KYIV — The Ukrainian capital Kyiv has been targeted by further Russian air attacks, described by one official as “exceptional in density”.
Ukraine said all 18 missiles were shot down and footage showed air defenses destroying targets over the city.
But Russia said its attack — which used drones and missiles — had hit all its targets.
Moscow has stepped up its air campaign in recent weeks, ahead of an expected Ukrainian offensive.
The air raid alert sounded at around 02:30 local time (23:30 GMT Monday) and was lifted two hours later in the eighth attack to hit the capital this month.
An unusually high number of loud explosions were heard in the city center, as authorities told residents in online messages that air defense had been activated.
The head of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhny, said Russia attacked Kyiv from the north, south and east and that 18 air, sea and land-based missiles had been used.
Serhiy Popko, head of the Ukrainian capital’s military administration, described the barrage as being the “maximum number of attack missiles in the shortest period of time”.
“According to preliminary information, the vast majority of enemy targets in the airspace of Kyiv were detected and destroyed,” he added.
Gen Zaluzhny said that included nine Kalibr cruise missiles, which were launched from ships in the Black Sea, and three land-based missiles.
He added that Kyiv also destroyed six Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, which travel on a ballistic trajectory and are capable of reaching speeds of more than 11,000kmh (7,000mph).
Russia has claimed in the past that these could not be taken out by any of the world’s air defense systems.
Ukraine said it had shot down a Kinzhal for the first time last week during an earlier attack on Kyiv.
If these claims are true, Moscow will be feeling frustrated that the finest weapons from its missile fleet are now able to be intercepted.
This is in large part due to the advent of modern Western defense systems, including Patriots.
Russia claimed that it destroyed a Patriot system during Tuesday’s attack on Kyiv. Ukraine declined to comment. The BBC cannot independently verify the claims made by either country.
Residents on Tuesday were warned to keep away from windows as debris from intercepted missiles fell from the sky.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko said rocket debris had fallen in central districts, including on the city’s zoo. No animals or workers were injured.
The Solomyansky district, which includes the international airport, is reported to have been the hardest hit.
Popko said that a fire that broke out in a non-residential area in the district has since been put out.
Kyiv resident Kseniia told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that she and her husband were asleep when they heard a “series of very loud explosions” above their building. She compared the intensity of the attack to a Star Wars film or an action video game.
She also said that thanks to the support of its international allies, Ukraine is now capable of tracking down and destroying high caliber missiles.
“It’s such a relief to know Kyiv is under such a strong defense right now”.
Another resident, Yevhen Petrov, said Tuesday’s attack was the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that his house had been shaken by the force of an assault.
Russia’s resumption of strikes on Kyiv earlier this month came after a lull of over 50 days.
The Ukrainian authorities believe Moscow’s strategy is to exhaust the air defense systems, which have been extremely successful in intercepting most of the missiles and drones fired.
In the past few days, President Volodymyr Zelensky has been on a European tour, in which he has been promised several billion dollars’ worth of military equipment by Western allies, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Emmanuel Macron of France.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands of civilians and combatants have been killed or injured, cities and towns have been destroyed in fighting, and nearly 8.2 million Ukrainians have been registered as refugees in Europe, with 2.8 million of them in Russia. BBC