(CN) — Kyiv and other Ukrainian targets faced a major kamikaze drone assault Monday as Moscow ups its efforts to turn the tide of the war back into its favor.
Several attack drones — allegedly Iranian-made Shahed-136 — were seen flying over Kyiv, and at least seven people killed. The drones blew a hole in at least one apartment building, and a central office of Ukrenergo, Ukraine's national power company, sustained damage. There were also reports of a strike near a train station as explosions rocked the capital's central Shevchenkivskyi district.
“Every night and every morning, the enemy terrorizes the civilian population,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on social media. “The enemy can attack our cities, but it won't be able to break us. The occupiers will get only fair punishment and condemnation of future generations. And we will get victory.”
Videos and photographs showed Ukrainian police and soldiers shooting at drones with rifles from streets in Kyiv. Air defense systems were also active. Ukrainian officials said they shot down several drones.
Tehran denies sending drones to Russia, but there is growing evidence Moscow is deploying the Shahed-136 unmanned aircraft against Ukraine. The Washington Post reported Monday meanwhile that Tehran is preparing to send surface-to-surface long-range ballistic missiles to Russia. Russia's military is quickly depleting its stockpiles of high-precision missiles, and it is urgently seeking to replenish its arsenal.
Monday's drone and missile strikes hit Ukraine's power grid, causing reports of new power outages in the regions of Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy. Russia also struck targets in Mykolaiv, a southern city on the Black Sea, and Kharkiv, the country's second-largest city that sits near its northeastern border with Russia. An ammunition depot in Mykolaiv reportedly was blown up.
Monday's series of attacks came one week after Russia launched a massive bombardment of Ukrainian cities and knocked out power in many parts of the besieged country. At least 19 people were killed in that assault.
This latest wave of bombs and drones was of a smaller scale but shows that Russian President Vladimir Putin's war efforts are ramping up. Following Ukrainian offensives that put Russian troops in retreat from the Kharkiv region in early September, Moscow mobilized some 300,000 fresh troops.
The new aerial assault may have been in retaliation for alleged Ukrainian shelling of a main administrative building in Donetsk, a Russian-held pro-Russian rebel city in eastern Ukraine, and of an airport in Belgorod, a Russian city situated about 20 miles from the border with Ukraine. There were reports that shelling killed at least one person and wounded several others.
Russia also may have been hitting back at Kyiv after two men reportedly opened fire at a Russian military training center in Belgorod, killing 11 soldiers and wounding 15 others, as reported by Tass, a Russian state news agency. Russia called it a “terrorist act” but has not said yet who it believes was behind the attack.
On the battlefields in Ukraine, Russia's military and its supporters appear to be growing more confident as Moscow pounds Ukraine's electricity grid and military.
There were reports over the weekend of Ukrainian forces suffering heavy losses after having unsuccessfully attempted to attack in Kherson, a southern region on the Black Sea where fighting has been intense in recent weeks. Russia has begun evacuating civilians from the regional capital of Kherson, an important port city Kyiv is eager to recapture.
Russia's defense ministry claimed Sunday that more than 250 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the Kherson assault and that 11 tanks and 14 armored vehicles were destroyed. Ukrainian attacks were beaten back, according to Russia, in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, too. Both regions have been at the heart of an armed conflict that erupted over control of the area, known as the Donbas, in 2014.
There are signs that Russia is fortifying its front-line defenses and even going back on the offensive with reports of small advances by Moscow's forces in the Donetsk region.
In a worrisome development for Ukraine, thousands of Russian and Belarusian troops are joining forces along Belarus' border with Ukraine. There is the possibility that Moscow may once again seek to strike at Kyiv and other parts of north-central Ukraine or perhaps threaten an incursion from the north in order to draw Ukrainian forces away from the main front lines.
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.
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