Russian drones launch multiple attacks on Kyiv amidst NATO summit
Russia carried out a series of drone attacks on Kyiv and other regions for the second consecutive night, coinciding with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s scheduled meeting with NATO leaders. The onslaught involved at least 15 drones, prompting Ukraine’s air defense systems to engage in repelling the aerial assault in the hours leading up to the high-level NATO gathering.
Ukrainian Air Force officials confirmed that they successfully intercepted and destroyed 11 of the Iranian-made Shahed drones, which were launched by Russia in the early hours of Wednesday morning. “A difficult night… The enemy attacked our area with ‘Shaheds,'” shared Ihor Taburets, the military head of the Cherkasy region southeast of Kyiv, via the Telegram messaging app. Two individuals sustained injuries during the attacks, and a non-residential infrastructure facility caught fire, although the exact number of drones targeting Cherkasy and Kyiv remains unknown.
Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, acknowledged that the air assault occurred on the “504th day of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine.” This marked the continuation of Russia’s previous drone strikes on Kyiv and other locations carried out in the early hours of Tuesday morning, utilizing Iranian Shahed drones.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, DC-based think tank, revealed that the Ukrainian military reported shooting down a significant number of drones, specifically 26 out of 28 Shahed 131 and 136 drones. Analysts at ISW believe these attacks were likely a “demonstrative response to the 2023 NATO Summit” that commenced in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Tuesday.
In addition to targeting Kyiv, Russian drones also attacked port infrastructure and a grain terminal in the Odesa region, according to Ukrainian military commanders. The ISW pointed out that these strikes on port facilities coincide with the first day of the NATO summit and might be an attempt to dissuade NATO members from providing further military assistance to Ukraine. The ISW further speculated that Russia’s actions could be a warning to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who played a crucial role in brokering a prisoner exchange agreement. The return of five Ukrainian Azovstal commanders to Kyiv on July 7, as supported by President Erdogan, has reportedly drawn displeasure from the Kremlin.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov voiced dissatisfaction, stating that Moscow had not been informed about the decision to repatriate the Ukrainian commanders from Turkey, as per the agreement. This displeasure, coupled with the drone attacks, suggests that Russia is employing various tactics to exert pressure and influence the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.