Russia pounds Ukraine with missile and drone barrage

Kyiv was hit by another barrage of missile attacks hours after Russia conducted a second day of overnight strikes on the capital and other targets including an air base in western Ukraine.

“Only six hours after the night attack, the aggressor country again launched a missile attack on Kyiv,” Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said on Monday.

Popko said the strikes were intended to “exhaust the resources of our air defence” as Kyiv prepared to launch a counter-offensive to retake occupied eastern and southern regions, which account for 18 per cent of Ukraine’s territory. The attacks came as a Russian official said artillery strikes had hit several targets in a region bordering north-east Ukraine.

“The attack on Kyiv continues. Don’t leave the shelters!” Kyiv’s mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on social media. Rescue workers and fire department services were at multiple scenes where rocket fragments had landed, including a road in Kyiv’s northern Obolon district, he added. Surface-to-air defence missiles were spotted intercepting incoming aerial projectiles over downtown Kyiv.

The extent of damage and number of casualties from the latest barrages were not immediately clear. But Ukraine’s air force, increasingly equipped with Nato-grade air defence systems provided by western backers, said that it had downed 37 of 40 Russian missiles fired overnight across the country and 29 of 35 Iran-supplied “kamikaze” drones.

“We are waiting for another reinforcement from our partners of new air defence systems,” said Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of Ukraine’s air force.

General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, said Russia fired 11 missiles on Monday afternoon but “all targets were destroyed by Ukraine’s air defence forces”. Earlier, officials in Khmelnytsky region west of Kyiv said one strike hit an air base, damaging five aircraft and a runway.

The attacks come a day after Ukraine’s air force said it had intercepted 58 of 59 drones fired in the early hours of Sunday, including 40 targeting the capital as Kyiv’s citizens prepared to celebrate the city’s founding.

Russia’s defence ministry has in recent days said its forces had struck multiple military targets, but did not mention the strikes on Kyiv and other regions far from the front lines. Such attacks have been a feature of Russia’s air campaign since the autumn.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has carried out a number of cross-border attacks in recent weeks targeting Russian infrastructure and raising tensions about spillover effects from the full-scale invasion launched by President Vladimir Putin 15 months ago.

Viacheslav Gladkov, governor of Belgorod, on Monday said Ukrainian artillery strikes knocked out the power supply, damaged two industrial sites and wounded four people.

The Belgorod region, about 50km from Ukraine’s second-biggest city Kharkiv, has become a focal point for worries about Kyiv’s capacity to strike inside Russian territory. Ukraine does not admit to conducting such strikes but has celebrated them.

Gladkov, who voiced rare criticism of Russia’s defence ministry last week after two Ukraine-backed groups of far-right Russian partisans raided the region, said the border had been insecure for some time.

“We are living in a de facto state of war . . . It’s happening. The enemy is intruding,” Gladkov said, claiming that at least five Ukraine-backed militias had conducted similar raids before last week.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russian mercenary group Wagner, on Monday published a letter to defence minister Sergei Shoigu, with suggestions on how to strengthen Russia’s borders.

The warlord, who has sought to portray Wagner as a more effective fighting force than the military, said the army would not manage to defend the border without total mobilisation of Russia’s reserves and added that it had sustained unspecified casualties during its “extremely weak” response to the Belgorod raid. Russia’s defence ministry has not admitted sustaining losses from the May 20 raid.

Gladkov said the best way to stop the shelling was for Russia to annex Kharkiv — an unlikely prospect after Ukraine routed Russia’s army from the region in September.

Kharkiv’s governor said on Monday that Russian forces had struck a village in the region called Kivsharivka with Iskander missiles, injuring five people.

Additional reporting by Christopher Miller in Kyiv

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