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Russia has claimed it repelled a wave of Ukrainian drone and missile strikes on Sunday, a day after it launched the biggest drone attack on Kyiv since the start of President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion last year.
The Russian defence ministry said anti-aircraft defences on Sunday morning shot down a total of 24 Ukrainian drones on the outskirts of Moscow, as well as in the regions of Tula, Kaluga, Smolensk and Bryansk to the capital’s south and west.
Russia also said it downed two S-200 air defence missiles that had been refitted to strike ground targets as they flew over the Sea of Azov to Ukraine’s south-east.
The alleged attack came a day after Russia conducted a massive, six-hour drone strike on Kyiv that Ukraine fears is the start of a winter campaign aimed at destroying the country’s power and energy infrastructure.
Ukraine’s air force said it downed 74 of 75 Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones over Kyiv and the central regions of Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv and Kirovohrad, including 66 launched at the capital in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The Russian attack wounded five people and left 200 buildings, including 77 residential ones, without power, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticised the Russian leadership for ordering the drone strike on Saturday, when Kyiv commemorated the 90th anniversary of the genocidal Holodomor famine that killed more than 3mn people in Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s.
“On this day of remembrance, such a terrorist attack means that Putin is proud to follow the greatest killers of the 20th century. If he could arrange another Holodomor for Ukraine, he would do it,” Zelenskyy said.
Ukraine on Sunday did not comment on the Russian claims of a drone attack, which, if confirmed, would be the largest attempt by Kyiv to hit Moscow in several months.
The Russian capital has come under regular drone strikes this year, damaging residential buildings, disrupting airports and even exploding over the Kremlin. Ukrainian officials have not claimed responsibility for the strikes but regularly make cryptic comments hinting at Kyiv’s involvement, using locally made drones to conduct the attacks.
Analysts have described the Ukrainian strikes as an attempt to bring the realities of the war home to a largely complacent Russian population and expose gaps in Russia’s air defences.
Russian news agencies said Moscow’s Vnukovo and Domodedovo airports briefly shut down in the early hours of Sunday morning before resuming flights.
Sergei Sobyanin, Moscow’s mayor, said preliminary information suggested there were “no casualties or serious damage” after the “mass drone strike”.
Regional governor Alexei Dyumin said one person was injured in Tula after one of the drones crashed into a 12-storey residential building and damaged three apartments, giving one person a light laceration wound from the broken glass. No other casualties were reported.
Mash, a media outlet with close ties to Russian law enforcement, said the Ukrainian drones appeared to be a new model styled after the Shaheds supplied by Iran. Previous attacks on Moscow have used the Ukrainian drone manufacturer Ukrjet’s UJ-22 drone and the Beaver drone, prominently featured in a crowdfunding campaign by Ukrainian activists.
Additional reporting by Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv