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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Russia fires drones and missiles at Kyiv after Kremlin explosion

Ukrainian soldiers from an artillery unit with the 35th Brigade use branches to camouflage weapons after firing on Russian positions near Avdiivka, in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine on May 4, 2023.

By Andrew E. Kramer, Marc Santora and Michael Schwirtz

One day after Russia accused Ukraine of targeting the Kremlin in a drone attack, Ukrainian air defense systems Thursday targeted drones flying over Kyiv, including one that was seen over the government center in the heart of the capital.

As night fell, loud explosions echoed over Kyiv for the fourth night in less than a week, and the second time since the two blasts above the Kremlin, which sparked dueling accusations between the two countries.

Ukraine denied any involvement in the incident at the Kremlin but took Moscow’s threats of escalation seriously.

“Of course, the efforts to cover the skies over Kyiv will only increase,” Fedir Venislavsky, a member of the parliamentary committee on national security, said on Radio Liberty.

At least two drones were spotted over Kyiv, and video shared online showed one being shot down, prompting cheers from watchers below in Kyiv’s central square, referred to locally as the Maidan. The flight of a drone over central Kyiv’s government quarter — near the home of parliament and the presidential office — and its destruction was freighted with both symbolic and strategic significance.

The Maidan, also known as Independence Square, is where Ukrainians took to the streets in protests nearly a decade ago, ultimately leading to a revolution that forced the Kremlin-backed president from office. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has used memories of that moment many times to rally a nation now at war.

At another site in the center of Kyiv, debris landed in a park within a few hundred yards of the parliament building. Police were seen standing around a gray-painted piece of a wing.

Police and firefighters cordoned an office building nearby where ground-floor windows were shattered.

The area smelled of smoke. Oleksandr Kekhter, who works in clothes wholesale, and his wife, Daria Kekhter, were walking to seek shelter in a parking garage during the air raid alert when they saw a drone, what they described as looking like a small propeller airplane, in the sky.

“This is the third night in a row a drone flew over our house,” Oleksandr Kekhter said. “It’s happening every night. We hide in the parking garage.”

Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Zelenskyy, confirmed in a statement that a drone had been shot down.

While Kyiv has come under frequent and often unrelenting bombardment since Russia began its full-scale invasion more than a year ago, rarely has Russia launched drones at the capital night after night. The air raid alarm Thursday evening was not nationwide, as is often the case, but focused only on Kyiv.

Explosions also shook Kyiv early Thursday, and a regional official said air defenses shot down Russian drones and ballistic missiles. The Ukrainian military’s southern command in Odesa said drones were also shot down there in the early morning and provided images that suggested that some bore handwritten messages including “For Moscow” and “For the Kremlin.”

There were no reports of casualties in either the predawn or early-evening drone attacks Thursday. But in the southern region of Kherson, officials raised the death toll from Russian shelling Wednesday to 23 people, making it one of the deadliest barrages in Ukraine this year.

The United States and Ukraine said they feared that Russia would seek to intensify attacks after the explosions over the Kremlin on Wednesday, which were apparently caused by drones.

Russia blamed Ukraine for the episode, calling it an assassination attempt on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine, which typically maintains deliberate ambiguity over responsibility for attacks inside Russia, categorically denied involvement and accused Moscow of manufacturing the incident as a pretext for further aggression and to stir up public support.

It remained unclear who was responsible for the explosions, which occurred 15 minutes apart. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv issued a warning late Wednesday that there was a heightened risk of Russian missile attacks, including in the Ukrainian capital and surrounding area, citing “the recent uptick in strikes across Ukraine and inflammatory rhetoric from Moscow.”

Early Thursday in Kyiv, three booms rattled windows about 2:30 a.m. local time and police cordoned off what appeared to be debris from a missile or drone shot out of the sky over a central neighborhood. Some nearby windows were shattered, and the smell of smoke hung in the air.

Russia attacked Odesa with at least 15 drones, Ukraine’s southern military command said. The Ukrainians shot down 12, but three got through the air defense network and crashed into dorms for an educational institution. There were no reports of casualties, the Ukrainian military said.

Asked why Russia was attacking Kyiv with drones night after night, Kekhter said it was a sign of desperation.

“They show their people that not everything is lost, when really they lost, so people will support them and not protest,” he said.

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