Russia launched about 15 cruise missiles at Ukraine’s capital on Tuesday, the second attack in as many days. Air defense systems shot all of them down, officials said.
The strikes came as Ukraine prepared to launch a long-delayed ground offensive to drive out Russian troops from territory seized in the east and south after Russia’s 2022 invasion. “As at the front, the plans of the aggressor failed,” Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv city military administration, said in comments posted on the Telegram messaging app. “Every downed Russian missile is concrete proof that terror can be defeated,” he added.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said the latest attacks targeted a base in the Saratov region on the Volga River, called Engels, and another in the nearby city of Dyagilevo—both house Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers and tanker aircraft to refuel those planes in flight. The ministry said the drones had X-101/X-555, Kalibr, cruise missiles, and Iran-made Shahed-136/131 guided missiles. It said six of the 84 missiles aimed at Ukrainian infrastructure were hypersonic Kinzhal, capable of bypassing radar and other countermeasures.
A separate ministry statement said the drones also threw grenades and launched two rockets at Engels, with one of the grenades hitting a vehicle in a parking lot, damaging it. The ministry reported no damage or casualties at the other air base. Electricity provider Ukrenergo said its facilities were hit in the capital, resulting in some blackouts. Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized the attack but stopped short of blaming the Russian government for the incident. “Russians are aware that if something is launched into other countries’ airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to their departure point,” his adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.
Drones are one of the few areas where Ukrainians have a distinct advantage over Russia, with its powerful anti-aircraft capabilities and more sophisticated missiles. Ukraine has been using the weapons to target Russian infrastructure in preparation for a full-scale ground assault that Kyiv says will be coordinated with US-led NATO forces.
On Thursday, a day after Russia launched its most enormous drone swarm, Ukraine’s defense minister warned that Moscow would face a major military setback. He added that the Kremlin attempted to derail Ukraine’s planned ground operation by likening it to Germany’s battle against Nazi-inspired nationalists in 1941.
Russia is marking Victory Day this weekend, a holiday it claims to commemorate its Soviet victory in World War II against fascism. Amid the festivities, Putin is expected to review a parade in Red Square that traditionally includes tanks and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Ukraine rarely publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled targets in the country’s west. However, it has been made clear that destroying such sites will help it prepare for its planned assault. On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Odesa city military administration reported that air defense systems had been activated in several regions, including around Odesa and in the southern Kherson region. The official spoke anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.