Waves of explosive-laden suicide drones struck Ukraine’s capital and other cities as families were preparing to start their week early Monday, the blasts echoing across Kyiv, setting buildings ablaze and sending people scurrying to shelters. The assaults reportedly killed at least eight people and came after a week of massive, coordinated Russian air strikes across the country.
Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in Ukraine, but as CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams reported, one of the neighborhoods hit in Kyiv on Monday is packed with apartment buildings, schools and restaurants.
Apartment blocks and a non-residential building were set alight in the capital’s central Shevchenko district, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska tweeted photos of the damage in the capital and said three people were killed when a drone hit the apartment building, including a pregnant woman.
“Civilians, children, pregnant women — the ones RF [Russian Federation] is actually fighting with,” said Zelenska, vowing that “Ukrainians will never forget who murdered our relatives.”
Emergency services later said a total of four people were killed in the strike on the building in the capital, and four others in drone strikes on the Sumy region.
News photographers caught images of some of the drones as they flew into Kyiv, with triangle-shaped wings and a pointed warhead clearly visible against the blue sky. Drones came in several waves and buzzed overhead with angry hums from their engines.
Videos posted to social media, including one seemingly taken by the body-camera worn by a member of Ukraine’s national police force, showed security forces taking aim at the small aircraft from the ground with rifles.
Russian strikes over the past week have hit apartment buildings and other civilian infrastructure, but also targeted infrastructure, including power facilities. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said the strikes on Monday hit critical energy infrastructure in three regions, knocking out electricity to hundreds of towns and villages.
“Russian terrorists once again attacked the energy infrastructure of Ukraine in three regions,” Shmygal said, noting five strikes in Kyiv, in addition to attacks in the Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions. “Hundreds of settlements were cut off as a result of the attack,” he said.
Explosions were heard from the same central Kyiv district where a missile strike a week ago tore a hole in a children’s playground.
Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, wrote in a post on the Telegram social media site that Russian forces struck Kyiv with Iranian Shahed drones.
Russia has repeatedly been using the so-called suicide drones in recent weeks to target urban centers and infrastructure, including power stations.
“The Russians think it will help them, but it shows their desperation,” he said, according to AFP.
“All night and all morning, the enemy terrorizes the civilian population,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday. “Kamikaze drones and missiles are attacking all of Ukraine. The enemy can attack our cities but it won’t be able to break us.”
Strikes in central Kyiv became a rarity in the last several months after Russian forces failed to capture the capital in the beginning of the war. Last week’s early morning strikes were the first explosions heard in Kyiv’s city center in several months and put Kyiv as well as the rest of the country back on edge as the war nears the nine month mark.
Monday’s blasts seemed to continue what many fear could become more common occurrences in urban centers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week’s strikes were in retaliation for the bombing of a bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula with the Russian mainland. Putin blames Ukraine for masterminding the blast, which suspended traffic over the bridge and curtailed Moscow’s ability to use the bridge to supply Russian troops in the occupied regions of southern Ukraine.
The strike on Kyiv comes as fighting has intensified in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in recent days, as well as the continued Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south near Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
Zelenskyy said in his evening address Sunday that there was heavy fighting around the cities of Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up the bulk of the industrial east known as the Donbas, and were two of four regions annexed by Russia in September in defiance of international law.
On Sunday, the Russian-backed regime in the Donetsk region said Ukraine had shelled its central administrative building in a direct hit. No casualties were reported.