Overnight drone strike hits Kyiv as Putin heads for Belarus

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Multiple explosive drones struck the Ukrainian capital before dawn Monday, local authorities said, as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepared to visit his ally Belarus, which supplied Kremlin forces with a launching pad for their invasion of Ukraine nearly 10 months ago. .

The drone attack came three days after what Ukrainian authorities described as one of Russia’s biggest attacks. in Kyiv since the war began and as Moscow continues its effort to torment Ukraine from the air amid a broad battlefield stalemate.

Russia launched 23 self-exploding drones over Kyiv while the city slept, but Ukrainian forces shot down 18 of them, the Kyiv city administration said on Telegram. No major casualties were reported.

Monday was Saint Nicholas Day, an occasion that marks the beginning of the Christmas holidays in Ukraine and is when children usually receive their first gifts hidden under their pillows.

“This is how the Russians congratulated our children on the holiday,” Serhii Kruk, head of Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, wrote on Telegram, attaching photos of firefighters barely distinguishable amidst the flames of an infrastructure facility that came under attack.

“On the night when everyone expects a miracle, the terrorist country continues to terrorize the peaceful Ukrainian people,” Ukraine’s human rights chief Dmytro Lubinets said.

Debris from the downed drones damaged a highway in the central Solomianskyi district and shattered windows of a multi-story building in Kyiv’s Shevchenkyvskyi district, city officials said.

A drone hit the home of Olha and Ivan Kobzarenko, 84 and 83, on the outskirts of the capital. Ivan suffered a head injury.

His garage was completely destroyed and his dog, Malysh, was killed. Olha, speaking in her bedroom where broken glass and blood covered the floor, said the blast blew through the front door of the couple’s home.

“I know that I am not alone,” Olha said. “Everyone is suffering. All the world.”

Nina Sobol, a 59-year-old employee who works at one of the city’s power companies, was on her way to work when the strikes occurred. Like many of her colleagues, she waited outside while emergency services surveyed the damage.

“I feel really anxious,” she said. “Anxious because you never know when a missile will hit.”

Authorities said an infrastructure hotspot was also hit, without elaborating.

Although the capital appeared to be the main target of the latest Russian attack, the military said other parts of the country were also targeted.

Kyiv Region Governor Oleksii Kuleba said on Telegram that some infrastructure facilities were damaged across the Kyiv region, as well as private houses, and at least two people were injured.

Ukraine’s air force said on Telegram that its personnel were able to destroy 30 of at least 35 self-exploding drones that Russia launched across the country from the eastern side of the Azov Sea off Ukraine’s southeastern coast. Russia is across the sea.

The Ukrainian military has reported increasing success in shooting down Russian missiles and exploding drones.

Moscow has attacked Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including in Kyiv, since October as part of a strategy to try to deprive the country of heat and electricity during the bitterly cold winter. It has kept up that effort despite Western sanctions. and the supply of Western air defense systems to the Ukrainian forces.

On Friday, the Ukrainian capital was attacked as part of a massive attack by Russia. Dozens of missiles were launched across the country, causing widespread power outages.

Putin was scheduled to travel to Belarus on Monday for talks with its authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, who allowed Russian forces to use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine and has close defense ties to Moscow.

It was going to be a rare trip to Minsk by Putin, who usually receives Lukashenko in the Kremlin. Belarus is believed to have stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons that could be useful to Moscow, while Lukashenko needs help with his country’s ailing economy.

Analysts say the Kremlin could again seek some form of Belarusian military support for its operations in Ukraine. But wintry weather and Russia’s depleted resources mean any attack probably won’t come anytime soon, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

“The ability of the Russian military, even bolstered by elements of the Belarusian armed forces, to prepare and carry out effective large-scale mechanized offensive operations in the coming months remains questionable,” the think tank said in an assessment published on Sunday.

It also concluded that “Lukashenko is unlikely to commit the Belarusian army (which would also have to be re-equipped) in the invasion of Ukraine.”

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Renata Brito in Kyiv contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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