KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s military said Saturday that it had shot down a Russian ballistic missile hurtling toward Kyiv, the first such attack on the capital in weeks, while cities across the country were targeted by a Russian air barrage that damaged several buildings.
Ukrainian authorities said they had also shot down 19 drones out of 31 launched by Russian forces overnight. The fate of the other 12 drones remained unclear, but local officials reported damage in several areas after the attacks.
Two loud bangs were heard in Kyiv around 8 a.m. Saturday, and two trails of smoke were visible in the skies over the city before air-raid sirens went off. Ukrainians officials said the booms were the work of air-defense systems that had destroyed the missile.
“After a long pause of 52 days, the enemy resumed missile attacks on Kyiv,” Serhii Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said in a statement, noting that drones had also targeted the city overnight. Officials said that all of the drones aimed at the capital had been shot down and that preliminary information did not indicate that the air raids had caused any damage or injuries.
It was not immediately clear what the missile heading for Kyiv was targeting. The attack came after months of warnings by Ukrainian authorities that Russia was likely to pound cities and focus on the power grid when cold weather began to bite, predicting a repeat of last year’s winter campaign against energy infrastructure.
Those attacks a year ago plunged Kyiv into cold and darkness, with residents at times forced to rely on flashlights, while local authorities planned for a possible evacuation of the city.
But Saturday’s assault was relatively limited in scale, suggesting that the attacks might instead have been part of what military analysts and Ukrainian army officials say is an effort by Russia to test Ukrainian air cover through multiple but small-scale attacks.
Those barrages often use cheap, Iranian-made Shahed drones to test the defenses.
Elsewhere in the Kyiv region, five residential buildings were damaged by a blast wave caused by two missiles that hit a field between two settlements, shattering roofs and windows, the military administration said. And in the southern region of Odesa, missile and drone strikes wounded three people and damaged port infrastructure.
In a statement, Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of the Ukrainian air force, congratulated the crews manning the Patriot air-defense systems that protect the skies over Kyiv for shooting down the ballistic missile.
But some residents were left to wonder why air-raid sirens had sounded only after the missile had been shot down.
“It was very frightening because there was no alarm, and yet it was very loud,” Maria Levchenko, 18, said, referring to the two bangs that were first heard in the capital.
Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian air force, told national television that the alarm had come later because “ballistic missiles travel extremely fast” and were difficult to detect quickly with radars.
Still, the loud explosions and alarm added to a sense of anxiety that has been growing in Kyiv as many people expect Russia to start striking at Ukraine’s power infrastructure soon.
Another resident, Olena Saladi, 23, said she feared Saturday’s attack could be a harbinger. “Maybe it’s the start of a new chapter,” she said.
Last year’s Russian campaign against Ukraine’s energy systems started in mid-October. Within a month, the attacks had disabled nearly half of the country’s electrical grid.
Ukraine can now count on better Western-supplied air-defense systems to protect its skies, and Ihnat said Friday that an additional system of Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries would be delivered by Germany soon.
But the Ukrainian energy system has still not fully recovered from last winter’s attacks, and officials have warned that Russia has been stockpiling weapons to clobber Ukrainian cities when winter sets in.
“I’m mentally preparing for it to be very tough,” Saladi said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.