Ukrainian forces shot down 13 Russian drones over the capital Kyiv on Wednesday and two administrative buildings were damaged, officials said, as Washington considered sending its advanced Patriot air defence system to Ukraine.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Iranian-made Shahed drones were shot down and that there were explosions in the central Shevchenkivskyi district. Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv’s city military administration, said 13 drones were destroyed.
One attack in a residential area appeared to have ripped through a chunk of the roof of a walled-off brick building, a Reuters witness said. It was unclear what the building was used for.
Some of the windows of nearby residential buildings had been smashed. Bits of the roof were strewn in the snow along with bricks and other debris. Shocked residents, wrapped up against the cold, inspected the damage.
They said no one appeared to have been wounded.
The white tail of a drone could be seen in the wreckage. It had M529 Geran-2 written on it and a handwritten message “For Ryazan!!!”, an apparent reference to a Ukrainian attack on a military air base deep inside Russia earlier this month.
Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said the attack was deliberately timed for when it was dark to make it harder to shoot the drones down, but that Ukrainian air defence systems had been effective.
“The air defences worked well.” he said. “Thirteen (drones) were shot down.”
“Well done, I am proud,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a brief video message, praising the air defence systems which he said appeared to have shot down all the drones.
Zhenya, 38, who lives right next to one of the sites that was hit, said he was awoken by a powerful explosion.
“I was asleep and was woken up by a big loud blast…I didn’t understand at first – I heard it when I was dreaming. Then I didn’t know what to do… I went out on the street because I thought that my building had been hit.”
Ukraine has already received air defence systems from the West, including from the United States. The Patriot is considered one of the most advanced.
In Washington, officials told Reuters an announcement on a decision on providing the system could come as soon as Thursday. The Patriot is usually in short supply, with allies around the world vying for it.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned NATO against equipping Kyiv with Patriot missile defences, and it is likely the Kremlin will view such a move as an escalation.
The Patriot system would help Ukraine defend against waves of Russian missile and drone attacks that have pounded the country’s energy infrastructure.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces morning report highlighted the need for air defence systems throughout the country.
It said in the past 24 hours in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions “the enemy launched 1 air and 11 missile strikes, 3 of them on the civilian infrastructure…(and) launched more than 60 attacks from multiple rocket launchers”.
Gaining Patriot air defence capability would be “very, very significant” for the Kyiv government, said Alexander Vindman, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and one-time leader of Ukraine policy at the White House.
“These are going to be quite capable of dealing with a lot of different challenges the Ukrainians have, especially if the Russians bring in short-range ballistic missiles” from Iran.
The Pentagon declined comment. There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials.
Kyiv held high-level military talks on Tuesday with Washington, Zelenskiy’s office said. The United States has given Ukraine $19.3 billion in military assistance since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.
Millions of civilians enduring Europe’s biggest conflict since World War Two have had to contend with cuts to power, heat and water as sub-zero temperatures take hold.
In Paris, about 70 countries and institutions pledged just over 1 billion euros ($1.05 billion) to help maintain Ukraine’s water, food, energy, health and transport in face of Russia’s attacks.
Sergey Kovalenko, the head of the YASNO power company, said on Facebook that repairs continued on the electricity grid but that Kyiv still only had two-thirds of the power it needed.
In a video speech to New Zealand’s parliament on Wednesday, Zelenskiy said the environmental harm from Russia’s war will affect millions of people for years.
Russian attacks have contaminated the country’s oceans and 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of forest, he said.
“Dozens of rivers are polluted, hundreds of coal mines are flooded, dozens of the most dangerous enterprises, including chemical ones, have been destroyed by Russian strikes,” he said, according to translation provided by the parliament.
There are no peace talks under way to end the conflict that began on Feb. 24, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation” against security threats posed by its neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies call it an unprovoked, imperialist land grab.
Russia on Tuesday dismissed a peace proposal from Zelenskiy that would involve a pullout of Russian troops and demanded that his government accept Russia’s annexations.