Russia launches largest drone attack yet, Kyiv officials say

Ukraine's capital was subjected to the largest drone attack since the start of Russia's invasion last year, local officials said, as Kyiv prepared to mark the anniversary of its founding on Sunday. At least one person was killed.

Attack with dozens of drones, most of which were shot down, lasted over 5 hours

A person walks past a building with a large hole and other damage on it.
A local resident walks past a partially destroyed residential building in Kyiv on Sunday after a massive Russian drone attack that mainly targeted the Ukrainian capital. (AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine's capital was subjected to the largest drone attack since the start of Russia's invasion last year, local officials said, as Kyiv prepared to mark the anniversary of its founding on Sunday. At least one person was killed.

Russia launched the "most massive attack" on the city overnight Saturday with Iranian-made Shahed drones, said Serhii Popko, a senior Kyiv military official. The attack lasted more than five hours, with air defence reportedly shooting down more than 40 drones.

A 41-year-old man was killed and a 35-year-old woman was hospitalized when debris fell on a seven-storey non-residential building and started a fire, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Debris from a drone damaged the building of the Ukrainian Society of the Blind. On Sunday morning, organization member Volodymyr Golubenko came to pick up his things. He was helped by his son, Mykola, who searched for his father's belongings among the rubble and at the same time tried to describe to his father what his office looks like now.

"This wall on the right is destroyed and on left also," Mykola told his father.

Volodymyr Golubenko, who worked at the organization for more than 40 years, said it is a home for many blind people, who come to talk and support each other.

"If you don't even have a job, it's difficult to get a job now, because these events [war] have been going on since last year. At least people come here to chat," he said.

'The children ran here in fear'

Like Golubenko, many people in his district heard the sound of Shahed drones for the first time. Among them was 36-year-old Yana, who has three sons. The family hid in a corridor all night.

"Something started to explode above us. The children ran here in fear," Yana said.

Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko told CBC News from Kyiv that air raid sirens were heard throughout the night. The first siren went off at about midnight, and the last message that it was safe to go outside came at about 6:30 a.m., she said.

WATCH | Tense night for Kyiv residents during drone attack: 

Russian drone attack on Kyiv lasted 6 hours, Ukrainian MP says

4 months ago
Duration 0:57
Russia has carried out a new massive drone strike against Kyiv, with Ukraine's air defence reportedly shooting down more than 40 drones. Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko describes the tense situation on the ground in the capital city.

"It was a massive attack [and] today you can see the results in the markets," where almost all stalls were closed and residents spoke of a restless night, Vasylenko said.

Still, she said, the streets and restaurants in the central part of the capital were full of people on Sunday for Kyiv Day, showing that "life goes on."

Ukraine's air force said that Saturday night was also record-breaking in terms of Shahed drone attacks across the country. Of the 59 drones launched, 58 were shot down by air defence systems, according to the military's General Staff.

In the northeastern Kharkiv province, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said a 61-year-old woman and a 60-year-old man were killed in two separate shelling attacks.

Scaled-back festivities to mark Kyiv's anniversary

Kyiv Day marks the anniversary of the Ukraine capital's official founding. The day is usually celebrated with live concerts, street fairs, exhibitions and fireworks. Scaled-back festivities were planned for this year, the city's 1,541st anniversary.

The timing of the drone attacks was likely not coincidental, Ukrainian officials said.

In a scene suffused with an orange haze, a firefighter sprays a fire taller than they are.
A firefighter works at the site of a tobacco factory damaged during Russian drone strikes, in Kyiv on Sunday. (Pavlo Petrov/State Emergency Service of Ukraine)

"The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for the insecure Russians," Ukraine's chief presidential aide, Andriy Yermak, said on the Telegram messaging service.

"Today, the enemy decided to 'congratulate' the people of Kyiv on Kyiv Day with the help of their deadly UAVs," military official also wrote, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.

Meanwhile, local officials in Russia's southern Krasnodar region said that air defence systems destroyed several drones as they approached the Ilsky oil refinery. The Russia-backed governor of Luhansk province in Ukraine's far east, Leonid Pasechnik, said two people were killed Sunday in Ukrainian shelling of the town of Almaznaya.

Russia's southern Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine, also came under attack from Ukrainian forces on Saturday, local officials said. Regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov reported on Sunday that a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy were wounded in the shelling.

Drone attacks against Russian border regions have been a regular occurrence since the start of the invasion in February 2022, with attacks increasing last month. Earlier this month, an oil refinery in Krasnodar was attacked by drones on two straight days.

A man stands in the doorway of a damaged room filled with debris.
A man stands inside a building in Kyiv on Sunday, after it was damaged during a Russian drone attack. (Roman Pilipey/Getty Images)

Russian envoy warns of escalation

Ukrainian air defences, bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied systems, have been adept at thwarting Russian air attacks — both drones and aircraft missiles.

Earlier in May, Ukraine prevented an intense Russian air attack on Kyiv, shooting down all missiles aimed at the capital.

The bombardment, which additionally targeted locations across Ukraine, included six Russian Kinzhal aero-ballistic hypersonic missiles, repeatedly touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin as providing a key strategic competitive advantage and among the most advanced weapons in his country's arsenal.

Sophisticated Western air defence systems, including American-made Patriot missiles, have helped spare Kyiv from the kind of destruction witnessed along the main front line in the country's east and south. While most of the ground fighting is stalemated along that front line, both sides are targeting other territory with long-range weapons.

Against the backdrop of Saturday night's drone attacks, Russia's ambassador to the U.K., Andrei Kelin, warned of an escalation in Ukraine.

He told the BBC on Sunday that his country had "enormous resources" and it was yet to "act very seriously," cautioning that Western supplies of weapons to Ukraine risked escalating the war to a "new dimension." The length of the conflict, he said, "depends on the efforts in escalation of war that is being undertaken by NATO countries, especially by the U.K."

WATCH | Conflicting reports from battleground of Bakhmut: 

Mercenary forces withdraw from devastated Bakhmut

4 months ago
Duration 2:07
Ukrainian and Russian forces swap prisoners in Bakhmut as Russia claims control, while Ukraine disputes that it has totally lost the city. Leader of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin announced his forces have started to withdraw after nine months of conflict over the symbolic city.

Kelin's comments are typical of Russian officials' rhetoric with regard to Moscow's military might, but they contradict regular reports from the battlefield of Russian troops being poorly equipped and trained.

Also on Sunday, the death toll from Friday's missile attack on the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the regional capital of the Dnipropetrovsk province, rose to four. Regional. Gov. Serhii Lysak said that three people who were considered missing were confirmed dead. There were 32 people, including two children, wounded in the attack, which struck a building containing psychology and veterinary clinics.

With files from CBC News