Russian ‘kamikaze’ drones hit Kyiv as Putin arrives in ally Belarus

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Moscow launched a “kamikaze” drone attack on Monday, hitting key infrastructure in and around Kyiv, hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Belarus, fuelling fears he will pressure his ally to join a new offensive on Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Air Force said its air defences shot down 30 drones — the third Russian air attack on the Ukrainian capital in six days and the latest in a series of assaults since October, which have targeted the Ukrainian power grid and caused sweeping blackouts amid sub-freezing temperatures.

Officials said at least three people were wounded and nine buildings were damaged in the Kyiv region.

The Ukrainian atomic energy agency accused Russia of sending one of the drones over part of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, in the Mykolaiv region.

“This is an absolutely unacceptable violation of nuclear and radiation safety,” Energoatom wrote on Telegram.

Invading Russian forces currently occupy the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, near the front line in southeastern Ukraine.

“Kamikaze” drones used in the attacks are cheaply produced, disposable unmanned aircraft that fly towards their target before plummeting at velocity and detonating on impact.

Under the darkness of night, a fire raged at an energy facility in the often targeted central Shevchenkivskyi district, a Reuters witness said.

“I heard an explosion. And in three or four minutes I heard another explosion,” said an old man who works as a guard at a nearby hospital.

The Solomianskyi district in the western part of Kyiv, a busy transport hub, home to a train station and one of the city’s two passenger airports, was also hit.

Kyiv officials said 18 out of 23 drones were shot down over the city of 3.6 million. “As a result of the attack on the capital, critical infrastructure facilities were damaged,” Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app.

“Engineers are working to quickly stabilise the situation with energy and heat supply.”

Oleskiy Kuleba, governor of the region surrounding Kyiv, said infrastructure and private homes were damaged and that two people were wounded. He said the attack caused “fairly serious” damage and three areas had been left without power.

There has been constant Russian and Belarusian military activity for months in Belarus, a close Kremlin ally that Moscow’s troops used as a launch pad for their abortive attack on Kyiv in February.— REUTERS