A renewed Russian attack with kamikaze drones against the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Wednesday, Dec. 14, failed to hit the intended targets. Local authorities reported every one of the aircraft shot down. Four homes and one administrative building were damaged by falling debris but no one was hurt, city officials said.
A reported 13 Iran-manufactured Shahed-136 drones entered Ukraine-controlled air space from the south in the early morning hours. Launches were from Russian Federation (RF) territory on the eastern shore of the Sea of Azov, according to a Ukraine joint defense forces statement.
The flying robot munitions triggered air raid alerts throughout Ukraine’s central regions. The first explosions were reported at 6:26 a.m. Dubbed “the flying moped” by Ukrainians for its distinctive putt-putt propeller engine sound, the Shahed is a slow aircraft, but Ukrainian air defense units have found it difficult at times to intercept due to its small size.
The Ukrainian capital’s air space is among of the world’s most heavily defended, with multiple modern NATO missile batteries and auto-cannon systems positioned around the city, alongside local defense units operating observation posts and sometimes manning machine guns mounted on pickup trucks. Ukrainian fighter jets scrambled as well to intercept the incoming strike, and jamming systems brought down some of the Shaheds, according to a Kyiv city administration statement.
Kyiv Post reporters at multiple locations in the city heard explosions as air defenses engaged drones in mostly clear dawn skies, and in one case observed a puff of smoke over a central district, possibly from a successful intercept. Images of missile contrails reaching up on both sides of the Dnipro River were posted on social media.
The pro-Russia Readovka information platform reported two power stations in central Kyiv were the drones’ primary targets. Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said local air defenses shot down all incoming aircraft and damage from falling debris was minimal, a claim widely echoed by other Ukrainian officials.
“This morning the terrorists started off with 13 Shaheds. All 13 were shot down by our Ukrainian air defenses. Well done!” said President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video statement. He went on to remind citizens not to ignore air raid warnings.
“We thank our air defense forces for their outstanding work!” said Andriy Nebitov, Kyiv police spokesman, in a statement.
Ukraine air force spokesman Yury Ihnat said the Kremlin launched the strikes in the hours of darkness to make hitting the drones more difficult for Ukrainian machine gunners. The Russian military uses Shahed drones both to attack targets and as throwaways to detect Ukrainian air defense positions, Ihnat said in a television statement.
In Kyiv’s central Shevchenkivsky district one shot-down drone crashed into an administrative building and damaged its roof. There was no fire. News reports showed police cordoning off the scene and pedestrians going about their business.
Reporters found fragments from the drone 20 meters from the site of the explosion. Kyiv media showed images of “For Ryazan!” written in Russian on the remains of a drone tailfin found at the scene.
In a spectacular Dec. 5 attack, a Ukrainian long-range drone hit Ryazan’s Dyagilevo military airfield, damaging at least two Russian air force Tu-22 strategic bombers and killing three air crew, including a pilot. The strike was more than 500 kilometers from the closest Ukraine-controlled territory.
In Vyshneve, a commuter village southwest of Kyiv, remains of a drone hit a private home. Images from the scene showed a two-meter diameter scorch mark on a brick wall and some damage to the building’s attic, but with lower floor windows intact.
One drone was reportedly knocked down in air space above the eastern suburb of Boryspil. No one was hurt as a result of any of the shoot-downs, said Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Svitlana Vologda in a television statement.
Electricity service across the Ukrainian capital appeared unaffected by the strikes, with businesses and homes generally having power. No new damage to any part of the city power grid was reported. Sergey Kovalenko, head of the Ukrainian national power company Yasno, said in a Telegram message that a recent 1,000 megawatt addition to national electricity production capacity will improve grid capacity, but scheduled rolling local blackouts may still take place.
To date, Russia’s most devastating attack on Ukraine’s power grid took place on Nov. 23, when the launch of nearly 100 cruise missiles savaged substations and generation facilities across the country, killed 8 civilians with more than 50 others injured, and cut off electricity service to most homes and businesses nationwide for 48-72 hours. A smaller-scale attack, reportedly using only Shahed drones on Dec. 5, likewise cut off most electricity service to the southern city of Odesa for two to four days, depending on the city district.
Throughout the missile and drone bombardment, Ukrainian government buildings, hospitals and metro lines have generally used dedicated emergency power sources to remain in service, making average Ukrainian civilians in their homes, as well as small businesses nationwide, bear the brunt of the Kremlin attacks.
Russia’s preferred weapon for its bombardment of Ukraine’s power grid, which began in early October, has been cruise missiles launched from bombers well outside of Ukrainian air defenses, or cruise missiles launched from warships in the Black Sea beyond the range of Ukrainian anti-ship missiles. At the outset of the bombardment campaign Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin’s goal was to oblige Ukraine’s government to the negotiating table by forcing Ukrainian voters to suffer a cold winter in unheated, dark homes.
The pace of Moscow’s attacks slowed dramatically in November, according to military analysts, due to the Russian military’s dwindling reserves of multi-million-dollar cruise missiles and Russian industry’s inability to manufacture more due to Western sanctions.
In an attempt to fill the gap, Russia initiated purchases of the relatively cheap Shahed-136 drone from Tehran in late October. The weapon carries a warhead of 30-50 kilograms of explosives. Russian cruise and ballistic missiles carry warheads with, on average, 200-500 kilograms of explosives.
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