KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian air defenses stopped eight drones converging on Moscow, officials said Tuesday, in an attack that authorities blamed on Ukraine, while Russia pursued its relentless bombardment of Kyiv with a third assault on the city in 24 hours.
The Russian defense ministry said five drones were shot down and the systems of three others were jammed, causing them to veer off course. It called the incident a “terrorist attack” by the “Kyiv regime.”
The attack caused “insignificant damage” to several buildings, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. Two people received medical attention for unspecified injuries but did not need hospitalization, he said in a Telegram post. Residents of two high-rise buildings damaged in the attack were evacuated, Sobyanin said.
Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the wider Moscow region, said some of the drones were “shot down on the approach to Moscow.”
Ukraine made no immediate comment on the attack, which would be one of its deepest and most daring strikes into Russia since the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than 15 months ago.
The attacks have raised questions about the effectiveness of Russia’s air defense systems.
A senior Russian lawmaker, Andrei Kartapolov, told Russian business news site RBC that “we have a very big country and there will always be a loophole where the drone can fly around the areas where air defense systems are located.”
Kartapolov said the purpose of the attacks was to unnerve the Russian people. “It’s an intimidation act aimed at the civilian population,” RBC quoted him as saying. “It’s designed to create a wave of panic.”
Moscow residents reported hearing explosions before dawn. Police were seen working at one site of a crashed drone in southwest Moscow. An area near a residential building was fenced off, and police put the drone debris in a cardboard box before carrying it away.
At another site, apartment windows were shattered and there were scorch marks on the building’s front.
It was the second reported attack on Moscow. Russian authorities said two drones targeted the Kremlin earlier this month in what they portrayed as an attempt on President Vladimir Putin’s life.
Ukrainian drones have reportedly flown deep into Russia several times. In December, Russia claimed it had shot down drones at airfields in the Saratov and Ryazan regions. Three soldiers were reported killed in the attack in Saratov, which targeted an important military airfield.
Earlier, Russia reported shooting down a Ukrainian drone that targeted the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol in Russia-annexed Crimea.
In Ukraine, Russia launched a pre-dawn air raid on Kyiv, killing at least one person and sending the capital’s residents again scrambling into shelters.
At least 20 Shahed explosive drones were destroyed by air defense forces in Kyiv’s airspace in Russia’s third attack on the capital in the past 24 hours, according to early information from the Kyiv Military Administration. Overall, Ukraine shot down 29 of 31 drones fired into the country, most in the Kyiv area, the air force later added.
Before daylight, the buzzing of drones could be heard over the city, followed by loud explosions as they were taken down by air defense systems.
In the overnight attacks on Kyiv, one person died and seven were injured, according to the municipal military administration. A high-rise building in the Holosiiv district caught fire after being hit by debris either from from drones being hit or interceptor missiles.
The building’s upper two floors were destroyed, and there may be people under the rubble, the Kyiv Military Administration said. More than 20 people were evacuated.
Resident Valeriya Oreshko told The Associated Press in the aftermath that even though the immediate threat was over, the attacks had everyone on edge.
“You are happy that you are alive, but think about what will happen next,” the 39-year-old said.
A resident who gave only her first name, Oksana, said the whole building shook when it was hit.
“Go to shelters, because you really do not know where it (the drone) will fly,” she advised others. “We hold on.”
Elsewhere in the capital, falling debris caused a fire in a private house in Darnytskyi district and three cars were set alight in Pechersky district, according to the military administration.
The series of attacks that began Sunday included a rare daylight attack Monday that left puffs of white smoke in the blue skies.
On that day, Russian forces fired 11 ballistic and cruise missiles at Kyiv at about 11:30 a.m., according to Ukraine’s chief of staff, Valerii Zaluzhnyi. All of them were shot down, he said.
Debris from intercepted missiles fell in Kyiv’s central and northern districts during the morning, landing in the middle of traffic on a city road and also starting a fire on the roof of a building, the Kyiv military administration said. At least one civilian was reported hurt.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it launched a series of strikes early Monday targeting Ukrainian air bases with precision long-range air-launched missiles. It claimed the strikes destroyed command posts, radars, aircraft and ammunition stockpiles, but didn’t say anything about hitting cities or other civilian areas.