the Kinzhal can accelerate to ten times the speed of sound and strike targets at a range of over 2,000 km.

The missile itself is “capable of maneuvering along the entire flight path and breaching any air and anti-ballistic missile defenses; and it can be outfitted with both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing 500 kg,” TASS added.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu confirmed last August their use in Ukraine multiple times and claimed “it [Kinzhal missile] is impossible neither to detect it nor to intercept”.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report last year: “The MiG-31K can strike from unpredictable directions and could avoid interception attempts altogether. The flying carrier vehicle might also be more survivable than the road-mobile Iskander system [Russian nuclear-capable mobile battlefield ballistic missile launchers].”

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Strikes on Ukraine ‘retaliation’ for border attack: Russia

Strikes target Ukraine’s Khakriv, Odesa regions: Officials

Russia strikes many Ukrainian regions, power cut

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