Civilians killed as Russia launches deadly drone strikes on residential area of Kyiv

Waves of explosive-laden suicide drones struck Ukraine's capital early Monday as families were preparing to start their week, the blasts echoing across Kyiv, setting buildings ablaze and sending people scurrying to shelters.

Russian forces hit a 4-storey residential building, among other targets, killing at least 4 people

Close-up on collapsed section of an apartment building.
Firefighters work after a drone fired on buildings in Kyiv on Monday. The attacks caused several fires, and parts of buildings collapsed. (Roman Hrytsyna/The Associated Press)

Waves of explosives-laden suicide drones struck Ukraine's capital on Monday, setting buildings ablaze, tearing a hole in one of them and sending people scurrying for cover or trying to shoot them down in what the president said was Russia's attempt to terrorize civilians.

The concentrated use of the kamikaze drones was the second barrage in as many weeks — after months in which air attacks had become a rarity in central Kyiv. The assault sowed fear and frayed nerves as blasts rocked the city. Energy facilities were struck, and one drone largely collapsed a residential building, killing four people, authorities said.

Intense bursts of gunfire rang out as the Iranian-made Shahed drones buzzed overhead, apparently as soldiers tried to destroy them.

In the Kyiv region alone, 13 or more drones were shot down, all of them as they flew in from the south, said a spokesperson for the Ukrainian air force, Yurii Ihnat.

But Ukraine has become grimly accustomed to attacks nearly eight months into the Russian invasion, and city life resumed as rescuers picked through debris.

WATCH l Deadly drone strikes on Kyiv: 

Russia launches deadly drone strikes on Kyiv

7 months ago
Duration 4:07
Waves of Russian suicide drones have brought terror to the Ukrainian capital. Among the targets, civilian infrastructure such power and heating. But at least one apartment building was also hit, killing four people, including a pregnant woman.

Russia 'won't be able to break us,' says Zelenskyy

The capital's central Shevchenko district was among the areas hit, with apartment blocks damaged and a non-residential building on fire, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. He said 18 people were rescued from the rubble of one apartment building and that rescue workers were trying to extract two other people known to be under the debris.

One strike appeared to target the city's heating network, hitting an operations centre. Another slammed into a four-storey residential building, ripping a large hole in it and collapsing at least three apartments on top of each other. Four bodies were recovered, including those of a woman who was six months' pregnant and her husband, Klitschko said. An older woman and another man were also killed there.

Previous Russian airstrikes on Kyiv were mostly with missiles. Analysts believe the slower-moving Shahed drones can be programmed to accurately hit certain targets using GPS unless the system fails.

Wide shot of a residential building, with one section collapsed, and firefighters working.
Civilians ran for shelter as the explosions rang out in residential ares of Kyiv. (Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press)

An Associated Press photographer who was out shooting morning scenes of Kyiv caught one of the drones on camera, its triangle-shaped wing and pointed warhead clearly visible against the blue sky. Drones came in several waves and buzzed overhead with angry hums from their engines.

"The whole night, and the whole morning, the enemy terrorizes the civilian population," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a social media post. "Kamikaze drones and missiles are attacking all of Ukraine.

"The enemy can attack our cities, but it won't be able to break us," he wrote.

A man falls on the ground following a drone attack in Kyiv on Monday. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Zelenskyy, citing Ukrainian intelligence services, alleges Russia ordered 2,400 drones from Iran. Russia has rebranded them as Geran-2 drones — "geranium" in Russian. A photo of debris from one of Monday's strikes, posted by Klitschko, showed "Geran-2" marked on a mangled tail fin.

Iran has previously denied providing Russia with weapons, although its Revolutionary Guard chief has boasted of providing arms to the world's top powers, without elaborating.

Kyiv a renewed target

The Russian military said it used "long-range air- and sea-based high-precision weapons" to fire at Ukrainian military and energy facilities. The strikes hit "all assigned targets," Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said.

Strikes in central Kyiv had become a rarity in the last several months after Russian forces failed to capture the capital at the beginning of the war. Last week's early morning strikes were the first explosions heard in Kyiv's city centre in several months, and they put Kyiv and the rest of the country back on edge as the war nears the end of eight months.

Western nations have promised to bolster Ukrainian air defences with systems that can shoot down drones, but much of that weaponry has yet to arrive and, in some cases, may be months away.

"The challenges are serious, because the air defence forces and means are the same as they were at the beginning of the war," Ukrainian air force spokesperson Ihnat said.

Warplane crashes in southwestern Russia

Hours after those attacks, an Su-34 bomber crashed on Monday into a residential area in the southern Russian city of Yeysk, on the Sea of Azov, after suffering engine failure — leaving at least 13 people dead, three of whom died when they jumped from upper floors of a nine-storey apartment building to escape a massive blaze.

After hours of combing through the charred debris of the building, authorities said 13 residents, including three children, were found dead. Another 19 were hospitalized with injuries.

Both crewmembers, on a training mission, bailed out safely, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

Yeysk is a city of about 90,000 on the Sea of Azov and is home to a big Russian airbase.

A sveeral-storey high building is seen with a fire ball of flames in the middle.
In this handout photo released by Kooperativ Telegram Channel, flames and smoke rise from the scene after a warplane crashed into a residential area in Yeysk, Russia, on Monday. (Kooperativ Telegram Channel/The Associated Press)

Prisoner exchange occurs

Monday's strikes on Kyiv come as fighting has intensified in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in recent days, as well as the continued Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south near Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Zelenskyy said in his Sunday evening address that there was heavy fighting around the cities of Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region.

48 hours before Russia began renewed strikes against Ukrainian cities, Sergei Surovikin was named the country's top military commander in Ukraine. Surovikin is known as General Armageddon, a nickname earned during Russia's brutal military campaign in Syria. Washington Post reporter Mary Ilyushina describes his past record and how it might change Russia's war in Ukraine.

The Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which make up the bulk of the industrial east known as the Donbas, were two of four regions annexed by Russia in September in defiance of international law.

Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-backed head of the Donetsk region, said on Monday that the two countries had conducted another prisoner swap, affecting 220 people overall.

NATO begins preplanned exercises

Meanwhile, NATO on Monday began its long-planned annual nuclear exercises in northwestern Europe, drills that were planned before Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine.

Fourteen member countries were due to take part in the Steadfast Noon exercises, which are to involve about 60 aircraft, including fighter jets, and surveillance and refuelling planes.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko speaks at a news conference next to a building damaged in a drone attack on Monday. (Yashuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

The bulk of the war games will be held at least 1,000 kilometres from Russia's borders. Training flights will take place over Belgium, the host, as well as over the North Sea and the United Kingdom.

The exercises involve fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but they do not involve any live bombs.

U.S. long-range B-52 bombers will also take part in the manoeuvres, which will run until Oct. 30.

With files from Reuters