Russia unleashed a major two-wave overnight air attack on Kyiv that killed at least one person, officials said, as the Ukrainian capital prepares to celebrate its birthday on Sunday.
Air defence systems downed at least 20 drones moving towards Kyiv, with falling debris killing a 41-year-old man and injuring a 35-year-old woman in the city, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
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. The day is typically marked by street fairs, live concerts and special museum exhibitions – plans for which have been made this year too, but on a smaller scale.
“The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for the insecure Russians,” Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office, said on his Telegram channel.
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.
Reuters witnesses said that during the air raid alerts that started soon after midnight, many people stood on their balconies, some screaming offensives directed at Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and “Glory to air defence” slogans.
With a Ukrainian counteroffensive looming 15 months into the war, Moscow has intensified missile and drone strikes this month after a lull of nearly two months, targeting military facilities and supplies. Waves of attacks now come several times a week.
In the leafy Holosiivskyi district in the southwestern part of Kyiv, falling debris set a three-storey warehouse on fire, destroying about 1,000 square metres (10,800 square feet) of building structures, Mayor Klitschko said.
A fire broke out after falling drone debris hit a seven-storey non-residential building in the Solomyanskyi district west of the city. The district is a busy rail and air transport hub.
In the Pecherskyi district, a fire broke out on the roof of a nine-storey building due to falling drone debris, Kyiv’s military administration officials said on Telegram.