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Russia Targets Ukraine’s Capital With Barrage of Drones - The New York Times - 10.09.23

The attack, which Ukraine said it had foiled, is the latest in a campaign apparently intended to destroy infrastructure and demoralize the local population says Constant Méheut

Ukraine’s military said on Sunday that it had foiled a large Russian drone attack on the capital, Kyiv, overnight, the latest barrage in a campaign intended partly to destroy military and energy infrastructure but also apparently aimed at terrorizing and demoralizing the local population.

The military said it shot down 26 of the 33 drones launched at the capital. The fate of the other seven drones was unclear. Blast waves and falling debris wounded four people and damaged dozens of houses and residential buildings, according to local military authorities. The reports have not been independently verified.

“Drones entered the capital in groups and from different directions,” Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said as he thanked the troops staffing the capital’s air-defense systems, which have proved increasingly effective at downing most of the Russian drones and missiles targeting Kyiv.

Since beginning its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than 18 months ago, Russia has regularly unleashed large-scale barrages of missiles, rockets and drones on Kyiv. Last week, the region experienced one of the most significant barrages in months, with a combination of cruise missiles and drones fired at the capital. Ukrainian officials said that two people had been killed by falling debris.

Sunday’s attacks followed an increasingly familiar pattern of dueling aerial assaults, in which areas of Ukraine and Russia are both targeted nearly simultaneously.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its army had downed a Ukrainian drone over the Bryansk region, close to the Ukrainian border. It also said that eight Ukrainian drones were shot down by air defenses over the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

The State of the War

  • Elon Musk: The multibillionaire businessman foiled an attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet in 2022 by refusing to let Ukraine use his Starlink satellite network to guide its drones, Musk has acknowledged, renewing questions about the global power he wields through his companies.

  • Rostov-on-Don: Explosions rocked the Russian city, which is home to a key military hub; local officials later said that air defenses had shot down two drones. Ukraine never acknowledges strikes on Russian soil, but the incursions are happening with increasing frequency.

  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive: Ukrainian forces, churning slowly forward after breaching Russia’s initial lines in the south, are turning their attention to breaking through in another heavily defended position.

  • Cluster Munitions: Ukrainian troops have embraced the controversial weapons in their fight against Russian forces. But are the U.S.-supplied bomblets making a difference?

The Russian claims could not be independently verified. Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment on the attack on the Bryansk region, as is their general custom on attacks inside Russia.

In addition to targeting Kyiv, Russia has also directed many of its drone attacks on Ukrainian grain and port facilities near the Danube River in recent months. Ukraine has used the waterway as an alternative route to export grain since Russia pulled out of an agreement that allowed Ukrainian agricultural shipments through the Black Sea.

The attacks on the Danube facilities are seen as an attempt by Russia to tighten its stranglehold on the Ukrainian economy. But they have also come perilously close to Romania, a NATO member, raising fears that a Russian drone or missile flying a short distance off course could risk dragging the Western military alliance into a direct military confrontation with Moscow.

A case in point came last week, when debris from what could be a Russian drone was found on Romania’s territory across the Danube from Ukraine after an attack on a nearby Ukrainian port.

Ukrainian officials said the debris was proof that Russia’s invasion posed a direct threat to NATO. Romania initially denied that a Russian drone had crashed on its territory and then, after finding the debris, issued only verbal condemnations, in an apparent attempt not to escalate the situation.

But on Saturday, new fragments of a drone “similar to those used by the Russian Army” were found, according to a statement from Romania’s Defense Ministry. Constantin Spinu, a spokesman for the ministry, said “the most probable assumption” was that they came from another drone because they were found in a different location near the Danube.

Reacting to the discovery, Romania’s Foreign Ministry “urgently summoned” the Russian chargé d’affaires on Saturday, according to a government statement. The Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis, said in a message posted on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter, that the new debris showed “a violation of our sovereign air space” and that he had discussed the matter with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general.

Mr. Stoltenberg said that there was no indication of intent to hit NATO but that the “strikes are destabilizing.” He added that he welcomed a decision by the United States to deploy F-16 fighter jets to bolster air policing in the area.

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Russia Targets Ukraine’s Capital With Barrage of Drones - by Constant Méheut for The New Y
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Damien Cave contributed reporting from New Delhi.

Constant Méheut has covered France from the Paris bureau of The Times since 2020. More about Constant Méheut

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 11, 2023, Section A, Page 9 of the New York edition with the headline: Russia Targets Kyiv With Barrage of Drones. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Ukrainian doctors and medics treating combat wounds on Saturday outside Bakhmut in Donbas, in Eastern Ukraine. Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

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