Russian missile barrage puts Ukrainian air defenses in check

kyiv, Ukraine – A swarm of drones and a barrage of cruise missiles rocked towns and cities across Ukraine on Thursday, the biggest assault in weeks and the latest in a wave of increasingly sophisticated dogfights pitting the evolving tactics of Russia with Ukraine’s growing arsenal of air defense weapons.

At dawn in kyiv, the capital, the trails of missiles or anti-aircraft weapons remained in the sky and fragments of intercepted missiles fell on a children’s playground and on private homes.

Valya Kravchun examines the damage in her neighborhood in kyiv.  (Laura Boushnak/The New York Times)


Valya Kravchun examines the damage in her neighborhood in kyiv. (Laura Boushnak/The New York Times)

Russia, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement, had been “reserving for the last days of the year one of the most massive missile attacks since the start of the full-scale invasion.”

The air defenses Ukrainian companies were overwhelmed at times.

Iranian-made explosive droneswhich Russia began acquiring last summer, were launched in a first wave, apparently to bog down air defenses ahead of cruise missile attacks, the Ukrainian air force said.

The Ukrainian air force declared that its defense forces had shot down 54 of the 69 missiles cruise ships and had also shot down drones.

The attack is likely to prompt further calls from Ukrainian authorities for more Western air defense systems, as the growing arsenal of advanced weapons sent by kyiv’s allies has failed to stop Moscow’s debilitating attacks on energy infrastructure, that have caused widespread blackouts as the country grapples with freezing winter temperatures.

Following the attacks, the Russian Ministry of Defense published an image on its official channel of Telegramthe social messaging app, showing a Kalibr cruise missile and a message:

“The Kalibr will never run out.”

The White House condemned the attacks as part of Russia’s “barbaric war” and vowed to continue helping Ukraine defend itself.

“This is another example of the putin’s brutality, attacking Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, which provides light and heat to Ukrainian civilians,” Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement, referring to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

The new wave of attacks has once again thwarted the work of crews trying to repair Ukraine’s power grid and raised the prospect of many Ukrainians losing power over the New Year holidays.

For three months, Russia has launched barrages of cruise missiles and drones at Ukraine’s energy grid, in what military analysts say is a strategy to plunge the country into cold and darkness in order to lower morale.

The latest bombardment caused two deaths and four injuries, including a 14-year-old girl hit by falling debris, according to authorities.

Air defense weapons shot down four of the six cruise missiles near Lviv in western Ukraine, but the two that made it through hit power stations, knocking out power to the 90% of the city, as stated by the mayor, Andriy SadovyiIn an interview.

“Putin uses the scenario to demoralize the Ukrainian people,” Sadovyi said.

But Lviv will resist, he said.

Diesel generators were turned on at the hospitals so operations could continue, he said, and the city is well supplied with firewood for the emergency heating of the shelters.

Amid the barrage, two oblasts – Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine and Odessa in the south – preemptively disconnected electricity to limit damage in the event of a short-circuit in the grid during a strike, a utility company reported in a statement.

In kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko declared that the attacks had knocked out power to 40% of the capital.

Amid chaos in the sky, as missiles and drones streaked in and Ukraine fired counter-air defense missiles, a Ukrainian S-300 interceptor missile flew towards Belarus and was shot down by the Ukrainian military, it said. the Belarusian Defense Ministry.

There was no immediate information on casualties or indications that Belarus, close ally of Russia, will treat the incident as something other than a mishap.

In November, an errant Ukrainian air defense missile landed in Poland, killing two people and briefly raising fears the conflict could escalate.

In Ukraine, the attack began when air raid sirens sounded around 5:30 a.m.

The Ukrainian army’s southern command said two Russian ships in the Black Sea had given signs of preparing to launch missiles, raising alarm bells.

As the sun rose, news of attacks came from cities all over the country, and seven or eight explosions rang out in kyiv.

One of them set off windows and car alarms in the center of town.

Leonid Fatkulin, 79, was in bed on the first floor of his two-story brick house in a suburb when the missiles struck.

“I was going to get up to shave when the explosion shook the house,” he said.

A natural gas pipeline caught fire.

“It’s not a war,” Fatkulin said, standing by the remains of his house, wearing a coat over his bathrobe.

“It’s a crime against humanity.”

In kyiv, Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app that Ukrainian air defenses had shot down 16 missilesover the city, but that falling debris had injured three people, including the teenager.

The Ukrainian General Staff headquarters said in a statement that Russia had launched 13 Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones at energy infrastructure in Kharkiv, and that air defense systems had shot down all but two.

Five other Shahed drones were shot down around the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, according to the military.

The cruise missiles were launched after Ukrainian air defense forces fired on the drones.

The Russian military launched the missiles from various directions, firing from planes and ships at sea, according to the air force statement.

But Ukraine is now able to counterattack with a growing and increasingly sophisticated arsenal of air defense weapons.

The Pentagon has delivered the first two of the nation’s eight advanced surface-to-air missile systems, equipped with radar-guided missiles capable of hitting drones and cruise missiles. Germany supplied the first of four state-of-the-art Iris-T systems, which are so new they have never been used on the battlefield, while France and the Netherlands they also promised more air defense missiles.

On his visit to Washington last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was offered a battery of Patriot missiles, the most advanced US land-based missile defense system.

But it is likely to be several months before the Ukrainian aircrews are trained and deployed.

Ukraine’s air defense capability has been one of the surprise successes of the war, as improved coordination between early warning systems and ground units tasked with shooting down rockets has helped kyiv forces stop a large percentage of Russian attacks.

But the Russian barrages are often so overwhelming – according to the Ukrainian military intelligence agency, about 75 missiles are fired in a typical barrage – that many of them manage to get inside.

And Russia appears to have more weapons in its arsenal, due in part to a growing supply of explosive drones from Iran.

And even successful takedowns pose risks when twisted, silvery metal debris rains down on cities.

On Thursday, two fragments fell into a children’s playground in the Pechersk neighborhood of kyiv.

“It was the first time it happened so close to us,” said Galina Khomina, a graphic designer who was pushing her 3-year-old daughter, Nastya, on a park swing a few hours after the attacks.

He said that he could not stay at home for fear, despite having been so close.

“We hope it ends soon,” Khomina said.

“We are used to it and we are not afraid. Life goes on. You only have one life.”

c.2022 The New York Times Company

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