Russia launched waves of air strikes on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Sunday, in what officials said was the largest drone attack in the city. However, crowds poured into the streets later to celebrate the anniversary of Kyiv’s founding.
According to the Ukrainian military, it downed 58 of the 59 launched drones. Authorities described it as a record assault by Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said all 36 drones targeting Kyiv had been destroyed.
The pre-dawn attacks came on the last Sunday of May when the capital celebrates Kyiv Day, the anniversary of its official founding 1,541 years ago, news agency Reuters reported.
“This is how Russia celebrates the day of our ancient Kyiv,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
In what also appears to be the first deadly attack on Kyiv in May and the 14th assault this month, falling debris killed a 41-year-old man, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said, while several other people were injured.
Ukraine’s Air Force said that Russia had targeted military and critical infrastructure facilities in central Ukraine on Sunday, and the Kyiv region in particular – as has been increasingly the case with a Ukrainian counteroffensive looming.
Zelenskyy said one drone hit an unidentified infrastructure target in the Zhytomyr region, west of the capital.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuri Ihnat told Ukrainian television that a combination of fighter aircraft and mobile air defence systems were used to down the drones.
He did not say what systems were deployed. He has said previously that Ukraine uses the NASAMS air defence systems to destroy the Shahed drones.
KYIV DAY CROWDS
Despite being exhausted from a late-night stay in shelters, residents descended into the streets during the day to attend live concerts, sample food stalls and enjoy craft shows in festivities that were scaled down from previous years.
“Strength is in people, it is in cities, it is in life, and when life, people, and the most important cities for culture are despised, Russia will only face defeat,” Zelenskyy said.
Moscow did not comment on the attacks. Separately, Russian media cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as reiterating that Moscow’s goals in Ukraine will be achieved.
Several districts of Kyiv, by far the largest Ukrainian city with a population of around 3 million, suffered in the overnight attacks, officials said, including the historical Pecherskyi neighbourhood.