Russian ‘kamikaze’ drones attack Kyiv, Putin to Belarus ally

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger attends the American Academy Awards ceremony at Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Germany, January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

By Tom Balmforth and Valentyn Ogirenko

KYIV (Reuters) – Russia hit critical infrastructure in and around Kyiv in a “kamikaze” drone strike on Monday, hours before President Vladimir Putin arrived in Belarus to do so. raised concerns that he would pressure his allies to join a fresh offensive on Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Air Force says its air defenses have shot down 30 drones in the third Russian air strike on the Ukrainian capital in six days and the latest in a series of attacks. from October targeted the Ukrainian power grid, causing power outages amid sub-zero temperatures.

Officials said at least three people were injured and nine buildings were damaged in the Kiev area.

Ukraine’s Atomic Energy Agency accused Russia of sending one of the drones over part of the Southern Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant in the Mykolaiv region.

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

Russian invading forces currently occupy the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex, Europe’s largest, in southeastern Ukraine near the front lines.

The “kamikaze” drones used in the attacks are cheap, disposable drones that fly toward the target before slowing down and exploding on impact.

During the night, flames raged at an energy facility in the Shevchenkivskyi district that is usually the target of central Kiev, a Reuters witness said.

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

The Solomianskyi district to the west of Kiev, a heavy traffic hub and home to a train station and one of the city’s two passenger airports, was also hit.

Kiev officials say 18 of the 23 drones were shot down over the city of 3.6 million people.

“Due to the attack on the capital, critical infrastructure was damaged,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the messaging app Telegram. “Engineers are working to quickly stabilize the situation with power and heat supplies.”

Oleskiy Kuleba, governor of the area around Kiev, said infrastructure and private homes were damaged and three areas lost power.


In the northwest of Ukraine, there has been continuous Russian and Belarusian military activity for months in Belarus, a close ally of the Kremlin that Moscow’s military has used as a launch pad for its failed offensive. they entered Kyiv in February.

Putin’s trip, to hold talks with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, is his first trip to Minsk since 2019 – before the pandemic and wave of protests on the streets of Belarus in 2020 that Lukashenko crushed with support from the Kremlin.

During (these negotiations), questions will be resolved about further aggression against Ukraine and the wider participation of the Belarusian armed forces in the campaign against Ukraine, in particular. , from our point of view, also on the ground,” Ukraine’s joint force commander Serhiy Nayev said before Putin’s arrival.

Lukashenko has repeatedly said he has no intention of sending his country’s troops into Ukraine, where Moscow’s recent invasion has failed miserably with a series of battlefield retreats preceded by a massive counter-offensive. of Ukraine.

The Kremlin rejected the idea that Putin wanted to push Belarus to play a more active role in the conflict. The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying such reports were “baseless” and “stupid”.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported, citing the Defense Ministry, that Russian troops that moved to Belarus in October will conduct battalion-level tactical drills. It is not clear when they will start.

The 10-month conflict in Ukraine, the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions and turned cities into rubble. broken.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the armed forces were holding on to the town of Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest fighting in weeks as Russia tried to enter Donetsk province in eastern Ukraine.

“We control the town even though the occupiers are doing everything to keep none of the walls intact,” he said.

On Monday, Zelenskiy called on Western leaders meeting in Latvia to provide a variety of weapons systems, especially modern battle tanks, air defense systems and artillery.

Zelenskiy said in his speech by video link that the drones used in Monday’s strikes were part of a new batch of about 250 purchased by Russia from Iran. Iran has admitted to supplying Moscow with drones but said this was before the invasion.

Denis Pushilin, administrator of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region, said Ukrainian forces shelled a hospital in the city of Donetsk, killing one person and injuring several others.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that in the past 24 hours, its forces shot down four US-made HARM anti-radiation missiles over the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, state news agency TASS reported.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield accounts.

Putin sees what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine as the moment when Moscow finally stands up to the US-led Western bloc that is seeking to capitalize on the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union by How to destroy Russia.

Kyiv and the West consider his assertion meaningless and Putin has no reason to justify what they see as an imperialist war to reassert dominance over the Union republic. Russia’s former Soviet Union and put Moscow in control of about one-fifth of Ukraine.

The conflict has sent energy prices soaring after Western sanctions imposed on Russia, a huge oil and gas exporter, prompted Moscow to cut most gas shipments. to Europe to retaliate.

On Monday, the European Union’s energy ministers agreed to limit gas prices in their latest bid to lower prices.

According to Russia’s Interfax news agency, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned the decision, calling it an attack on market prices and unacceptable.


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