KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian air defenses intercepted 18 attempted Russian strikes on Kyiv early Tuesday including six hypersonic missiles, military and city authorities said, largely foiling one of Moscow’s fiercest attacks so far.
The Ukrainian capitalResidents of were awaked around 3 a.m. by cascading booms that shook windows, set off car alarms and delivered a new dose of terror in a city mostly spared from direct damage and destruction in recent months.
Falling missile debris injured at least three people in Kyiv and caused damage to the city’s zoo and other central neighborhoods, city officials said.
The strikes continued for over 20 minutes in the capital, were among the most intense in months. The assault “was exceptional in its density — the maximum number of missile attacks in the shortest period of time,” Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s city military administration, wrote on Telegram.
Ukrainian officials claimed a perfect interception rate, and credited Western-donated Patriot air defense systems with thwarting attacks by the most sophisticated Russian weapons. Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that Russia had expended millions of dollars in high-end missiles in a failed attempt to hit targets in the capital region.
“The enemy is attempting to achieve its goals,” Ihnat said.
“Right now it had the goal of striking certain installations in the region of the capital. These could be next to the city, or in the city — we can’t know what the enemy had in mind, because we destroyed everything.”
Ihnat said the Russians had fired from numerous locations. “They attacked with missiles from various bases: air, ground, sea,” he said. Russia also attacked the capital overnight with drones, Ihnat and other officials said.
The drone attacks, in particular, seem be part of an ongoing effort by Moscow to test Ukraine’s newly-supplied Western air defense systems, perhaps searching for vulnerabilities or aiming to deplete Kyiv’s missile stocks ahead of more intense ground fighting that is expected in coming weeks.
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Kelly Grieco, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, said that while the West had been able to address a shortage in missiles in Ukraine’s aging Russian-made air defenses by sending its own systems, Western air defense systems also had supply limitations.
“There are simply not many systems and missiles on hand to send to Ukraine and the defense industry cannot surge fast enough to meet demand,” Grieco said, noting that only two Patriot systems had been supplied to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s top military commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, wrote on Telegram on Tuesday that the drones included both Iranian-made Shahed attack drones and Orlan-10 reconnaissance drones.
“All are destroyed!” Zaluzhny wrote.
The military said that Ukraine also demolished three Iskander land-based missiles and nine Kalibr cruise missiles that were launched from ships in the Black Sea.
. Roughly an hour after air alarms had sounded for the first round of attacks, they sounded again as Ukraine reported a second round, this time involving unmanned aerial objects.
Debris from the missiles landed in the central Solomyansky district, injuring three and setting a nonresidential building and several cars on fire.
Kyiv Zoo was also struck by falling debris, though no animals were reported hurt. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote that a fragment of one rocket had hit a tree, but the branches were now being cleared and the zoo opened as usual at 10 a.m.
Since Russia resumed near-daily strikes on the capital in late April, Ukraine’s reinforced air defenses, including the Patriot systems, have spared Kyiv from damage.
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This achievement has resulted in a feeling of safety, which may be false
. On Monday evening, few people in the city’s packed bars and restaurants reacted when an air alarm sounded around 8 p.m. That alarm ended swiftly, with no reports of an attempted strike.
Earlier this month, Ukraine said it had used the Patriot system to shoot down a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal, or Dagger, missile over Kyiv — showing that it could take down one of Russia’s most feared, but also most expensive, weapons.
Oleksii Reznikov, the defense minister of the Ukraine, said in an interview recently that Russia was now focused on eliminating Ukraine’s air defense systems rather than aiming to destroy the country’s infrastructure.
That has prompted Ukrainian officials to insist that they need stronger aviation capabilities, including F-16 fighter jets and longer-range missiles.