Kyiv downs six hypersonic missiles in 'exceptional' overnight attack

Bright flashes lit up the night sky over Kyiv during the eighth air attack on the capital this month

A firefighter tries to put out fire caused by fragments of a Russian rocket after it was shot down by air defense system during the night Russian rocket attack in Kyiv, Ukraine. AP
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Ukraine shot down six hypersonic missiles after Russia launched an “exceptional” attack on Kyiv overnight.

Bright flashes lit up the night sky during the eighth air assault on the capital this month, with the missiles launched from the air, sea and land.

City authorities did not immediately report any major damage and said only three people had been wounded by falling debris.

Ukraine's Air Force said 18 missiles of various types were launched, including drones, cruise and ballistic missiles. All were intercepted and shot down, according to Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat.

They included six “Kinzhal” aero-ballistic missiles launched from MiG-31K aircraft, nine cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea and three land-based S-400 cruise missiles that fired at the capital, said Mr Ihnat.

The Kinzhal missile, which means "dagger" in Russian, is one of six next-generation weapons unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 when he boasted that it could not be shot down by any of the world's air defence systems.

"The work of air defences was extremely successful. Six Kinzhals are an impressive indicator of that," said Mr Ihnat.

Experts said the attack represents a clear escalation after weeks of lull and ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive.

It also comes as President Volodymyr Zelenksyy concludes a whirlwind European tour to greet Ukraine's key wartime allies, which spurred an additional tranche of pledged military aid.

The attack on Kyiv was “exceptional in its density — the maximum number of attacking missiles in the shortest period of time”, said Serhii Popko, the head of the Kyiv military administration.

“According to preliminary information, the vast majority of enemy targets in the air space of Kyiv were detected and destroyed,” said Mr Popko.

After the first onslaught, Russia also launched Iranian-made Shahed attack drones and conducted aerial reconnaissance, Mr Ihnat said.

Debris fell across the capital, causing a fire in a non-residential building in the Solomyansky district. The fire was extinguished.

The debris set cars on fire and fell on the grounds of a zoo, but no losses were reported, said Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, walk in the garden at Chequers. Getty Images

Mr Zelenskyy met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Chequers on Monday, where the UK announced that it would give Ukraine long-range attack drones, less than a week after it agreed to donate long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles amid continued Russian attacks.

Mr Zelenskky said fighter jets, which he has repeatedly asked for, were a “very important topic” as Ukraine currently has little control of the skies.

“We want to create a jets coalition,” he told a press conference. “But we have to work a little bit more on it.”

Mr Sunak said building up combat aircraft capability was “not a straightforward thing”.

“It’s not just the provision of planes, it’s also the training of pilots and all the logistics to go alongside that,” he said.

“The UK can play a big part of that. One thing we will be doing, starting relatively soon, is training Ukrainian pilots. That’s something that we discussed today. And we are ready to implement those plans in relatively short order.”

The UK has become one of Ukraine's major military allies, sending Kyiv short-range missiles and Challenger tanks and training 15,000 Ukrainian troops on British soil.

“This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke,” Mr Sunak said.

“They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year.

“We must not let them down.”

The UK was one of several stops on a European tour, which saw Mr Zelenskyy also visit Germany, France and the Vatican.

Updated: May 16, 2023, 8:24 AM