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Russia targets Ukraine’s capital with barrage of drones

By Constant Méheut New York Times

Ukraine’s military said on Sunday that it had foiled a large Russian drone attack on the capital, Kyiv, overnight, the latest barrage in a campaign intended partly to destroy military and energy infrastructure but also apparently aimed at terrorizing and demoralizing the local population.

The military said it shot down 26 of the 33 drones launched at the capital. The fate of the other seven drones was unclear. Blast waves and falling debris wounded four people and damaged dozens of houses and residential buildings, according to local military authorities. The reports have not been independently verified.

“Drones entered the capital in groups and from different directions,” Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said as he thanked the troops staffing the capital’s air-defense systems, which have proved increasingly effective at downing most of the Russian drones and missiles targeting Kyiv.

Since beginning its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than 18 months ago, Russia has regularly unleashed large-scale barrages of missiles, rockets and drones on Kyiv. Last week, the region experienced one of the most significant barrages in months, with a combination of cruise missiles and drones fired at the capital. Ukrainian officials said that two people had been killed by falling debris.

Sunday’s attacks followed an increasingly familiar pattern of dueling aerial assaults, in which areas of Ukraine and Russia are both targeted nearly simultaneously.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its army had downed a Ukrainian drone over the Bryansk region, close to the Ukrainian border. It also said that eight Ukrainian drones were shot down by air defenses over the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The Russian claims could not be independently verified. Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment on the attack on the Bryansk region, as is their general custom on attacks inside Russia.

In addition to targeting Kyiv, Russia has also directed many of its drone attacks on Ukrainian grain and port facilities near the Danube River in recent months. Ukraine has used the waterway as an alternative route to export grain since Russia pulled out of an agreement that allowed Ukrainian agricultural shipments through the Black Sea.

The attacks on the Danube facilities are seen as an attempt by Russia to tighten its stranglehold on the Ukrainian economy. But they have also come perilously close to Romania, a NATO member, raising fears that a Russian drone or missile flying a short distance off course could risk dragging the Western military alliance into a direct military confrontation with Russia.

A case in point came last week, when debris from what could be a Russian drone was found on Romania’s territory across the Danube from Ukraine after an attack on a nearby Ukrainian port.

Ukrainian officials said the debris was proof that Russia’s invasion posed a direct threat to NATO. Romania initially denied that a Russian drone had crashed on its territory and then, after finding the debris, issued only verbal condemnations, in an apparent attempt not to escalate the situation.

But on Saturday, new fragments of a drone “similar to those used by the Russian army” were found, according to a statement from Romania’s Defense Ministry. Constantin Spinu, a spokesperson for the ministry, said “the most probable assumption” was that they came from another drone because they were found in a different location near the Danube.

Reacting to the discovery, Romania’s Foreign Ministry “urgently summoned” the Russian chargé d’affaires on Saturday, according to a government statement.

The Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis, said in a message posted on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter, that the new debris showed “a violation of our sovereign air space” and that he had discussed the matter with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general.

Stoltenberg said that there was no indication of intent to hit NATO but that the “strikes are destabilizing.” He added that he welcomed a decision by the United States to deploy F-16 fighter jets to bolster air policing in the area.

Here’s what else is happening in the war:

• Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United State’s top military official, said in an interview with the BBC that Ukraine had “probably about 30 to 45 days worth of fighting weather left” before the rains come in and winter sets in, making it harder for Ukrainian troops to advance in their counteroffensive.

Milley acknowledged that the counteroffensive had “gone slower than the planners anticipated,” with Ukraine having recaptured only small patches of land in the south and the east. But he added that “the Ukrainians aren’t done” and that they “are still plugging away with steady progress through the various defensive belts that the Russians have put in place.”

• Road to Relief, a nonprofit group that helps evacuate civilians from front-line areas in Ukraine, said that several of its foreign volunteers were killed or injured after “their vehicle came under Russian attack” on the way to Ivanivske, a town near Bakhmut, on the eastern front line. The origin of the strike could not be independently confirmed.

After it was hit, “the vehicle flipped over and lit on fire,” the group said in a message posted on Instagram, adding that a Canadian volunteer was killed and two German and Swedish volunteers were badly injured with shrapnel wounds and burns. Spain’s foreign minister said on Sunday that a fourth volunteer, a Spanish national, was also killed during the strike.

• On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi on Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said that he was continuing to press for Russia to restore the Black Sea grain deal. Erdogan said that President Vladimir Putin of Russia had tentatively accepted a proposal to distribute 1 million tons of grain when the two leaders met last week in Sochi, Russia.

Erdogan acknowledged that there were no signs of progress, but pledged to keep trying. “About re-implementing the grain deal, I’m not hopeless,” he said. “The process can start again.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.