JEDDAH: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday praised his country’s air defense forces, after the capital Kyiv saw the largest drone attack since the beginning of the Russian military offensive.
The latest drone attack came as Russia has intensified aerial strikes on the capital this month, and warned the West against escalating the conflict after the US agreed to greenlight F-16 deliveries.
Ukraine’s Air Force said it downed 52 out of the 54 Russia-launched drones, calling it a record attack with the Iranian-made ‘kamikaze’ drones.
Ukraine said the latest attack in Kyiv was “the most important of the invasion.”
“Every time you shoot down enemy drones and missiles, lives are saved ... you are heroes!” Zelensky told his air defense forces, also thanking rescuers.
This was the 14th drone attack on the Ukrainian capital by Russia this month.
“People are in shock. There’s a lot of damage, the windows were broken, the roof was damaged,” said Sergei Movchan, a 50-year-old resident whose house was damaged by debris.
Kyiv had been relatively spared since the beginning of the year, but in May its residents have had to live with almost nightly air raid sirens and thundering explosions.
In Kyiv the air raid alert lasted more than five hours as the attack was carried out in several waves.
Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, described the assault as “massive” with drones “arriving from several directions at once.”
Authorities reported two killed and three others wounded as debris of the downed drones fell in several districts.
Sunday was to be celebrated as Kyiv’s city day, usually marked by street concerts and celebrations.
“Today the enemy decided to ‘congratulate’ the population on Kyiv Day with the help of their killer drones,” the authorities said.
Congratulating residents on Kyiv Day, presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said the capital had “stood up” to Russia.
“Kyiv, a city of free and brave people, has become a symbol of Ukraine’s unbreakable spirit and the Kremlin’s failed imperial ambitions,” Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said.
Ukraine’s air force said that “a record” of 54 drones were launched from the regions of Briansk and Krasnodar in Russia, adding that 52 were destroyed.
It said Russia used Shahed drones from Iran.
The president put forward a bill that would see Ukraine impose sanctions onIran for 50 years, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on Sunday.