Russia launches biggest-ever drone blitz on Kyiv
Cheap and built for one-way attacks, Russian drones have swarmed over Kyiv. Photo: Iran Wire
Russia has launched a massive drone attack on Ukraine, prompting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to warn that global grain supplies are in jeopardy.
“There is a deficit of air defence – that is no secret,” Zelenskiy told the Grain from Ukraine summit in Kyiv, which was attended by senior officials from European countries, including Swiss President Alain Berset and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte.
Zelenskiy was speaking on Saturday after Russia attacked Ukraine – one of the world’s leading grain producers – with 75 drones overnight, the biggest drone assault of the war.
The joint media conference of the three leaders was cut short by another air raid siren.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine would be supplied by its foreign partners with vessels to accompany convoys of cargo ships from Ukraine’s ports to guarantee their security.
“I have agreements with several countries about powerful accompaniment of convoys by Ukrainians, but using (foreign) equipment,” he said.
Separately, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged support in a letter to Zelenskiy that she shared on social media platform X, saying the Commission would make available 50 million euros for “quick repairs and upgrades of infrastructure in Ukraine’s ports”.
The Ukrainian president said Kyiv hoped to solve its air defence shortage through new supplies from partners and increasing its own production capacity, something on which he said there had been progress.
“As of today, I can’t say details what we are making and where, but there is progress,” he said.
Ukraine, a major exporter of grain, has been exporting grain via unilateral corridors through the Black sea after Russia withdrew in July from a UN-brokered deal to allow grain ships through its blockade.
Ukraine’s current Black sea grain export corridors all start from ports in Ukraine’s southern region of Odesa.
“There are certain air defence systems … we are asking for them,” Zelenskiy said.
“We’ve already got an answer when those systems will start to guard that region. Because there, both the corridor and the people are important.”
Saturday’s six-hour air raid, on the day Ukraine commemorates the 1932-33 Holodomor famine that killed several million people, began hitting different districts of Kyiv in the early hours, with more waves coming as the sun rose.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that over the course of the week, Russia had carried out 911 attacks across the country, killing 19 Ukrainians and wounding 84.
“The enemy is intensifying its attacks, trying to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians,” he said in a post on the Telegram messaging app. It was doing so deliberately, “just like 90 years ago, when Russia killed millions of our ancestors,” he said.
Ukraine’s air force initially said 71 of the 75 drones had been shot down, but subsequently revised the number of downed craft to 74.
Its spokesperson said on television that 66 of those had been downed over Kyiv and the surrounding region.
Air force chief Mykola Oleschuk praised the effectiveness of “mobile fire” units – usually fast pick-up trucks with a machine gun or flak cannon mounted on their flatbed.
According to him, these downed nearly 40 per cent of the drones.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko, writing on the Telegram app, said the attack had injured five people, including an 11-year-old girl, and damaged buildings in districts all across the city.
Fragments from a downed drone had started a fire in a children’s nursery, he said.