Ukraine targeted with 75 Russian drones in biggest attack ever

Ukraine targeted with 75 Russian drones in biggest attack ever
Russia fired a swarm of 75 drones against Ukraine targeting its big cities and energy sector in the biggest single drone attack to date. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews November 25, 2023

Ukraine was struck by an attack of 75 drones on the night of November 24, the biggest single attack ever, but air defences managed to shoot down 71, Kyiv reports.

Air raid sirens began to wail after nightfall, sending residents across Ukraine racing for air raid shelters for an uncomfortable night. The sirens continued for a total of six hours. Power stations were widely targeted, suggesting this attack was Russia’s first attempt to knock out Ukraine electricity and heating facilities as winter arrives.

Drone attacks are frequent, but improved air defences in the capital Kyiv and other major cities mean that residents have paid less heed to them in recent months. However, Russia was clearly attempting to overwhelm those defences with the sheer number of drones it sent against Kyiv and other cities, said Tymofiy Mylovanov, the president of Kyiv School of Economics (KSE), in a tweet.

“This is something I have feared for a long time. That Russia will accumulate and launch 50-100 attack drones at once. Will air defence cope?” said Mylovanov. “This night it happened. Russia hit Ukraine with 75 Shaheds in the biggest attack ever. Ukraine shot down almost all of them – 71.”

The Ukrainian army said that the majority of these drones, identified as Iranian-made Shahed drones, were intercepted over Kyiv. The drone attack resulted in power outages in the city's centre as temperatures dropped below freezing.

“I spent the night awake, hearing and seeing drones being shot down. Surprisingly, even though I had feared this attack before, I wasn’t afraid during it. Instead, I was annoyed and angry at Russia,” said Mylovanov, echoing the defiant attitude of most Ukrainians to Russia’s attacks. “Today I feel proud and happy. First of all, for our air defence. I am also grateful to our allies for the support. But of course I worry about the next attacks. Do we have enough ammunition for air defence?”

The assault comes on the same day as Holodomor Remembrance Day, a day dedicated to commemorating the 1930's famine in Ukraine under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin that killed millions through starvation.

Kyiv city authorities said the multi-drone attack was the "most massive since the beginning of the full-scale invasion" in February 2022. During the attack, five people were wounded, ranging from an 11-year-old to a 65-year-old.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported that falling drone debris had caused fires and damage to buildings throughout the city, but no fatalities.

In an ominous sign, many of the drones were targeting the city's power infrastructure. The Ministry of Energy in Ukraine reported that the attack disrupted power to an overhead line, affecting "77 residential buildings and 120 facilities." Repairs were underway to restore power.

Ukrainian authorities worry that as temperatures fall below zero and the first snows arrive, Russia will repeat its strategy of last year and try to knock out Ukraine’s heating and power plants. Reports say that Russia has built up an arsenal of some 800 smart missiles that it intends to use against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure this winter.

While the primary target of the attack was Kyiv, Ukraine's army noted that air defences were activated across southern Ukraine, and they successfully destroyed a guided missile over the central Dnipropetrovsk region. Power cuts were also reported in the affected regions, suggesting this was Russia’s first salvo against Ukraine’s power sector.

Kyiv had been on high alert and prepared for a potential Russian campaign targeting its energy grid as winter approaches.

As the conflict with Moscow persists, the most intense fighting remains concentrated in eastern Ukraine, particularly around the nearly encircled city of Avdiivka, where Russian forces are engaged.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy termed the attack as "symbolic," happening on Holodomor Remembrance Day, and expressed his determination in the face of such adversity.

Zelenskiy reiterated that Ukraine would not forget or forgive the "horrific crimes of genocide" and expressed gratitude to the growing number of countries recognising Holodomor as a deliberate crime against Ukraine. Moscow denies the charge of “genocide” and claims the famine was caused by Soviet economic problems. Zelenskiy suggested that Russia's current attacks on Ukraine are connected to these unacknowledged past crimes.