Russian forces pummeled the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with “Kamikaze” drone attacks throughout the night as the city prepared to celebrate the anniversary of its founding Sunday.
Russia launched 54 Iranian-made drones at Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine, but air defenses shot down 52 of the drones, according to Ukrainian officials. Two people were killed during Saturday night’s attack, with falling debris landing on one 41-year-old man and another person dying of unspecified causes, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement.
Kyiv is marking the 1,541-year anniversary since its founding on Sunday.
The assault on Kyiv came in several large waves throughout the night, with air raid sirens blaring for roughly 5 hours.
Ukraine has been largely successful in warding off Russian missile and drone attacks in recent weeks thanks to the deployment of U.S.-made Patriot missile systems. The defense system has proven more than a match for Russia’s long-range attacks, with the vast majority of their explosives being shot down mid-flight.
The Russian military is increasingly resorting to massive Soviet-era bombs in an effort to circumvent Ukrainian air defenses. Russia’s bombs, resurrected from Cold War-era ordnance stashes, have two major advantages over missiles in that they have no propulsion system for air defenses to track, and they remain airborne for barely a minute.
“This is the evolution of the air war,” Ukrainian Air Force Lt. Colonel Denys Smazhnyi recently told the New York Times. “They first tried cruise missiles, and we shot them down. Then they tried drones, and we shot those down. They are constantly looking for a solution to strike us, and we are looking for one to intercept them.”
“It’s evolution, countermeasures, evolution, countermeasures. It’s a nonstop process, unfortunately,” he added.
Russian forces have even gone so far as to retrofit large bombs with wings and navigation systems to extend both their range and lethality, U.S. officials reportedly told the Times.
With no way to counter the bombs themselves, Ukrainian forces must target the planes that drop them, a tall order for a national air force with planes far older than Russia’s modern aircraft.
The low-tech bombs have contributed to Ukraine’s calls for the U.S. and other Western allies to provide F-16 fighter jets. They say the aircraft would allow them to keep their airspace clear while still maintaining defense against long-range attacks.
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