KYIV, Ukraine — The sounds of explosions echoed across Kyiv this afternoon as the area’s air defenses successfully defended the capital city from Russian cruise missiles and armed drone strikes. One booming intercept left splintered smoke trails in the sky.
On Wednesday, Oct. 19, Russia launched six cruise missiles against Ukraine from Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers flying within Russian airspace. Of that number, Ukraine’s air force reported that its air defenses shot down four Kh-101 cruise missiles. According to Ukraine’s air force, ground-based air defense missile systems deployed near Kyiv and the city of Chernihiv reportedly downed three missiles. A Ukrainian fighter jet brought down the fourth.
Russia also fired Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones against Ukraine on Wednesday. Ukrainian air defenses shot down 10 of the so-called kamikaze drones, some of which had been launched from Russian units based inside of Belarus.
With its invasion forces steadily losing ground in southern and eastern Ukraine, Moscow recently surged its campaign of missile and drone strikes against civilians and critical infrastructure sites. This marks a shift in Russian strategy toward maximizing civilian suffering during the upcoming winter months.
“Russia is losing in combat, so it began using terrorist tactics against civilians more often. Our citizens become hostages of Russian energy terrorism,” said German Galushchenko, Ukraine’s minister of energy.
Despite the nearly nonstop threat of Russian missile and drone strikes, everyday life has more or less continued in Kyiv. Typically, malls and many large businesses close during air raid alerts. But many smaller enterprises often choose to stay open. With Kyiv’s schools back in session, parents can choose to send their children to in-person classes or have them stay home for online learning. During air raid alerts, all in-person classes shift to underground shelters.
While the city’s air defenses fired at inbound Russian missiles on Wednesday, traffic flowed as usual through Kyiv’s busy downtown Bessarabs’ka Square. After the first booms, some people at a nearby coffee shop got up and sought shelter in an underground passageway. Others remained seated, determined to unhurriedly enjoy their drinks.
Russian missiles struck energy infrastructure sites in Kyiv on Tuesday, leaving about 83,000 households temporarily without power. Three people died in the strikes. The day prior, a Russian attack using Shahed-136 kamikaze drones hit downtown Kyiv and killed five civilians.
These strikes followed a deadly Russian missile attack on downtown Kyiv on Oct. 10, part of a nationwide missile attack, which killed 19 people that day. During the Oct. 10 strikes, Russian missiles hit a playground and a major road intersection in downtown Kyiv.
Russia typically fires cruise missiles against Ukraine from bombers flying deep within Russian airspace, or from Russian warships in the Black Sea. Russia has also used neighboring Belarus as a launching ground against Ukraine. In order to reduce warning time, Russian bombers began launching missiles from aerial tracks closer to the Ukrainian border, Ukraine’s air force reported.
Another kind of Russian terrorist attacks: targeting 🇺🇦 energy & critical infrastructure. Since Oct 10, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country. No space left for negotiations with Putin's regime. @United24media pic.twitter.com/LN4A2GYgCK— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) October 18, 2022
From Oct. 7 to 18, Russia launched 190 missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, killing 70 people, Ukraine’s military reported. So far, those Russian strikes have destroyed “30% of Ukraine’s power stations,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday. Russia’s critical infrastructure strikes spurred officials across Ukraine to fast-track new energy-saving measures.
On Wednesday, Zelenskyy held an emergency meeting with ministers and officials to discuss ways to boost security at energy facilities, as well as different ways to ration electricity this winter.
Despite the recent onslaught, Ukrainian air defenses have parried the overwhelming majority of Russia’s missile and drone strikes. During the overnight hours from Sunday to Monday, Ukraine’s air force downed 37 out of the estimated 43 Shahed-136 drones launched by Russia, an air force spokesman reported.
In Kyiv, many city lights remain extinguished at night, leaving much of the capital pitch black. On the sidewalks of some major downtown roadways, pedestrians glide along in the dark by the light of their smartphones. City officials have also advised citizens to not use energy-demanding appliances such as washing machines and space heaters during peak energy consumption times.
“The more conscious our household consumption of electricity is from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., the more stable our energy system will be. Everyone who follows this simple rule for peak hours helps the entire country,” Zelenskyy said during a Tuesday address.
Many buildings in Ukraine rely on central heating, which operates according to a schedule controlled by the government. The so-called heating season is set to begin in Kyiv on Thursday. With temperatures dropping as winter advances, Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said the decision to begin citywide heating operations was partly to save power.
“An important factor for the start of the heating season is the need to save electricity,” Klitschko said in a Wednesday release. “Utility services are working in enhanced mode, understanding how difficult this heating season will be. Because the enemy is targeting critical infrastructure facilities, trying to leave Ukrainians without vital services.”